Thinking of upgrading your gear? Don't Bother - buy Iridient Developer instead.

Thinking of upgrading your gear? Don't Bother - buy Iridient Developer instead.
'To put it in context what I get from it, as opposed to using Photoshop ACR, is like the difference between using an average kit lens (Photoshop) and a top of the range prime (Iridient).'
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Fuji X Roundup - Iridient Developer 3 official release - Classic Chrome - 16-55mm 'starburst' sun.

Fuji X Roundup - Iridient Developer 3 official release - Classic Chrome - 16-55mm 'starburst' sun.
'OK I give in, I like Classic Chrome. I've had it set for all the images I've shot with the Fuji XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR Fujinon zoom lens and it's snuck up on me. As I've written several times before, it's not Classic and it's not Chrome, but I have warmed to it's cool colours. (See what I did there!!) '
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Sony A7r + 16-35mm + Iridient Developer. Medium-Format Quality?

Sony A7r + 16-35mm + Iridient Developer. Medium-Format Quality?
'In terms of my 'system' camera it's becoming clear that Sony FE has moved to the top of my list in terms of cameras I choose for my bread and butter work. The main reason for this being the quality of the files I can produce. And there really is nothing to beat the A7r, 16-35mm and Iridient Developer combination I am using at the moment.'
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Iridient Developer 3.0 beta 4 - The 'real deal' for Fuji X

Iridient Developer 3.0 beta 4 - The 'real deal' for Fuji X
'And 'nanny' Fuji and 'nanny' Adobe can no more exercise their noise paranoia on the files from my Fuji cameras and my raw X files will appreciate being liberated from the processing straight jacket that those two companies have imposed on them. And if you have Fuji X cameras and lenses (and a Mac of course) then you can judge for yourself if want to free your files as well.'
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Fuji X-T1 and 18-55mm zoom - talking sense about the X-Trans sensor

All images - Fuji X-T1 18-55mm zoom lens







In a recent exchange of comments on Google+ I was given this link. http://www.sansmirror.com/cameras/a-note-about-camera-reviews/fujifilm-camera-reviews/fujifilm-x-t1-review.html This is Thom Hogan on the Fuji X-T1. When I clicked it I realised that I'd already seen it. However I read it again and realised what a good, sensible, unblinkered assessment of both the X-T1 and the X-Trans sensor it was. I have a lot of time for Thom on Fuji, since when I was writing post after post about the raw processing problems with Fuji files and Adobe, he was making the same points. Both of us got some pretty nasty abuse as a result of that, which when you think about it is peculiar, since both of us were only attempting to get better results from the cameras.

Re-reading this, there is much I agree with and it's important to get a sense of perspective about what a camera / sensor / lens can do. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't require huge levels of sophistication and maturity to be able to see the virtues AND the faults in the gear we use and still enjoy using it and what it offers us. Too often, however, there is a somewhat strange 'My camera right or wrong' attitude on the part of some purchasers.

There are several things I think that are 'right' about the Fuji X system.
  • The sensor allows for low noise high ISO results.
  • The lens range is superb
  • Personally I think the cameras handle beautifully.
  • The 'old-school aesthetic' looks good and is well implemented.
  • Fuji's efforts with firmware to keep all cameras 'current' is refreshing and makes long-term ownership possible without having to constantly upgrade.
  • Fuji pricing is realistic and generally good value for money.
  • They have a range of deals that allow adding to the system less painful financially than with other systems.
 However there are several things that I think show 'room for improvement.'
  • Raw processing via Adobe software (Lightroom and Photoshop) is still unsatisfactory for many types of shots. Particularly green foliage.
  • It seems, for whatever reason the Fuji sensor needs between 1/2 and 1 stop more light compared to other sensors at the same shutter speed / aperture setting. As a result of this the high ISO performance is not quite as good as it seems.
  • Battery life is awful.
  • Out of camera jpgs. are overrated by many and are in fact somewhat soft and lacking in detail.
  • Video bitrate (and therefore quality) is significantly lower than competitors. 
Now despite all this I still keep on using the cameras and lenses and no matter where my 'equipment cull' ends I will still have Fuji on my shelf. I like using the cameras and it's really as simple as that. Plus I can get excellent image quality from raw by using either Photo Ninja or as in the above shots Iridient Developer and can carry spare batteries, so some of the above isn't that much of a problem for me.
 
