Photography Image Editing & Raw Processing Software is Going Through Interesting Times Right Now

We live in interesting times for digital photography with some great cameras now on the market and an ever-growing, ever-evolving set of choices in image editing and raw processing software available to those with deep pockets as well as those with less so. 

Photograph made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens, then processed in DxO PhotoLab with DxO FilmPack plug-in, making liberal use of PhotoLab’s Nik-like U-Point masking technology to select areas within the image for application of editing controls like exposures, contrast, micro contrast and so on.

Headline news at the moment is Google selling Google Nik Collection, which it acquired when buying Nik Software for access to their Snapseed mobile image editing app, to DxO with DxO continuing Google’s recent move to give Nik Collection away for free.

DxO has stated that they will continue developing the Nik Collection though not how they will apply all the technology within it.

All hail the U Point

The company has already made good use of one key complement of all applications within the Nik Collection, its U Point technology that is a more accurate, more sophisticated alternative to using brush tools for masking.

I first came across U Point selection and masking at a photography trade show in Sydney at the Nik Software stand where Nik Collection component Viveza was being demonstrated.

I immediately bought a copy and found I could use it to bring to stunning life images shot under lighting circumstances too challenging for the image editing suites of the day to get the best out of with their then-current tool sets.

Make precise edits quickly

Use U Point® technology to selectively edit just the parts of your photos that need touching up without losing time on complex masks and selections.

As soon as I downloaded the PhotoLab trial version I put it to good use editing the monochrome image at the top of this page, relying heavily on DxO’s new iteration of U Points.

DxO is on to a winner

DxO PhotoLab was formerly named DxO OpticsPro, the Elite version of which I bought as my very first raw processor at the same time as a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, on the recommendation of a Danish photographer friend.

Photograph made with Panasonic DMC-GX8 camera with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, processed in DxO PhotoLab using the Leica M9 camera profile, with U Point applied to the dog’s face. DxO PhotoLab Elite’s big collection of excellent camera profiles are only accessible when processing raw files, not TIFFs or JPEGs.

I quickly added DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint, both of which work as plug-ins extending DxO OpticsPro and now DxO PhotoLab, as well as being standalone editors and plug-ins for image editing products like the long-discontinued Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

I recall that Nik’s version of U Point seemed to have worked faster than DxO’s, which takes a little longer to display the tooltips that explain just what each icon represents but I am sure DxO will be ramping up its U Point display and operation speeds each new version.

It was refreshing to get back to using U Points in DxO PhotoLab as they have always been and remain my preferred selection and masking tool.

Given Google’s neglect of the Nik Collection, recent versions including the current one under the DxO aegis fail to function as plug-ins within recent versions of Photoshop and no doubt Lightroom, causing weird error messages as seen in the header image on this page.

DxO and Fujifilm X-Trans raw files

The only downside to DxO buying Nik Collection is to do with the camera sensor types that all DxO software supports.

Photograph made with Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens, raw file processed with Iridient X-Transformer, exported as a DNG, converted to a TIFF in Adobe Photoshop then further processed in DxO OpticsPro applying film simulation preset via DxO FilmPack as a plug-in within OpticsPro.

Some time ago, the DxO people told me that they will never support X-Trans raw files due to their non-Bayer technology and would only ever support Bayer pattern sensors.

Right now, though I am wondering if the name change of DxO OpticsPro to DxO PhotoLab might be signalling grander intentions for DxO’s key software product.

More than a sophisticated raw developer?

If they are intending to turn DxO PhotoLab into more than a very fine raw processor with built-in camera, lens and analog film simulation profiles, with the addition of all the many image editing features of the Nik Collection, then surely they must be considering adding support for Fujifilm’s X-Trans and non-X-Trans sensors, cameras and lenses.

As I have found time and again, it can be a real pain having to process Fujifilm rare files in one raw processor then raw files from all one’s other, non-Fujifilm cameras in another raw processor, then editing them all together in an image editor once having imported them as TIFF or PSD files.

Always best to do as much as one can in one raw processor regardless of camera used, preserving the ability go back make non-destructive changes.

A range of cameras and sensor types

Like many photographers and cinematographers these days, I rely on a range of camera, lens and sensors types in order to best suit my subjects and how I wish to depict them, and having limitations imposed on me by software companies being unwilling or unable to support all my hardware is a massive pain.

