FastRawViewer: Can you Evaluate Exposure Using the In-camera Histogram? (Part 1 of 3)

https://www.fastrawviewer.com/blog/in-camera-histogram-doesn%27t-represent-exposure

“They say that “a histogram is a graphical representation of the pixels exposed in your image” or “when judging exposure, the primary areas of the histogram to be concerned with are the right and left edges”,…

… Please keep in mind that the histograms your camera displays are from JPEGs, even when you are shooting RAW….

… It doesn’t look like examining the shadows of the histogram tells a whole lot to a RAW shooter….

… On the same note, a histogram is also not very useful for evaluating the highlights in RAW…”

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Fujifilm Releases Firmware Updates for X-T2, X-T20 and GFX 50S, Still No Live Zebras for Perfect Exposure when Shooting

Fujifilm has released its firmware updates for the X-T2, X-T20 and GFX 50S APS-C/Super 35 and medium format cameras, along with the new, free Fujifilm X Raw Studio raw convertor and Fujifilm X Acquire 1.7 for settings back-ups, restoration and tethered shooting on Mac or Windows computers, while firmware updates for the X-Pro2 and X100F remain on-course for late December 2017. 

Fujifilm’s support for Super 35 video in the X-T2 flagship DSLR-style mirrorless camera appears partially complete. Looks like we may need to wait for the Fujifilm X-H1 for the arrival of a full set of top-end professional video features some time in 2018.

Of the three Fujifilm cameras in question, I am most familiar with the X-T2 having been lucky enough to have borrowed a review loaner, so will confine my comments here to that but readers interested in the X-T20 and GFX 50S may wish to read up on their firmware updates in my list of links below.

I am currently the proud owner of an X-Pro2 rangefinder camera and am looking forward to late December’s release of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 Version 4.00 firmware for 4K video mode, tethered shooting, new autofocus algorithm and support for Fujifilm Raw Studio and Fujifilm X Acquire.

How to access RGB histograms and overexposed areas blinkies, from page 1 of the X-T2 New Features Guide Version 3.00. But is this the whole story?

Version 3.00 of the X-T2’s firmware does not include the much-requested exposure zebras persistent in shooting mode, one of the two most essential firmware features needed for professional-quality work, along with focus peaking which previous firmware did have.

Instead, Fujifilm has included “overexposed areas blink” aka “blinkies” which is activated by pressing “the function button to which Histogram has been assigned” as per Fujifilm’s X-T2 New Features Guide Version 3.00.

The Guide does not specify whether the RGB histogram and overexposure blinkies can be viewed and remain persistent while shooting photographs or video thus allowing exposure adjustment as the light changes.

Having both the blinkies and the RGB histogram on-screen while shooting as illustrated in the Guide would be distracting to say the least, and blinkies alone while shooting would have been preferable.

Fujifilm’s blindness to zebras persists

Percentage-adjustable exposure zebras as featured on numerous contemporary and recent digital cameras and camcorders would have been even better again, but Fujifilm seems to have a persistent blindness to zebras as I have mentioned in many articles on this website, most recently Fujifilm… I’m Cross Over Your Aversion to Zebras.

This zebra blindness is surprising given Fujifilm’s legendary willingness to listen to its user base as well as its famous Kaizen – “improvement” or “change for the better” – philosophy.

Is there something Fujifilm knows that thousands of professional and enthusiast moviemakers do not?

A cunning plan?

Does Fujifilm have a cunning plan?

Is Fujifilm really serious about fully supporting professional-quality video functionality in its cameras?

Will exposure zebras and other essential pro video features like internal F-Log recording, on-camera headphone ports and many more hardware and firmware functions eventually find their way into a future, more video-worthy version of the X-T2 or one of its descendants?

Or is Fujifilm having a cunning laugh at video functionality while continuing to aim its cameras more at photographers than videographers?

I would love Fujifilm to take some hints out of Panasonic’s and Samsung’s books, and their cameras’ many cutting-edge video achievements, to produce a truly remarkable, market-leading Super 35/APS-C hybrid video/stills camera.

