To channel-swap or not?

I’ve been experimenting with the Fuji X-T1 which was recently converted for full spectrum photography using three IR filters.  The Fotga variable IR filter is adjustable from 530nm through to 750nm.  The first image  here was shot with the filter set to 750nm.  The resulting RAW file is blue as can be seen on the left hand side of the first image below. In the past, when I was using an 720nm infrared converted camera,  I have channel-swapped the reddy/brown RAW files which created a blueish file and I wondered whether it was necessary to do so with these. The right hand side of the first image below shows the effect of channel-swapping.

© Dave Whenham

I then converted the image to mono using Silver Efex Pro. In the image below the left hand side of the frame was converted to mono using the RAW (blue) file whereas the right hand side was converted to mono using the channel swapped (red) version of the RAW file. I can see no real differences between the two.

© Dave Whenham

But what of an image shot at 530nm?  In the image below the RAW file is again on the left and note how different the  tones are as more visible light is allowed to hit the sensor.

© Dave Whenham

© Dave Whenham

Now, whilst there is a definite difference in the tonal values of the image shot at 530nm once again there is no appreciable difference between the mono conversions directly from the RAW file compared to the channel-swapped version.

Now it has to be acknowledged that I didn’t chose the “best” conditions for this type of test, most people reckon on a bright sunny day for the best from infrared photography, but this non-scientific test nevertheless suggests that channel-swapping may not always be necessary for mono conversions.

The next comparison is from an image shot with a 950nm filter. I have carried out exactly the same process but this time the split runs diagonally from top right to bottom left.

Again, there is virtually no difference, the conversion from RAW being arguably a tiny bit darker but we are talking about fractions here. Incidentally, this was shot in bright but cloudy conditions.

The final image below has been treated exactly the same (the split running top to bottom middle) as the other two above. This was taken on a bright sunny day with the Fotga variable infrared filter at 530nm.

© Dave Whenham

Again, there is virtually no difference. There is a slight tonal variation, particularly in the water, circled, but even that is not a major variation.

The upshot of this experiment is that I’m not certain I need to channel-swap for monochrome conversions going forward. I will probably continue to do so for a while until I’m confident of the process though. False-colour infrared is a totally different kettle of fish though and one which doesn’t interest me quite so much although I’m sure I will be having a play at some point.

 

Not the best day for a test …

I took a punt on a variable IR filter from Fotga this week to use with the newly converted X-T1 (no, never heard of them either). For £16 though I thought I’d chance it.

© Dave Whenham

Today it is grey, there is 100% cloud cover (also grey) and it is raining gently but persistently so not ideal conditions to test an IR filter but I went anyway. The test shot above with the Fuji X100t (standard JPEG SOOC) shows how un-ideal the light was!

Anyway, I figured that as I was there I’d complete the test anyway even though I knew I’d have to re-test once better conditions were available – which won’t be for a while according to the Met Office!

fotgaThe filter is rather chunky, not a bad thing with my aged fingers, but screws in very easily and appears to be well made. The outer glass rotates smoothly and there are markings around one quarter of the rim to show the relative strength of the filter. It is marked as being 530nm to 750nm and whilst I have no way of checking this the results from the filter do show a definite graduation from one extreme to the other as can be seen in the contact sheets below.

One thing to notice is that whilst mine has a 77mm filter thread the front thread is somewhat bigger which meant my 77mm lens cap was useless. I use stepping rings so always buy screw-in filters at 77mm so I can then use one filter on all my lenses.

I shot a sequence of ten images, all hand held from the same spot, moving the filter one full “stop” between each frame.  I created the following contact sheets using the JPEGs (standard preset) straight from the Fuji X-T1 which as I mentioned yesterday has been converted for full spectrum photography.

© Dave Whenham
JPEGs straight from camera with no additional processing

I then applied a basic channel swap (swapped Red and Blue channels) to the contact sheet which means that every image has had the same treatment.

