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X-T4: Not sharp photos when light conditions is not very good. Settings to change?

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You've discovered that scenes can have a dynamic range (range from the brightest to the darkest in the scene) that exceeds what your camera can capture, and even less than a regular JPEG can show.

You have a couple options for addressing this. 

1. Use the DR settings (DR100, DR200, DR400 or DR Auto) to compensate, the higher the number, the more dynamic range it can show. This only works in JPEG though and your RAW files will be underexposed.

2. HDR bracket your shots. That includes taking an exposure bracket set (multiple shots using the exposure bracketing feature) and then creating an HDR image in post using a dedicated HDR application.

3. Shoot for the highlights and recover the shadows in post. You have less ability to save highlights than shadows, so use your RAW converter to bring up the shadows and bring down the highlights in post.

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Options two and three are really good ways to go. I never cared for option one for the reasons mawz mentions.

Also, keep in mind that sunset, sunrise shots in general tend to look well with the contrast between color and dark.

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After you have some practice at these, you might find it worthwhile to invest a couple of afternoons in a library learning about various  photography techniques— wait until after you have that practice in so that what the authors are saying will make more sense.

For instance, dragging the shutter — a wonderful technique, will seem like it is the opposite of what I have had you do in this thread. But it is not, not really.

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Posted (edited)

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One thing I have come to realize is how little I know (I kind of knew that alrready) about fundamentals in photography. To get a true feeling for various light conditions is very important, that I slowly learn the hard way by trail and error. No other way to learn this probably, learning by doing. Some really good books on the subjects will not hurt I'm sure.
I just wonder how many it might be that use their X-T4, that seems a very capable camera, to its full potential and take the time to learn how to properly use more manual settings instead of Auto?
For an experienced photographer that has used more advanced cameras similar to X-T4 in the past it might not be so difficult to set varios things manually, but for maybe more beginners and maybe never used a Fujifilm camera before it is probably a steep learning curve, at least it seems so for me. But I will not give up. I sure would not mind that a camera can assist a user with Auto settings but in my experience so far with Auto settings in X-T4 it will not give that good results regarding foto quality. I have used Auto settings for weeks and  have not really been happy with the results, but that is me, others may be happy with Auto settings.
Since X-T4 has tons of settings to change, and that is probably an advantage for pro users, it is almost overwhelming to start with for a novice, like me. I was in an illusion until recently that I should not need to manually tweak so much with various settings and that Auto should take care of or help me rather good. That was, as it seems, wrong assumption by me. Now it is just to learn the basics better and the X-T4 settings from the ground and up and practice, practice, practice in various environments and varios light conditions. Just to realise that is a big step for me.
Also to work with RAF (RAW) files will give the possibility to work further with the foto and correct many things. I use Capure One 20 for Fujifilm application for this afterwork with RAF files. I start to understand how to use it to get better photos out of RAF files that do not look so nice after a shoot. After it has been worked with in Capture One a bad shoot can usually be enhanced considerably. So maybe it is not super important to have optimal settings for Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO etc? Much can be corrected in RAF file afterwards.
As usual there is no shortcuts, in photography as in most other activites, if one want good results.

/Bo

Edited by bem

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At the end of the day, only 3 settings truly matter for photography.

 

Aperture
Shutter Speed

ISO

Everything else are just automations designed to make your life easier. The X-T4 can most readily mimick the sort of camera everyone started with in photography education for decades, a manual mechanical camera. Put the camera in Manual focus mode, set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO manually and learn what happens when you mess up. I'd recommend getting and reading the Ansel Adams guides (The Lens, the Camera and The Print) or Freeman Patterson's introductory books (Patterson is the easier read BTW).

Unfortunately a high-end camera is not designed to make the right things easier for a new photographer. The automations on a camera like the X-T4 are intended to reduce the workload of the experienced photographer not ease a new photographer into the experience.

I'd suggest that you can either do what I suggest above, or your next step should be acquiring an entry-level camera like an X-T200. You have a camera that's not designed to hold your hand and something like the X-T200 will do much better if you want a camera that will hold your hand.

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You have a good tool that you can grow into, so to speak. As you gain the experience, those extra buttons and dials open up options that you may want to use.

Keep posting your images! In the end, technique is second to composition, the why you take the photo.

After a month or so, when you have had time to practice and reflect on things, I will tell you a fourth option to the question you asked about how to capture those high dynamic range images — your landscape photos. But no doubt, you may discover it for yourself as you are going along.

