Comparing X-Trans Sensors

Omar Gonzalez posted an interesting video yesterday that I want to share with you. It poses the question: which Fujifilm X-Trans sensor is the best? I don’t want to get too deeply into what’s “best” because that’s very subjective. Omar directly compares images from X-Trans II, III & IV sensor cameras to see what the differences are. There can be, in fact, some pretty significant differences between sensor generations! If you have a few free moments and haven’t already watched it, push play on Omar’s video above.

I’ve done some pretty similar experiments. I’ve done my own side-by-side comparisons in the past. I know the differences between the sensors, particularly regarding JPEG output, and I agree with most of what Omar says in his video. Each sensor generation produces slightly different results, and that’s largely due to Fujifilm’s programming.

X-Trans II is programmed warmer than the others, and fairly significantly so. For example, my X-T1 Kodachrome 64 recipe requires a White Balance Shift of 0 Red & -3 Blue while my X-T30 Kodachrome 64 recipe requires a WB shift of +2 Red and -5 Blue, so there’s definitely a difference. X-Trans III is slightly warmer than X-Trans IV, but not by much—it would require a decimal in the shift, such as around a 0.3 adjustment, to make them match, which unfortunately isn’t possible. Omar doesn’t discuss X-Trans I, but it’s more similar to X-Trans III and IV in regards to warmth.

Man in Red – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

I don’t find X-Trans II to be punchier than X-Trans III or IV, but they are certainly not programmed the same. Omar detected more contrast and more vibrant colors from his X-Trans II camera, but I think I can explain what is happening. First, the luminosity curve isn’t identical, so highlights and shadows are rendered slightly different on X-Trans II. Second, adjustments in X-Trans II cameras max out at +2 and -2, while adjustments in X-Trans III & IV cameras max out at +4 and sometimes -4; however, +2 on X-Trans II isn’t the same as +2 on X-Trans III & IV. +1 on X-Trans II is roughly equivalent to +0.8 on X-Trans III & IV, so it might seem to produce punchier results, but +3 on the newer sensors goes beyond +2 on X-Trans II, allowing you to get more contrast and color vibrancy from the newer cameras. X-Trans I is more similar to X-Trans II in how it renders shadows, highlights and saturation, but it’s not identical.

High ISO is something else Omar looked at, which is definitely subjective—what one person finds acceptable another might find detestable. On X-Trans I & II cameras, I don’t like going above ISO 3200 for color photographs. On X-Trans III cameras, I sometimes find ISO 12800 to be acceptable for color photography, depending on the subject and settings. On X-Trans IV cameras, ISO 6400 is my upper limit for color pictures. This isn’t too dissimilar to what Omar found, although I believe that ISO 3200 is his preference for the upper ISO limit no matter the camera. There’s no right or wrong acceptable threshold, just what works for you. For B&W photography, I don’t mind using even higher ISOs—in fact, it might be preferable to do so.

100% – Salt Lake City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

In my opinion, of the different X-Trans sensors, X-Trans II is the most “different” looking, although mostly because it’s programmed to produce warmer pictures. In some ways X-Trans I is more similar to X-Trans II and in other ways it is more similar to X-Trans III & IV. There are some differences between X-Trans III and X-Trans IV, but to my eyes they’re the most similar. I don’t personally believe that any one sensor generation is inherently better than another, but it’s clear that they’re not completely identical.

Fujifilm continues to add new JPEG options to newer cameras, which allows you to further customize your straight-out-of-camera look. X-Trans I doesn’t have Classic Chrome. X-Trans II doesn’t have Acros. X-Trans III doesn’t have Color Chrome Effect. This is just scratching the surface! There are just so many more picture aesthetics that one can get straight-out-of-camera on the X-E4 than the X-E3, and the X-E3 can get more than the X-E2, and the X-E2 can get more than the X-E1. For many people, that makes the newer sensors “better” than the older ones, but if you prefer how an older sensor renders pictures, then that sensor is likely “better” for you. It just depends on your preferences—whatever works best for you and your photography. While one camera will render pictures a little different than another, and one might have more features than another, the most important thing is what you do with it. Using your gear to the best of your ability is much more important than the gear itself.