© Dave Whenham
The same JPEGs following a basic channel-swap but not other adjustments.

I’m particularly looking forward to trying the “530nm” end of the filter on a sunny day as this will produce the strongest false-colour effects and up until now my only option has been a 720nm filter which is mainly used for black & white work although does occasionally render a nice false-colour image too.  I have no way of telling if these ratings are accurate of course but at least there is a clear difference between the two extremes and a clearly noticeable transition as the filter is rotated from one 530 through to 750nm.

Finally, another image shot with the Fuji X-T1 with the FOTGA filter on the lens set at 530. This is a false-colour infrared image and the channel swapping was rather more involved this time than my usual basic Blue/Red swap.

© Dave Whenham
The light was less than optimal today but the indications are positive for this inexpensive filter.

The image was converted from the RAW file, channel swapped (Red: R30/B70 Green: G110/B-10 Blue: R85/B15) and then Curves and Levels adjustments. When I get time I will post an overview of how I process these files and what my approach to channel swapping looks like.

© Dave Whenham
Simple mono conversion using a B&W adjustment layer in PS at default settings.

I’m looking forward to a bright sunny day, although it seems like I have quite a wait ahead of me!

 

Buckstones Edge

Shot over three days and using a mixture of video from the Fuji X-T20 and Mavic Pro, stills and time-lapse sequences together with a slideshow finale prepared in Pictures to Exe this video records three days of very trying weather and light!

I have been a stills photographer for many years but as my reader will know I have only started to make the transition into videography in the last few months. For this video I have decided to move away from a scripted voiceover (my wife said I sounded too “posh) and try to record a more spontaneous narration whilst out taking pictures.  Audio recording is a big challenge for me however and this video mixes two sources of voice-over/narration. The first is the iPhone and the second a handheld audio recorder (Zoom H2n) with a Rode  microphone. To me there is no doubts as to the first choice audio capture moving forward.

The usual YouTube link below but at the foot of the post is the link for an alternative version on Vimeo which I actually prefer.



Music: “On hearing the first cuckoo of Spring” by Frederick Delius
Fuji X-T20 and Fuji X-T1
iPhone 7 & Zoom Hn2 audio recorder
Mavic Pro
GoPro Hero Session 4 and Hero 3+ (Silver)

 

Alternate version on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/228978590

 

 

Wish me luck!

© Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T1 with Samyang 85mm @ f4 1/140th sec ISO 800

What do you do when for whatever reason you find yourself going through a barren spot creatively? I used to worry about it but no more, chiefly because it’s happened so many times over the years it’s almost an integral part of the process for me. Plus  of course, I also have my cure-all right here on my doorstep, literally. The back yard!

So after a few very unproductive weeks I got the chores done early this Saturday and headed back home to grab the camera and have a play in my own backyard. I did not create enough material in June to accompany a six minute video diary for the blog but was hoping to get some images I could use to create a slideshow to make up some of the missing footage. With temperatures touching 40 degrees (Celsius) at midday it was not ideal for plant photography but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to grab the camera and play.

I even played with some bokeh before  I went outside by photographing an orchid in the front room using the front yard beyond as a front-lit backdrop (image at top of page). I’ve not really played with the Samyang 85mm prime lens yet but popped it on the X-T1 just to see how it played.  Your mileage may vary as they say but I was happy with how it turned out. It’s a manual focus lens that I bought mainly for portraiture but which I’ve not yet had a chance to use properly. The focus ring is reassuringly stiff and I found it easy to focus precisely especially using the X-T1s focus peaking capabilities.

My go-to camera at the moment is the Nikon D7100 simply because that is the body to which the Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens is attached and the Sigma is my favourite lens for playing in the back yard.

© Dave Whenham

I have just nipped indoors to post this on the blog having written it on my iPad first, wish me luck as I return outside to hunt for some more images for the “June” video diary update!

 

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

DSCF3622
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?

© Dave Whenham
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.

Bonus!

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).

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.