Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fuji X10 – Review Part 7 – Capture Sharpening and a wonky meter

I went out today to shoot some winter scenes. Nothing too fancy … I started at Dick Bell Park, the home of the Nepean Sailing Club. I parked and wandered about a bit … it was –14C, so a bit nippy. But no wind.

I shot the berths as they sat empty and frozen over. There were trees at the back of the berths and they should be perfectly sharp and crisp.

The first problem I encountered was blown exposures. My new protocol is to pop into playback mode and look at the blinking lights, and I got a lot of them for the first three images. I started at 0EV and ISO100 and got 1/1300s with heavily blown highlights. I later confirmed that these could not be saved in ACR. I then set –1EV and reshot. I got the same shutter speed and the same blown highlights. Third try was –2EV … same shutter speed and you know the rest. So this convinces me that I have hit a shutter limitation.

The next step it to move aperture higher. I land on f/10 and try again at –2EV. I get 1/1700s this time … and the image is a full stop under exposed. I was too cold to process the fact that this was approximately 1/3 stops darker for shutter plus 2 and 2/3 stops darker for aperture, so all I needed to to was back off the aperture about one stop to f/7.1 and set –1EV and I would have been fine.

I incorrectly backed off the –2EV to zero EV and left f/10 (did I mention that I was cold?) to end up with 1/450s shutter speed. And again it was cold so I moved on to shooting at this new setting.

But since the shutter I got three times would not go above 1/1300s at f/4 but jumped right away to 1/1700s at f/10 and –2EV, I don’t understand why just setting more –EV would not boost shutter on its own for those first three shots … why was there a limitation, or is the meter really this wonky?

Now there is the possibility that I have ended up with a series of images that are plagued with diffraction issues … which is the price of wonky meters I suppose. You react and you shoot. Maybe next session I will stay at f/5.6 and find a way to make the camera behave in bright light. The saving grace is that the exposures are now nearly perfect …


Since the exposures are fine, I don’t have to do a lot of fooling around in the exposure panel of ACR. But I should look at the sharpening panel. To start with, the image with zero sharpening dialed in is pretty soft ….


You cannot take it to where things look really sharp because the noise will get obtrusive very fast.


For me, the best compromise has been to dial in a bit of masking (surface protection) and dial down sharpening a bit. The goal for capture sharpening is to remove AA filter and diffraction effects without adding halos. You expect to continue processing, so this is usually a light sharpening.


And that’s acceptable, if not actually sharp. The final result, after minor tweaking and shadow work (for the conifers) is acceptable as a small print, but would be difficult to print large.

I redid this image with a slightly different approach to tonality and ended up in about the same place, but with a bit more brightness.

I checked out an F550 image I shot at the same time but at much longer focal length. There was some brush in that image and the basic sharpness profile and technique was the same.

So the aperture makes less difference than the mosaic pattern that EXR uses. My guess is that the AA filter is strong enough to handle the large pixels in 6mp mode, so 12mp mode takes a real beating. The JPEG engines hide such things, but RAW shows all.


  • The meter continues to act strangely in my opinion … wonky
  • Shutter limitations act like they are tied to aperture as well as ISO
  • Stop down in really bright light, don’t forget 
  • Continue to actively look for blown out highlights, despite some peoples’ tolerance for them, they never look as good as smooth gradients
  • The X10 can be shot in snow, but it seems labour intensive when compared with the F550EXR, which nailed the exposure first shot
  • The EXR sensor seems unsharp as neither the F550 nor the X10 are anything to write home about at 100%

But that does not mean that you can’t get nice prints. It’s just that you should probably look elsewhere for your posters.