Film Simulation Recipe Compatibility: Bayer, X-Trans I & II

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Fuji X Weekly reader Gustavo Potenza sifted through all of the film simulation recipes on this website and organized them by sensor and camera compatibility. Whoa! That was a tall task, but he knocked it out in a matter of minutes. I wanted to share this information with you, but also separate it into multiple posts so that you can quickly find the recipes you’re looking for. I’ll link this article to the recipe page for easy access, and I’ll keep it updated as I make new recipes. Thank you, Gustavo, for doing the hard work on this!

The first list, which are recipes compatible with Fujifilm Bayer and X-Trans I sensors, is very short. I really need to make it longer by adding more recipes. I hope to do that eventually. If you have a Fujifilm camera with a Bayer sensor or X-Trans I sensor, these are the recipes that you can use. The Classic Chrome recipe is only compatible with those cameras that have the Classic Chrome film simulation. At the bottom is the X-Trans II list, which is much longer.

Bayer & X-Trans I

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Velvia, Classic Chrome, & Monochrome
Golden Negative
Analog Cool
Monochrome
Sepia

The above recipes are intended for the Fujifilm X-A1, X-A2, X-A3, X-A5, X-A7, X-A10, XF10, X-T100, X-T200, X100, X-PRO1, X-E1, and X-M1 (I hope I didn’t miss any). Some of the X-Trans II recipes below might also work on your Bayer or X-Trans I camera, although results might vary slightly, and it will depend if your camera has the film simulation that the recipe requires.

X-Trans II

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The film simulation recipes below are compatible with X-Trans II cameras. A few X-Trans II cameras don’t have all of the different film simulations required, so some of these recipes might not work on your camera.

Kodachrome 64
Kodachrome II
Ektachrome 100SW
Portra 160
Kodacolor
Eterna
Agfa Optima
Velvia, Classic Chrome & Monochrome
Faded Monochrome
Sepia
Lomography Color 100
Cross Process
Kodachrome Without Classic Chrome
Astia

The above recipes are intended for the Fujifilm X100S, X100T, X-E2, X-E2S, X-T1, X-T10, X70, X20, X30, XQ1, and XQ2 (I hope that I didn’t miss any). Not all of the recipes will be compatible with every X-Trans II camera. Some of them might even be compatible with Bayer and X-Trans I cameras with varying results, so feel free to try.

X-Trans III
X-Trans IV

Fujifilm Classic Chrome Film Simulation Recipes

Classic Chrome is one of the most popular film simulations available on Fujifilm X-Trans cameras. It produces a look similar to quintessential Kodak color transparency films like Kodachrome and Ektachrome, which graced the pages of publications like National Geographic and Arizona Highways for many years. With all things vintage being in style, there is a huge draw to the analog-esque results produced by the Classic Chrome film simulation.

I love Classic Chrome and I have used it as the base for a bunch of different film simulation recipes. It’s possible to achieve a number of different interesting looks straight out of camera by adjusting the settings. Honestly, I think that I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. I plan to create even more film simulation recipes using Classic Chrome in the coming months. As I do, I will add them to this article.

Below you will find all of my different film simulation recipes that I have created that use Classic Chrome. If you haven’t tried them all, I personally invite you to do so and see which are your favorites! My personal favorite is Kodachrome II, but they each have their own usefulness and charm. Let me know in the comments which recipe you like most!

Even though the different recipes say X100F, X-Pro2, and X-T20, they are completely compatible with any Fujifilm X-Trans III or IV camera. For example, you don’t have to use the X100F recipes exclusively on the X100F. You can use any of my recipes on any X-Trans III camera.

My original Classic Chrome recipe.

My dramatic Classic Chrome recipe.

My Vintage Kodachrome recipe.

My Kodachrome II recipe.

My Vintage Agfacolor recipe.

My Kodak Portra recipe.

See also:

My Classic Chrome recipe for Fujifilm Bayer and X-Trans II.

If you like these recipes, be sure to follow Fuji X Weekly so that you don’t miss out when I publish a new one! Feel free to comment, as I appreciate your feedback. Please share on social media this article or any other that you found useful so that others might find it, too.