Personally, what I would like to see, though I have no expectation whatsoever that it will happen, is for Fuji to either dump the X-Trans sensor or keep it for cameras like the X-100s to be used as low-light workhorses. For the X-T2 I would love for them to buy in the current APS-C sensor in the a6000. This is a superb sensor, easily the best APS-C I've ever used in terms of combination of sharpness, low noise and colour it produces. Imagine bolting your Fuji lenses in front of one of those and getting 24MP of superb image quality. And the fact is that you would loose much less low noise, high ISO performance than you might think. 
 
The reason I stick with Fuji is actually not because of the X-Trans sensor, but in spite of it. Yes I can get decent results, but not as quickly and easily as I would like. It still takes me around twice as long to process a Fuji X file as it does a m/43 or Sony file. However, I don't see this improving and Fuji seem wedded to their sensor, no matter how many opinions are expressed about how poor the Adobe raw processing is. 
 
So, not all good, not all bad. But then that's exactly the same as for any other camera system.
 

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Panasonic GX7 files and Iridient Developer




All images - Panasonic GX7 45-175mm zoom lens


Doing what I do, it's imperative that I get the best quality files that I can. m4/3 with it's smaller sensor and higher pixel density is more of a challenge than APS-C or 35mm film sized sensors to achieve that with. The trick is to keep the sharpness that the files are capable of without increasing the luminance noise (digital 'grain') that is almost inevitably of consequence of sharpening. To that end I've got a pretty good Photoshop ACR preset that works very nicely. 

Now I've used Iridient Developer exclusively for my Fuji X files, but a few days ago I thought I would have a look at how it processed m4/3 files. I was impressed. So this morning I've done a more thorough comparison between that, Photoshop and the OOC jpg. As you can see from the 100% blowups above, the IR files are just that bit sharper without increasing the noise. My ACR files are right on the limit of what I can do with them, so I can't really push the sharpening any more. However, with IR I can sharpen slightly more without any ill effects.

I have to say that I prefer what IR does with m4/3 files than the results I get from my Fuji X cameras. The sharpness for those is fine, but the colours are a bit off. No such problems with my Panasonic files. As you can see the colour is very consistent with all the files.

So, not a lot of use if you own a PC, since IR is Mac only. But I recommend you give it a try. There is a trial download HERE so it costs you nothing to see what it's like. 


All original material on this blog is © Soundimageplus.  Please Respect That  

Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are just that, opinions. What is written here is at no time intended as a recommendation or otherwise of photographic gear or practice. This is a personal blog written 'in the moment' and is primarily intended as an entertainment. I would also point out that this is not a review site and not intended to be so and the Google+ groups where you can post comments are not forums. I am the sole moderator and I will remove any post (and poster) if I think fit. 

 
Plus the Soundimageplus blog is 100% independent. No-one sends me gear to review and I have no relationship with any manufacturer or retail outlet. I buy all the gear I use and write about. The advertisements that appear on this site are generated by Google and I have no control over the content, which differs from country to country. I do make a small income from them, which covers expenses and some small recompense for the time I take to write this, but no more than that. If you like what you read and would like to help me to continue to keep buying stuff to write about then clicking on a few adds will earn me a few fractions of a penny. It will cost you nothing and you don't have to buy anything to contribute a (very!) small amount to my coffers.  

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

Working with Photo Ninja - Give us RAW raw files!!!

All images processed from raw via Photo Ninja





The above images were shot during the last 9 months using Panasonic GX7, Leica X-Vario and Fuji X-E2 cameras. I processed the files in the last couple of days using Photo Ninja as my raw converter. In all cases I prefer these conversions to what I get in Photoshop and with a little work to find what gives the best results for each camera I can get some really impressive files. What I like is how PN 'bypasses' the background processing that happens to raw files in Adobe software. Most of this occurs with input from the manufacturers and usually involves a degree of noise reduction even before you get to the camera raw interface. This 'noise paranoia' results in a softening of the files. The most notorious example of which is what Adobe do to Fuji X files. PN and other smaller (i.e. not Adobe) 3rd. party software programmes for raw conversion 'let more of the original image through' (I can't think of a better way to describe it) allowing the user to decide how much 'correcting' and noise reducing to do.

