There's no such thing as a free lunch - FUJI X-PRO 1 and Raw Conversion

All images - Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens f/8 ISO 800

1-jpg - detail
Detail from out of Camera jpg.

Detail from Silkypix conversion using Landscape preset

Detail from Photoshop CS6 ACR 7.1 conversion using the Photoshop default setting

Detail from Photoshop CS6 ACR 7.1 conversion using my personal ACR settings

Great high ISO performance, clean images, accurate colour. These are some of the reasons I described the Fuji X-Pro 1 files as overall, the best image quality I'd ever seen. So is there a downside? Well yes it seems there is. And its with regard to raw conversion. The Silkpypix authored software that Fuji have released with the camera is pretty ordinary in my estimation. Some may get successful results from it, but for my uses, try as I might, I have been unable to get anything better than the jpgs. from that software. 

So last week along comes the Adobe Camera Raw support for Lightroom and Photoshop. So this is better, right? Well yes and no. Highlight and shadow control is much more controllable and allow an excellent dynamic range to be obtained. But there seem to be some problems with the sharpening parameters. Depending on what I shoot, there is a "watercolour" "painterly" "smearing" effect if more than a small amount of sharpening is applied. This has been well-chronicled across the photographic internet in the past few days.

Consequently, I'm unable to get that really crisp sharpness and biting clarity that I can get from other cameras. This seems to negate the advantage of the sensor having no AA filter, and the images I produce from raw don't look as sharp as any of the other AA filter free cameras I've used in the past.

From the jpgs. that Fuji produce, its clear that the sensor is capable of producing high resolution and very nice files. However I've always felt that they could be somewhat sharper. But at this present time I seem to be unable to achieve that, without similar effects to those below.

Now if you are a jpg. only shooter then this is the camera for you, as the X-Pro 1 produces the best jpg. renditions that I've ever seen, However there are some problems with blown highlights, and the in-camera highlight contoller function doesn't provide the whole answer. 

So that you can see for yourselves I've created a .dng version of the Fuji raw file which you can download below. I've made this backward compatible, so it should open in all versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, though I can't guarantee that. I would however mention that my opening .dng files in Photsoshop CS5 produced a mosaic pattern, similar to that created by certain wide-angle m-mount lenses on Panasonic m4/3 cameras when the first versions of ACR to support them came out. This did eventually get fixed, and I suspect that both Fuji and Adobe have been under pressure to produce this update, and as has happened many times before, it will take further updates to get it right. However, at this moment in time I'm not sure I'm prepared to wait.

As a wedding and event photographer, or someone who shoots mostly on low light, the X-Pro 1 would be the camera of my dreams, even allowing for the slow and inconsistent AF, but I'm not, so it isn't. As in the title of the piece, there IS no such thing as a free lunch, and with vitually everything else on the market these days, the Fuji has its strengths and its weakness. 

As you will well know I am a PPP (Picky Pixel Peeper) and you may well conclude that what I'm detailing isn't an issue for you. Certainly, it would make my life easier if I could just rely on these near perfect jpgs. every time, but since I can currently get results that are much more to my taste out of my NEX-7 (admittedly only at ISO 100) it will only be for certain kinds of shooting that would mean I pick up the X-Pro 1 from now on. I was stockpiling images imagining that once ACR arrived I would be gasping at what I was seeing on the screen. However that hasn't happened, so once again, the X-Pro 1's future may be in doubt as far as I'm concerned.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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