|Volume 13, Number 14||15 July 2011|
Welcome to the 310th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We take a look at DxO Optics Pro, putting it in perspective among image editing tools. Shawn reflects on his experiences with Fujifilm's iconic X100. And we finish with some news you have to see to believe. Enjoy!
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/DxOv6/optics-pro.htm on the Web site.)
Some reviews take a long time. It seems like we've been working on this review of DxO Optics Pro for years. And, if we do the math (with some old calendars), we have. That's a credit to the product. It's a moving target.
No sooner had we completed our review of DxO Optics Pro v6.5 than DxO let slip it was just about done with v6.6. So once again, we postponed publication to cover the latest, greatest features.
But these delays are not a reflection of Optics Pro's complexity. On the contrary, we've always found it straightforward. And its approachable interface makes it easy for anyone to plum its depths, unlike a few other sophisticated tools we could (and have) mentioned.
And Optics Pro is deep. It's also unique.
No other image editing software (the general class to which Optics Pro belongs) relies on sensor data to guide its default, automatic edits. And until recently no other product relied on lens data either. Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom now make room for lens data, but it's not quite the same thing as DxO's lens data.
The advantage of DxO's approach is that you start your subjective image edits from an optimized image. In other software, you first have to tweak the corrected image before taking flight with it. Optics Pro knows what's wrong with the image based on the sensor and lens used to create it, makes the edits it knows it can safely make to correct the image and leaves the rest to you. It gives you something of a head start.
On the other hand, Optics Pro doesn't do a lot of things you may expect of an image editing program. There's no Print command, for example. And you can't remove red-eye.
So rather than thinking of Optics Pro as a competitor to Photoshop or Lightroom among image editing programs or as a competitor to Bibble or Camera Raw or Phase One among Raw file processors, we've come to think of it as competing with the image processor built into our cameras.
We're comfortable with that because all the cameras we use are supported by Optics Pro. DxO has released a flurry of Optics Pro upgrades in the last year (not reflected in the version number) to keep up with the new hardware -- just as it promised. And -- at least up to v6.5 -- you'd be wise to make sure your gear is supported before relying on it.
The latest version, however, brings many if not all of Optics Pro's power to JPEG images from any camera. You'll still be able to go further quicker with supported hardware (one of the key benefits of Optics Pro, after all, is that it knows the characteristics of the sensor and lens). But you can apply some of the new features to any image.
With supported hardware, you'll find as we did that Optics Pro does for your images what no other software can. To illustrate that, we've chosen a few case studies over the past year to discuss after a brief tour of the software. And we tested some unsupported JPEGs to show what you can do with unsupported hardware, too.
While Optics Pro will open and process any JPEG image, it does so with greater authority if your camera and lens combination is supported by the application. And for Raw processing, that's even more true.
You can find a list of compatible equipment (http://www.dxo.com/us/photo/dxo_optics_pro/for_your_equipment) and learn more about your camera and lens combination at DxO Mark (http://www.dxomark.com), the company's free online resource for lens and camera image quality data.
OPTICS PRO WORKFLOW
Optics Pro launches with an optional dialog box asking you if you want to continue with the launch, look for new modules, view the online help or import an old project. Those options are available from the Menu bar as well, so it won't hurt to disable the box.
The application uses one full-screen window with four panes plus a toolbar. In addition the First Steps Wizard optionally guides you along in a popup of its own.
There's a left dock and a right dock framing the main image window. Below them is the Project pane with a toolbar of its own, which can be undocked to float freely.
Projects are simply collections of images you select from various sources. Selecting them is the first step in the workflow.
Select. The toolbar has four buttons that navigate the Optics Pro workflow: Select (the default at launch), Customize, Process and View.
You select original images from a variety of sources including Lightroom catalogs, other Projects and mounted media. These sources are shown in the left-hand panel in a familiar tree display. A popup at the top selects between Projects, Folders and Lightroom catalogs.
As you navigate the sources, thumbnails are displayed in the large middle pane. From the toolbar, you can adjust the size of the thumbnails, change the sort order and filter file types.
We were surprised when we weren't able to see our DNG files in the Select module. It's been our preference to convert Raw files to DNG on import from the card, discarding the original Raw files in most cases.