Now I much prefer this. And once I get used to how these programmes work and balancing the desire for sharpness with the need to keep both luminance and colour noise under control, I can get some incredibly sharp and detailed results which can turn most lens and sensor tests on their heads. For people who just shoot OOC jpgs. and base their asessment of how good their sensor and / or lenses are on that, they can in be in for a significant shock when they realise what programmes like PN and others like Iridient Developer and Raw Photo Processor can do with their files. That soft lens can become pin sharp and that MP pixel challenged sensor is suddenly capable of producing superb files that can be upsized dramatically. 

In a way, I'm not sure raw files is a good way to describe what we mostly get. Because they certainly aren't that raw. They often come with all sorts of pre-loaded embedded instructions to the native software of PS / LR to adjust certain parameters without giving us the opportunity to decide whether we want them or not. Lens profiles are now turning up automatically in Photoshop ACR for example and while most of the time they don't do any harm, it's another matter entirely when all sorts of noise reduction is performed on the raw files without it being able to be turned off. Because apart from anything else it is entirely possible to get sharper files than ACR or Lightroom can offer us AND still keep CA, noise and fringing under control. However, many camera manufacturers and Adobe obviously think that we aren't mature enough to be able to handle that and consequently they 'nanny' us with their software constrictions and expect us to put up with it.

But there are alternatives and yes they do sometimes have to be worked at, but in many instances the results are worth it. The Fuji X files are an obvious case where a programme like PN produces much sharper results with none of the softening effects that Adobe create, but my Leica X-Vario files are significantly sharper when processed via PN, showing that even Leica like to dictate what we get. And in the past I've written that I don't think PN works so well on m4/3 files. However, after doing a lot of experimentation and trying different combinations of adjustments, I need to revise that. I can now get some superb renderings from PN for my GX7 files. Just to give an idea of what I can achieve, I compared an upsized low ISO file from my GX7 processed via PN with something similar shot on a Nikon D7100 processed via Photoshop. In terms of sharpness and noise levels the files were identical, showing that raw processing is just as important, if not more so, for producing quality files as sensor size and lenses used.

I'm not going to show any examples of what I've written about because I don't have the time nor the inclination to do that. And also because we all want different things from our raw files anyway. But if you haven't already tried them and you're not entirely satisfied with what you are getting from proprietry software and Adobe then I do urge you to try some of these programmes. All are either shareware or have a trial download period. Plus I also urge you to experiment with them, to see what combination of settings work for you. And yes some of them are a bit fiddly, but Photo Ninja has a decent interface and isn't that daunting. Certainly if you are used to Lightroom it's positively minimalist! You may think that after trying them you are happy with what you have already, but you may also well find yourself surprised at just what kind of quality is lurking in those files.

Finally just to whet your appetite if you are, like me, a helpless Fuji fanboy, I have both the 10-24mm f/4 zoom AND 56mm f/1.2 lenses arriving tomorrow!! It's going to be a fun weekend!!


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Iridient Developer Workflow

Lots of people (Well one or two!) have asked about how I use Iridient Developer for my Fuji X files. Well its actually very simple. I use the existing X-E1 preset with some modifications.
Firstly I try and get as much dynamic range as possible by lightening the shadows and taking down the highlights.


Secondly I turn off all sharpening and noise reduction.


I do everything else in Photoshop which is much more suited to the job, better at sharpening, better at noise reduction. I'm just using the Iridient software to bypass the problems caused by the imbedded instructions in the file, which seems to cause the green foliage smearing.

I've always spent very little time in raw conversion software, and this is the problem I have with Lightroom and Aperture. Though people use them as a means to produce the 'finished article' I've never been convinced that they can do this to my satisfaction. 

The file I get from IR is quite soft and noisy, with both colour noise and moire. However, I then press one function button which contains a preset that reuces the noise, sharpens the file and also upsizes it to 24MP. I end up with a beautiful looking clean fine which I can then tweak to my satisfaction. 