If FujiRumors’ report that the Fujifilm X-H1 will be Fuji’s [sic] first IBIS Camera (no longer X-T2S) is correct, and their rumour accuracy has proven to be high in the past, then will the X-H1 be the very first Fujifilm camera worthy of being attached to Fujifilm’s new Fujinon MK Series X-Mount Ciné zoom lenses, currently only available with Sony E-Mounts as the Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9 Lens (Sony E-Mount) and
Fujinon MK50-135mm T2.9 Lens (Sony E-Mount).

Leaning elsewhere for video, but…

Right now, I am not holding my breath but am leaning heavily towards Panasonic’s mature Super 16/Micro Four Thirds offerings now and in the very near future for video in combination with Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro manual clutch focus prime and zoom lenses.

For immersive fly-on-the-wall documentary stills photography on the other hand, nothing beats a real digital rangefinder camera and Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 hits the spot in combination with Fujifilm’s Fujinon aperture-ring-equipped manual clutch focus prime lenses like the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R, my current favourite documentary photography lens.

More power to Fujifilm’s advanced hybrid rangefinder and fast manual clutch focus prime lens arm, as it were, and I am looking forward to December’s firmware update for the X-Pro2.

I am relishing being able to shoot great 4K video on this wonderful rangefinder camera at long last.

Postscript

FujiRumors has shared a video showing how focus peaking and overexposure blinkies flash when both are switched on.

I hope there is an option to at least turn the flashing off as I would find this  irritating when shooting, just as I did when viewing this video.

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Image Credits

Image concept and quick hack by Carmel D. Morris.

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Fujifilm… I’m Cross Over Your Aversion to Zebras

While awaiting Fujifilm’s next firmware update for the X-Pro2, version 4.0.0, the one that will finally bring the 4K video mode staffers believed would arrive soon after the release of the X-T2, one’s mind turns to other necessary video features unmentioned in Fujifilm’s press release on the subject. 

A confession: I have shot far less video on the X-Pro2 than I had anticipated when I placed the order for mine.

The X-Pro2’s pre-4K 1080p HD video certainly has its uses – I suspect that more documentaries are being shot in 1080p than 4K at the moment – and I have no problem with the idea of clicking my X-Pro2’s video-programmed Fn button should a video-worthy moment arise.

Photographing for SOOC JPEGs with Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 is not unlike using colour reversal aka transparency films during the analog era. You need to get your exposure dead accurate as there is only so much you can do to refine it in post. The X-Pro2’s EVF is one of the most inaccurate in showing how the final shot will look of all my current cameras so there is a long, trial and error learning process. The histogram is only so useful. Exposure zebras would be a far better option but Fujifilm is deaf and blind to the necessity of adding them to all its cameras’ firmware. Why?

But the more I explore SOOC (straight out of camera) JPEGs using custom settings shared online, the less attractive is X-Pro2 video shot using its current firmware.

Try it for yourself if you have an X-Pro2.

Go to Thomas Fitzgerald’s article How I shoot with my X-Pro 2 and input the lovely customized Provia look that he shares there.

Allocate video to a function button if you have not already done so – I chose Fn for its proximity to the X-Pro2’s release button.

Find something nice to stand in front of, shoot a JPEG then some video footage, and compare.

Some difference.

While it is possible to improve the footage in your nonlinear editing to colour grading software, the disappointment lingers and there is no excuse in this day and age why the X-Pro2’s video functionality did not receive the same customizability options as JPEGs from the camera’s inception way back when.

The other big disappointment of video on the X-Pro2 and Fujifilm’s other cameras is their lack of exposure zebras.

Firmware update after update comes and goes with none receiving one of the most essential core shooting functionalities for cinematography and stills photography, zebras.

Five months ago Fujifilm released a video on photographer-turned-cinematographer Richard Blanshard who related that he had shared a list of videocentric improvements some of which may find their way into future firmware upgrades.

I cannot imagine that Mr Blanshard’s list did not include exposure zebras.

Another item I hope was in that list is the ability to record F-Log in-camera.

