Fujifilm X RAW STUDIO: does it suck? (Spoiler: yes it sucks)

Important disclaimer:I’ll go straight to the point, in my humble the X RAW STUDIO sucks real bad… HOWEVER, keep in mind that it is a FREE software, so see no bitterness/angriness/saltiness or anything of the likes in what follows. This post is just a mix of facts on the current state of the software and thoughts on what could be done to make it better. Since it is a free software, it’s still unbeatable in terms of value for money even though it is, as far as I am concerned, unusable in a workflow in its current state.

What software should I use to retouch my X-Trans pictures? How can I easily recreate the look of the various film simulations from the RAW file? For a long time, these questions have haunted users who would jump into the Fujifilm’s ship. Not so much nowadays I feel, as the issue has now been well documented and many viable options are now available. As far as I am concerned, nowadays I tend to use the following workflow:

  • Lightroom to import and organize my images
  • Drag and drop the image I want to process directly from Lightroom onto the Iridient icon
  • Start the developing process in Iridient by selecting one of the film simulation preset, then a few tweaks to taste
  • Easily re-import back the image into Lightroom as a TIFF via the option of the saving menu in Iridient
  • Local brushes and final touches such as Vignette on the TIFF file in Lightroom

If it sounds complicated to you, fear not for it isn’t. However wouldn’t be awesome if you could easily and exactly re-obtain the wonderful Fujifilm film simulations from your RAW files? Here comes the X RAW STUDIO, a free software offered by Fujifilm seemingly to fill this need…

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What is the X RAW STUDIO?

The X RAW STUDIO is a software that enables you to use the RAW processor on your compatible Fujifilm camera (at the moment the GFX 50 S, X-T2, X-Pro2 and X100F) to convert your Fujifilm RAW files at high speed, with exactly the same film simulations and settings possibilities that you would have when doing it via the menu in-camera. In a nutshell. Instead of selecting the settings on the back of your camera, you select them via the software’s interface on your computer screen… but the conversion is still ultimately done by the processor of your camera, which means that to use the software you need to connect the camera to your computer, even if you have already imported your RAW files on your computer’s hard drive or an external drive. As you are using the processing engine of the camera, you get access to the same options as via the menu, no more, no less. On the plus side, you can save several profiles as presets and do some batch processing. Since your camera is in charge of generating the output file, the result you get with the software is exactly the same as in-camera.

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What it is NOT

Maybe I am hammering a point I already made clear, but the one thing to understand to avoid unnecessary frustration (real frustration will come later) is that the X RAW STUDIO is not a RAW conversion software designed to compete with Lightroom, CaptureOne, OnOne, Iridient, etc… it is designed to do one job and one job only: give you the possibility to use your camera processing engine via a computer interface rather than from the camera menu. Don’t expect to be using the X RAW STUDIO to do a full post-processing workflow, it is NOT the point of the software. The point is to get your camera to convert as quickly as possible Fujifilm RAW files into output files using the same list of settings and associated values (e.g. you can choose between -1, 0, 1, 2… don’t expect any slider to adjust “to taste”) that you can find in the camera menu. Also, don’t expect to export your X-T2 files into .TIFF files. Since the X-T2 exports JPEG, you only have this option available. On the other hand the GFX can export in .TIFF, so if you plug your GFX to your computer and try to export a GFX file, the .TIFF option is this time available.

Why do I need to connect my camera to my computer?

The software is just an interface, the conversion from RAW is still performed by the processor of the camera, hence the camera needs to be connected to your computer. Sounds cumbersome? Well, it is, and as far as I know there is no cable in the box (at least for the X-T2 and X-Pro2), so why would Fujifilm do that… let’s look at the answer from 2 different types of people:

  1. The engineer: “The chip inside your camera has been specifically designed to perform this task, hence it is the fastest and most efficient way to do it, this is beautiful!”
  2. Any other photographer: “I have no idea. I wish I did not need to connect my camera with an additional wire to my computer, I’m sure my computer’s processor can handle this task fast enough compared to my average usage”

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Do little but do it well?

The Fujifilm X RAW STUDIO was designed to do one very specific (niche?) task, which could be a very good if that it means that what it does it does it very well.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case. When it works, it works well, however during my own experience i had the impression to be using a software in beta stage (if not alpha), based on performance issues and UI shenanigans.

Performance and stability issues

The software crashed 2 times on me during the first 15min of usage, and another time when I got to 30min of usage. That’s not the best way to be introduced to a new software. However, it’s not like you are writing a document or doing a complex retouching with multiple layers and suddenly losing all your work, so I could still have looked beyond this inconvenience. Unfortunately, things just continue to go downhill from here.