But the Paris-based company explained it only "supports Pentax and Samsung cameras with DNG. Others are not supported because the policy in the past has been that the DxO Optics Pro software will not process files that come from other software due to information such as speed setting, aperture, type of lens, that they can't rely on. To support those would require additional coding, using development resources that DxO cannot fully support at this time due to other priorities."
So if you convert your camera Raw images to DNG, Optics Pro won't be able to process them. You'll need the original camera Raw files.
It's an odd limitation certainly, particularly since Optics Pro supports DNG as an output format.
To add an image to your project, you simply drag it to the Project pane. You can sort the images there, rotate them, filter them and continue to the next step Process.
Customize. In the Customize module (where you do your image editing), the left and right panels show various tools and settings depending on the Workspace setting in the main menu bar. The large middle pane shows the image selected in the Project pane.
Three workspaces are installed by default and you can configure your own as well. The three set the right and left panes:
"First Steps" shows the Tools and Move/Zoom palettes in the left pane and the Settings palette in the right pane. Settings includes: Exposure Compensation, DxO Lighting - HDR, Vignetting, Distortion, DxO Lens Softness, Unsharp Mask, Noise and Chromatic Aberration.
"Essentials" adds the histogram palette to the left pane and reorganizes the right pane into Detail Essentials (DxO Lens Softness, Unsharp Mask, DxO FilmPack Grain, Noise and Chromatic Aberration), Light Essentials (Exposure Compensation, DxO Lighting - HDR and Vignetting), Color Essentials (White Balance, Vibrancy, Color rendering and Color Modes) and Geometry Essentials (Distortion, Keystoning/Horizon and Crop).
"Advanced User" adds the Exif palette and a Preset Editor palette to the left pane and reorganizes the right panel. The right panel displays palettes for Light (Exposure Compensation, DxO Lighting - HDR, Vignetting and Tone Curve), Color (White Balance, Vibrancy, Color rendering, Color Modes, Hue/Saturation/Lightness and Multi-Point Color Balance), Geometry (Distortion, Volume Anammorphosis, Keystoning/Horizon and Crop) and Detail (DxO Lens Softness, DxO FilmPack Grain, Unsharp Mask, Noise, Dust and Chromatic Aberration).
You can select any combination of palettes, group them however you like and rearrange the order to suit just by dragging and dropping them. You can also dock any of them in the right or left pane. And you an create your own palette, too. If you have too many to display at once, a double click on the palette title bar collapses it.
Presets. It's getting hard to find an image editing application or even a plug-in these days that doesn't offer a set of presets. And with good reason. Presets in the Customize module instantly apply a range of edits to create a specific look.
You can set the view for that image to toggle between the original image and the corrected one or to show them side by side. But as soon as you select an image for display, Optics Pro automatically corrects it. Unless you make an effort, you are addressed to the corrected preview.
In some cases, we preferred to view the corrected image alone because we wanted to make adjustments to some of the settings. The original didn't have much significance in that situation.
But often when evaluating the automatic correction it was helpful to refer to the original image. In that case, we preferred to see a side-by-side display. And to get the most from that approach, we preferred a 100 percent rendering of the image. Below 75 percent, the softness, noise and chromatic aberration optimizations Optics Pro makes are not detectable on your monitor -- and Optics Pro reminds you of that salient fact.
But it is just a preview. Nothing happens to your original in Optics Pro. All the corrections and subsequent edits are not written back to the original but processed on a working copy that is then exported in any number of formats (and more than one at a time, if you wish).
Before processing the corrections and edits, however, Optics Pro provides a healthy selection of recipes or formulas for different looks or styles under a preset menu on the toolbar.
Some presets are only available for Raw files. But a large number of them can be applied to JPEGs. In v6.6, we applied Black & White, Old Postcard, Vivid, and HDR Effect.
Process. Once you've corrected and adjusted your set of images, you batch process them. Optics Pro really cranks through them. It's the one application that can turn on fans, although processing a single image doesn't always call for that. It took 1:12 to process the image of the dolls but 0:35 to turn a JPEG of the Palace of Fine Arts into a postcard.