I have been relying on Panasonic cameras for video for some time now and their exposure zebras functionality has proven vital when shooting movies and photographs.

Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 is an outstanding stills and video camera and Fujifilm can learn more than a few lessons from their Super 16/Micro Four Thirds mirrorless rival.

Besides their Super 35/APS-C sensors, Fujifilm’s cameras have another advantage Panasonic will never possess, Fujifilm’s 80-year history and deep knowledge of analog film stocks and digital film emulation.

Imagine if Fujifilm properly implemented that on the X-Pro2 then combined it with finally getting exposure right via zebras.

I am enjoying the pleasures and challenges of simulating some of the greatest analog film stocks on my X-Pro2 with Mr Fitzgerald’s Provia-based custom setting but the experience is sullied by having to rely on the X-Pro2’s tiny histogram and judging correct exposure on its less-than-stellar electronic viewfinder (EVF).

The star of the X-Pro2 concept is its advanced hybrid multi viewfinder (HMVF) especially when using its electronic rangefinder (ERF) located at lower right of its optical viewfinder (OVF) that shows exactly what the camera’s lens is seeing.

Imagine getting exposure perfect for raw and JPEG photographs or video via zebras in the ERF window, or the EVF or LCD monitor.

Now that would be stellar and tempt me over to shooting Super 35 4K video with beautiful film simulations or F-Log on my Fujifilm X-Pro2.

Fingers crossed that Fujifilm gets it right in late December’s firmware version 4.0.0 for the X-Pro, as well as in firmware version 3.0.0 for the X-T2 late November.

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Image Credits

Image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

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EditReady Updated to Version 2.1 to Encode Panasonic Lumix GH5’s H.265 HEVC and All-I 400Mbps Video on macOS 10.13 High Sierra

divergent media, maker of a range of professional macOS video production software products, has released version 2.1 of its video transcoding essential EditReady to support High Sierra, the latest version of macOS, and HEVC H.265, the new standard for video compression supported by the Panasonic Lumix GH5 Super 16 M43 camera in its 6K Photo feature and by the incredible but sadly now discontinued Samsung NX1 and NX500 Super 35 cameras. 

H.265 HEVC was introduced into affordable media production via Samsung’s NX1 DSLR-style and NX500 rangefinder-style cameras when few computers and computer applications supported the codec but H.265’s advantages became immediately apparent and it was clear that HEVC was the way forward.

At the time, EditReady was one of the few professional video production applications to support H.265 transcoding so I immediately bought a licence and have used it ever since.

Samsung’s brilliantly innovative NX1 Super 35 APS-C hybrid camera ushered in the future of mirrorless moviemaking then Samsung suddenly killed off its camera division. The NX1 introduced HEVC H.265 along with an excellent interface and one of the best-designed, best-manufactured cameras ever. Rotten marketing and low to no availability of the camera, battery grip and lenses anywhere in the world probably doomed it and its rangefinder-style companion the NX500. I went looking for this set-up in order to buy one but Samsung staffers in every Samsung boutique did not even know the NX1 or NX500 existed.

Both cameras’ video functionality and support for H.265 HEVC are lessons to which Fujifilm needs to pay close attention when developing its cameras’ video support.

The pointless killing off of Samsung’s innovative camera division left a gaping hole in current Super 35 APS-C camera offerings that Fujifilm just might, if it wishes, fill with the X-T2S or more likely the X-T3, given the abandonment of its “Ultimate $5,000+ APS-C X-Trans X-series camera” project.

Another lesson Fujifilm needs to learn quick smart is that fast and accurate ETTR video and stills exposure demands exposure zebras, an essential feature that Fujifilm bizarrely still does not see fit to add to its cameras’ firmware. Histograms are handy and so are scopes but they are not the be-all and end-all of rapid exposure setting. Zebras are.

The EditReady 2.1 announcement:

Today we’re pleased to announce the release of EditReady 2.1. The release coincides with Apple’s release of macOS 10.13 High Sierra. When run on 10.13 High Sierra, EditReady 2.1 adds support for encode of HEVC (H.265) videos. On systems that support it, HEVC is even hardware accelerated, making it significantly faster.

