Pixel Peeping

A lot has been written about how Fuji RAW (RAF) files are processed by various software packages. I’ve been processing mine in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) from Day One and never had cause for complaint. However, popular wisdom is that Iridient X-Transformer (IXT) is the way to go, although typically no one can quite agree on the best way to configure this software.

I thought though that I’d give it a try and, again following perceived wisdom, have set the parameters so that there is no sharpening applied. That seems to me to be a fairer test, turning sharpening off in both ACR and IXT and applying equal sharpening using the Unsharp Mask in Photoshop.

Dave Whenham
Side by side, the full image (16%)

In the screenshot above the IXT processed file is on the left and the ACR version on the right. There is very little manual tweaking to be done with IXT – apart from initial set up of the interface everything is automatic. The ACR file however was manually tweaked to get the best image, to my taste, from the RAW file. Both files then had exactly the same degree of Unsharp Mask applied in Photoshop. Looking at the side by side there is little to choose and the most striking thing for me is how close to how I envisaged the file is the IXT conversion.

© Dave Whenham
Pixel-peeping at 100%

I’m not sure how well it shows up here but pixel peeping at 100% the ACR conversion has the smallest of edges but to be honest the difference is so small that it is not going to register when uploaded to Instagram or even printed and viewed at an appropriate distance for the size of the print.

For my part I will probably continue manually processing RAW files in ACR, saving IXT for those “tricky” files where I can’t seem to get quite what I want. However, if I wanted to quickly batch process a lot of RAF files I wouldn’t hesitate to put them through IXT and then applying basic sharpening through a batch process in Photoshop should I feel the need to sharpen the converted files. However, as I only use DNG files from IXT I can be safe in the knowledge that any DNG file on my hard drive will be unsharpened so I doubt if this second step will be required that often.

Nikkor 50mm f1.8 E … Fuji X-T1

Another post from my overworked desktop this week! My reader must be getting fed up with me popping up in their Inbox at the moment. Fear not, this level of activity rarely lasts for too long.

© Dave Whenham
Shooting into a low and very bright sun outside the window – metered for skin and blew the highlights

© Dave WhenhamI had the K&F Concept Nikon G – Fuji X converter out yesterday and earlier today playing with the Nikon fit Sigma macro lens on both the Fuji X-T20 and X-T1. Whilst I had it in my bag I decided to try another Nikon-fit lens, this an old Nikkor 50mm f1.8 Series E lens (later silver version). This great little lens hails from the 1980s (1981-1985 to be exact) and I picked mine up very cheaply a while back now.
With the adapter I was focusing manually, but the lens has a well-damped focusing ring which makes this a pleasure. The adapter does have a stop down facility and with the aperture ring on the lens too this means I can focus wide open and then stop down to meter and take the shot.

© Dave Whenham
These first two colour shots are taken at f2.8

I was trying to photograph Zac, a bundle of energy who is never still requiring fast focusing and quick reactions from me. Shooting into the sun I was blown away by the quality of these two colour images, there is certainly “something” about the overall rendition that screams “film!” at me.

© Dave Whenham

These two are both f2.8 using the Fuji B&W with yellow filter film simulation

All four of these images are in-camera JPEGs incidentally, minor post production using Snapseed on my phone … Zac had the iPad!. The two mono images are in-camera mon conversions using the B&W(Ye) film simulation which I like in the X-T1 for portraits as the yellow plays nicely with skin tones.

I did try some images of plants in the garden but the magic was only evident went shooting into the light wide open or almost wide open. The focus peaking in the camera was a godsend too and I had a thoroughly satisfying half an hour – unexpected, unlooked for even but welcome nonetheless.

In-Camera Crop Mode

Gimmick or useful feature?

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Fuji X-T1 SOOC JPEG with no post-shoot crop required

To be honest, gimmick would have been my initial response, at least that was until this morning when I actually tried it out. I’ve shot RAW for many, many years and like having the maximum data available for later use if required. However, I’ve also started to use the SOOC JPEG files from the Fuji cameras recently, particularly for online use.  Even if I do nothing else to the image though I still need to bring it into software to crop especially as I habitually shoot with a square crop in mind and sometimes a panoramic 16×9 format.

© Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T1 with 18-55 lens

So, what I pondered if I shot in-camera at the required format (1×1 or 16×9) and didn’t need to take the JPEG into any software? As I’d finished what I’d set out to photograph and was walking back to the car with no time pressures I decided to have a play. It was just as well that there were no time pressures because I spent another 45 minutes trying it out!

Long story short, I found it so much easier to “see” the compositions with the camera already displaying the desired format in the EVF. I was also able to frame up accurately thus avoiding that sometimes painful choice back at the computer when you have to crop out something on the edge of the frame because you’d not quite composed properly in the field.

© Dave Whenham
The scene that started it all – my first in-camera cropped image.
© Dave Whenham
The RAW file is full-sized, the as-shot crop though is remembered

The final surprise came when I got home and found the RAW files had the full scene captured (see screen grab from ACR) thus meaning that any small mis-framing in the field can be tweaked back at base.


I did remember to put the camera back to the native 3×2 format before I put it back into my bag but I can see me using this feature quite a bit in future.

© Dave Whenham
It was great to see the composition in the EVF, especially with very busy scenes where the absence of distractions helped considerably.

So, to answer my own question – it’s a very useful feature especially for those of us who usually shoot with a pre-determined image format in mind. The safety net of having the full-sized RAW file was an unexpected bonus (perhaps if I’d read the manual it wouldn’t have been a surprise, but I’m a man and how many men read manuals first?) and makes it an even more useful feature for the dedicated RAW shooter. In fact it might be said that this feature is reason enough to shoot RAW+JPEG on a permanent basis (something I do anyway given how cheap memory is these days).

Some Sigma Fun

The Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens has been a permanent fixture on the Nikon D7100 body for the last week. At this time of year I often leave the macro lens attached and the camera ready to hand. One day, one day, I will get that elusive insect in flight image I’ve been after for several years but until I do there’s always the flowers in the garden.


After a “straight” shot of the backlit poppies I started looking for opportunities to use the poppies as a backdrop to other, smaller flowers in the raised bed.


With a few of those captured I looked to open the lens up nice and wide and look to shoot through the other plants. The placement of flowers in the bed meant that the natural subject was these poppies with other flowers out of focus in the foreground to shoot through and more colour beyond as a background.

© Dave WhenhamD7100_Sigma105_Flowers_10052017_DSC_0929

Finally, my favourite from the session. Red, green, blue, yellow and a touch of white.


All images Nikon D7100, Sigma 105mm macro lens and a low wall to steady my arms!


“There’s no such thing as the wrong light, just the wrong attitude.”

As a landscape photographer I’ve heard such homilies ad nauseam over the years. Another variation is “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather just the wrong clothes”. The fact that in general terms I actually agree with these sentiments doesn’t lessen the irritation I feel whenever one of these phrases gets trotted out, however well-meant.

(C) Dave Whenham

As it happens, I’ve been thinking about attitude recently.  Looking at Lightroom, I took more photographs in April than in the first three months of the year combined. With just a third of May gone I’m currently matching Aprils daily average too. But apart from one trip, which ironically produced very few images, everything these last six weeks has been shot locally. Much of it in my small back yard as the last couple of blog posts will attest.

What has been different in the last six weeks compared to the first thirteen weeks of the year? Well, I hate to admit it but “attitude” springs to mind. My attitude in general.

Attitude: the way you feel about something
synonyms: point of view, view, viewpoint, vantage point, frame of mind, way of thinking, way of looking at things, outlook

(C) Dave Whenham

So, in case there’s any doubt, your attitude is down to YOU. No one else. In the same way that MY attitude is down to ME. So no excuses then. No use saying that someone else prevented me from taking photos. Unless they physically restrained me (which they didn’t). What kept me indoors and reduced my creative output in the first quarter of the year was me.  Me. Period.

We all go through creative ruts, it’s normal and there’s no point fretting about it. However, when you chose to sit and watch another YouTube video rather than jump in the car and drive just fifteen minutes to take some images in the local woods then you can’t blame a creative rut. It’s down to you (and of course all these “you” references should  actually be “me”).

So, next time I see “there’s no such thing as the wrong light, just the wrong attitude”, or one of the variants I will still cringe slightly inside but I will also say “yes – and that means ME too”.