Because it's a batch, you can walk away or switch to another process while it's working. The other main advantage, of course, is that your edits in the Customize module are instant. So you can get your work done without delay and then do the processing later when you need a break.
View. The View module shows you the processed image but it can also upload it to Flickr (after authorization). You can also return to the Customize module to further refine the image.
CASE STUDY: LOCAL CORRECTION
The case studies are illustrated in the online version of this review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/DxOv6/optics-pro.htm). Here we present only general observations.
Optics Pro isn't strong on local edits. While there is a Dust Removal Tool, we had no success using it to obliterate electrical wires from a sunset. It's more of a spotting brush.
As DxO explained it to us, "The Dust tool is not a cloning tool like Photoshop or Lightroom, but it's more of a 'filling' tool. The software constructs areas you are looking to cover with neighboring pixels. You need a uniform area that is larger compared to the area you are looking to cover. A point to note, the DxO Optics Pro software allows you to save some dust removal operations as pre-sets to save you time, for example, if you know your sensor has dots on it."
CASE STUDY: PERSPECTIVE
But Optics Pro is strong on correcting distortion. After all, it knows all about your lens and what sort of problems it has at various focal lengths (if it's a zoom).
And it's very good at two of the simpler but inevitable corrections in this class. It can easily straighten a horizon with the Horizon Tool. Just draw a line along the horizon (or where the horizon might be) and the image will be straightened and cropped.
More impressive is that it can square up an image with converging vertical lines. If you point your camera up at a pair of columns, as we did at the Palace of Fine Arts, the columns will seem to come together at the top. Sometimes that's no problem at all. But when the view is not dramatic, more head on, it can be disturbing to see that geometry in the image.
The Force Parallel Tool requires you to draw two lines on an image. Optics Pro then makes them parallel. That quickly straightened out our columns.
So while you can't do local corrections as a rule, you can make some significant improvements to the image geometry.
CASE STUDY: TONE & COLOR
Raw conversion is one of Optic Pro's strengths, based on DxO's camera sensor data.
If you've ever opened a Raw file in any other application, you may have been bewildered by all the sliders and options. Generally you start at the top and work your way down. But you can easily make a mess of things.
Optics Pro uses what it knows about your camera's sensor and the lens you used to capture the image to automatically optimize all of those settings. You start from a finely-tuned improvement, not a generic one, as in most programs.
We have to say, though, that this can be more than a little disconcerting. You've rolled up your sleeves to get to work on an image only to find there's nothing left for you to do.
Of course there are a few things you can do. Whatever you like, actually. But the task becomes one of creatively manipulating the corrected image rather than refining generic corrections.
CASE STUDY: JPEG
With v6.6, more of the power of Optics Pro has been extended to cameras and lenses the program knows nothing about. There are limits to this. You'll get further with a Raw image from supported hardware. But for correcting a preprocessed image, this is pretty exciting.
CASE STUDY: HIGH ISO
One of the chief advantages Optics Pro brings to processed images is noise reduction of High ISO images. You can, the company pointed out in a press briefing, get there from Lightroom or Photoshop or Aperture. But Optics Pro starts there.
That's a pretty big jump on the competition.
Our test Raw image was shot at ISO 3200 at 1/15 second with an f8.0 aperture. The original in-camera JPEG isn't bad (as far as noise goes) but the Optics Pro version is a significant improvement.
CASE STUDY: HDR
High Dynamic Range imaging means different things to different people.
To some it simply represents an extension of the dynamic range of an image. Shadows reveal detail rather than plugging up in darkness while highlights retain some detail as well instead of burning out to white.
To others it's a way of turning middle tones on their head, churning out an image you can't find otherwise.
Optics Pro starts from the more realistic approach and dips into the more artsy approach.
No matter which workspace you use, the DxO Lighting option provides three automatically set levels of HDR toning: slight, medium and strong. These can be adjusted with an Intensity slider.
We found them to be indispensable, much like dynamic range extending options on digicams that preserve highlight detail and open up the shadows. We didn't find them to be very extreme at all. So we can recommend them for enhancing the tonal range of most images safely.
There are, however, a number of HDR presets (and more if you are processing a Raw image) that offer a wider range of options.
