Tag: fuji

Why White Balance, Colour & Highlight Roll-off matter in film simulations

Putting aside for a moment the really important requirements for a good photo, that is content and composition, without either of which your photos will immediately fail, if your photo is trying to mimic a particular film stock then to be truly believable it has to provide a believable colour pallet. While there are many photographers out there that think that because you label a photograph as Kodak 64 or Superia 100 or Portra 160 that this is what it is, in truth, this is purely what the author of the recipe thinks it is and that means for you that this is purely a leap of faith in many circumstances. Even if you have researched film, and you do understand about white balance it does’nt mean to say that your photo exhibits all of the correct characteristics of film. You have to work hard to make a good film simulation and for this reason, understanding how white balance and highlight roll-off affect your image is one of the keys to success, although not the only ones, when trying to emulate film.

Now, I’m a member of a good many Facebook groups which focus on Fujifilm jpeg simulation as a creative tool. While many posts get close to vintage colourisation and tones, far too many, in my opinion at least, fail to nail a film look because they simply don’t manage their colour profiles and tones properly. This can result in images which are unrealistic in terms of white balance, overall colour and sometimes even the tone of the image. Working with film is like alchemy, it’s a truly magic process which makes creating exact digital facsimilies practically impossible. You can get close, but it’s really rather difficult to be exact. So with this being said, let’s examine a fact of life. When you look at the world, white is white. Even if it’s a dull grey day, white still looks white. If it’s a sunny day and the sun is blazing, white still looks white. So if white things dont look white in your photos, then your white balance is off and you need to resolve that problem before shooting tons of images which all look off. Now, I’m not a master of colour science, indeed I have no specific skills in colour management or indeed film processing. What I do have though is a good pair of eyes, a good understanding of content, composition and colour and an enquiring mind. I know that if you don’t start with the right basics, nothing else is going to look right. Sure, a lot of facebook photographers will praise your work but these people are often equally colour challanged and who know surprising little about photography! The key is to stop relying on others to tell you that you’ve nailed it and start believing in yourself. Once you can create beautifully compositions with stimulating subjects and great colour and tone, who cares what anyone else thinks.

So, the first step in achieving this enlightenment, other than to study some of the work of inspiring photographers throughout history, is to start nailing your white balance? Nominally, your camera can already do this for you as every modern digital camera today has an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting and this should give good results as lighting conditions change. However, another favoured method, one borrowed from the studio and one which I tend to use, is to use a grey card to set your white balance before you shoot. This is my first tip. Although they come in a variety of forms, the ones I use are 18% grey coloured fabric, about 12 inches in diamer (30 cm) with a white reverse – see image below. These can be folded and stored in your camera bag ready for use. You can buy these from many outlets including Amazon. When you need to use it you simply select a custom white balance setting, for example C1, and then, under ambient lighting conditions, you take a photo of your grey card and store it to C1. Once the photo has been taken you will be offered the opportunity to set colour shifts for red and blue  eg +2B, +3R. Once done whenever you select that particular custom white balance setting will be hard baked into your jpeg. Now be careful, if the light changes dramatically, ie it becomes cloudy when previously there was bright sun, you will need to recalibrate your custom white balance for the new lighting conditions. Don’t worry though, since the whole process takes just a few seconds it’s really no problem to change your white balance when needed.

Typical Grey Card used for White Balance settings

The second of my tips is equally as important. In order to be able to mimic film, you really need to look at photos taken with a film camera. Now, if you are lucky enough to have a film camera, as I do, then this is relatively simple as the photos you take with your preferred film stock are perfect for comparing to your digital simlations. If you don’t have a film camera, or the film you aspire to emulate is no longer available then you you still have an opportunity to fine tune your digital simulations albeit at arms length. Because of the internet, sites such as Google Images, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram allow you to research 1000’s of scanned and digitised film images. These can help you understand about the colour and tone associated with your preferred film stock as well as allow you to study focus issues, image sharpness and IQ and the way shadows, midtones and highlights are handled. Personally my favourite is Pinterest but I’m sure you’ll find a place you really love too. Now of course, in order to get film into the digital domain someone somewhere has had to digitise the image but hopefully if you look at enough examples you will be able to build up a firm understanding of how to achieve the best simulation for your camera and preferred film recipe as well as what additional post-processing support you may need. Although the aim of most photographers taking images with FujiFilm cameras is to achieve film-like results straight out of camera (SOOC) the truth is that not all Fuji cameras are created equal in this respect so some light post-processing is often required. For example, the Fuji x-T1 that I use doesn’t have a grain option and it also has much less control over sharpness, highlights and shadows. To balance this, a simple preset helps move the resulting jpeg’s a little closer to the desired look. It’s not ideal but it does help achieve the desired look you want.

