I’m a little hesitant to post this entry, mostly because it includes a not-so flattering picture of myself. BUT, I discovered something important this weekend and I just HAVE to share. It’s too ridiculous not to.
Note: I’ve noticed a bunch of traffic to this post from discussion boards talking about the noise reduction feature in select Fuji cameras. I just wanted to clarify that these images were taken with Noise Reduction set to the LOWEST setting, and the JPGs still came out smeary (also note that this is not just on skin texture – overall image sharpness is completely lost). I’ve been shooting RAW since I discovered this and haven’t had any issues with the RAW images. If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to message me!
When I first got my Fuji X100s, I was STOKED. I’d been following people for years (shooting with the X100) and I couldn’t wait to get mine in my hands. Most of the people I followed shoot JPG with their Fujis, and it made sense because they’re faster to process and take up less space. And when you’re photographing a ton of personal stuff, space and time are important.
But I couldn’t help noticing: in low light situations where my ISO was quite high, the skin tones, and more specifically, skin texture, looked AWFUL. Like, seriously awful. Like someone had gone overboard with the skin smoothing tool in Photoshop (I HATE skin smoothing – photographers… stop it!!). Even shooting with the Noise Reduction set to -2 (Low) it was still bad. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. So last night I started looking into it.
We all know that JPGs are images that are partially processed in camera, and that RAW images don’t have any processing done. It turns out that the Noise Reduction setting only really applies to shooting JPG (it seems). Check out the two images below. It’s like night and day difference! I shot RAW + JPG for this, so it’s the exact same image. The slight color variation is because of the film simulation processing on the JPGs. (PS – please ignore the horribly large zit on my chin. Am I in high school again?!)
GROSS, right?? It’s like horrible soft-focus combined with major skin smoothing. OMG. And this is the LOWEST noise reduction setting! In case you’re having trouble seeing the difference, check out this close up. Sure, the RAW has more grain in it, but it also has A LOT more detail – you can still see the freckles on my nose. The JPG just looks horrible and fake.
EDIT TO ADD (2/19/2014): I’ve noticed quite a bit of traffic to this post from different photography forums. Some people have mentioned that they don’t mind the Noise Reduction because it makes skin look softer and that’s what they normally do to their images. Personally, I think it looks hideous, but if that’s your cup of tea, go for it. I just wanted to point out that this noise reduction doesn’t just effect skin texture – the overall sharpness of the image is completely lost. Here’s an example of the bottom corner of the image showing the difference on my shirt.
This just blows me away and I’m totally never shooting just JPG with my Fuji again. I actually just ordered an Eye-Fi card, so I’ll still be shooting RAW + JPG for those images I want to transfer to my phone, but daaaang. No more of that nasty NR crap!
EDIT: It has been almost 6 months since I originally wrote this post and I am happy to say that I am still in love with my X100s, and possibly even more so than I was at the time of writing this. It really doesn’t bother me to shoot in RAW as it matches my normal workflow (and I would edit the images anyway), so I really don’t deal with this NR issue much. Although it would be nice if Fuji would release an update and do away with it ;) XOXO