The HDR preset options include: HDR Effect, HDR - Artistic (Raw only), HDR - Realistic (Raw only), HDR - Slight. We've applied them to our Olympus Pen E-PL1 .ORF Raw image.
Unique among image processors, Optics Pro draws on its proprietary knowledge of sensors and lenses to automatically correct both Raw and JPEG images. In its latest version, it extends some of that processing power to JPEG images from cameras and lenses it knows nothing about.
We find it a valuable tool. Whenever we process images in Optics Pro, we're delighted by the instant, automatic improvements.
But we don't stop there. Starting from an image that has been automatically corrected to a higher degree than other image editing software tends to achieve, we find it easy to take the image in different -- but pleasing -- directions.
It's as if someone has done the tough job of getting the plane airborne before we get to fly it wherever we want.
That's a liberating feeling, especially if you've been laboring to fix your images the hard way. And it's a feeling we can live with, too.
By SHAWN BARNETT with LUKE SMITH(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X100/X100A.HTM on the Web site.)
I took the Fujifilm X100 out to shoot galleries expecting to have a terrible time after all I'd heard, but ended the evening quite pleased with it. It's not for everyone, nor for every scene. The lack of a zoom kills it for most, so stay away if shooting with a single prime would frustrate you before laying down your $1,200.
My biggest complaints are simple. The EV dial turns too easily, the rear Navigation cluster is way too finicky and the camera doesn't automatically switch into Macro mode when necessary -- and with a 35mm equivalent lens, it's often necessary. Finally, before the firmware update, the ISO changed every time I switched modes. That included switching into Macro mode for closer focusing. What?
That's just the beginning of the programming peculiarity in the X100, much of which persists after the firmware update. In a sense, it's not just the body that looks 1960s retro, but many of the major digital camera interface lessons of the last 10 years have also been ignored. It's retro to multiple decades.
Thankfully, one of my chief gripes was handled with the 1.10 firmware update: that of the ISO changing with the selected mode. As Luke put it, "There will be X100s smashed on the floor in anger over this." No more, though.
I still can't help but admire what the Hybrid Viewfinder tries to achieve. At its best, it gives an optical view with an LCD overlay, much like the heads-up display on the windshield of a jet. It even tries to compensate for parallax by moving the virtual image frame after it's determined the focus distance. Because it can't overcome the extreme parallax in Macro mode, it switches to EVF mode for much more accurate framing. The Hybrid Viewfinder is a great idea and a handsome implementation of available technology, bringing to mind the imaginary camera viewfinders in sci-fi and spy movies.
But there are a few unavoidable problems with the system. For one, shooting out in bright light makes it harder to see the LCD overlay. Luke couldn't see it at all in some cases. I didn't encounter quite as much light or else I could handle it better. But there was no question it was quite a bit dimmer. And that's just a fact of LCD vs. sunlight. The LCD's backlight is going to lose the fight. And after you take a shot using the hybrid optical mode, the X100 serves up the Playback image, which again looks very dark compared to the light passing through the optical viewfinder. It's jarring at first.
With subjects further than 20 feet away, the optical viewfinder itself, without the hybrid guidelines, gives a more accurate representation of what the X100 will capture, because the guidelines only show about 93 percent of the scene that will actually be captured. It gives you a better idea of where you should shift the image to get your subject closer to the center, but it's not an accurate representation of what you'll capture. Switching to LCD mode when Macro mode is on is really all they could do to solve that problem, though it makes macro focusing that much more difficult.
Speaking of focusing, I found the manual focusing mode essentially unusable and the lab agreed. As Luke put it, "Manual focus is nearly impossible to use due to severe lag in wired control and the huge number of turns necessary to change focus. You can turn the ring, let go and watch while it slowly continues to adjust focus step by step. Turn, let go, wait and bzzt, bzzt, bzzt, bzzt, it has passed the focus point." Especially for Macro focusing, I found it beyond tedious and agree it's unusable, not just a nuisance.
Almost everyone hoping to take indoor photos of people will come away frustrated, unless they're happy with taking flash shots. I found the camera almost never focused where I wanted it to. It has a very thin depth of field at portrait distances between f2 and f4 and very often these distances close to where one needs to switch into Macro mode, destroying spontaneity or else resulting in an out-of-focus shot. Most often, some other part of the person was in focus, while their eyes were a blur.
