Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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There aren't many options for RAW development for the Fujifilm's X-Pro 1 because of its unique sensor layout. However, Fujifilm has clearly spent a lot of time working on the in-camera JPEG results, which get high praise, especially in the rendition of skin tones.

There are a number of options for controlling these, including tweaks to "color" (by which they appear to largely mean saturation of color) and changes to highlight and shadow "tone", but the Big Switch is what Fujifilm calls Film Simulation. In addition to a number of monochrome options, these are described in the manual like this:

  • Provia (Standard) Standard color reproduction. Suited to a wide range of subjects, from portraits to landscapes.
  • Velvia (Vivid) A high-contrast palette of saturated colors, suited to nature photos.
  • Astia (Soft) Enhances the range of hues available for skin tones in portraits while preserving the bright blues of daylight skies. Recommended for outdoor portrait photography.
  • PRO Negative High Offers slightly more contrast than PRO Negative Standard. Recommended for outdoor portrait photography.
  • PRO Negative Standard A soft-toned palette. The range of hues available for skin tones is enhanced, making this a good choice for studio portrait photography.

These descriptions are better than some I've seen, but they're pretty short on specifics. In my testing, I've seen that what the "Pro Negative" settings actually do is make tanned or pink skin very pale, and strongly boost contrast in the shadows — somewhat at odds with the description.

Is there a way to get a better handle on what these effects do, and which I want to be using if I'm shooting in JPEG? (Because, hey, that's where the money went.) I can take a bunch of test shots, but going through all the permutations seems time consuming (especially since the in-camera RAW development is tedious). Is there a shortcut to understanding?

I used the "film simulation bracketing" feature to make these:


Which are Provia, Velvia, and Astia respectively — to my mind, that's "neutral to the point of bland", "overcooked", and "I would say overcooked if I hadn't just seen the previous".

My Pentax camera has range of image tone options similar to these "film simulation" choices, but for each of these, on the back of the screen there's a hexagonal color spider chart showing the effect of the settings. This isn't a perfect representation, but gives some idea of what's going on.

Is there a straightforward way to produce those for this camera (or for any generic camera), or has someone already done the work?

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Which are Provia, Velvia, and Astia respectively — to my mind, that's "neutral to the point of bland", "overcooked", and "I would say overcooked if I hadn't just seen the previous". Is that right? I'd expect Astia to be the bland one, based on experience with the slide films. – coneslayer Apr 30 '12 at 1:12
@coneslayer — I double checked, and yeah. Which I guess is an addendum to the question: can familiarity with the film after which these options are named really help? (And the answer, apparently, is no.) – mattdm Apr 30 '12 at 1:30
Regarding tone curves: yes, there is a relatively simple method of deducing actual tone curves given that you may do RAW and JPEG of same exposure. I may explain it in details. – Euri Pinhollow Apr 19 at 17:28

If you want to evaluate color reproduction and accuracy, you need to use a color checker card. X-Rite is pretty much the source for such devices today, as they purchased Gretag Macbeth some time ago. I personally use the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, which is a handy pocket-sized clamshell device with the standard colorchecker pattern, an enhanced color calibration chart, and an 18% gray card inside. You can also get a larger "standardized" colorchecker pattern chart with the standard pattern, a large extended pattern chart (with LOTS more color swatches), and a few other options. I would say the standard pattern is plenty.

You just set the color checker card up in a known lighting type, say sunlight, set the camera's WB setting to match, and take shots under each picture style. You can then compare the results of these on your computer screen to the actual card (just hold it up to next to the replications on-sceen.) I believe these days there are also digital versions of the color checker card that can be used for comparison purposes as well, although you need to make sure you calibrate your screen appropriately so as not to skew the digital version. (Really, you should probably calibrate your screen to a normalized medium anyway...I would check X-Rite's site for proper use of their color checker card, as it has been quite some time since I did all this calibration myself.)

You should be able to readily perceive differences in color reproduction and saturation for each camera setting. Its also important to keep in mind, the tool you use for RAW processing, if you wish to check RAW, will affect color reproduction as well. Most, such as LR/ACR, Aperture, etc. have their own approximations of in-camera picture styles, but they are rarely exact. You will need to use manufacturer-provided tools for the closest RAW replication of in-camera JPEG picture styles. You should be able to compare similar settings for your Pentax as well, and see how both cameras fare relative to the standardized swatches themselves, as well as to each other.

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Datacolor would be the other name in color management. I've switched to the Spyder 4 since both my Huey Pro and X-rite i1 are useless on my Mac now. I gave up on X-rite after that, just too annoying in that respect. – John Cavan Apr 29 '12 at 17:22
@JohnCavan: Aye, totally agreed there. I own the DataColor calibration suite, including the Spyder 4, their print calibrator, etc. Their products are great, although I have not actually used their camera calibrator. I would imagine its pretty good, as it comes with companion software that should make calibration comparisons between camera and the actual swatch colors a breeze. – jrista Apr 29 '12 at 17:33

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