Backlit – 2 photos

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We only have a tiny front garden and a small back yard but my wife has managed to cram a lot of colour into these two small spaces. First thing in the morning at this time of the year the plants in the small raised bed opposite the back door receive the morning sun as it peeps above the houses opposite creating lovely backlit images. There’s usually a few of these in my files come the end of the year!

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No flash, both images simply backlit and exposed accordingly. That’s actually our shed in the background of both these images!

Fuji X-T1 vertical battery grip

(C) Dave Whenham
Image captured with Fuji X-T20 and 55-200 lens, manually focused with lens wide open 

Not a review of the Fuji X-T1 vertical battery grip as such but a brief update as it is pertinent to my evolving experience with the Fuji system. The X-T1 has gradually evolved into my main “serious” camera and I have previously commented on the button placement of the AF-L button which I use for back button focusing. No need to rehash the benefits but suffice to say I’ve found the placement a little too far too the right of the camera for intuitively finding it without looking at the camera. A £12 after market grip with built in Arca Swiss trIpod plate made some positive difference to the overall handling experience but had no impact on my ability to find the AF-L button instinctively.

i have always resisted the vertical battery grips for the Fujis, partly due to the price but largely because I bought into the system for its smaller form factor and lighter weight. I am however well aware of the benefits of vertical grips using them on both my Nikon bodies and indeed have used them on every DSLR I’ve owned over the years. I had the opportunity to purchase a mint condition Fuji grip however for an excellent price this week and on an impulse (no doubt GAS fuelled) bought it. It’s arrived this morning and I have to say it’s exceeded my expectations.

Taking off the grip this morning I was still a little unsure if I’d done the right thing as it made a very big difference to holding the camera, especially when not taking pictures.  That the vertical grip is well made will surprise no one and it fitted smoothly and easily. It looks like an integral part of the camera when in place being of the same finish as the X-T1 body. With the extra battery installed it adds surprisingly little to the perceived weight of the camera too. With the 55-200 attached to the body the grip adds that extra bulk which makes the whole set up feel more balanced in the hand.

I’ve just been in the garden shooting both horizontal and vertical format images to get a feel for how well it handles and it is a joy to use. The additional height means that when shooting horizontally the base of the camera nestles into the pad at the base of my thumb making it feel more secure despite the loss of the additional grip on the front of the body supplied by the metal grip I had been using. It doesn’t change the experience of looking for the AF-L button with my thumb as that is still impeded by the built in thumb rest on the camera body.

Vertically though is a different story. The AF-L button on the grip is perfectly placed for my thumb to rest on it whilst my forefinger rests on the shutter button built into the top (end?)  of the vertical grip. This is how I wish the main body was set up. Where the Focus Assist button sits on the main body would have been perfect for the AF-L button and given that, for me at least, the Focus Assist button is only used occasionally and then when looking at the camera, I do feel it could have very easily been swapped. Alas that function cannot be reassigned to another button.

So there we have it. The vertical grip adds extra stability to the body in my hands and makes shooting vertically so much easier. In vertical format back button focusing works like a charm and for the nominal extra weight is a much appreciated improvement. I say “perceived” and “nominal” with regard to weight by the way simply because rather than weigh everything I prefer to focus on what is important which is how the camera feels in my hand and not how far the needle goes around on my kitchen scales.

A floral interlude

© Dave Whenham

I was just about to close PS down for the day when I noticed that the last nine images I’ve worked on have all had flowers in them. Must be the start of my floral period, or perhaps it’s simply an interlude. Taken with a variety of cameras, Nikon D750, Nikon D7100, Fuji X-1 and the Fuji X-T20 which reflects how much variety I have enjoyed in terms of handling and also lens choice over the past few weeks. If it can be helped I try not to change lenses when out in a field of, say, rape seed crops and that has been what has happened here.  Looking at the RAW files on my computer I can see that all five of my cameras has had at least three outings in the past three months, and some of them even more. Not sure how long this can be sustained, I usually have several lean periods every year, but enjoying it whilst I can!

© Dave Whenham
X-T1 with 55-200 lens. Shooting into the sun for this backlit poppy in the front yard.
© Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T20 with 18-55 “kit lens” and a tiny bit of a tweak in PS CC
Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T1 55-200mm lens