Because the bokeh is buttery smooth, it's a soft, pleasing blur that looks fine in 4x6-inch images, it's still disappointing to a portrait shooter, not to mention a Dad. You absolutely need to learn to change the AF point, which is quite easy. Just press the AF button on the left of the LCD and use the arrow keys to move it around. It's fast and obvious once you know about the problem. Just don't forget to reset it somewhere else for the next shot.
When active, the focus scale does try to warn you that you're looking at a narrow depth of field. A small blue scale lines the bottom of the screen and when focus is achieved, it shows you in white the area that will likely be in focus at the selected aperture setting. As Luke notes, however, depending on the surrounding light, the white area against the light cyan background can be very difficult to see.
Checking focus is also easy once you figure out that it's like Nikon's implementation on their SLRs: the Zoom buttons are the AE and AF buttons on the left of the LCD.
Easy to discount is the X100's extremely quiet shutter. This makes the X100 great for candid snapshots and shots of children, because it doesn't draw undue attention. It's one of the camera's most endearing features.
Only full stops are available on the physical control dials for aperture and shutter speed, but with the X100 there is a workaround. Set your whole stop and use the Command Control to adjust Aperture in 1/3 stops or the Command Dial to adjust shutter speed in 1/3 stops. Since the firmware update, you can also do this in Aperture or Shutter Priority modes.
Another problem: the maximum shutter speed is 1/1000 second at f2, a setting where you're likely to need a faster shutter speed, but you have to use f8 to reach the maximum 1/4000 second shutter speed. Enter the ND filter, which helps mitigate this problem. Engaging the ND filter is equal to a 3-stop reduction in light level, allowing you to shoot at f2 outdoors or else use a slower shutter speed or both.
While testing lens quality on the SLRgear side of the lab, Rob found the aperture wouldn't actually change until the last image was written. While moving through apertures quickly, he found that the onscreen aperture indicator didn't seem to change, even though he'd been turning the aperture ring all the while between shots. Just waiting for the camera to save its images between shots, though, allows it to recognize its position and shoot the proper aperture.
I loved having the ability to physically set what aperture I wanted to shoot with in the field. I'd have preferred 1/3 stops being built into the ring, though, as I doubt I'd often use the Command Control to bring it up to f3.5, instead opting for the simplicity of f4. If you're going to make it easy for me with real analog controls, make it easy -- with real analog controls, not analog mixed with a digital workaround.
Shutter speeds only go down to 1/4 second on the dial, forcing you to switch to T mode for slower shutter speeds, which you access by turning the Command Dial, from 1/2 second down to 30 seconds. That's a function of the fact that the Shutter Speed dial would have to be considerably larger or else the numbers uncomfortably small to fit all possible settings. I have less of a problem with this digital switchover, since when shooting at such slow shutter speeds, I'm obviously not in as much of a hurry.
Movies at 720p, 24fps look good, with the usual focus seeking now and then. The average parent would be better off with a zoom lens camera, particularly when standing on the edge of the pool where the 35mm-equivalent lens can't always get close enough. There's also no image stabilization in the X100, something you don't think of on a camera with a 35mm lens, but it would still help for video.
Lens flare (more on this below) is visible in night video, showing particularly in the street lamps both near and far and oncoming headlights. Note that the sample video was shot at twilight, not in complete darkness.
CAP & GROAN
With most dSLRs or long zooms, you can't see anything when you look through the viewfinder, so you quickly figure out that the cap's still on. But with the old rangefinders, you could look through that beautiful optical viewfinder and shoot a whole roll of film -- or an entire vacation -- without knowing your lens cap was on, a tragedy so profound it's etched itself into the consciousness as a cliche as funny as chopping people's heads off in all your photographs due to parallax error, also caused by rangefinders and other multi-lens cameras.
You'd think the X100 would have the cap problem too. But to prevent that unpleasant bit of nostalgia from coming back with their Hybrid Viewfinder, if the cap's on, you'll see no hybrid view. Obviously if you're in EVF or LCD mode, you'll know the cap's on, but in Hybrid Viewfinder mode, you can still see through optically, but until you remove that cap, there's no fancy LCD overlay. Nice!