My Fujifilm X-T20 Fujicolor Pro 400H Film Simulation Recipe


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Taking Out The Trash – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

Fujifilm Pro 400H is a color negative film that was first introduced in 2002 (originally named NPH400). It’s a popular print film that has survived the digital era, as Fujifilm continues to manufacture Pro 400H to this very day, while many other films have seen the chopping block. It’s a fine-grain (for ISO 400), natural-color, versatile film that’s especially good for weddings and portraits. I have used it a couple times myself, although not anytime recently. I do remember some of the idiosyncrasies of the film. Interestingly, the “H” in the name stands for “high speed,” which is the designation that Fujifilm gave to all their ISO 400 films.

I’ve tried in the past to create a Pro 400H recipe for Fujifilm X cameras, but I was never happy with the results. In fact, you might recall that I suggested Fujifilm include this as a new film simulation in future cameras. Recently a Fuji X Weekly reader, Mauricio, shared with me his settings for Pro 400H, and he asked my thoughts on it. I was able to try it out and I liked it! His settings were indeed close, although I felt it needed some tweaking to better mimic the film.

Anytime that you are attempting to recreate the look of a certain film with a digital camera, there are variables that make it difficult. How was it shot? How was it developed? Was it printed, and how so? Was it scanned, and how so? Those are common challenges, plus more. With Pro 400H, there is an additional challenge: the film can look much different depending on the light and exposure. There are several distinct looks that can be achieved using the film, and it’s not possible to recreate all of those aesthetics with a film simulation recipe. Despite all of the challenges, I do feel that I was able to create a look that is in the ballpark of the film, thanks to the help of Mauricio.

There were several compromises that I had to make. I tried many different things to get the aesthetics as close as I could. For example, the film is known for cool blueish shadows and a warm pinkish highlights. Split toning is not possible on Fujifilm X cameras. I could get the shadow color cast more accurate but at the expense of the highlight color, or I could get the highlight color cast more accurate but at the expense of the shadow color. The white balance shift that I settled on, which is the same one that was suggested to me in the first place, isn’t spot-on accurate for the shadows or highlights, but it’s a nice middle ground that’s close enough to both to be convincing. What you get is a cool color cast showing through in the shadows and a slight red color cast showing up in the highlights. The light and exposure of an image will change the look of it in a similar fashion to the actual film, although not completely the same. It’s as close as I could get it.

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Holiday Decor – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

Fujifilm Pro 400H film has a huge latitude in the highlights. You can overexpose it by three stops easily (maybe four) and get a good print. In fact, a lot of people purposefully overexpose the film because the colors turn pastel and the images become more warm and vibrant. The X-Trans III sensor has a lot of dynamic range, but it cannot hold up to a three stop overexposure. I found that DR200 is a good setting in many circumstances, but in high-contrast scenes, DR400 might be a better option. I used DR200 for all of the pictures in this article, but some might have benefited from the higher dynamic range setting. I think in high contrast scenes, in order to prevent clipped highlights, if you aren’t going to select DR400, perhaps set highlights to -1. I debated on whether +2 or +3 is the best setting for shadows. I think a +2.5 option would be most correct, but unfortunately that doesn’t exist. My recommendation would be to use +2 in higher contrast scenes and +3 in lower contrast scenes. I used +3 for all of the photos here.

Another setting that I debated on was color saturation. I settled on +4, which I think is the most correct for simulating slightly overexposed Pro 400H. An argument could be made that +3, +2 and +1 are also correct, depending on how the film was exposed and handled. If you think that +4 is too saturated for your tastes, simply find the color setting that works best for you. Pro 400H is definitely a tough film to make a recipe for. I think these settings are going to be your best bet for achieving a look straight out of camera that mimics the film’s aesthetic. Even though I captured these photographs using an X-T20, this film simulation recipe is compatible with all Fujifilm X-Trans III and IV cameras.