EditReady 2.1 is a free update for 2.0 customers. It can be downloaded here, or via in app auto update.

The full change list for 2.1:

  • adds HEVC output format in mov (10.13 only)
  • adds hardware accelerated HEVC encode and decode (10.13 only)
  • fixes random crash when adding clips
  • fixes silent audio when mixing down w/ strip silent tracks enabled
  • makes missing codec errors cleaner
  • preview and thumbnails respect pixel aspect ratio
  • adds support for gh5 400mbit mode

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Fujifilm Announces Two Massive X-Pro2 and X-T2 Firmware Updates Due Late March and Late May

Fujifilm has a well-deserved reputation for its Kaizen – continuous improvement – firmware updates, a practice I first encountered with my first Fujifilm digital camera, the classic rangefinder-style Finepix X100S. The X100’s updates turned a revolutionary camera into one that remains fun to use and usable for documentary photography assignments to this day. And now, Fujifilm is set to outdo itself with a massive list of firmware improvements to its two flagship cameras, the rangefinder-style X-Pro2 and the DSLR-style X-T2. Happy days.

The coming X-Pro2 and X-T2 firmware updates will further differentiate the two flagship Fujifilm APS-C cameras, with more video features for the latter and operational speed and efficiency gains for the former. I still want to see better video support in the X-Pro2 even if it remains at 1080p instead of 4K.
The X-T2 has the potential to fill the Super 35 4K gap left by Samsung killing off the revolutionary Samsung NX1 and NX500 cameras, but Fujifilm’s imminent firmware update does not include DCI 4K and zebras for fast, accurate judgement of correct exposure. Will these crucial features be coming in a third update later this year?

The full firmware list contains a record-breaking 33 new and improved items of which 27 will appear in late March and the final 6 in late May. Some are for both the X-Pro2 and X-T2, some are for the X-T2 only and some are for the X-Pro in a catchup with the X-T2’s current feature set.

For the X-T2 only, 😦

The X-T2-only updates indicate that Fujifilm has chosen to increase its differentiation between both cameras’ video capabilities. The X-T2 is about to gain:

  • #14. Activation of the Eye Sensor in video recording (X-T2 only).
  • #15. Change of ISO sensitivity during video recording (X-T2 only).
  • #17. Display live histogram during video recording (X-T2 only).
  • #18. Optimization of external microphone’s input level (X-T2 only).

Other X-T2-only updates indicate other differentiations by Fujifilm between its flagship cameras, in tethering and for portraiture and other genres often requiring vertical orientation of the camera:

  • #22. Automatic vertical GUI for LCD (X-T2 only).
  • #28. Support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi (X-T2 only).

Tethering, the ability to connect cameras to computers by wire or Wi-Fi, has been an accepted, often client-demanded, tool in commercial photography for some time now and has been well supported by medium format and DSLR camera makers, and some raw processing software. USB tethering recently came to the X-T2 via standalone software and plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom.

Many of the new and improved firmware items for both cameras are welcome indeed, speeding up their accuracy and operability. Some may have limited usefulness while one glaring omission from the firmware of both camera remains AWOL – zebras.

AWOL, an immigrant from video world

Zebras for ensuring accurate exposure are welcome immigrants from the world of video camcorders and high-end stills/video hybrid cameras like Panasonic’s Super 16/Micro Four Thirds GH4, GX8 and the new GH5.

Zebras have rapidly proven themselves just as useful for stills as for video, helping combat the all-too-prevalent problem of overexposure that pushes high values over the shoulder into unrecoverable burn-out territory.

High value or highlight burn-out is as problematic in stills as it is in video, whether one is shooting raw or JPEG files. Although extreme high values can be recovered to some degree in raw files with recovery function sliders – going under names like “whites” or ‘highlight” in raw processing software – doing so in video or for JPEGs results in muddy high values that can become an eye trap for viewers.