Worked for me. First I checked the power, then I checked the cap. Problem solved.
BUTTONS & MENUS
The Function button's operation is made more useful because it's easier to set: just press and hold for three seconds and the menu of options comes up.
Other buttons bring up menus that now stay up long enough for you to digest and select an option. You wouldn't think changing from 1.5 seconds to 2.0 seconds onscreen would make a difference, but it does. Unfortunately there's no fixing the mechanical Command Dial, so pressing the Menu button in the center will often result in selecting one of the other four surrounding buttons until you learn to press the Menu button with finesse. The shutter button now more quickly awakens the camera from sleep, another plus.
I also confirmed that the Hybrid OVF now properly displays a 16:9 frame rather than the 3:2 frame when that mode is selected. Hard to believe they missed that one the first time around, but it is an ambitious design, to be sure.
We ran the X100 through our SLRgear.com test suite and found corners are soft at f2, but quickly sharpen up at f2.8 and smaller.
We'd heard that lens flare might be a problem, so I made an effort to find it when I went out shooting night videos for this review. You can see it in the sample twilight video as the cars pass in front of the camera. But it was when I shot a street scene broadside that it took on its strongest expression. Indeed, I think it's worse than we've seen.
My bet is that the rear lens elements are so close to the sensor that light is reflecting back and forth between the two, creating this multi-stage reflection, seen in the crop at right, made from the upper left corner. We don't see this in cameras with greater flange-back distance, not like this. Whatever the cause, though the X100 is widely considered a great "street camera," you might want to forget night scenes.
Taking another look in the Hybrid Viewfinder before putting the X100 back in its cigar-like box, I'm struck by its beauty. The original firmware didn't show the histogram in the OVF mode, but after the update it did and that completed the picture. With all the options switched on, the X100 offers a built-in level and all the major information you could want on an LCD right there in the optical viewfinder, something no dSLR has done
That's the true breakthrough. Never mind it doesn't work perfectly at the moment; it will work for the person who takes the time to bond with it.
Ultimately the X100 reminds me of an old camera. Not the way it looks, but the way it operates and the positive effect it has on me. I flash back to the first cameras I owned as a teen. I used to stare into the lens and trip the shutter to see what happened. Then I'd open the camera's back and watch what happened from that side, changing apertures and shutter speeds to see how it all worked. That's just about as fun with the X100.
Though you can't open the back, a lot of interesting things happen when you look into the lens. First, the gray leaf shutter is closed with the camera off. Turn it on and the shutter moves out of the way and the iris starts to open and shut partially in response to the light levels. It looks alive. Switch from the Hybrid OVF to the EVF and a little door rises inside front OVF glass. Before the firmware update, switching back to Hybrid OVF actually closed the lens shutter, but it didn't do that after; perhaps I had something else set that caused this behavior.
I think one reason people desire the return of the handsome, boxy rangefinder is the implied return to simplicity. The X100 tries, but really doesn't succeed in creating a simple camera that just anyone could use.
You'll still need a basic understanding of digital camera technology and then you'll need to know why the three big dials have all those numbers on them, so you can reset them back to A and 0 when you accidentally move them. And then you need a more intimate understanding of the Hybrid Viewfinder and its various modes. It's not a retro camera in that sense.
But those old rangefinders weren't that simple either. You had to learn how the rangefinder focusing system worked and on some you had to learn how the external meter worked so you could make your manual exposure settings. The X100 is arguably for the tinkerer who likes playing with cool gadgets, not, I repeat not for the Luddite looking for a return to the old days.
I'm also not sure it's the right camera for the dSLR owner who wants it as a hobby camera. Why? Well, I think it's a camera that you commit to. It has enough quirks that if you spend a lot of time with other cameras, you'll stumble every time you return to the X100.
Its main benefits can be had by the photographer who takes the time to meld with the X100. Its 35mm-equivalent lens limits what you can shoot but the advantage is you always know what to expect. You'll start to see with a 35mm angle of view. You'll know when you need to move forward or backward without raising the camera to your eye. You'll be able to sense what aperture you've set without looking at the ring or the LCD.