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Even though you though you have to plus your camera to the computer, it does not mean that you are reading the images on the memory card inside your camera. You actually select the folder where your store your images on your hard drive (does not matter whether internal or external), and the software will read the folder. Now here is the thing, while I organize my pictures in collections in Lightroom and attach keywords to them to find them easily at a software level, at the files level I import them on my computer by Year/Month. This means that the folders I have on my hard drive contain on average around 5,000 images. This is a big problem when using the X RAW STUDIO, because when you select a folder with that many pictures the software suffers from a panic attack and is never able to load previews in the filmstrip at the bottom of the window. Switch folders to a smaller one, and suddenly a couple pictures of the first folder appear in the filmstrip but none of the newly selected folder. The kind of things that can drive you crazy if you start switching from one folder to another and again and again… Sometimes, when all the stars are aligned, it suddenly works. In any case, if you are using folders with a lot of pictures, good luck to you…

Unfortunately there are even more issues. Let’s say you manage to select an image, chose a profile and exported it. And that for the sake of comparison you try to select a different film simulation on the same image you already exported. Well, you just threw your computer into never ending limbo. If you want to re-edit an image you just exported the safe way is to first select a different image and then select back the image you want to re-edit. Of course selecting an image takes longer than it should, so again you are wasting some time.

Weird UI choices

Let’s say that somehow you were luckily spared from all these performance and stability bugs, or that you have a lot of time to lose and decide to use the software anyway. You now have to deal with weird UI choices. The biggest problem I have with the UI is that you can only select a picture by browsing through the filmstrip at the bottom of the window. If you have a lot of pictures within the folder you have selected, in the best case it’s a nightmare to find the picture you want, and in the worst case it’s simply mission impossible. A grid view would go a long way improving the UI.

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Among the other issues with the UI, there are some weird ones, such as the info on the file not showing at what ISO the image was taken. I don’t understand why they would tell you every other setting but not the ISO.

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Conclusion

The main positive feature of the Fujifilm X RAW STUDIO is that it is free. The rest of the experience is a sum of bugs, crashes and cumbersome wires to connect your camera to your computer. I would have been much more understanding if Fujifilm had come out and say this is a beta (if not alpha) version that will be refined before a final version is released. Then it would have made sense. But right now, I regret to say that I don’t understand how Fujifilm could value so little the time of their everyday users to have them go through such a terrible experience without any sort of warning (something along the lines of “Hey guys, this is a very rough beta of something we are working on, lots of bugs and instability issues but if you have time to test it we’d like to hear your feedback” would have clearly been necessary). Hopefully, the X RAW STUDIO get some Kaizen love of its own in the near future, but in the meantime consider yourself warned…

I got printed in 3D by the Fujifilm GFX 50S

As I wrote in my previous article, it has been a very busy weekend, shooting Kyoto’s maikos and geikos on Saturday, and Tokyo’s geishas on Sunday (see my Twitter feed for previews).

Nonetheless, I rushed to Yokohama on Sunday afternoon, for a speedy visit of the CP+ 2017 before the show’s end. Don’t hold your breath, but probably more on that later. Anyway, the good news is that opposite to Fujikina last January, it was this time allowed to to record samples on your own memory card. Yeah!

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The first lens I tried on the GFX 50S was the GF63mmF2.8, but the models working on the Fuji stage were too far for my liking to use this focal range (50mm in 35mm equivalent). So I asked the Fujifilm employee who was helping me to take my own portrait instead:

My portrait taken with the Fujifilm GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8

This shot was taken at ISO 6,400. Obviously the lighting was horrible, which emphasizes even more the fact that I am no model, but at least you see me “pop” against the blurry background, which gives the 3D feel to the image. And I confirm Japanese people pronounce it “bokeeeeeeeeh!!” and not “boka” 😉

Thanks again to all the people working on Fujifilm’s booth at CP+ 2017 for their patience with me and support! Can’t say the same with all camera manufacturers…

More to come…

Must-read articles from the archives if you are new to the Fujifilm X-Series

So, with the Fujifilm now officially released, you have decided to take a leap of faith and jump into the X-Series, and you slowly start to realize that you leaving your DSLR at home more and more often. While mirrorless cameras have been trying to catch up with DSLRs in terms of performances, there is still a lot to get used in terms of interface, including some benefits: for example, thanks to the electronic viewfinder that you can magnify, you don’t need to afraid of using manual anymore… As Todd would say, hooray! Anyway, here is a list of my previous articles/videos that you might find useful if you are new to the X-Series:

  • Manual focus tutorial

  • How to use the Fujifilm remote app on your phone

  • Why you should use a UHS-II SD card rather than UHS-I with the cameras that are compatible

  • Take a look at the Instax Printer SP-2

As always, stay tune for more 😉

Product shots of the Fujifilm X-T2 and the X-Series family (and a few sample shots)

After 2 months of intense hype, the X-T2 has now officially joined the Fujifilm X-Series family on the 8th of September, as it finally shipped across the globe. I received mine on Thursday, along with its battery grip. I won’t do any unboxing video this time, as there are already plenty to be found on the net. I will also take the required time to put the X-T2 through its paces, especially the new autofocus system (rethought algorithms + Canon-like customizable settings), so I will not rush any review. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the X-T2 (mine), which kept a similar design as its predecessor, although just a tiny tiny bit fatter. Anyways, I still would like to share some pictures OF the X-T2 along with its siblings, because it still looks gorgeous. So, without further ado, here is… the Fuji X-T2!

 

And the battery grip (or Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XT2 as Fujifilm calls it) that comes back on steroids:

  • 2 extra battery slots instead of 1 (for a total of 3 batteries including the one in the X-T2)
  • can be used to charge 2 batteries at the same time thanks to the AC adapter that comes with it in the box
  • includes a headphone jack for video shooting
  • has its own AF joystick for shooting vertically
  • also improves the grip when shooting horizontally

When compared to the X-T1, you can see that the X-T2 is a little bit bigger, although the difference is barely visible. The main difference in design visible from the front is the taller ISO and shutter speed dials:

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Comparing the X-T1 and X-T2’s grips, the size difference is more obvious given the additional functionalities of the XT2’s grip:

However, the X-T2 (without battery grip) still feels more compact than the other X-Series camera sharing the same sensor and image processor, the X-PRO2:

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And here are the first few sample images I took with the X-T2 (JPEGs from the camera with the Velvia film simulation):

Fujifilm X-T2: The Good, The Hype and The Rant

Disclaimer: apart from the pictures of the X-T2, all the pictures in this blog post were taken with the X-Pro2, which remains a wonderful camera despite of all the hype you can read about other models 🙂

In my review of the X-Pro2, I concluded that if you could live without the hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro2, then the X-T2 was probably worth the wait. This was before the official reveal of the specifications of the X-T2 on the 7th of July.

The Good

X-Pro2 or X-T2? That is not the question

The official specifications of the X-T2 have only reinforced this idea, as, on paper, choosing the X-T2 seems like a no-brainer. You get the same sensor and processor as in the X-Pro2, but with a few additional perks including:

  • Bigger and brighter electronic viewfinder, with less blackout periods between shots when shooting in continuous mode
  • Refined autofocus algorithms (coming to the X-Pro2 in October via firmware update), with customizable AF-C settings (think Canon autofocus menus) to better adapt to the situation (NOT included in the X-Pro2 firmware update at the time of writing this article)
  • Video mode: 4K video recording up to 10min in-body (30min with the battery grip), with a “standard” 3.5mm mic jack (vs a 2.5mm jack on the X-Pro2), although you unfortunately will need the battery grip to get a headphone jack
  • 2 UHS-II SD memory card slots, compared to 1 UHS-II + 1 UHS-I slot on the X-Pro2 (not a biggie for me as I am mostly using the second slot for JPEGs backups in RAW+JPEG mode, so don’t really need the UHS-II speed on the second slot)
  • Last but not least, a cheaper price than the X-Pro2

On top of that, you get the differences in design between the X-T series vs X-Pro series, which to my personal taste are positive points for the X-T1/X-T2:

  • Mode selection dial, instead of a “Drive” sub-menu. Whith the X-T2, the mode dial includes this time around a much needed position for the Video mode. Why there was none on the X-T1 is a mystery, as if you were not shooting stills in 16:9 JPEGs you could not frame your video properly before pressing the record button…
  • Articulated screen. Why the X-Pro2’s screen is not at least a minimum articulated to facilitate shooting from the hip is another great mystery…

The one (and only) reason that would make you want the X-Pro2 over the X-T2 is the hybrid viewfinder. If this is something that you really want, then the X-Pro2 was designed just for you! If you can leave without it, then getting the X-T2 is a no-brainer in my opinion.

The Hype

While Fujifilm has made (much needed but still relatively) fast improvements in its camera lineup, the company has also up its game in terms of marketing, especially on social networks. Via the Fujifilm X-Photographers programme, Fujifilm has quickly caught with other brands in building a group of talented photographers who became the best ambassadors of the brand.

