Sunday, February 3, 2013

Latest Upgrades from FujiFilm (including new RAW Processor)

FujiFilm has been very busy updating all their software and making big announcements. Several of these updates included firmware updates and a couple of lens updates.

One of those updates was supposed to come out on January 18th but was delayed after a bug was later identified. However at CP+ they were able to correct for that bug and release it then.

One other note I'd like to add and hopefully dispel those conspiracy theories out there. FujiFilm has actually shared it's algorithms with all major third party RAW processing software companies. This was actually reported by a senior VP from FujiFilm to the media. The issues with having it incorporated into the software is far more complex than just adding the algorithms, but requires some major re-engineering of their respective software packages. The economy of doing that for a small user base, as you might imagine, is not very cost effective. While 99% of the world is on a traditional Bayer mosaic sensors, the remaining 1% on the X-Trans sensor will have to be satisfied with the software companies modifying their Bayer demosaic algorithms to work with the X-Trans sensor. I've been testing Capture One for some time now and very impressed with the results. SilkPix Developer is still one of the best ones out there, but still a very kludgy and unfriendly interface.

The Updates:

X-Pro1 was updated from version 2.0.1 to 2.0.3 (click here for update). Some highlights to the changes:
  1. Added the new XF 14mm F/2.8 R lens (this lens comes with the buggy 2.0.2 firmware on an SD card.
  2. Improvements in AF performances under various conditions, with the 35mm lens, better contrast detection and improvements to the AE-L/AF-L locking button (more on this later).
X-E1 was updated from version 1.01 to 1.04 (click here for update). Some highlights of the changes:
  1. Added the new XF 14mm F/2.8 R lens (this lens comes with the buggy 2.0.2 firmware on an SD card.
  2. Shutter release now works with external mic or remote.
  3. Improvements in AF performances under various conditions, with the 35mm lens, better contrast detection and improvements to the AE-L/AF-L locking button.
Fujinon XF 35 F/1.4 has been updated from version 2.01 to 2.02 (click here for update). Highlights of changes:
  1. Improvement of AF focus
  2. Improvement of AE-LAF-L button focus in manual focus mode.
Raw File Converter. Lastly, and kind of under the radar is a new update to the RAW processor. Windows 8/7/Vista/XP version 3.2.13.0 and Mac OS X version 3.2.12.1 - ( click here for update). This is a third party processor is made specifically for FujiFilm by SilkyPix. There are no significant improvements from the previous version to report. Some compatibility issues and minor bug fixes. Still the same interface. SilkyPix Developer 5.0.31.0 is the latest version that is vastly superior to the one they made for FujiFilm.

Firmware Before and After Performance:
I tested the firmware by using a stopwatch, close to me and an object far. I started on the far object, and pressed all the way through the shutter and upon click I switched to the near stopwatch and photographed that in the same way. The results of 20 shots was then differenced and averaged. This was set up in EVF and with the Macro setting on to maximize the range of the focus. My far object was 12 feet away with my near being 1 foot away.

Old 2.0.1 Firmware gave me an average of 4.4 seconds for focus from near to far and back to near.  New 2.0.3 Firmware also gave me the same average of 4.4 seconds.

However contrast detection was not the expected improvement in this firmware update, what I will say is improved is the straight press through visual feedback. In the old update, if you pressed the shutter through, you never knew if you got sharp focus until you reviewed the image (in fact you can only assume that it captured a blurry image because that appears to be the last thing you see). In the update, the press through shutter results in a sharp image as the shutter clicks through. So from a functional point of view, now you can trust that the camera is doing what it is supposed to do.

Again tested with Far and Near objects, this time with a 2 foot stop watch, and 15 feet black and white object. Average Focus time from near to far back to near was 2.9 seconds (faster than the last test, however I was shooting in Macro mode in the previous test which explains the quicker average time).

With the AF-L button on manual focus mode, this was a slightly different result. This was the area that FujiFilm claims to improve but hard to be sure with my testing method. I did about 30 shots and averaged the results to see the best numbers I could get. The average worked out slightly slower than the click through method at 4.7 seconds. The .2 seconds difference from click-through is likely my reaction time. The older firmware is slightly slower with a lot of seeking AF errors. Results were mixed from the AF speed acquisition with a similar average around the 4.7 mark, but was certainly unreliable. I would say that an improvement was found in making it more consistent.

What I did notice is that it appears the focusing to far objects is much faster than bringing it back to near. This is something I observed in the update and mostly in the AF-L button press. It might be possible that AF has been slightly improved at the distance where it will matter the most. The visual feedback from click-through shutter is certainly also a more reassuring improvement and most certainly the reliability of of the AF-L lock is definitely improved. Now that my camera is updated I can't test it further, but I tried to think of ways to test it and keep it consistent to see if there was any difference.

Conclusion:
No real difference in speed, but big improvements in visual feedback and in reliability in the AF-L/Manual focus lock. High frequency (contrast detection), appears also to be improved, but that might be more subjective than anything. I feel that the visual feedback might account for slight improvements from this update, and will make a difference when using a smaller focusing point.



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