The remaining shortcomings become endearing characteristics. Like any other complicated relationship, if you commit, it could be worth the effort. Or not. That is for you to decide in advance or find out the hard way.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X100/X100A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X100/X100GALLERY.HTM.
After all I'd heard, I expected to write a short list of complaints about the Fujifilm X100 and move on, but as soon as I started using it, I discovered what the buzz was all about. The X100 is not made for everyone who ever liked the look of an old camera. Neither is it made for every hobbyist who likes to tinker. A good selection of the photography-loving populace will hate it. Anyone shooting at night would do well to avoid it, as would most people shooting on a tripod in a studio. But there is a set of photographers, journalists, bloggers and storytellers who will find it an ideal companion.
Once you get over its nostalgic appearance -- and you will have to get over it because it's not quite as good on close inspection as it seems in pictures -- it's about what the X100 can capture that matters. Image quality, even at very high ISO, is remarkably good. Optical quality, too, really does shine.
Users will need to spend time with the X100. They will need to take a lot of pictures, use it often, maybe even take it with them everywhere to truly get familiar with its quirks -- and its rich potential. They will also have to learn to zoom with their feet and to be quick with the Macro button, because many of their subjects will enter into that range without their noticing. They will also have to accept that they cannot always zoom with their feet and that they can't capture everything they see, as they might with a zoom lens.
Many may favor cameras with more convenient optics and an easier interface, but I heartily recommend the X100 to the photography student (not on a budget) who wants to learn the craft of seeing in photographs.
The X100 made us angry in the lab with its quirky interface, but its optical and image quality results were excellent, all except for the pronounced lens flare issue. In use it was really quite fun. Operational difficulty and the unusual lens flare prevent us from giving the X100 our highest recommendation, but for the right person in the right circumstances, we think the X100 is an excellent choice and a very fine camera.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/HX9V/HX9VA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus 12mm f2 ED M.Zuiko Digital (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1444/cat/14)
- Reviewed: Nikon D5100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D5100/D5100A.HTM) with a more versatile side-mounted LCD handy for framing high or low shots, but also for self-portraits.
- Reviewed: Fujifilm X100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X100/X100A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax K-r (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/KR/KRA.HTM). Key changes include new autofocus point indicators and a redesigned, retro-styled body with a larger, significantly higher resolution display.
- Reviewed: DxO Optics Pro v6.6 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/DxOv6/optics-pro.htm)
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
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Did you happen to see any "frazzle ice" while you were there? If not, Google it -- there are some really cool movies of it about.
-- Bob McCormick(It wasn't (fortunately) that cold, Bob. But that's a good reason to go back before the next Memorial Day. What we did see -- and show in the book ("A Visit to Yosemite" at http://mikepasini.com/yosemite/ebook.php) -- is one of the most spectacular water fall displays there in years. Hard to imagine anything but a very high shutter speed could freeze that! -- Editor)
RE: Revolutionary Camera?
Lytro founder Dr. Ren Ng is readying a "revolutionary" light sensor camera for market 2011-12. Your thoughts? Found this article in Wall St. Daily.
-- Lois Fontana(We did post a news item on it in the last newsletter. We're intrigued by the idea of moving the creative choice of setting focus to post processing but we suspect it will be more popular as a fix. -- Editor)
RE: Polarizing Filter
When I was using film, I used a polarizing filter. That taught me the magic of the polarizer -- seeing through a water surface, through a reflecting window, darkening the sky but not the clouds, etc. And, being someone who had a good scientific education, I thought I understood the principle behind all this.
Imagine my surprise when I went to buy a plane wave polarizer and was told that I needed a circular polarizer for my dSLR. Ignorant though I was, I did buy it, (expensive little bugger), installed it and took some pictures. I rotated the outer ring, never actually saw (through the viewfinder) any of the effects that I use to see and wondered. Furthermore, the pictures didn't seem any different. I couldn't eliminate reflections as I could on my old film cameras.
I am confused. How do I use what to eliminate plane surface reflections, darken the polarized skylight, etc.? A friend suggested I also buy a filter that darkens the upper portion of a picture (I forget the technical name) if I want a darker sky.