Eye traps are areas in the frame that draw viewers’ attention at the expense of the most meaningful objects in the image, weakening its message and damaging effective storytelling. Hard-edged burnt-out bright patches are particular eye-trap culprits even when their values are lowered in post-processing.

Avoiding burn-out and needless processing

Far better to avoid the burn-out eye-trap problem and fruitless correction work in post-production altogether by getting exposure right in the first place, and that is where zebras excel compared with histograms.

International Womens' Day March, Sydney, 2017

Above: Photographing in high dynamic range environments like this can be challenging when trying to achieve correct exposure without burning out the high values. Here I used exposure zebras on a Panasonic Lumix GH4 to ensure the best exposure of sky and footpath then raised the middle and low values in a raw processor. 

Histograms have their uses in assessing your scene or subject’s dynamic range and determining whether to add a light or accept low value details that can be raised in grading or raw processing.

Both the X-Pro2 and X-T2 have histograms that could be improved by enlargement and better delineating their right and left edges. Judging then setting accurate exposure via histogram can be a slow process unsuited to the speed and stresses of documentary photography or video.

As cinematographer/director Paul Leeming demonstrates in his tutorial on ETTR – expose to the right – zebras are a fast and accurate exposure method that can benefit photographers and videographers using Fujifilm cameras, should Fujifilm see fit to add it to firmware. Zebras are not included in late March and late May’s firmware.

Useful updates for both cameras

There are plenty of impressive improvements for both cameras, many of which photographers have been requesting for some time now, most notably the following:

  • #3. Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minutes.
  • #6. “AUTO” setting added for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting.
  • #7. Faster “Face Detection AF”.
  • #8. Improved in-focus indication in the AF-C mode.
  • #9. Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF.
  • #13. Change of focus frame position while enlarging it.
  • #19. Addition of “Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display” in the View Mode.
  • #23. Name Custom Settings.
  • #24. Copyright information in EXIF data.
  • #25. Voice Memo function.
  • #26. Extended AE Bracketing.
  • #27. Addition of “Shoot Without Card” mode.
  • #31. Addition of “-6” and “-7” to EVF’s brightness setting.
  • #33. Function assignment to the Rear Command Dial.

Having tried shooting HDR with the X-Pro2 and X-T2’s three-bracket-only functionality, I have badly missed the larger bracket range available on many other cameras including my Panasonic Lumix GH4 and GX8.

Some of my favourites for X-Pro2 and X-T2

Number 26, Extended AE Bracketing is particularly welcome. Extreme dynamic range scenes demand five, seven or even nine AE brackets to give a wide enough range for HDR processing in products like Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2017, causing me to rely on other cameras than Fujifilm’s for interior and some exterior HDR work.

I bought my X-Pro2 for the benefits of Fujifilm’s legendary colour rendering and its APS-C sensor as opposed to my other cameras’ Micro Four Thirds sensors, and new feature 26 gives me added incentive to add an X-T2 as a companion to my X-Pro2.

Numbers 24 and 25, Copyright information in EXIF data and Voice Memo function, are invaluable when shooting documentary projects, portraits and similar assignments. Every photograph, not just those shot commercially, needs to have copyright data embedded in its EXIF data from the moment of exposure.

Voice memo functionality is crucial when covering an event or shooting a series of portraits, especially without an assistant. Ever tried making a photograph then whipping out a notebook to jot down your subject’s name and other details? Voice memo features in other brands of cameras name audio files similarly to the photographs they relate to, making them easy to find and transcribe back at home base.

Number 23, Name Custom Settings, is a great improvement over the nuisance of having to remember what subject matter or customized look relates to a cryptically-named custom setting.

Numbers 2 and 3, Extended ISO 125 and 160 selectable and Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minute, are functions that may come in handy for some low light and night scene cityscape projects coming my way soon.

Although I generally stick to ISO 200 or 400 for daylight documentary work, habit and years of successful analog practice means I prefer the lowest ISOs I can get for tripod-mounted small aperture photography. Conversely, Fujifilm’s excellent wide aperture lenses like the XF 56mm f/1.2 R and XF 23mm f1/4 R and their incredible bokeh tempts me to shoot wide open with low ISOs.

