Fuji sensor - problematic? Does it matter?


Via Scoop, there is a link to a blog post which is very critical of the Fuji X-Trans sensor. Based on a Dpreview test shot HERE.

Now as regular readers will know, I've been critical of the X-Trans sensor in the past, particularly with regard to the rendering of green foliage and similar. However, I've still continued to use my Fuji cameras even with that 'fault' obvious in many of my images. That seemingly inconsistent attitude is explained by the fact that I decide, to a greater or lesser extent, how I like to present what I shoot. I make decisions about what camera or lens to use based on a number of factors. Some are to do with the actual machinery itself. Does it respond in the way I want? Do I like using it? Does it help or hinder how I like to work? There are also considerations regarding price and finally there are considerations about what is produced, which falls under the banner of image quality. 

Despite that green foliage problem there are two things I like very much about what the Fuji X-Trans sensor gives me. Firstly, because of it's stellar high ISO performance, I have been able to move my 'base ISO' upwards. Whereas with other cameras I would be shooting at ISO 100, with all the implications of that for shutter speed and aperture selection, with my Fuji's I can use ISO 400 / 800 on a regular basis with very little loss of quality and added noise. This means that for the majority of my pictures I can have the ideal shooting situation for me of high shutter speeds and narrow apertures, ideal for the bulk of what I take pictures of and how I take them.

Secondly, and something that is more down to personal taste, I like the 'look' of the Fuji files. This is all down to what I describe as 'colour depth' which is a difficult thing to explain. So what is it? Well my first inclination is to answer that 'I know it when I see it' which doesn't really help. Any file from any camera can have it's saturation increased, but that's not what I'm talking about. Colour depth to me isn't just saturation, its more a richness of colour. The best way I can describe it is that the colour looks 'thick' and 'film-like' rather than 'thin' and 'obviously digital'. It is difficult to explain it satisfactorily and again I fall back on my 'I know it when I see it' explanation. Of the cameras I have used my Leicas, M8 and M9 had it, the Fuji's have it and the Pentax K-5 I had demonstrated it also. All have very 'punchy' colour that I find attractive and also seems to be attractive to the people who buy my pictures. In digital terms I would best describe it as being like a very very good film scan, without the grain and lack of sharpness.

I've written often about how to make a living I have to attract potential buyers to my work initially from a small thumbnail on a website. Obviously just the 'look' of an image isn't enough and what's actually in the rectangle is very important but for the amount of images I have for sale on various websites I do consistently sell a higher proportion of both my film scans and Fuji X files than any other images I upload. What this proves, I'm not sure, but it's always meant that I'm prepared to be more 'forgiving' towards my Fuji cameras than others.

There is also the fact that I'm no alone in this. I posted a link the other day about a fashion ad. campaign shot on Fuji cameras and there are many examples across the internet of serious professional use for these cameras. Now all of us haven't failed to notice that what we see on our screens from our X cameras isn't 100% perfect. But I like other photographers have come to the conclusion that we're not saying it doesn't matter, but that it doesn't matter enough. And more importantly to those of us who have to buy food and shelter from our photographic endeavours, the people who provide us with the funds to do that obviously don't have a problem with Fuji X files either. 

Now it's easy to just say that this is all the result of some pixel-peeping nerd taking things to far. But then from time to time, I'm a pixel-peeping nerd too. It IS important to be critical of what we see, and if there are faults and / or things that could / should be improved then we need to say so. Otherwise we will just get taken advantage of and sub-standard products will follow from that. But it's important to put these things in context. Dpreview, whose test provoked these negative comments have never ducked the issue that the Fuji X-Trans sensor is not as great as Fuji and blinkered fanboys would have us believe. But they like myself and many others, have made the point that firstly the attractiveness of the cameras, both aesthetically and ergonomically, and the undisputed virtues of the sensor, of which high ISO performance is obviously the most valued, do go a long way to balancing this out. 

What side we end up on this equation is for each of us to decide. For me, its far more important for my pictures to have an immediate impact when viewed than it is for them to achieve some kind of technical perfection. Again, as I have often wrote, this by no means is some kind of 'approval' for the whole Lomo / Holga nonsense, or lazy mobile phone photography or the dreadful insult to photography as an art form that comes from Instagram and the like. I want my pictures to sharp, full of detail and resolution and with as little noise as possible. And to that end I would guess that I'm probably more difficult to please than most. But there is also the fact that I'm not just a technician or a 'craftsman'. Whether I succeed or not, I would like to think that I am creating something meaningful and yes (though I am very reluctant to write this) something 'artistic'. For me and what I shoot, the Fuji X-Trans sensor gives me a lot of what I want, fulfills my 'vision' and gives me something close to what I wanted to capture when I pressed the shutter. And it does this a way that I find more appealing than many other camera / sensor combinations that achieve higher DxO scores and more approval from the technical gestapo. 

And that's not easy to achieve. It is, for example, pretty easy to criticise the output from the Leica M9 CCD sensor. It's pretty bad at anything over ISO 400 and you'd be really pushed NOT to find moire and some kind of noise in virtually any image you create with the camera. But the look of those M9 files, is to many of us, one of the highpoints of digital photogarphy so far. The sharpness, the richness and separation of the colours is something special when viewed on a decent computer monitor and for me, and many others, far outweighs any concerns we may have about technical imperfections. And I feel much the same about what my Fuji's come up with, as I did with my Sigma DP Merrills at base ISO.

So ultimately it's the whole package that we need to look at and the final result. It would be nice if we could all have our 'perfect' camera, but that's not going to happen and I'm not even sure I want it anyway. What I do want are cameras and lenses that inspire me and help me create the images that are close to what I want when I decide on a composition. My Fuji X-Trans sensor cameras do that better than most I've used and I'm certainly not going to be bothered by what to me fairly minor and difficult to see flaws. Plus of course these days, there are a variety of options available to get your X Files looking pretty much as you want them and it's far from the situation whereby you have to accept what Fuji think is the best way to process an image. So problematic? Well yes. Does it matter? Well I've made my position pretty clear. Others will have to decide for themselves.


In the light of all that above, and bearing in mind how well it does in terms of DxO testing I'm picking up a Sony A7r tomorrow. Chris Handley who contributes a lot the Soundimageplus Readers Group wrote this in a post. 'Sony A7r. I had no intention of buying this camera this year, but as one was offered to me and Christmas is just around the corner I treated myself.'
Co-incidentally I got a phone call this morning this morning asking if I would like an A7r, as they are now in stock in the UK. If you remember, I did pre-order one when they were first announced but changed my mind and cancelled the order. However, for whatever reason, my order was still 'live' somewhere which is why I got the call. Unfortunately my will-power and good intentions failed me (yet again) and I enthusiastically answered that I would indeed like one (so what's new!). So despite the fact that I can't buy an AF lens for it (They haven't arrived in the UK yet) and I'm going to be using it with adapted Nikon lenses, I will be getting one tomorrow. There's no hope really is there?!?!?

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