So, let’s look at some examples of white balance and highlight roll-off in actual film. In the first of these next two images, these are digitised Superia 200 film emulsions, we can see how the emulsion and processing of the film has handled the bright areas in the image. Here we have a very good example of highlight roll-off that is associated with film emulsions, i.e. the transition from bright white to extreme white is generally well controlled. Typically in film, this is really well handled and it is normally quite difficult to completely blow out the emulsion i.e lose all the details in the highlights or create that hard edge we see so often in digital photos pasted to facebook etc. This is because this type of control simply doesn’t exist to the same degree in digital processing and as such we are very likely to see burnt out sections of our image, especially associated with the sun or very bright light sources.  In the film image here the emulsion has provided a much softer transition in the highlights, although I would agree that because this image is digitised at a low resolution, it does to a certain extent look like it’s heading towards being blown out.  In the actual high resolution Tiff file it doesn’t look quite as harsh as this but you’ll have to take me word for this. This look is much sought after by photographers, especially FujiFilm users who are chasing film looks from their digital sensors. Having taken a great many digitial photos of this beach I know that under similar lighting conditions, it is very likely that my digital cameras will have burnt out the right hand side of this image (ie creating a hard transition from whito to blown out) if no action was taken to expose for the highlights.

Superia 200 film
Superia 200 film image shot using a Nikon FE

In this second image, again where the digital camera would have had difficulty iin handling the very bright white of the surfboard, or perhaps even burned a hole in it, film has easily managed to control the highlights. This is the beauty and wonder of film.

Superia 200 film image shot using a Nikon FE

Finally, let’s have a look at a film example with respect to colour, tone and white balance. Again, this image is Superia 200 film stock and conditions on the day were pretty bright ie it was a partially sunny day but with some cloud cover. The rendition of the colours is good in the film version, pretty much as you would expect with a quality film such as Fujifilm Superia They are just as I see them every day so this image as a good guide image when fine tuning my digital recipes. With regards metering, although I have a Minolta light meter I suspect for this image I just relied on the metering in the Nikon FE which I know to be pretty accurate.

Superia 200 film image shot using a Nikon FE

So, let’s now take a look at some digital images where I have made some modifications to the tone curve in camera to help achieve a “similar look” for the jpeg’s to what I might see on film.

This next image, in this case a digital image taken with the Lumix GX-80, which proves the point that you don’t need to shoot Fuji to create filmic looks, is taken from pretty much from the same spot as the previous image. The lighting is slightly different, it’s a different day but so close as to enable us to look at the two images comparitively. Before we go further, the image below is not a jpeg SOOC. That would be impossible as Lumix hard-bake their jpegs using their own technology. Since I have zero control over how shadows, highlights, sharpness etc are handled, I had to create a RAW to Superia 200 preset that takes the RAW file and add’s a little grain, drops the stucture, rolls-off the highlights and very slightly warms up the image. I also tweaked the blues and browns to get them a little closer what I was seeing in film. Overall the effects applied were fairly minor but just enough to make the two images converge. What I will do is to revisit this scene on a day similar to the days here and retake with the Fuji x-T1 using a recipe for Superia 200. That will allow me to compare the jpeg SOOC from the x-T1 directly with the film version. I will share the recipe once done.

In looking at the two images side by side I think that the most notible difference between the two is in the softness of the film image as opposed to the slightly harder digital image although to be fair, it’s pretty close. This is probably because the Lumix GX-80 has a 16MP sensor rather than something bigger like 24MP as found routinely on many newer cameras now on the market. I think that this helps to create a softness which is approaching what we see in our film examples. There is a very slight shift in the colours, the film version is definately a tad warmer than the digital version but again, it’s pretty close. What this means is that the white balance on the Lumix is very slightly off when compared to the film version but in all honesty, small adjustments would help to reduce the differences still further. All in all I think that this is a good example of how digital can get very close to film!!