Cable releases and remote releases are increasingly becoming things of the past for long-exposure photography as well as all-to—easily forgotten or lose on location so I suspect programmable long exposures will be lifesavers.

Number 9, Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF, brings the X-T2 and X-Pro2’s focus point size choice to six with pinpoint focussing, crucial when shooting with long lenses on the X-Pro2 and even longer lenses on the X-T2 when picking out the most essential object in a field of them.

I am going to love this one for shooting portraits with the X-Pro2 and the XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens with aperture wide open for razor-sharp highlights in one eye.

Just for the X-Pro2

Several of the 33 items are for the X-Pro2 only, adding features already in the X-T2’s current firmware:

  • #10. Addition of “AF Point Display” (X-Pro2 only – already on X-T2).
  • #11. Addition of “AF-C Custom Setting” (X-Pro2 only – already on X-T2).
  • #20. Shorter EVF display time-lag (X-Pro2 only – already in X-T2).

Number 11, AF-C Custom Setting, adds action-photography autofocus settings that have well-proven themselves on the X-T2 and that I would have loved on the X-Pro2 for covering intense, fast-moving events like demonstrations. Pine no more.

Likewise, number 10, AF Point Display, will bring more surety when covering those same kind of situations as well as fast-moving portrait subjects flitting in and out of inner city crowds.

Number 20, Shorter EVF display time-lag, will be useful in the same circumstances when shooting with the X-Pro2’s EVF. I default to the OVF or ERF-in-OVF most of the time but switch to the EVF when shooting with a monochrome film simulation or my subjects are moving through mixed bright sun and deep shadow.

Times like that you need a sharp eye on your prime subject in order to hit the shutter at exactly the right moment and the less EVF lag the better.

Plenty of gains, some losses

Thirty-three feature additions and updates for two closely-related cameras sharing sensors, processors and more is quite some feat and Fujifilm deserves heaps of praise and kudos for that.

I suspect that most photographers will be very happy indeed with this list, and some have already described it as “awesome!”. Until the firmware appears, and it is clear exactly how each new item or improvement works in practice, we can only guess as to their implementation and usability but, fingers crossed!

The X-T2 wins some great new video features that I have long wanted on the X-Pro2 and that it will not be getting any time soon if at all, it seems. I will be buying an X-T2 soon enough, as a companion to my X-Pro2 instead of the second X-Pro2 I was originally planning on, but right now my next video-centric choice will be Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 due to its full, mature feature set and sheer usability.

I may not be counted amongst “most photographers” given an equal dedication to still and video that seems to be rare in some parts of the world, but then the X-T2 and X-Pro2 are cameras that appeal to photographers whose work and needs are anything but the norm, well beyond what most photographers demand of their cameras and lenses.

Most photographers, from what I see in the streets of this fair city, are more than happy with the many limitations of DSLR cameras but Fujifilm flagship camera users are a very rare and demanding breed.

And that is, to a large degree, Fujifilm’s own fault. At a time when the independent photo and video landscape was dominated by model after model of DSLRs that barely looked any different from each other, the Fujifilm Finepix X100 was a radical breath of fresh air.

It promised so much, then delivered on it with a succession of great firmware updates that set the expectation of brilliant firmware kaizen for every Fujifilm camera coming after it.

The X-Pro2 3.00 and 3.10, and X-T2 2.00 and 2.10, firmware updates continue in that tradition of satisfying high expectations and have extended both cameras’ usability and capabilities.

Gaps do remain, though, and they are mostly on the X-Pro2 side. Not everyone with high expectations loves the DSLR-style form factor of the X-T2 and there are many of us who are digital refugees from Leica rangefinder days or who could never afford their digital M-System cameras and who can now satisfy their rangefinder-style needs with the X-Pro2.

Will the X-Pro3 one day gain what Fujifilm has left out of the X-Pro2?

Will the X-Pro series lag behind the X-T series’ feature set turning the former into stills-only camera and the latter into a stills-plus-video compromise?