PRO Neg. STD
Dynamic Range: DR200
Highlight: 0
Shadow: +3
Color: +4
Grain: Weak
Noise Reduction: -3
Sharpening: 0
White Balance: Auto, +2 Red & +1 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +2/3 to +1 (typically)

Example photographs, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs captured using my Fujifilm X-T20 Fujicolor Pro 400H Film Simulation recipe:

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Red Chairs In Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Up From The Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Second Day of Winter – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Frosted Trees & Winter Sun – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Cold Neighborhood Morning – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Some Lady’s Book Store – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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TV Fiasco – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Pierre’s Miniature Bakery – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Christmas Decoration – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Faith – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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FED 5c Rangefinder – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Bolsey Behind Bars – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Fake Grass In A Box – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Lavender & Twine – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Pentax & Fujifilm – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Three 35mm Film Canisters – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Vase Arm – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Red Fire Hydrant – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Neighborhood Window – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Dead Rose Bush Leaves – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Frozen Leaf – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Moon Rise Over The Mountain – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Snow Dusted Peak – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Mountain & Cloud – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Brick Wall Boy – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Car Play – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Girl By The Window Light – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Green Night Shed – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Fujifilm X-Trans III Sharpening & Noise Reduction

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About 11 months ago I published an article entitled Fujifilm X100F Noise Reduction & Sharpening, which detailed my opinions on these two features. I felt like this topic needed a quick refresher, but I didn’t want to rehash what I’ve already said. I think I came up with a good way to approach this topic while not repeating myself.

All Fujifilm files, whether RAW or JPEG, have some level of sharpening and noise reduction applied to them. The options found in the camera for sharpening and noise reduction are specifically for in-camera JPEGs. If you shoot RAW you apply whatever sharpening and noise reduction you’d like with the software of your choice in post-production. If you shoot JPEG you decide this using the options that Fujifilm provides inside their cameras. You cannot turn these off, and the lowest setting, -4, still applies some sharpening or noise reduction, even if a tiny amount.

I don’t think Fujifilm named the setting levels very well. It should be +1 through +9. Naming it -4 through +4 just causes confusion. Instead of thinking of 0 as zero, think of it as the middle option. 0 is really 5 on a scale of one through nine.

Sharpening and noise reduction are great because they make your photographs crisper and cleaner. They help give your images a polished look. However, too much of a good thing is not good at all. Apply too much of either and weird things start happening to your pictures. It’s a balancing act, and it’s easy to go too far.

How far is too far on Fujifilm X-Trans III cameras? That’s up to you to determine. I will give you my opinion, and you can take that for what it’s worth. I will say that for internet use or prints no larger than 8″ x 12″ it really doesn’t matter what settings you choose because it’s difficult to notice the difference between -4 and +4 when viewed that small. If you don’t pixel-peep or print large, using the default settings of 0 are a perfectly fine approach. If you do pixel-peep or print larger than 8″ x 12″ you may want to more carefully consider your choices.

Sharpening:

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Sharpening -4

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Sharpening 0

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Sharpening +4

What can be determined from the three crops above? Not much, because to notice anything you have to look much closer. If you do take the time to study them you can spot the differences. The change from -4 to +4 isn’t especially obvious, so, as you can imagine, a plus or minus of one is very difficult to perceive. My opinion is that anything from -2 to +2 sharpening is where the best results are found, and I stay in the -1 to +1 range for my own photography, which I believe is the sweet spot. I used to use +2 all of the time but I haven’t used that high of a sharpening setting in probably a year.

Noise Reduction:

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Noise Reduction -4

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Noise Reduction 0

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Noise Reduction +4

By looking at the three crops above it might seem as though there’s not much of a difference between -4 and +4 noise reduction, and you are correct, but it’s actually a bigger difference than you might initially think. In my opinion, the noise reduction setting is a little more critical than the sharpening setting as Fujifilm applies it a little heavy-handed on X-Trans III cameras. I think the best results are found between -4 and -2. In my opinion -2 can be marginal sometimes so I typically use -4 or -3.

If you aren’t pixel-peeping, and you are just sharing to Instagram or Facebook, none of this matters. Worry about sharpening and noise reduction if you like to zoom way in on your pictures or if you like to print them large. I personally worry about it, but I take great care with all of the settings so that I get exactly the results that I want. Just because I worry about something or like things a particular way doesn’t mean that you should, too. Find what works best for you, even if it’s unconventional or goes against popular opinion.