Lumix GX-80 digital image through a RAW preset I created in On1

This next image is a Superia 100 emulation using the Fuji x-T1. Here I have set the highlights to -2 on the simulation to attempt to achieve a filmic highlight roll-off i.e. a soft transition from bright white to extreme white without loosing any detail in the highlights. This image also has the shadows set to +2 ie hard which in hindsight, could / should have been relaxed to +1. Even so, I feel that the image works really well as a film image despite the fact that it was taken using a digital camera.

Classic Negative (Superia 100) Simulation on a Fujifilm x-T1

The next image is another example of a jpeg SOOC in order to try to deliver a film experience. Again, this image is loosely based on Classic Negative (Superia 100) as I really like the tones and colours in this film stock.

Fuji x-T1 image based on Superia 100 recipe

In summary, the really noticeable thing about digital images is that they can often be overly hard (contrasty) and I think that this has a detrimental effect on the results when trying to emulate film. When cameras were manual and or used vintage lenses, often the results obtained where a little softer because of the lens design, optics and often, coatings. For this reason vintage lenses are often sought out when trying to deliever a true film simulation. So when I see photographers talking about using pin sharp lenses on a film simulation site I tend to smile as this is perhaps the most detrimental thing that I can think of when it comes to taking vintage images. A little softness in your lens can add bags of character to an image. My advice, when you get the opportunity to buy an old vintage lens give it some serious thought because armed with a good vintage lens, plus real film examples to base your recipes on, and a really good understanding of white balance and highlight roll-off you are truly on the way to creating vintage film simulations using any digital camera.

The Fuji x-t1. What’s not to like?

The Fuji x-t1. What’s not to like?

It’s no secret that I am a great fan of Fuji tech. I think that their X series in particular offers some amazing opportunities for photographers of all interests and abilities. Not only perfect in size, even the top of the range x-t4  is easy on the shoulder, but in operation too especially with those sexy retro dials and yester-year looks. Add to that the second-to-none jpeg engine every model of the x series has access to and we are talking special.

At the moment, my squeeze is the x-t1 pictured here. Old by today’s standards but no less a gold mine of useful functionality from the amazing viewfinder to it’s retro looks and styling. Show me another camera outside of the Fuji range, and I’m not an old-school SLR, that looks like this and I’ll (maybe) eat it. Now, don’t get me wrong, the x-t1 isn’t going to knock spots off even some of the lower end of the Sony range  but that’s not the point. It’s a joy to use, a joy to experiment with and it produces some great images, especially jpeg’s SOOC despite its diminutive 16Mp X-Trans II sensor. Recent enhancements bought Classic Chrome to the firmware making it possible to get somewhere close to vintage Kodachrome styled jpeg’s albeit that a little bit of tweaking is required in post to add some grain and modify the tone curve very slightly to get the true film experience. That being said, there are plenty of SOOC jpeg’s that will pass muster “as is” especially in the right lighting conditions. My personal preference for achieving a true film look is shooting contra-jour, or against the light as this just seems to roll off the highlights in a way very similar to film.

With regards lenses, to-date I’ve persevered with the 18-55 f2.8-4 kit lens, although I actually bought mine seperately from the camera, the Samyang 12mm f2.0 which I bought for a interior photo shoot and the Viltrox 23mm F1.4 which I have had little opportunity to use at present. Other than these, the 16-80mm f4 definately interests me as well as maybe something a little longer. That being said, I haven’t felt that I am overly limited in any way because I tend to shoot documentary and candid so you’ll generally see the whites of their eyes when shooting.

In terms of outlay, the Fuji x-t1 cost me just £180 in perfect almost unused condition, and I picked up the 18-55 on Ebay for another £180. I also splashed out £130 on the battery grip from MBP as I’d read this makes the camera so much more useful on long shoots. All in all, I put this kit togther for just £490 which I feel is a good price for what is an amazing bit of kit. Since buying the x-t1 it’s been my primary camera despite the fact that for candid / documentary I loved using the diminutive Lumix GX-85 with go-to 12-60mm lens. That’s a great street camera by anyone’s standards and well worth looking out for if you like the idea of a touch screen and a great menu system.

Given that you can pick up the x-t1 for a song, especially if you already have a cupboard full of x-mount lenses, the x-t1 makes an ideal 2nd body or even a primary shooter if you’re on a tight budget. It’s a great way to get started with Fuji and I’m pretty sure that it won’t be the last Fuji you buy.