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Posted (edited)
On 8/6/2020 at 6:20 PM, bem said:

 

Х-Т4 has Sony dual gain sensor, hence if you are not using OOC JPG there are only 2 nominal ISO that matters - if you have enough light to keep shutter speed and aperture as you wish use ISO160 (first base ISO - max DR) and if you don't have enough light (or flash/strobe) use ISO800 (2nd base ISO, lowest noise in shadows)... you have want to use Auto ISO for manual (shutter speed & aperture) shooting when light is scarce I'd suggest to have AutoISO for ISO800-ISO6400 range... when you use flash/strobe and manual (shutter speed & aperture) do not use AutoISO - use either ISO160 or ISO800 ... $0.02

Edited by deejjjaaaa

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Also make sure to use electronic first curtain shutter instead of using simple mechanical shutter - helps with a shutter shock @ certain shutter speeds (in menu the option will be = "EF + M")

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Wow, that is a lot of good and sometimes complex advice for a novice to capture 😉.  In general an X-T4 is not more complex to operate than e.g. an X-T30 but there are a few things to be said about the issues you faced. 

First of all, it strikes me how many times I've read that someone had a 'bad copy' of a Fuji camera or lens. I myself have had two lenses that I had to return for other copies (both red-badge zooms notably). It seems to become a real issue and it should not happen with these increasingly expensive cameras and lenses. Clearly a sign of faulty production tolerances and inadequate quality control at Fuji.

Now for the overall 'darkness' of the images, that is typical Fuji. Light meters in cameras read reflective light and they are calibrated using a grey card. Fuji is one of the very few (the only?) that uses 18% grey cards for calibration, as in the days of film. Digital sensors are more sensitive, so most brands switched to a 30% grey card for calibration. The difference is about 2/3 of a stop. It's not that bad, since its easier to boost the shadows, than dim the highlights (as noted earlier). So, if you want comparable shots you need to compensate exposure by +1/3 or +2/3. Buying a separate light meter (for ambient light) will certainly help, but is rather cumbersome to work with and can do more harm than good in case of the wrong usage.

AutoISO and multi-metering mode of Fuji generally work very good, so feel free to use those for general shooting. Also keep an eye on the film simulation and high-light and shadow settings of the camera. These have an impact on the overall 'darkness' and will only impact the in-camera jpeg, but Capture One will read these settings and emulate them when displaying the raw file (Curve is set to Auto in C1). That may trick you into thinking that the image is darker. Use neutral (0) setting for High-light and Shadow or switch Curve to Linear in C1 to see your raw as it really is.

To boost sharpness there are a few things you can do. Next to a short enough shutter speed (focal length in min. 1/xx of a sec) and a stable position, there are a few settings. First you can relate the shutter speed to the focal length in the AutoISO menu. Simply chose default 160ISO and max. 3200ISO and set the min shutter speed on auto. That way, the camera makes sure the shutter speed is related to the focal length you choose. IBIS and OIS in the lens take care of the rest. Having said that, it can be good to practice with IBIS and OIS switched off to see the impact. Switching them off in case of use of a tripod is also recommended even though Fuji says the camera detects that itself.

The next characteristic of Fuji is how they go about with sharpening and noise reduction (NR). In order to 'compete' with full-frame, Fuji uses quite aggressive sharpening and NR. It's usually not enough to set them to zero in the menu: you really have to set them to -2 or -3 unless you're shooting in very low light circumstances. Too extreme sharpening actually leads to the opposite: jagged lines and artefacts that make the image looks less sharp... Thomas Fitzgerald has a very good short manual on how to handle Fuji files in Capture One. Highly recommended.

Finally, sorry to say this, but the 16-80 is not the sharpest zoom Fuji has to offer. Though it is very versatile, has nice color rendering and a constant aperture, the sharpness esp. in corners and edges is actually less than e.g. the old 18-55 or the 16-55 zoom. The German Fototest magazine has confirmed this. Esp. when zooming in it hardly reached 85% of the Nyquist-frequency, where the other two mentioned scored above 95%. If you really want to see what the X-T4 has to offer, you might want to buy the great little 35mm f2. It's affordable and so sharp that it doesn't impose a limit to the camera... (for now). Nevertheless, be aware that even the X-T4 is 'still' an APS-C sensor camera and has some limitations compared to a full-frame or medium format. Esp. in high contrasts.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, jerryy said:

Just a quick note: the X-T4 can give really good results well beyond ISO 3200

https://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/reviews/compacts/fujifilm-x-t4-review-2/5

While that is certainly true, at ISO 6400 and above you will see some deterioration. Esp. in large prints. Having said that, the X-T4 is definitely the best overall APS-C mirrorless camera on the market today and should be capable of razor sharp images also in less preferable light conditions.

Edited by Herco

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, Herco said:

Wow, that is a lot of good and sometimes complex advice for a novice to capture 😉.  In general an X-T4 is not more complex to operate than e.g. an X-T30 but there are a few things to be said about the issues you faced. 

First of all, it strikes me how many times I've read that someone had a 'bad copy' of a Fuji camera or lens. I myself have had two lenses that I had to return for other copies (both red-badge zooms notably). It seems to become a real issue and it should not happen with these increasingly expensive cameras and lenses. Clearly a sign of faulty production tolerances and inadequate quality control at Fuji.