Don't expect Iridient Developer to do everything, it can't. Its neither intended for that purpose nor suitable for it. Its a raw file developer and thats it. Its always struck me that Lightroom and Aperture have 'ideas above their station' and they seem to be regarded as alternatives to Photoshop. They are not. I've argued long and hard on this and I've seen nothing that convinces me otherwise. For me all raw file conversion is a two step process. Get the cleanest most neutral image I can create and then finish it off it Photoshop. Using Iridient Developer is no different. I just substitute it for ACR.


Fuji X-Pro1 - ISO 6400 - Iridient Developer


I saw in a Fuji forum the view that Iridient Developer works well on low ISO shots but not high ISO. I dug out an X-Pro1 file shot at ISO 6400 and processed it using the basic settings. Below is a 100% enlargement of a section and in common with the rest of my experiences with this software I'm once again impressed.


Fuji X-E1 - upsized compared to Nikon D800E


In a recent post, I wrote this:- 

'My current way of working with the software is to produce a reasonably 'flat' tiff file from Iridient Developer, with no sharpening but some colour noise reduction applied and then finish it off in Photoshop. The conversions are so good that I'm able to upsize them quite dramatically to 24MP and 36MP in Photoshop, using the new resize option, with very little loss of detail.'

and

'I'm not saying that upsized Fuji X-E1 or Leica X Vario upsized files are as good as native D800E files, they are not, but they are pretty damn close. Close enough in fact to suggest that I would be better off selling the Nikons and concentrating on the Fuji X system, which in terms of speed, features etc. is fine for me and what I shoot, and as far as I'm concerned pretty much the right size and weight.'

So what am I talking about here? 

Well, as I said, I'm not saying that a Fuji X file, even upsized in Iridient Developer is the equal of a Nikon D800E file, particularly when the Nikon file is processed from raw. But a carefully processed and upsized Fuji X-E1 file is pretty close to an out of camera Nikon D800E jpg.

I did this test making sure that I didn't do a close-up which generally makes anything look good and I made sure that both images were processed using standard default settings. Settings were - ISO 200 for the Fuji, ISO 100 for the Nikon, 18mm for the Fuji and 28mm for the Nikon, both at f/8, tripod mounted, auto white balance. The X-E1 preset used in Iridient Developer and the standard jpg. default setting for the Nikon. 

The Fuji file was upsized to the same size of the Nikon in Iridient Developer and not Photoshop for the purposes of this test. Both of course could be processed better (or worse!) with some tweaking and by using the Nikon raw file. To my eyes the Nikon is still sharper and nicer looking but then this is a huge blowup and for reproduction purposes, and importantly as far as I'm concerned, for being accepted by picture libraries, there is virtually nothing in it. With some careful processing and post-processing I could probably get the two even closer, but this will show just what the X-Trans sensor is capable of once its files are processed in a software package that attempts to do them justice.

I should of course make it clear that I have no particular agenda here, and the test is primarily for me to see if a Fuji X camera can 'replace' the Nikon D800E for my purposes. I must repeat again I'm not saying the Fuji is even the equal of the Nikon in terms of image quality at this size, it isn't, but its probably close enough for virtually any commercial use, as far as I'm concerned and this test encourages me to try some other combinations out to see just what I can achieve.




Is software now more important than hardware?

 Fuji X-E1 Sigma 12-24mm (Nikon Fit)

  Fuji X-E1 Sigma 12-24mm (Nikon Fit)

  Fuji X-E1 Voigtlander 90mm (M-Mount)

  Fuji X-E1 Voigtlander 90mm (M-Mount)
It used to be simple. A camera, a lens and something to record what they saw, called film. The quality of the lens was important to the final result as was the speed of the film. If you were shooting transparencies, once you pressed the shutter that was it. You either had it or you didn't.
Yesterday I went out with my Fuji X-E1 and Voigtlander 90mm. I also took my Nikon mount Sigma 12-24mm and an adapter, which previously had produced results with the Fuji, that were OK, but nothing special. But that was before Iridient Developer. As you can see from the above 100% blowups, using that software has turned out some wonderfully sharp files.
These were way better than I was expecting. So in effect, using different software to process the raw files gives me a 'new' 'better' lens. The Voigtlander also came up with some very detailed crisp images.