Rui-chan Miko Cosplay

This is a brilliant marketing technique, because it means that during the (long) time between the X-T2 announcement and the actual release of the camera, the Internet buzz around the camera will be filled by people who:

  •  are not professional reviewers: they write about their personal experience with the camera but can’t draw any comparison with a wide variety of competitors
  • have a relationship with Fujifilm that would not be appropriate for a reviewer
  • even when forgetting about this relationship, they are a biased sample: they are Fujifilm users, which means they have already chosen Fujifilm over other brands for personal taste/reasons (well, of course anyone’s opinion on anything will be biased, but in this case Fujifilm selects them for their bias)
  • write all these previews and stories for free! What more could you ask for?

The downside of this strategy is that if you overdo it you can inflate a hype bubble – with the winds of “fastest auto-focus ever” and “finally better than DSLRs” – that could eventually backfire when the final product gets released, and the embargo on REAL reviews gets lifted. In my opinion we are getting close to the over saturation with he X-T2, I feel like they gave a pre-production version of this camera to way more people than they had ever done. You would think it is already out (fun fact: my X-E1 review is the most read article on my blog, because most of the photographers we hear praising Fuji today would not care to write about it at the time – with the exception of the few ones who jump into the boat from the start with the clunky X100). I do read all those previews, not because I want to hear how much better the ***insert any new camera here*** is, but I actually appreciate many of the X-Photographers for their personality (always nice and welcoming when you I met them despite of tight schedules) and their outstanding work. I would not love them less if they were not shooting Fuji.

But irrelevant to how much sympathy I have for them, their daily job is to produce beautiful pictures and not to review cameras (they will be the first ones to acknowledge that themselves when they write a preview). Consumers deserve real reviews to make an informed decision, and for their protection I would always call for professional and balanced reviews to be available earlier since the camera is already available for pre-order. Remember that when the X-T1 it had mushy buttons that had to be changed on the next batch of production. Something that you could (only?) read here before the release of the camera (and real reviews), amidst a sea of X-Photographers praising the X-T1 as a DSLR-killer (hum, sounds familiar).

Potential buyers who are being enticed by the HEAVY focus being put on the video capabilities of the X-T2 have nothing to lose waiting for real world balanced reviews to be out. No, the camera is not going to be out of stock forever if you don’t preorder. The video quality of the X-T2 might be awesome. I have no idea. But given the sub-par quality of the X-T1, there is no reason to blindly believe Fujifilm when they say they have suddenly  found the magic formula for video with the X-T2. Until the final camera is in the hand of independant reviewers, caution is advised.

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The Rant

Again, I love the work of X-Photographers, I am just saying that consumers need to take a precautionary pinch of salt against the hype, and keep their expectations realistic. However, there is one thing that drives me crazy: reading interviews explaining that this camera did not get this feature available on another camera because the photographers using this camera told Fujifilm that street photographers don’t use this or that while this camera is targeting them… and then couple years later when this feature finally makes it on the successor of this camera the SAME people will write posts on how much this is fantastic!

This idea that you can put photographers in hermetic silos depending on what they shoot is plain stupid. If your camera designer does not want to put an articulated screen on the X-Pro series for design/cost reasons, obviously don’t put one. But if you are not doing it based on the fact  the tiny sample of street photographers you talk to never shot on a camera with one, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons: if they don’t want to move their screen, they can just leave it the way it is! Meanwhile different people could use the option extensively.

The current example of that is the lack of a touchscreen on the X-T2. Brainstorming meeting in Fuji HQ with a small sample of X-Photographers:
– Shall we put a touchscreen in the X-T2? 
– Nah, touchscreens are for amateurs and we are so scared that we could change a setting with our nose touching the screen that we cannot be bothered to turn the option off for ourselves while letting it available for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Fast forward to 2018, the X-T3 will come out with a touchscreen and the same people will start their previews on their blogs by saying how the touchscreen is a revolution and so intuitive because we have been using smartphones for 10 years…

Just a bit more patience

Anyway, in a week from now the wait will be over and the hype will slow down. The X-T2 will be shipping to my home. I have been using the X-Series for many years now, so my expectations are based on the previous products I have used. I am not expecting a game changer, a DSLR-killer, the fastest auto-focus in the world, etc… No camera is perfect, and spoiler alert the X-T2 won’t be. Just a camera… Find a brand/system that you like, whichever is good for you, so that you can only focus on what really matters. Shoot portraits, shoot landscapes, document your travels… Just focus on enjoying whatever camera you have and on having fun with it. Well, until it is time to fancy on the X-T3, and round and round we go 😉

Shiba Aura