Fujifilm X100 for HDR?

DSCF0061 HDR

The Fujifilm X100 as point and shooter on steroids (i.e., fast fixed lens and APS-C sized sensor), as street shooter, as minimialist retro plaything? Sure, it’s all those things. But nobody’s really describing it as a good landscape camera… and certainly not as a good camera for HDR shooting.

We’ve featured a number of HDR shots previously on 2 Guys Photo and I’ve commented that my favorite cameras for HDR shooting allow for simple three shot, plus and minus 2 EV, relatively high speed burst shooting. The Pentax K5 nails this. So too do most Nikon DSLRs. Canon’s S95 and G12 and the Panasonic LX5 point and shoot cameras get this right. Why then do so many other manufacturers get this wrong? Either they cap it at plus or minus 1 EV across three shots, which is often not enough to capture a broad enough range for HDR shooting, or they force you take five shots to get to 2 EV above and below standard. If you’re on a tripod, then five shots is no big deal, but if you’re handholding, which I most typically am, then five shots slows the whole process down and introduces more shake and subject movement problems.

The Fufifilm X100 fits into the former category. It gives you only plus/minus 1 EV. Why oh why when a very simple firmware update would fix this in a jiffy? It’s not as though HDR photography isn’t all the rage.

Nevertheless, I’ve been playing around with my X100, trying to see if I could gain enough detail in the shadows and highlights across plus/minus 1 EV to make HDR a go. The above shot was taken with three bracketed shots (at +/- 1 EV, of course) and then combined and tweaked in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro, my favorite HDR tool.

Read on to see what the original shots looked like, including the middle exposure image.

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The first photo above was at no compensation and the second and third are less a stop and plus a stop respectively.

I had been hoping that the in-built dynamic range settings (100%, 200%, 400% or auto) would allow for expanded DR on the X100, but I’ve been unable to see a lot of difference between these settings. Here are three shots at each setting and I’m not seeing much difference, measured as a greater amount of detail in the darkest and lightest areas. If there are differences, they’re pretty slight. I contrast this to Nikon’s implementation which is much more effective.

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I’m going to continue to play around with the X100 in these types of situations to see if it has what it takes to become my main photographic squeeze, a designation more driven by image quality and capabilities such as the one described here than the limitation of a fixed focal range. I’ll keep you in the loop.

Posted by Rey

(Editor’s update: wow, did the formatting of this post get tangled up.  Thank you WordPress.   Hopefully this looks better now…)

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11 Responses to Fujifilm X100 for HDR?

  1. Mark James says:

    There is so much bad HDR out there right now. I see people posting cartoon like shots and it drives me crazy. They also seem to think HDR requires an image to be over saturated. In my mind the best HDR is the one you have to think about because the DR is wide it must be HDR but it still looks realistic. Like the one on the top of the page. It wouldn’t bother me if you showed some bad examples as well so people know what not to do.

    • Mark says:

      Just for clarification I was in a rush this morning when I posted the first time. I was trying to say that your shot at the top of the page is a very good example of what HDR should look like. I was in a hurry and botched the post and ran 3 thoughts into one confusing paragraph. Sorry…

      I have yet to try HDR. I’ve done some bracket shots but have never sat down to figure out how to merge them. Not sure if I even have the right SW to do it.

      • 2guysphoto says:

        Mark – thanks very much for your comments. In reality, I believe the shot I posted is a bit “overcooked”. I work hard to not overdo it, but must confess that I do tend to like the more highly saturated and contrasty images of, let’s say, a Trey Ratcliff (www.stuckincustoms.com). Good idea about posting some HDR samples. I’ve been meaning to post more on HDR. Thanks for the inspiration… and give HDR a try. You only need to bracket +/- 1 (though +/- 2 is much better) and combine in a program like Photomatix Pro. There are other solutions in terms of software (and a lot of free downloads to sample). I’m a fan of Nik HDR Efex Pro which is quite excellent.

        Thanks,

        Rey

  2. Duane Bender says:

    Almost every image in this gallery is from bracketed shots with the X100. The file names that include HDR have been processed with NIk HDR Efex Pro.

    http://www.dakotacowboyphotography.com/Photography/Local-Walk-Abouts/Granbury-Texas/18064629_Dpztmr#1385348069_nP36gcz

    • Ed Spadoni says:

      Thanks for sharing your X100 gallery Duane. I know you recently became an X100 shooter, and there’s been a lot of interest in this new Fuji, so, very timely. Your HDR images came out great – I recommend everyone take a look. Thanks Duane. Ed

    • 2guysphoto says:

      Duane – thanks for posting. There are some very nice shots in your gallery. Hard to tell on most which have been processed using HDR techniques and that’s a good, good thing. Nice stuff.

      Rey

  3. 2guysphoto says:

    In my mind, HDR is like a toupee: the good ones look natural, and you don’t even know it’s a toupee/HDR unless someone tells you.

    Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with creating an image that is not “as found in nature”, as long as people understand it is “art” and not photojournalism. Ed

  4. Duane Bender says:

    Rey and Ed – Thanks for your comments. Many times I also like to push HDR processing to create an artful illusion. The illusion effect did not seem to work for the Granbury shoot, so I used the more natural HDR processing to bring out the shadow detail on a very bright sunny Texas day. (however, the colors are somewhat exaggerated in this gallery)

  5. Jacques says:

    I’m a huge proponent of HDR, and try to strike that fine balance between “reality” and art when I produce my images. While I normally shoot my HDRs with a larger DSLR, I have recently embraced the freedom the X100 affords when I want to travel light, particularly when just running around town, or when with my family (who, while patient with my photography, prefer that I shoot and scoot as quickly as possible). With regard to the 1EV bracketing the X100 supports, natively, I can certainly understand any quibbles those who shoot handheld would have. For me, this is not such a critical issue (though I would welcome a firmware fix to provide built-in 2EV bracket facility in the X100) because I rarely shoot an HDR handheld. Instead, I’ll set-up on a tripod and dial in the required HDR brackets (with the live Histogram as a guide) for the shot.

    • Rey says:

      Jacques – that makes two of us… wishing for a firmware fix to allow for +/- 2EV. You have a more deliberate style, using a tripod rather than a run and gun approach. Yours is the surefire, proper way to do HDR, no doubt. I’ve been testing the Sony NEX 5N (review coming soon) and am taking a real liking to the in camera HDR function. I have a feeling that this is where this is all headed for cameras such as the X100.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Rey

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