This got me thinking about what is more important these days, the hardware or the software? 

Lens 'correction' is now becoming commonplace. I remember all the fuss a few years ago when Panasonic released the 7-14mm zoom and Shock Horror! used in camera software to remove distortion and CA. There were posts about how terrible this was and the end of photography as we know it. The adjustments were in fact very minor and as nothing compared to the amount of 'correction' that the Nikon lens profile in Photoshop performed on the 28-300mm zoom I used extensively last year. And the 16-50mm zoom I used on the Sony NEX cameras I had was dreadful without software correction but a very useful and good quality lens with it.

Some of us also used to assume that raw files were a 'pure' version of what the camera / lens combination produced but in fact they are actually nothing of the sort. I thought the files from my Leica X Vario were excellent. But processing them through Iridient Developer, which 'bypasses' the corrections that Lightroom or Photoshop apply, I discovered that the lens vignettes at its widest and the images with no NR applied have moire and colour noise. And this is not restricted to new digital lenses. Leica had to introduce lens profiles into the M9 as many wide-angle primes made by themselves, Zeiss and Voigtlander exhibited serious vignetting and a purple / magenta cast in the corners. 

So digital solutions for digital photography and the quality of the lens plus the 'digital film' i.e. the sensor, isn't the whole story anymore. The in camera firmware and the raw processing software is just as important, and as the case of the Fuji X cameras, can make a huge difference to the quality of the finished file. As far as I'm concerned, this doesn't really matter. I have no problem with it if the finished result works. Plus in terms of lenses this software correction gives us smaller, lighter and cheaper lenses, and in terms of the sensor means we can use cameras in low light, without flash or additional lighting. 

If anything these days, the quality of the camera or lens firmware is as important, if not more so than the actual hardware itself. And certainly what the processing software allows us to do (or restricts us from doing) can have a significant impact on the quality of the images we produce. And to my mind its neither 'better' or 'worse', just another way of doing things and certainly something that we will see more and more of in the future.



Iridient Developer and its implications for the Fuji X system.

Fuji X-E1 18-55mm lens

The biggest boost for the Fuji X system, for Apple Mac users only unforunately, has come from the small software company Iridient.  I've been testing out their Developer software for the last few days on my X-E1 and X-Pro1 files and its simply superb. The conversions are everything I hoped I would get when I bought the non-AA filtered X Pro1 over 15 months ago. Finally, the raw files have shown just what they are capable of in terms of sharpness and resolution. The software is a good alternative to other raw developers for all my other cameras, but it is for the Fuji X cameras where it really shines.

I'm not going to show any sample or test images here because, unlike when I review a camera or lens, the software is available for testing as a trial demo (with a watermark) so you can easily see for yourselves what its capable of for no charge. If you have a Mac of course. PC users who are also Fuji X owners, will I'm sure be somewhat frustrated by this, but its worth remembering that Mac owners have been putting up with PC only software for years, so now you know how it feels!

I don't really know what a 'demosiacing algorithm' is but I know what I see with my eyes. Unlike all other software conversions for the Fuji X files, there is no 'foliage mush' 'smearing' or 'watercolour effect' present in the converted files. The files are crisp and sharp, even without any added sharpening in the software. There are also several noise reduction options which eliminate the colour noise and moire that occurs when the files are developed, which works very well and in a non-destructive way. 

My current way of working with the software is to produce a reasonably 'flat' tiff file from Iridient Developer, with no sharpening but some colour noise reduction applied and then finish it off in Photoshop. The conversions are so good that I'm able to upsize them quite dramatically to 24MP and 36MP in Photoshop, using the new resize option, with very little loss of detail. In fact the 24MP upsized files I'm producing look virtually identical to my Nikon D7100 files. so you will get an idea as to just how good they are. I hesitate to say that I'm getting Leica M9 sharpness here, but its pretty close. Also unlike Raw Photo Processor 64 conversions, there are no problems with getting the colours right. The Iridient Developer interface is also much more user friendly than RPP and the whole programme works reasonably quickly and is easy to navigate and well laid out. There are a few improvements I could suggest, but on the whole its designed pretty well.