I have yet to establish a fixed workflow that gets the best out of all my gear and continue to try out various options.

Now that Iridient Digital has released the first version of its Iridient X-Transformer aimed at converting Fujifilm X-Trans raw files to DNG files, I have begun running files from my X-Pro2 through X-Transformer then opening them in various image editing applications to see which may work best with them.

DxO’s three core products, PhotoLab, FilmPack and ViewPoint, accept and process TIFF and JPEG files as well as raw files from Bayer image sensors, minus certain core functionality, so they can be introduced into your workflow after your initial raw file processing stage.

Meanwhile, other developments

Lest what started as a small article grows too large and boring, let me list other recent developments in raw processing software.

Adobe recently outraged and panicked many dedicated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (to use its full name) users by signalling the end of the non-suscriber version of Lightroom aka Lightroom CS in favour of the subscription-only version named Lightroom CC, those initials standing for Creative Cloud.

Like a surprising number of Australian pro photographer colleagues, I have never been a serious Lightroom user having stuck with Photoshop and Camera Raw for years and then jumping ship to DxO OpticsPro and other image editing software.

Irish photographer Thomas Fitzgerald is quite the expert on the pros and cons of various raw processors and image editors as well as workflows, so I will refer you to his Thomas Fitzgerald Photography blog for further details and clarification of Adobe’s now more confusing naming conventions for its two current versions of Lightroom.

Coming from a traditional photography technical background, Mr Fitzgerald is also a highly recommended authority on other software such as Capture One Pro, Macphun (now Skylum) Luminar, ON1 Photo Raw, Apple Photos and plenty more besides.

I highly recommend making him a regular stop on your daily photography reading list.

Meanwhile I will be catching up on the other new developments in software and will be covering them here soon.

My photo editing and raw processing watch list

These are the brands and products I try to keep an eye on, or have used and liked, and I currently use a subset of them in my work.

There are quite a few more of them, paid-for and open source, but I can’t keep an eye on everything out there!

Tastes and needs are different for everyone, so this list may be useful for you when working out your own photography workflow.

Trial versions are generally available.

Header Image Notes

The header image is based on a DxO OpticsPro raw sample photograph that I edited in DxO PhotoLab using the Nik Collection’s U Point adapted by DxO since buying it from Google.

The biggest difference between DxO’s version of U Point and Nik Collections’ is that DxO’s displays icons first and then tool tips appear later after hovering your cursor over an icon.

Given that there is no universally understood icon language, are icons the best solution for a GUI like this or should DxO revert to the Nik Collection’s text-only U Point GUI?

I exported the file from DxO PhotoLab as a TIFF then imported it into Adobe Photoshop where I attempted to apply the Nik Collection Analog Efex Pro 2, resulting in the error message depicted in this screenshot.

Quick Hands-On with the Amazing Fujifilm GFX 50S Mirrorless Medium Format Camera

Today I made a flying visit to L & P Digital Photographic in Artarmon, a suburb in Sydney’s north shore that is home to several movie and photography industry retail, rental and manufacturing companies, the most notable of the latter being Miller Tripods. My mission was to have a very quick look at the Fujifilm GFX 50S and its first three lenses, the Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR, GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR and the GF 120mm f/4.0 R LM OIS WR Macro

For the next couple of days a Fujifilm GFX 50S, vertical grip, tilt adapter and the three lenses will be available to see and experience a hands-on with and then, some time after that, a GFX 50S kit will be added to L & P’s rental collection.

L & P also operates a compact rental studio at their Artarmon premises that once housed the studio and darkroom of Max Dupain, the late Australian modernist photographer known for his architectural photography collaborations with Austrian-Australian architect Harry Seidler.

Some Rough and Ready BTS Snapshots

L & P is already taking orders from professionals wishing to purchase or lease Fujifilm’s latest photographic innovation in the form of the GFX 50S.

My aim during the visit was to get a quick impression of the GFX 50S as a hand camera and not a stand camera, and not to create great photographs of the types of subject matter I would place in front of a camera like this. With luck that opportunity will come later and I will do a proper job of it.

Sample Snapshots

I simply stepped outside the door during a brief interval between rain showers, made two shots with the GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR lens set to f/8.0 and the GFX 50S set to ISO 400 and 1/640th of a second, focussing on the foremost figure at left of frame. I made the first exposure at 32mm and the second at 64mm.