Now for the overall 'darkness' of the images, that is typical Fuji. Light meters in cameras read reflective light and they are calibrated using a grey card. Fuji is one of the very few (the only?) that uses 18% grey cards for calibration, as in the days of film. Digital sensors are more sensitive, so most brands switched to a 30% grey card for calibration. The difference is about 2/3 of a stop. It's not that bad, since its easier to boost the shadows, than dim the highlights (as noted earlier). So, if you want comparable shots you need to compensate exposure by +1/3 or +2/3. Buying a separate light meter (for ambient light) will certainly help, but is rather cumbersome to work with and can do more harm than good in case of the wrong usage.

AutoISO and multi-metering mode of Fuji generally work very good, so feel free to use those for general shooting. Also keep an eye on the film simulation and high-light and shadow settings of the camera. These have an impact on the overall 'darkness' and will only impact the in-camera jpeg, but Capture One will read these settings and emulate them when displaying the raw file (Curve is set to Auto in C1). That may trick you into thinking that the image is darker. Use neutral (0) setting for High-light and Shadow or switch Curve to Linear in C1 to see your raw as it really is.

To boost sharpness there are a few things you can do. Next to a short enough shutter speed (focal length in min. 1/xx of a sec) and a stable position, there are a few settings. First you can relate the shutter speed to the focal length in the AutoISO menu. Simply chose default 160ISO and max. 3200ISO and set the min shutter speed on auto. That way, the camera makes sure the shutter speed is related to the focal length you choose. IBIS and OIS in the lens take care of the rest. Having said that, it can be good to practice with IBIS and OIS switched off to see the impact. Switching them off in case of use of a tripod is also recommended even though Fuji says the camera detects that itself.

The next characteristic of Fuji is how they go about with sharpening and noise reduction (NR). In order to 'compete' with full-frame, Fuji uses quite aggressive sharpening and NR. It's usually not enough to set them to zero in the menu: you really have to set them to -2 or -3 unless you're shooting in very low light circumstances. Too extreme sharpening actually leads to the opposite: jagged lines and artefacts that make the image looks less sharp... Thomas Fitzgerald has a very good short manual on how to handle Fuji files in Capture One. Highly recommended.

Finally, sorry to say this, but the 16-80 is not the sharpest zoom Fuji has to offer. Though it is very versatile, has nice color rendering and a constant aperture, the sharpness esp. in corners and edges is actually less than e.g. the old 18-55 or the 16-55 zoom. The German Fototest magazine has confirmed this. Esp. when zooming in it hardly reached 85% of the Nyquist-frequency, where the other two mentioned scored above 95%. If you really want to see what the X-T4 has to offer, you might want to buy the great little 35mm f2. It's affordable and so sharp that it doesn't impose a limit to the camera... (for now). Nevertheless, be aware that even the X-T4 is 'still' an APS-C sensor camera and has some limitations compared to a full-frame or medium format. Esp. in high contrasts.

PS. understanding more about photography in general and Fuji in particular, I can also recommend the website and books of Cambridge in colour (Understanding Photography), several books at Rocky Nook publishing and the Fuji-specific books of Dan Bailey (X Series Unlimited) and Rico Pfirstinger (X-pert tips). All of them also online available in download formats. 

Edited by Herco

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Posted (edited)

I kind of suspected the lens I have, XF 16-80mm F4 R OIS WR, maybe was not so very good,. but I suppose it is a reasonably good lens to start with as a kind og general purpose lens, reasonably good in many situations.
I will in due time get some other lenses (I assume it is best to stay with Fujifilm brand lenses), that is more specialized, like a good macro lens, maybe later on a tele lens and some other in between that is light and is a good lens for street and some nature photography. I have read about the various Fujifilm lenses but the more I read the more hestatant I get what lens may be for my type of photography (what I mostly take photos of). Some of the lenses it seems to be so little difference between.
Is it maybe someone yet that has written any specific X-T4 book, like X-T4 best practice or similar? I suppose when a camera is very popular, like X-T4, it could be a good chance someone sat down and wrote a good book for such specific camera? Or is Dan Bailey X Series Unlimited maybe the clostest I can get?

I will check out the other books mentioned, since I really need to read and learn more. I just think it is fun, I do not see it as a burden to read really.

I struggle with optimum settings in the camera at twighlight, when it usually is so nice out, at least in summer up here in the north (Sweden). I have noticed I get mottling if ISO is set too high.

Thanks alot for the advices so far, I really appreciate it!
regards,
Bo

Edited by bem

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Yes, Ken Wheelers books I have started to read a while back. Glad I found them and You confirmed it is worth reading, and I think I understand most what he write also :)

/Bo

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