It's Friday so this will be a bit of a mixed bag of things but could also be considered the first in a small series of posts regarding Fuji X100S RAW files and my thoughts on how Aperture 3 handles those. I know the back story - yea Lightroom "sucked" but now it's better, Capture One is the ultimate for XTRANS blah blah blah. To tell the truth the kind of things I care a lot about in terms of IQ are probably not making myself cross eyed searching for some "water color effect" across 7 pixels under certain circumstances when the moon is full. So if you are counting on me to point out some minor "gottcha" in terms of artifacts vs other RAW processing of the same file vs yet another I am not your man.
Instead I am just going to focus on Aperture 3 and the X100S and my thoughts on if I like it or if I don't along with any major show-stopping kind of things. For this first installment - and it is the first as I am just learning the X100S imaging characteristics - I want to kind of level set where I am coming from as a reference point to any opinion I offer going forward for this combo. I am actually going to do something today that's a bit out in left field in discussing RAW files and a RAW converter. Instead of using some other RAW processor as a baseline I am going to use another camera - my D600. I use it enough to be familiar with it so why not. Wouldn't that be a fair way to evaluate RAW processing of X-TRANS in Aperture 3?
In doing this I guess it's actually a bench mark of X100S performance and imaging overall as well. Possibly more valuable to people that don't already own one to. Please don't get upset if I upset an apple cart or two here - I am going to be as objective as one can be so the X100S will definitely suffer the slings and arrows of not "winning" in this level set as compared to one of the best cameras on the planet from an IQ perspective. Don't be mad at me please - I love my X100 and my X100S even more. I am just not delusional when discussing it like a Leica guy…
Let's start with the sacred cow - color… Ohhhhh the Fuji has such transcendental mystical magic color properties. Ummmm no. It's pretty much the same as any other modern camera of good performance out there. Let's take the casual snap I made just to get this out of the way. Here's the D600. I was using a 50mm lens vs the 35mm equiv but I made the framing as close as I could without actually doing math and stuff…
Now for the X100S…
They are the same - same same same same. I said it before I will repeat it again - White balance selection made by the camera as well as what particular WB preset values chosen by a camera and camera manufacturer are far far far the most deterministic factor in perceived color differences across various camera RAW files - assuming the same RAW processor and target profile. This is how close a Nikon and Fuji are with me just randomly matching the WB using a target in the picture that probably has so much variance that it will give me a couple of points different every time I sample it. If I shot some sort of scientific test they would be exactly the same. This is not bad they both have very good color. Good as in they can differentiate well between very similar hue values at both ends of the color wheel here. Pinks are tough. Especially saturated pinks.
Before all of the fuji-fans point out that the pinks in the Fuji picture are a hair "different" in saturation or luminance or any other minor nit (they aren't hue wise) please don't. They should be but it's Fuji's fault they aren't - you see the base ISO is not even close to 200 if you measure it based on how it compares to other cameras default RAW processing. Not just in Aperture 3 but all of the RAW converters very very consistently show me the same thing. The X100S is two thirds of a stop slower than ISO 200. More like ISO 125. I had to bump up the exposure in post by 2/3 to make them comparable and this is not a perfect process. You pick you want me to shoot them at the exact shutter/aperture/iso or do you want me to match them up and show you different ISO's and apertures? I chose this way because they are so close it makes no difference photographically. No this is not the "metering" choosing a different exposure this is both cameras set at ISO 200 f8 @ 1/200. Note - keep this in mind when metering. Honestly I have no idea why people seem to think they need to keep their exposure comp at -2/3 like some reviewers have suggested. Looks like it's already built in to me. Don't listen to me about this or anyone else - choose for yourself - do your own experiments to get to know your camera.
Moving on to overall RAW processing quality. The screen shot at the top is a 100% view of those two files. Looks okay to me. Aperture 3 does a damn fine job on the D600 files and I would say the X100S is comparable. Now before you somehow think that the Fuji should somehow be way way better than the lowly old Nikon get that out of your head. That Nikon secret sauced Sony is at the top of the heap. It probably has one of the best tuned AA filters I have ever seen in terms of eliminating crap that it should while maintaining awesome pixel level accuity. I can tell you first hand it can still excite stair-step artifacts on certain fine detail at certain angles just like a camera without an AA filter just without the horrible moire and color stuff that sometimes goes with that.
Both of these RAW files are using the default Apple RAW fine tuning which are identical. If you want to see serious detail just open up a RAW fine tuning adjustment block and ramp up the detail slider to have all the AA filterless "fun" you want. I wouldn't but then again it would probably make what I like to shoot look worse. In all seriousness Aperture has very tame defaults - if you love acuity in your 100% pixel views play with the RAW fine tuning detail adjustment.
Let's take a look at what that can do if you so lean…
Now there's what I'm talkin' 'bout - enough to make any pixel peeper all hot n bothered. Seriously if you want more acuity the RAW fine tuning block is your answer. The trade off is proably more decode visible artifacts you choose what suits your needs best.
Okay that's the end of my initial installment so I guess I need an initial verdict. I proclaim that Aperture 3 is not only usable for X-Trans files. It's damn good. Of course I have looked at way way way more files than this StupidCrap™ flower comparison. I have even shot a whole lot of comparisons with my D600 of many scenes. For the little X100S with it's little tiny APS-C sensor and tiny little lens to be remotely comparable to one of the meanest IQ machines on the planet in Aperture 3 it has to speak well of Aperture 3's X-Trans RAW processing goodness. There will be other installments - if there are major show stoppers in terms of situations that Aperture 3 falls on it's face that I discover I will let you know. I know it's a bit of a departure from the usual let's pixel peep one RAW converter vs another but to tell the truth I think it's just as telling to compare a great camera with a mainstream sensor to the new guy as well.
To make this even more of a mixed bag and to get out of the fuji-fan dog house I do want to bring up Fuji color again. This time Fuji JPEG's - now there's where you will get no argument from me at all. The secret Fuji color sauce is absolutely night and day with the Fuji JPEG recipes as compared to Nikon or just about anybody else's JPEG recipes. I mentioned the other day that I would not be releasing any X100 simulation presets to match up Aperture 3 RAW processing with OOC JPEGs. I changed my mind. I figured out how to handle the blue/purple situation to my satisfaction and have what I would consider beta versions for each and every Fuji X100S JPEG rendering - they work great and if you happen to like OOC X100S JPEG color they will be right up your alley. I hope to get them out next week but I want to test them against additional real world scenes some more to make sure I have it right. I have plenty of real world scenes for the ProNeg-H - problem is my camera never leaves that setting so I have to go out and shoot all the other ones in the real world.
Have a great weekend.