FujiFilm Release X-T4 Specifications

FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Kenji Sukeno) is proud to announce the launch of the FUJIFILM X-T4, as the latest model of the X Series range of mirrorless digital cameras.

The X-T4 uses the back-illuminated 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and a high-speed image processing engine, the X-Processor 4. Combined with FUJIFILM’s colour reproduction technology, the X-T4 delivers a wide variety of options so you can recreate a scene exactly as you remember it.

IBIS provides 5-axis 6.5 stop image stabilisation when used with 18 out of 29 XF / XC lenses. It offers many new components, including new materials to the base part, a refined layout of the shutter’s shock-absorbing structure and newly developed gyro sensors that boast approx. 8 times the detection accuracy of the IBIS unit in the X-H1. This particular mechanism assists night photography and sports photography, and also helps video recording in situations prone to camera shake. The new IBIS unit uses magnetic force rather than springs, which boosts functionality while making it approx. 30% smaller and 20% lighter than X-H1’s image stabilisation mechanism.

Thanks to newly developed high-torque coreless DC motor, the ultra-fast focal plane shutter has the capability to shoot up to world’s fastest 15fps in burst mode, and has advanced response performance with a shutter release lag of just 0.035 seconds. The shutter unit also boasts double the durability with 300,000 actuations and offers shutter noise approx. 30% quieter compared to the X-T3.

The 1.62 mil dots vari-angle monitor allows for more creative and versatile shooting styles.

The LCD/EVF can be boosted in three different ways, Low Light Priority – allowing users to see the subject clearly in low light, Resolution Priority – displaying even the fine details of your subject and Frame Rate Priority which minimises blur in the viewfinder when shooting a moving subject. The eye-cup now has a locking mechanism to prevent tearing or dislodgement.

The Boost / Normal modes are now joined by the Economy mode, which saves the power to increase the battery life.

The X-T4 features “ETERNA Bleach Bypass” a new Film Simulation mode, that uses FUJIFILM’s unique technology to provide versatile colour tones. The new mode simulates “bleach bypass,” which is a traditional processing technique for silver halide films; creating images with low saturation and high contrast for a special atmosphere.

Highlight and shadow tones from -2 to +4 can now be adjusted by 1/2 stops, instead of 1 stop, allowing for finer tonality, and White Balance now has “White Priority” and “Ambience Priority” options in addition to “AUTO.” The “White Priority” mode reproduces a stronger white, while the “Ambience Priority” produces a warmer tone.

When “RAW” is selected, users now choose the non-reversible “Compressed” option in addition to the reversible “Lossless Compressed.”

A new algorithm and phase detection AF’s processing capability has led to autofocus performance as fast as 0.02 seconds. This ensures that users can capture and track a subject moving at high speed, especially when combined with the continuous shooting performance of 15fps in post view and 8fps in live view.

Tracking AF performance has also undergone serious enhancement. The tracking success rate has been doubled compared to the X-T3. The Face / Eye AF performance has also been dramatically improved. This enhanced tracking ability has made focusing and taking portraits even easier than ever before.

The X-T4 is capable of recording Full HD high-speed video at 240P, producing up to 10x slow-motion effect. IBIS is effective when combined with the electronic image stabilization function (DIS) for use in the video mode, and brings even more image stabilisation, which is essential for users shooting video whilst walking.

The “IS (Image Stabilisation) Boost” mode mitigates gentle camera shakes, enabling stabilised fixed-point video recording without a tripod.

The stills and video modes now have separate menus and the video-only Quick Menu (Q Menu) button has enhanced the camera’s simplicity while recording video. A ”Movie optimised control” function has been introduced; users can adjust exposure with the command dial as well as the touchscreen panel. With this function, user can switch the STILL / MOVIE mode dial on the top panel to swiftly shift into video recording with stored video settings.

Video in the same format can be recorded on to two SD cards at the same time as backup. And the F-Log View Assist function has been added to correct low-saturation / low-contrast video while recording F-Log. Video is converted equivalent to BT.709 for display to make it easier to attain correct exposure in video recording.

The “Fix movie crop magnification” function fixes the video crop rate to prevent changes in the angle of view when switching to a different video mode. An “MIC jack setting” on the camera can be switched input level between MIC level and LINE level. The camera supports external microphones as well as LINE level input from external audio equipment.