Is the rumoured APS-C super camera the one to watch for high-end Super 35 video?

Does Fujifilm have a blind spot for the incredibly useful exposure zebras functionality on its cameras? And if so, why?

I know I will be getting an X-T2 sometime soon, for the subjects and lenses to which its DSLR-style form factor is well-suited.

I know I will continue to love the X-Pro2 for giving me back the rangefinder-style way of documentary photography I had thought had gone forever during the DSLR ascendancy.

I want another X-Pro2 in my documentary kit as a backup and for when Fujifilm comes out with a revamped XF 18mm f/2.0, as wide lens to the XF 50mm f/2.0’s narrower vision.

But like more than a few fellow X-Pro2 users out there, I want to see the X-Pro2 series flagship cameras remain on a near-equal feature-set footing with their X-T series sisters and that demands improving the video features on both.

Is Fujifilm already planning the next pair of firmware updates and are they listening just as intently to their ever-growing user base?

Links: 

How to Make the X-T2 a Credible Filmmaking Camera, A Letter to Fujifilm from Paul Leeming

Director/cinematographer Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One and Visceral Psyche Films recently put Fujifilm’s X-T2 to the test alongside a range of other hybrid stills/video cameras, and believes that the X-T2 has the potential to be one of the best small, affordable Super 35 video production cameras on the market. 

Mr Leeming comes from a classical feature film background and for some years owned and hired out several RED Super 35 digital movie cameras. In recent years he has adopted the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Super 16 camera as his mainstay, due to its advanced, near-complete moviemaking feature set.

The GH4’s successor, the GH5, due to appear sometime early 2017, looks set to acquire even more advanced moviemaking features. Meanwhile, there is a clear gap in the market for production-ready Super 35 cameras with Samsung discontinuing its very promising Samsung NX1 4K hybrid in 2015.

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Fujifilm X-T2 with Røde VideoMic Pro, Sennheiser noise-cancelling earphones and Peak Design Cuff and Clutch straps.

Unlike Samsung, Fujifilm has a long history of producing high-end video camera lenses, excellent stills lenses of all formats, and top quality integrated camera and lens systems in a number of formats under its own brand name and in collaboration with Hasselblad.

Add all that to Fujifilm’s achievements in making stills and movie film and the Japanese company has what it takes to produce one of the most sought-after Super 35 movie production cameras, if it wishes.

Fujifilm’s best first step would be to take on board Mr Leeming’s firmware and other suggestions, below, consult on a range of suitable lenses and commence work on an even more video-capable X-T2 successor, the X-T3 or X-T2S.


Fujifilm X-T2 Suggested Improvements, by Paul Leeming

Having tested two X-T2 cameras now, there are several fairly glaring omissions which would need to be added and/or fixed in order to present a credible filmmaking camera to the community.

1. White Balance in Video Mode

There is currently no way to set a custom white balance while in video mode, whereby you use a spectrally neutral white or grey reference card to balance out the RGB channels, then save that balance to one of the C1, C2 or C3 colour slots. Given that maximum dynamic range and colour tonality in 8bit 4:2:0 depends on extracting the fullest range out of each RGB channel, it is imperative that a Custom White Balance be easily achievable in any video mode, ideally able to be mapped to a Custom Function button so that a shooter can hit the function, auto white balance in video mode, and have the subsequent slot kept in operation until otherwise updated or changed.

2. Zebras

To accurately judge where overexposure occurs, there is a need for zebras being active in all video modes. These zebras should ideally be adjustable, such that the user can set, for example, 70% IRE, and have it accurately reflected on screen. To judge overexposure, 100% IRE or 100% zebras should show where the clipping point is occuring in real time, so that the user can adjust iris, ISO or shutter as required to reduce exposure to the point where it is no longer clipping. For log-based shooting using F-log, the zebras should still accurately indicate where the clipping point is, even if it occurs before 100% IRE (for example, 79% IRE).