So for me this takes my X-E1 into another league. It is pretty much like I suddenly have a new camera. In terms of image quality, I thought that my X Vario just shaded the X-E1, but now I'm not so sure. The X Vario files can be processed via Iridient Developer, and they are very good, but not quite as spectacular as the X-E1 files. Plus Leica have optimised the camera for use with Adobe ACR, so there is little point in adding the extra step. When you factor in the high ISO performance, the Fuji X's now become pretty special cameras in terms of image quality. In one of my 'frustrated with Fuji' pieces I wrote that raw conversion and awful battery life were the 'difficulties' that I had with the X-E1, but now only battery life remains, so it moves up the pecking order in terms of my cameras.

I didn't take the Fuji with me to the south coast, because of the two issues above, and the thing that did come out of that trip was the fact that I used my Nikon D800E's very little, and in the case of the D7100, not at all. I spent most of the time using my Leica and the Nikon 1 V1 I took with me. Much as I respect and admire the Nikon D's, I'm only really using them because they give me superb images. The D800E really is a wonderful camera, but its a brute to carry around, which is what happened on the day I used it exclusively. A morning battling along a shingle beach and an afternoon walking through a very hilly town, left me me with tired legs and a sore back, and after that I went out with the Leica the next day and the Nikon 1 V1 the day after that. A few years ago I was having the same experience with a Nikon D3X, until I jumped at the chance at buying the Leica M9, which gave me as good as, if not better IQ, after upsizing, than I was getting with the Nikon, with substantial weight and size advantage. To date I haven't had that option, until now. 

I'm not saying that upsized Fuji X-E1 or Leica X Vario upsized files are as good as native D800E files, they are not, but they are pretty damn close. Close enough in fact to suggest that I would be better off selling the Nikons and concentrating on the Fuji X system, which in terms of speed, features etc. is fine for me and what I shoot, and as far as I'm concerned pretty much the right size and weight. Particularly since today Fuji have announced another of their 'superdeals'. Buy an X-Pro 1 + 35mm f/1.4 combination and Fuji will send you an 18mm f/2 for nothing. This camera / 35 lens kit can be bought in the UK for £1200. Since the two lenses currently cost around £800-850 to buy separately, you can see how cheap that makes a new X-Pro 1 and I may well go for this deal. 

So a £60 software programme turns a decent camera into a pretty special one and I'm going to be using the X-E1 a lot over the next few days to shoot some new images knowing that I'm going to get some pretty impressive files. The UK heatwave is set to continue for some time to come with temperatures of 30 selsius becoming commonplace. Unbelieveable really, but very welcome. So I'll have plenty of opportunity to try it out.

I would finish by saying that if you have a Fuji X camera and a Mac, do try out the Iridient software. I would be surprised if you are not impressed by it.






Fuji X Sensor - raw files. Is this the real deal? (At last!)


Lots of people enthusing about Iridient Developer for processing Fuji X raw files so I decided to try it out as there is a trial you can download with a watermark. It does actually work very well, though has two disadvantages. Firstly its Mac only and Secondly for what it is, its expensive.

However this is the best so far. Better than Silkypix, Photsoshop / Lightroom and Aperture. Sharp images with little noise and no green foliage mush.




The second example above has the Iridient version in the middle and the Photoshop ACR version at the bottom. You will clearly see how much more detail and sharpness there is in the Iridient Developer version, which is just from the X-E1 preset. The ACR file has sharpening added but still produces a softish 'smeared' result. The advantage of Iridient Developer over Aperture is that it is slightly sharper and still keeps the colour noise and moire under control. If you have a Fuji X camera and a Mac, give it a try. I think you will be impressed.

From the Iridient Website.
'Iridient Developer is a powerful RAW image conversion application designed and optimized specifically for Mac OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of their digital camera's output, yet still provides easy drag and drop batch conversion and access to basic adjustments for the casual user. Thanks in part to Dave Coffin's work on the open source RAW decoding program dcraw, RAW developer is able to support files from over 400 RAW capable digital camera models!! Note that although we do use portions of dcraw for decoding RAW image files, essentially the entire image processing pipeline is completely unique to RAW Developer this includes the demosaicing algorithms used for all cameras based on RGB color filters (which is nearly all of them), all color management operations, all other processing adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and final file format conversion.'