Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Can a Fuji X100s be a Monochrom and Noctilux for the Rest of Us?

No. Not quite. Nothing beats a Leica Monochrom and a Noctilux other than, maybe, an M6 loaded with black and white film with a Noctilux. However, one can possibly enjoy the feeling of a "Monochrom" with a Fuji X100s, and save about $18,000 in the process.

Computer screen illumination. 1/80 at f/2.8.
I have generally shied away from using my Fujis to shoot anything other than RAW files. I prefer to do my own post processing, and don't want "done" images out of the camera. The limitation of this approach is that the Fujis will only shoot up to ISO 6400 in RAW mode. There are two more stops of high ISO range, however, if one is willing to shoot JPEG.

I decided to find out how the X100s and it's f/2.0 lens handles ISO 12800 as a monochrome camera, and was I ever surprised.

Single 75 watt bulb in the room. 1/80 at f/4.
The first step is to find an empty Custom Setting and dial in ISO 12800 and black and white. (For this test, I just did straight black and white, no filter.) The camera's LCD and EVF will display in black and white—like a good monochrome camera should.

The next step is to wade into low light.

Outside, porch light. 1/40 at f/2.8.
These images were taken with only the available room light, which was no more than two 75 watt bulbs. (I don't know what that is in "flourescent.") ISO 12800 provided enough sensitivity for relatively high shutter speeds without going to f/2. Amazing.

The images are lovely, with a wide range of shadow and highlight detail, and surprising resolution of detail. If anything, the noise is too low for my taste—to my eye, low light images should look like low light. But, that can be adjusted. These images have only been tweaked with a bit of Clarity in Lightroom.

The high ISO black and white options of the X100s are well worth exploring. Considering that I have three empty Custom Setting slots, it's a no-brainer to add 12800 to my Fuji's menu.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to explore post processing options to see how far I can develop the Fuji's black and white JPEG's to my taste. I continue to be impressed with the capabilities of this little camera.

Two 75 watt lamps, with iPhone fill light. 1/180 at f/2.0.


Update:

I took this original file into Silver Efex and tweaked it more to my liking. This is a web-sized version (duh), but in the process of pulling more of the image out, there is more texture and noise. This is what I would expect, and I don't mind it. Moreover, I think it's surprising how little noise there is at 12800, and how much detail is retained in the shadows and highlights. Fuji has some magic going on.

The final file, exported as a 300 dpi, Adobe 1998 JPEG has a resolution of 4896x3264, and comes in at 21.2 megabytes. I have no idea how it would print, but I'm curious to find out.

Processed in Silver Efex.