I then processed each raw file in version 3.1.4 of Iridient Developer and applied minimal tone, colour and sharpness corrections after choosing Pro Neg S from Iridient Digital’s free Fujifilm-style film emulations set.

After exporting the largest JPEG file, I uploaded it to my Flickr account as I need to conserve media space in my website hosting account right now. Flickr has applied its own sharpness-reducing compression algorithm so please bear that in mind.

These snapshots are mediocre photographs but the GFX 50S is anything but a mediocre camera. Click the images below to see them large in my Flickr account.

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_DSF1205_iridient_srgb_full-size

Thoughts and Observations

A quick and dirty first test like this of a newly released camera can only tell one so much. But it satisfied my aims. I wanted to know whether the GFX 50S would meet my needs and be a viable option for renting, leasing or buying sometime in the future, bureaucracies and lawyers permitting. The ‘Untitled’ project self-financing saga is ongoing.

When I got back into photography after an absence enforced by ill health resulting from chronic photochemical allergy and extreme dermatitis, a major concern was whether then current digital technology would offer as much variety in ways of seeing and photographing as the variety that I had come to rely on with analog photography.

My first serious digital camera was a DSLR, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and it was not an easy fit as I had never been an SLR person. Rather, I had relied on a range of non-SLR rangefinder and technical cameras and these somewhat unconventional, even non-conformist, cameras had helped create my personal photographic vision. Or more properly, visions.

It was only with the arrival of Fujifilm’s Finepix X100 rangefinder-style camera that I began to feel comfortable with digital photography. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 cemented that comfort with a camera that, in many ways, recalls the 120 roll film rangefinder cameras I had so loved.

Likewise Fujifilm’s X-T2 is a reminder of the technical cameras that were so crucial to my development as a photographer just as Panasonic’s Lumix GX8 shares some of the traits of the waist-level Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras I adored for their own unconventional way of showing me the world as a square and from down below, via the GX8’s unique tilting EVF.

Now the GFX 50S, with its clear similarity to the X-T2’s shape and usability, offers a combination of features I relied on in my technical cameras and my Rolleiflexes, filtered through Fujifilm’s and Panasonic’s recent digital camera innovations.

The GFX 50S allows you to use it like a small hand or stand-mounted view camera, like an EVF camera, more or less like a DSLR but minus the mirror slap, or like a tilting EVF camera that is in itself the closest simulation we have now of the wonderful TLR cameras once made by Mamiya, Rolleiflex, Yashica and others.

My brief experience with the Fujifilm GFX 50S was enough to tell me this and remove the last concern I had about whether contemporary digital hardware can provide me with enough creative options to build a set of closely related personal photographic styles in the way analog hardware did.

One thing is certain, confirmed by my two snapshots above: the Fujifilm GFX 50S’ resolution and image quality equals that of 4″x5″ sheet film cameras and I suspect that its future GFX 100S descendant will rival the results from 8″x10″ sheet film cameras.

Postscript:

After covering an International Womens’ Day rally in the Sydney CBD, I dropped into digiDIRECT’s city store to take another quick look at the Fujifilm GFX 50S. They had the camera, three lenses, EVF and vertical battery grip and kindly allowed me do some snapshots of one of the staff members, Benny, below.

DSCF6092_iridient_exposure

This photograph was made with the GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro lens and with the Vertical Battery Grip on the camera. I processed the raw file in Iridient Developer then exported it as a TIFF that I opened in Alien Skin Exposure X2 where I applied a Polaroid Type 55 preset and platinum split toning.

I chose f/5.6, AutoISO and aperture-priority, and the GFX 50S set 1/60th second. Although this is not a portrait as such, the experience of making it reminded me of how I loved to make frontal, full-face close-up portraits of artists, chefs, celebrities and businesspeople for the glossy magazines in Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative instant film, split-toning prints made on silver-rich baryta papers.

On considering the Fujinon GF lenses currently available and coming later in the year, I would choose the GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro and the GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR prime lenses as a very workable pair for full-face and environmental portraiture. The 120mm is roughly equivalent to 90mm in 135 aka 35mm format and the 45mm lens is close to 35mm in 135 aka 35mm format.

Although I often lit those editorial portraits with Broncolor flash units with spot grids and barndoors, nowadays I’d be more likely to use continuous light such as my Rotolight Neo three light kit with barndoors to narrow the beam down.