3. DCI 4K

The camera is very close to achieving this already. DCI 4K is 4096 x 2160 x 24.00fps. I’ve tested two different cameras and one had 24.00fps and 23.98fps listed separately; the other did not (different firmware I guess). Both of these however only allowed 3840 x 2160, not 4096 x 2160 as defined by DCI 4K. Having used the DCI 4K feature of the Panasonic GH4 camera previously to match cinema standards fully, the addition of 256 pixels of width plus the 24.00fps framerate would set the X-T2 in a rarified class of filmmaker cameras which actually support the full DCI 4K spec, as only a couple currently support that combination. Supporting the DCI 4K spec with the X-T2’s Super 35 size sensor would actually push it over the GH4 in terms of sensor size and capability, since the GH4 is a M43 sensor only.

4. Histogram

The histogram does not show up in 4K shooting modes that I can see, but it should, along with the zebras mentioned above. Between the two, the filmmaker can easily judge exposure and adjust to maximise dynamic range without clipping anything in the shot. It needs to be a selectable option in all video modes.

5. Unlimited Recording Time

There are two things here that need addressing – first is the 10 minute limit without the added battery grip, and the second is the 30 minute limit even with the grip attached.

First off, there are basically no other cameras that limit their recording to under 30 minutes without needing an additional expense of a battery grip, which also adds bulk and weight to the camera. If this is really a hardware problem with not having enough power, then offer an option such as external power through a dummy battery or USB power input.

Second is the 30-minute artificial limitation to avoid taxing the camera as a video camera. This is purely arbitrary and given that most filmmakers often use their cameras for documentaries and interviews, etcetera, should be something that can be offered as an option, or at least done by region so that in the US, for example, you can sell the unlimited recording model (such as the Panasonic GH4 again, whose US and GH4R models offer unlimited recording time, limited only by the SD card or power running out).

6. F-Log Preview

Currently, I cannot view F-Log colourimetry until hitting record, which causes all sorts of issues with external monitoring using LUTs, etcetera. F-Log needs to show up in the colour space it natively uses, at all times, not only when hitting record.

7. F-Log Internal Recording

I am very aware of the potential issues for 8 bit 4:2:0 log recording to cause unwanted artifacts (see the GH4 for what NOT to do here). However, it should be something the user can choose to enable or not, for testing purposes and for those who don’t have an external recorder handy.

8. F-Log 10bit HDMI Output

The GH4 offers 10bit 4:2:2 HDMI output in full DCI 4K, and has done since it was released over two years ago. This should be the minimum standard going into 2017, and would definitely raise the X-T2’s filmmaker credibility.

There are probably more things I could suggest with further testing of the camera, but getting most of the above things fixed would go a long way to putting the X-T2 close to the top of the mirrorless APS-C camera pile for early 2017.

You have probably noticed I refer to the Panasonic GH4 a lot. That’s because it is the most well-designed consumer-facing mirrorless camera I’ve used and tested in depth (and the GH5 looks to best it in some significant ways in early 2017). It has ergonomic controls, a good monitor and lots of other features which make it easy to use on film sets. It really should be the minimum to aspire to in terms of all of the above, for the X-T2 and future cameras going forward.

Closing with my ultimate wishlist for a mirrorless camera in early 2017, in case you want to blow the industry wide open…

  • Full Frame sensor with no video mode crop.
  • DCI 4K (4096 x 2160 x 24.00fps) recording internally to 10bit 4:2:2 in whatever format/media works best.
  • Rolling shutter of less than 14ms.
  • 13-14 stops of dynamic range minimum.
  • 60fps maximum framerate using DCI 4K at full 10bit 4:2:2 internally.
  • Zebras, histogram, false colour mode to judge exposure.
  • No internal recording time limitation.
  • External power using either a dummy battery with cable or USB-C power delivery spectrally.
  • Fully rotating monitor like that on the Panasonic GH4.

Feel free to contact me with feedback or questions, as I would dearly like to see this camera become a real alternative to the GH4 and soon GH5, given its larger sensor and potential colour rendition.

Hope this helps!

Regards,

Paul Leeming
Director & Cinematographer
Visceral Psyche Films
www.visceralpsyche.com


Image Credits

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

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