Future Fujifilm X-Trans IV Cameras

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I’ve been asked to speculate on when future X-Trans IV cameras will be released. I don’t have any insider information whatsoever, so take whatever I say with a very large grain of salt. It’s just a guess, and just for fun.

The Fujifilm X-T3 is the first and only camera with an X-Trans IV sensor. This new sensor has a tiny bump in resolution (26-megapixels vs. 24-megapixels) and a tiny increase in high-ISO performance. From an image quality point-of-view X-Trans III and X-Trans IV are nearly identical, kind of like X-Trans I and X-Trans II were nearly identical. Where the X-Trans IV sensor shines is speed, made possible by less heat emission. X-Trans IV is significantly faster than any previous X-Trans sensor.

The Fujifilm X-T3 has been out for a month or so and it’s received raving reviews across the web. There is no doubt that it is an excellent camera. But not everyone wants the X-T3, as Fujifilm designs different cameras for different people. The question is, when will Fujifilm update the different models with the new sensor?

My guess is that next spring Fujifilm will release a new X100 series camera with the new sensor (perhaps called X100V), and an X-T30. Later next year an X-Pro3 and an X-H2 will come out. I’m going to speculate that an X80 (replacement for the X70) will be announced in the fall, and it will include an X-Trans IV sensor. Perhaps an X-E4 will be released in 2020 sometime, or maybe an X-E4 will never come out. Don’t be surprised if the X-E line goes dormant for a couple years, and perhaps is revived when the X-Trans V sensor is made. Maybe Fujifilm will even surprise everyone with a brand-new camera series, but I wouldn’t count on that.

I think 2019 will be the year of the X-Trans IV sensor. We’ll see many different models announced throughout the year. The next generation of X-Trans is already being worked on by Fujifilm, and don’t be surprised if in the second half of 2020 or the first half of 2021 the X-Trans V sensor is announced, and with it more new cameras will begin trickling out. There is always some new camera just around the corner.

What X-Trans IV really means for you is deals on X-Trans III cameras. Currently at Amazon the Fujifilm X100F is discounted $100 off, the Fujifilm X-E3 is $100 off, the Fujifilm X-T20 is $150 off, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is $200 off, the Fujifilm X-H1 is $250 off, and the Fujifilm X-T2 is $500 off. If you use these links to purchase those cameras, you’ll be supporting Fuji X Weekly. Also, as a quick update, Fuji X Weekly merchandise, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, cellphone cases and more, will be available very soon, so be on the lookout for that.

 

 

Why X-Trans III Is Better (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)

I recently purchased a used Fujifilm X-A3 to supplement my X100F. For some photographs an interchangeable-lens camera is a nice option to have. Occasionally the X100F isn’t versatile enough to get the shot. Most of the time the X100F is the right tool for the job, so it remains my main camera. Still, for those once-in-a-while moments, another camera is needed, or at least preferred.

The X-A3 isn’t an X-Trans camera, but it’s set up a lot like an X-Trans II camera. In fact, it’s kind of like having an X-Trans II camera with the resolution of an X-Trans III camera. I’ve had it for a few weeks now, and I’ve come to realize that X-Trans III is better. Not that the X-A3 is bad, because it’s actually surprisingly good, but there are some situations where X-Trans III is superior. None of this should shock anyone.

The JPEG options in particular are better on X-Trans III cameras. Sometimes with the X-A3 I just can’t achieve in-camera the desired results, while X-Trans III cameras would have no problems at all with the situation. I don’t always encounter this issue, only occasionally. Specifically, it’s low-contrast scenes, and the camera just can’t produce JPEGs with enough contrast and/or color saturation. It needs Acros or the improved Velvia, which are found on X-Trans III cameras, or the ability to go to +4, which the X-A3 cannot, as it is limited to +2.

I want to bring this down a notch, because it’s not a huge deal. Most of the time the X-A3 is perfectly capable of producing the desired results. And those instances that it cannot, it doesn’t take a whole lot of post-processing to fix the issue. It’s far from the end of the world. And as much as I would love to have purchased an X-T20 or X-E3 instead of the X-A3, there is no way that I could have justified the additional cost. I’m not dissatisfied with my decision.

Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about in this post. All of the photographs below were captured on a snowy, overcast day with very little contrast. The images are of a mountain that I was near, but much too far from to effectively capture with the X100F. I also captured some peaks way across the lake. No problem, I had my X-A3 with a 200mm lens plus a x2 teleconverter, making the focal-length 400mm, or 600mm when the APS-C crop factor is accounted for. I set the highlights, shadows and color (for the color images) to +2 and the dynamic range to DR100.

Straight-out-of-camera results:

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Frary Peak From Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Hidden Peak – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Reeds In Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Red & White Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Cold Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

Same photos, with a quick edit in Nik Silver Efex or Nik Color Efex:

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Frary Peak From Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Hidden Peak – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Reeds In Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Red & White Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Cold Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

It wasn’t difficult to get the results that I wanted with a little work on my computer, but the point is that I would have been able to achieve it without any post-processing had I had an X-Trans III camera instead of the X-A3. It’s not a big deal, but something worthwhile to note.

Not all of the photographs captured on that trip with the X-A3 needed editing. For instance, the picture below is a straight-out-of-camera JPEG:

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Snow On The Docks – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

The takeaway is that X-Trans III is better than X-Trans II or the X-A3 or the new X-A5, but it’s not anything to get worked up over. If you own an X100T, don’t feel like you have to upgrade to the X100F, even though the X100F is a little better. Your X100T is still a perfectly capable camera that can deliver excellent results. If you can’t afford the new Fujifilm cameras that have been trickling out over the last couple years, don’t feel like you are missing out if you have an older model. Yes, the newer ones will be better (that’s always the case), but it’s nothing you can’t work around.

Besides that, limitations improve art. It forces you to be more creative with whatever you have. Less is more, and that’s true in so many different ways. Don’t get bogged down thinking about what you don’t have and wishing that you had better things. Just use what you have to the best of your abilities, do the best you can with what you’ve got.

Rumor: Fujifilm X-Trans IV Sensor Will Be Made By Samsung (Not Sony)

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Fujifilm X100F

I’m going to start a new rumor right here, right now regarding the next generation of Fujifilm X-Trans cameras, which will feature an X-Trans IV sensor that has “more than 24 MP but less than 30 MP.” This was reported by Fujirumors.com, which has a great track record of being right. The rumor that I’m putting out there is that Fujifilm X-Trans IV sensors will be made by Samsung, and not Sony.

There are a couple of reasons that I think this, and I’ll get into each below in just a moment. First I want to make it clear that I don’t know anyone at Fujifilm, Samsung or Sony and that I have no insider information whatsoever, I’m just speculating. This rumor is simply a guess. But I believe there might be some merit to it, and it makes logical sense. I could be completely wrong, though, so take it for what it’s worth. Time will tell.

If you don’t already know, Fujifilm X-Trans sensors are made by Sony with some custom specifications as directed by Fujifilm. Most importantly, it has a complex X-Trans color filter array instead of a common Bayer color filter array. Something that happened a couple years ago is that Sony stopped manufacturing their 16-megapixel APS-C sensor. For Fujifilm, that meant the end of the X-Trans II sensor, which Fuji wasn’t done with yet.

Going from a 16 to 24-megapixel sensor isn’t as simple of a task as it might sound. There are processor and programming issues, which aren’t too bad to conquer, but the big problem is heat. Specifically, X-Trans III sensors, which are 24 megapixel, put off a lot more heat than the 16 megapixel sensor. That’s been a challenge for Fujifilm, and it forced the (possible temporary) discontinuation of the X70 line, and plenty of complications with their other X-Trans III cameras.

I could be completely wrong, but I think Fujifilm is a little upset at Sony for abruptly discontinuing the 16-megapixel sensor. I don’t think Fujifilm was done with it when they were forced to use the 24-megapixel sensor. I believe that they had plans to use a 16-megapixel sensor in some of their cameras and a 24-megapixel sensor in others. I’m sure they see lost profit potential from it. If I were Fujifilm, you make the most of the cards you’re dealt (and they have), but you don’t forget the position that your competitor/business-partner (“frienemy”?) put you in.

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Worth One Dollar – Oxnard, CA – Samsung NX200

When I read the report that the next X-Trans sensor was going to have more than 24-megapixels, my first thought was, “Oh, Sony must have made a new sensor!” I then got on the ol’ Google and tried to find information about it, but I found none. It may be that Sony is developing (or has already developed) a 26 or 28-megapixel APS-C sensor, but it’s not publicly known as far as I can tell if that’s the case. I’m leaning towards that they haven’t developed it, that they’re happy with 24-megapixels for APS-C.

Sony has a few competitors in the camera sensor market, but only a few. Samsung produces camera sensors, most notably for their cellphones. Canon makes their own sensors. Panasonic makes sensors. Sigma makes their Foveon sensors. Toshiba used to be a big name, but they were bought out by Sony a couple years ago. There are several small names that aren’t used by any of the big camera brands. Sony is the king of the castle as far as camera sensors go.

A forgotten camera line that wasn’t a big success, which came and went without making much noise, was Samsung’s NX line. I owned an NX camera several years ago. It was actually a pretty good camera! It certainly wasn’t perfect, but better than any mirrorless line made by Canon or Nikon.

Samsung abruptly discontinued the sale of these cameras a few years ago, pulling out of the interchangeable-lens camera business. I can think of two reasons why Samsung discontinued the NX line. First, mirrorless cameras were on the rise, but DSLRs were still the primary tool of choice for serious photographers (which is not necessarily the case anymore), so the market was limited. Second, creating a new brand to compete against the established names was a difficult task, one that proved to be too much trouble for Samsung. I think that they would have been successful had they stuck with it for a couple more years, but they didn’t have enough patience.

I figured at some point Samsung would sell their camera technologies to some other company (perhaps Nikon), but that hasn’t happened. They still own all of the NX line. It’s just sitting there, collecting dust. Samsung has seemed happy to focus on cellphone camera technology.

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Wasp & Ant – Tehachapi, CA – Samsung NX200

My theory is that, after Sony cancelled the 16-megapixel sensor, Fujifilm began looking for alternative companies to manufacture the sensors for their future X-Trans cameras. Assuming that they shopped around, it makes sense that they had a meeting with Samsung. And Samsung may have said, “You know, we have this 28-megapixel sensor….”

The Samsung NX500 had a 28-megapixel APS-C sensor that was highly regarded but quickly off the market and soon forgotten. In fact, if you visit DxOMark, you’ll see that the 28-megapixel NX500 shares the top APS-C rating with the Nikon D7200 (DxOMark has never tested an X-Trans camera), and the D7200 has the same Sony sensor that’s found inside X-Trans III cameras (with X-Trans array on X-Trans and Bayer array on Nikon). It was a very good sensor, and I bet Samsung wouldn’t mind putting it back into production, giving themselves a chance to make money off of it.

There’s not a big difference in resolution between 24 and 28-megapixels. You would have a hard time even noticing. Still, when you have an APS-C line that’s competing against full-frame, that extra 4-megapixels can’t hurt. Obviously most people don’t need that much resolution, 24-megapixel sensors are overkill for 98% of photographers. And not all lenses can even resolve that much resolution on an APS-C camera anyway, although most Fujinon lenses can.

Where I think 28-megapixels might be appealing to Fujifilm is with regards to in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The only X-Trans camera that has IBIS is the soon-to-be-announced X-H1, which will be marketed primarily to videographers. With IBIS you have the potential to lose resolution at the outside edges of the sensor as it shifts around. A 28-megapixel sensor would ensure that you still have 24-megapixel resolution even with IBIS on. Don’t be surprised if IBIS becomes a standard feature on the upper-end X-Trans IV cameras, including the X-Pro3 and X-T3, and possibly the X-T30, X-E4 and X100V.

I can’t say for sure that the next generation of X-Trans sensors will be made by Samsung instead of Sony. I don’t know what kind of image quality difference it might make if it does happen. It’s an interesting theory, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. Not that I’m in the market for a new camera, as I’m very happy with my Fujifilm X100F