Other LED lights I want to investigate sometime are the Dedolights with variable beams that spread from spot to flood and take a range of light-shaping accessories.

While electronic flash has its advantages in freezing movement, it can be distracting when trying to really narrow down the beam and place the light with a high degree of precision but little time with a portrait subject.

Using continuous light allows you see exactly what the camera is going to see and permits building a closer relationship with your sitter, faster. The GF 120mm f/4 lens’ optical image stabilization means one can handhold the lens in continuous light and obtain enough sharpness, or one can of course place the GFX 50S on a tripod and use it somewhat like a small view camera.

Image Credits:

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

Iridient Developer Raw Processor Adds Support for Fujifilm GFX 50S, X100F, Leica M10, Panasonic GH5 and More

Raw processing software developer Iridient Digital has updated its flagship Macintosh MacOS product Iridient Developer to version 3.1.4. Iridient Developer is reportedly favoured by photographers seeing to gain the sharpest, most highly detailed renderings of raw files from Fujifilm cameras with non-Bayer X-Trans sensors. 

Iridient Developer 3.1.4 supports raw files from 11 new cameras including the Fujifilm X100F, depicted here being processed using Iridient Digital’s Fujifilm Pro Neg S film simulation profile.

Iridient Developer also supports non-X-Trans Bayer sensor-equipped cameras, notably Fujifilm’s recently released GFX 50S medium format camera as well as over 620 other cameras.

The list of new cameras supported by version 3.1.4 of Iridient Developer includes:

  • Canon – G9 X Mark II and EOS M6.
  • Fujifilm – GFX 50S, X-T20, X100F and X-A10.
  • Leica – M10
  • Panasonic – DC-GH5 and DC-FZ80 aka DC-FZ82.
  • Pentax – KP
  • Sigma – sd Quattro H, DNG format only.

Iridient Digital’s other software product, Iridient X-Transformer, is currently under development and has been updated to beta version 3. Iridient X-Transformer converts Fujifilm X-Trans and non-X-Trans RAF raw image files into open standard DNG raw files.

Links:

The color presets for APS-C models have been improved, especially for the extreme ends of the tonal range (dark shadows and bright highlights). The Vivid style in particular should show much better results in dark shadows and very bright colors in many cases should show more gradual transition to clipping and better saturation.

These film emulation style presets are intended to produce a similar look to the X-Trans in-camera conversion styles for Classic Chrome, Standard/Provia, Soft/Astia, Vivid/Velvia, ProNegStd, ProNegHi, Monochrome, Monochrome+Ye, Monochrome+R, Monochrome+G and Sepia.

Image Credits:

Header image concept and design by Carmel D. Morris.

Post-Processing Expert Thomas Fitzgerald Publishes Fujifilm X-Trans Raw Processor Software Comparisons

Dublin-based photographer and photographic post-processing expert Thomas Fitzgerald recently published the results of processing one Fujifilm X-Pro2 X-Trans raw image with seven different raw convertors or image editors with raw conversion capability. 

Tests like this are useful when considering whether to try out an unfamiliar item of software or go straight to purchase though they are seldom definitive. Processing raw files is something of a moving target and all of them are updated regularly with improvements and new features.

Likewise various raw processors’ support for Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor raw files, another moving target given that some major raw processors do not support X-Trans raw at all yet, and one that apparently never will. So it is good to know what does, currently.

Also good to read Mr Fitzgerald’s well-qualified opinions on the state of each item of software. He rates two of them as not ready for prime time at the moment. Let’s hope their makers have improvements on the way.

The raw processors or raw-capable image editors that Mr Fitzgerald tested are:

One surprise for Mr Fitzgerald is each product’s variations in default cropping, with further variation in edge detail. Oftentimes I will crop a raw file in a raw processor I have been using less lately to be taken by surprise at how much I have lost at the edge, causing me to rethink the image as I had visualized it before pressing the shutter button.

Thomas Fitzgerald is a writer as well as fine art photographer and has published a series of ebooks on processing Fujifilm X-Trans raw images in three raw processors and one on processing Sony A6000 files in Lightroom. I bought the three on X-Trans processing and recommend them.

Mr Fitzgerald also sells a number of Lightroom presets collections and a Photoshop texture pack. His blog is insightful and well worth reading.

Link: