There’s a new feature on the Fujifilm X100V called HDR, which is an abbreviation for High Dynamic Range. You’ve probably heard of HDR photography. It was all the rage 10 years ago, but often looked terrible. Well, software has improved, and people are being more tasteful with their edits, and you likely see HDR pictures frequently and don’t even know it. I’ve never been a big fan of HDR photography, and I had very little interest in this new Fujifilm feature, but I thought that I’d try it anyway.
What is HDR? It’s the combination of a series of pictures, some overexposed and some underexposed, to maximize dynamic range. It prevents clipped highlights and blocked shadows. Fujifilm has other tools to deal with this: Highlight and Shadow adjustments, different Dynamic Range options, and D-Range Priority. HDR is now another option. You can select HDR 200, HDR 400, HDR 800 or HDR Plus.
On the X100V you have to go to the Drive menu to access HDR. One thing that I really appreciate about HDR on this camera is that you can select all of the different JPEG options except Dynamic Range (with HDR Plus you also cannot select Highlight, Shadow or Clarity). In other words, HDR becomes the Dynamic Range setting, and you still have everything else. You can also reprocess in-camera the RAW HDR file, but only as an HDR image. Cool!
Let’s take a closer look at the HDR options on the X100V, and also compare it to DR400 and D-Range Priority.
The only pictures where the shadows appear significantly different are D-Range Priority Strong and HDR Plus. Otherwise shadows are similar, and HDR doesn’t seem to affect it much. However, highlights are greatly affected by the different HDR settings. In the pictures above, there’s a big difference in how the sun is rendered.
You might also notice some similarities between some of these different settings. Let’s compare a few:
DR400 vs. HDR 400
D-Range Priority Weak vs. HDR 200
D-Range Priority Strong vs. HDR Plus
You might notice that D-Range Priority Weak and HDR 200 look very similar, as does DR400 and HDR 400, as well as D-Range Priority Strong and HDR Plus. Why? D-Range Priority Weak and HDR 200 are both based on DR200, so it makes sense that they would appear similar to each other. HDR 400 is based on DR400, so it’s logical that they would seem similar, as well. HDR 800 is like DR800 if such a thing existed. Both D-Range Priority Strong and HDR Plus are basically the same as HDR 800 with lighter shadows.
I don’t see a benefit to using HDR 200 or HDR 400, as you can achieve the same thing with your different Dynamic Range options. I did find HDR 800 useful for maximizing the dynamic range of the camera in harsh-light situations. HDR Plus isn’t really any different than using D-Range Priority Strong, so you might as well use the D-Range Priority setting if you really need it.
Here’s another example of the different HDR settings:
The picture above illustrates when HDR Plus could be beneficial, but you might as well use D-Range Priority Strong instead. You could achieve the same thing as HDR 200 and HDR 400 by using the Dynamic Range settings. HDR 800 is the only one that you cannot mimic by using other settings, but the difference is pretty small between it and HDR 400.
Back in the day, HDR photographs were notorious for halos and cartoonish renderings, but I didn’t find any of those issue on the X100V. The camera does a decent job of aligning hand-held shots. The new HDR feature far exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly pretty low). However, it turns out that HDR on the X100V is not especially useful. It also slows down the camera considerably as it captures a series of pictures and combines them. Besides that, it doesn’t always work well.
If there’s anything more than very minor movements within the frame, you’ll get weird artifacts from the combination of pictures. Even if there’s no movement, but you are not very still when you capture the pictures, you can get blur from poor alignment. I had just as many busts as I had successes when using HDR because of alignment problems and artifacts from movement. Maybe there’s a way to artistically use this?
HDR was not a feature that I was especially excited about on the Fujifilm X100V, yet it turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. After playing around with it for a few days, I concluded that it’s not an especially useful tool. HDR 800 is the only selection that has a practical application, and the conditions have to be pretty extreme for it to be beneficial. While you can get good hand-held shots, you’re better off using a tripod, and don’t even think about using HDR if there’s anything more than very slow movement in the scene. While I think Fujifilm did a descent job in the programming, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and it’ll need to be made better before it’s a feature that will be used frequently. It’s good to have HDR as an option on the X100V, but I’m confident that I’ll rarely use it.
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