-- Dick Swenson(Everything you accomplished with the polarizer on your film cameras is achievable with the circular polarizer on your digital camera. While they are expensive, a cheap one isn't the same thing. There are four surfaces, all of which profit from coating. And the thinner, the better, to avoid vignetting. All of which increases cost.... The only trick to using a circular polarizer is to rotate the front element so the mark on the outer ring is at the top, which changes between landscape and portrait). That's the maximum effect, which you may counteract as you like.... Your friend was suggesting a graduated filter which, essentially, provides a different exposure for the two halves of an image. But save your money. This is easy accomplished (and with more flexibility) in image editing software. -- Editor)
RE: Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II
Mike, thanks for posting this very thorough review. I see that some users are experiencing color cast problems. I have never had these color cast issues. I use different brands of paper and never experience any coloring issues. Proper paper profiles are the key and make sure your printer profile matches the image profile of the photo you are trying to print. If the photo was shot in RGB1998 the printer profile has to be set on RGB1998 and not the sRGB profile setting. Otherwise your colors will never match.
-- Mike DiRenzo(Good point, Mike. There's no Intelligent Auto mode on your printer. Kodak and HP have barcoded the back of their papers so the printer can tell what's going on (knowing already what kind of ink it has). But as you expand your paper options, you do have to let the printer know about it. And yes, you don't want to the printer to convert the image's color space behind your back either. Keep your eye out for those two things and you'll be a lot happier sooner. -- Editor)
To celebrate its 60th Anniversary, Sekonic (http://www.sekonic.com) has announced its limited edition L-308S Flashmate meters are available in red, green and blue metallic. In addition, Sekonic announced its 60th Anniversary Contest where three lucky winners will receive a limited color edition of the L-308S Flashmate.
Extensis (http://www.extensis.com) has released its $1,999 Portfolio Server 10 with new iPad and video capabilities that enable worldwide access to digital media. The new Media Engine can use multiple computers to convert video, greatly enhancing processing speed.
PictoColor (http://www.pictocolor.com) has released the 32/64 bit, Photoshop CS5 version of its iCorrect EditLab Pro 6.0 plug-in for Macintosh computers. iCorrect EditLab Pro 6.0 for Windows 32/64 bit computers is also available.
Daniel Box (http://dbox.tumblr.com/post/5426249009) has released his free Instagram Filters as Photoshop Actions. "I didn’t get a 100 percent exact match, but it's pretty close," he confesses.
Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1416) has released Aperture 3.1.3, which "supports general compatibility issues and also addresses overall stability and performance."
Nikon (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1310443261.html) has introduced its $279.95 AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G lens will be available in August.
LQ Graphics (http://www.lqgraphics.com) has released Photo to Movie 5.0 [MW], adding photo layouts, timeline markers and photo effects and backgrounds.
Akvis (http://www.akvis.com) has released its $72 NatureArt 3.0 [MW] with a new nature effect for ice joining rain, sun, water, lightning, clouds, frost and fire.
Phase One (http://www.phaseone.com) has released Media Pro 1.0.1 [WM], a service release with several fixes and improvements and the first update since Media Pro was introduced less than two months ago.
Delkin (http://www.delkin.com) has released its $39.99 Fat Gecko Quick Release Kit with two built-in liquid levels to ensure precise vertical and horizontal angle set-up as well as flanged edges and a push button key to prevent slippage.
The Data Rescue Center (http://www.TheDataRescueCenter.com) has opened its hard drive recovery lab in Livermore, Calif. housing an ISO 5 Class 100 Cleanroom, Class 2 Vault and security features.
Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released GraphicConverter 7.3 [M] with support for Mac OS X 10.7, AAI import, HTC splashscreen import/export, updates for the PDS and DCM converters and more.
Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 4.3.1 [M] in a 64-bit version with support for the Olympus E-P3 and Canon T3/1100D, an update for the Copy Tags option and more.
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.0.50 with a number of fixes.
The Wedding Contest Winner for Cheap Chic Weddings 7th Annual Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest is Susan Brennan from Michigan (http://www.cheap-chic-weddings.com/wedding-contest-2011.html).
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Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher