X-LR Review – Automatically apply film simulations in Lightroom

Introduction

It seems to be a fairly common scenario. People shooting RAW+JPG on Fuji so they can see what the original photo looked like at the time they took it. Whilst there are some people that use the JPG, there are a fair amount of people who shoot profiles to get a particular look with the intention of post processing the raw later, whilst the JPG goes to waste. The challenge is, without the JPG, how do you know what the profile was that you shot with?

I recently came across a Lightroom Plugin (in beta) that allows you to automatically apply film simulations in Lightroom. It’s still in beta mode but so far my testing has shown it to be 100% reliable with all the camera’s I’ve tested so far (X-T2, XE2S and X100T).

To make it easy to show how the tool works, I took some photos of my wedding photos from about 10 years ago with different film simulations applied in camera.

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The little plugin is called X-LR from John Beardsworth at Lightroom Solutions. John has a number of Lightroom plugins he has built over a period of time that you can find here. The X-LR plugin isn’t listed there as it’s still in beta but you can find it here The version I tried is slightly different from the screenshots he has shown on his page. It doesn’t have the expert mode, but apparently if you don’t select a preset, it will select the default camera profile.

Personally I like the preset option as it gives you some flexibility to customise settings for different profiles. You may want higher levels of contrast for Acros as an example.

The premise behind the program is simple: You import your raw files and then apply the settings after import. In practice, it’s a little more complex, at least for the first time, so I’ll take you through the process. After that, you can switch off the popup so you just apply it and it runs.

Step 1

I import all my files with any presets I apply to all, rather than specific film simulations if this is relevant. I also add keywords, metadata/copyright, etc. At this point I switch off “Smart Previews” as I don’t feel there is any point in applying smart previews until I have applied the film simulations. Unfortunately you can’t set this up on import, which is more of a limitation of Lightroom than the program itself (I think) but it’s easy enough to select all and apply the settings after import.

As you can see below, the film presets show the correct previews imbedded in the raw files.

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Step 2

Without applying the film profiles, all the images will be stuck with the same default profile applied so they will look the same. Select all files and go to plugin manager and select L_XR. This can be run from the Library mode without being in develop mode.

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You will receive the initial popup which asks you to map the Fuji Film Profiles to Presets. If you leave the preset blank, it will map it to the appropriate Adobe profile.

Whilst this may seem like the easy option, I think a preset offers more flexibility so I would recommend downloading Thomas Fitzgerald’s free film profile presets as a starting point, and modifying them as per your individuals requirements. You can download them here. All they are is presets with the film simulation applied so it saves you having to manually create a preset for each one.

With them mapped to the Thomas Fitzgerald’s film simulations, it should look something like this:

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Click Run and the program will now run through and apply the appropriate simulations based on your settings at the time. With the beta, this will be limited to 4 photos per run, but when the final version is available, you can apply this to hundreds of images at a time. I didn’t have a sepia preset applied as I never use it in real life but you could apply the default Lightroom Sepia preset if you want.

Step 3

Create smart previews if required although these should generate automatically. You should now have the photos with the correct profiles applied as you can see below.

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In conjunction to adding the preset, it also tags the image with the film simulation keywords so you can search by film simulation if you want. You  can also see which images have been run through X-LR which is a nice touch.

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As mentioned, you can switch off the popup as once you have this setup, you won’t need to set it up the first time, you won’t need to do it every time, although this is up to you. I.e. you may want to see it to adjust it for every session. This is adjusted by unchecking or checking the “Run without dialogue box” option.

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What could be better?

It’s really difficult to look at faults with this plugin without nitpicking, it’s a relatively simple and effect tool and the limitations on import is more of a Lightroom limitation so that’s not an issue with the product itself. I think the idea of leaving it blank could be confusing to some users, so potentially having an option in the list which just says “Adobe Chrome/Acros/etc” with the selection defaulted on install might be less confusing for some users. That’s about all I could find to complain about, and as I said, I’m nitpicking.

Conclusion

Without knowing what the pricing will be like, and assuming the pricing will be in line with the rest of his pricing, I would say that this plugin is a must have for any Lightroom Fuji user who shoots raw, particularly those who shoot RAW plus JPG just to get the profile. The nice thing with this plugin is you can run it as and when you want, and you can also use it on all your historical RAW files if required.

Whilst the current version I’m using is a beta, it’s been flawless with me to date, including high volume handling, so rest assured, I will be buying a copy as soon as it is released. I’ll update the review with final details of where to purchase it as soon as it’s available.

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Barbie Cam Review

Introduction

As a amateur photographer and tech fanatic, I enjoy playing with new toys, particularly those that are in the technology space.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the Mirrorless vs DSLR space, and forget to look around, but sometimes you need to realize there is a life outside of the interchangeable lens cameras.

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My 3 year old daughter has taken an interest in photography, largely to prevent herself being on the receiving end and I’ll be honest and say that having a pro body with pro lenses falls into the “slightly to heavy for a toddler to wield comfortably” territory.

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Whilst browsing around the tech section of Target one day, something new caught my eye. A new Barbie camera. How did this camera miss the main stream media when Fuji X-T2’s and Nikon’s D5s is plastered all over the place? Finally there was something Barbie related that a real man could play with, and of course share with my daughter.

Packaging is reasonable given the heavy $20 price tag of this piece of professional glass. Weight is surprisingly light, and I’m not quite sure how they managed to keep it that light with professional glass in it. They even included a wrist strap which is surprising given my Fuji X-T2 body only came with a neck strap.

The specs are a little astounding for this type of gear so hold yourself back. This baby houses a 1.4MP sensor and to top it off, Barbie have splashed out on internal memory so you don’t need to bother yourself with expensive 64GB SD or CF cards. That’s a saving of $100 which means they are virtually paying you to take this camera. That’s right, from the moment you buy it, you’re making a profit! Granted its full within a relatively short period of time, but if you’ve ever seen how long a single toy holds a toddlers attention, that won’t be a problem.

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They don’t specify the glass on this camera, but given my lengthy professional photography background and superb photography analytical skills, I’d be inclined to believe this camera holds a 35mm Zeiss f/1.2 prime. I’ve showed the quality of photos to number of professional photographers and the look of shock when I mentioned Barbie cam, $20 and Zeiss prime serves to confirm my suspicions about the legitimacy of my Zeiss lens claims. I have contacted Zeiss for a comment on the matter, but I can only assume their silence is a clear indication that they don’t want to spoil the sales of their $4000 primes when potential buyers find out they can just buy a barbie cam.

The “Zeiss” optics with Zeiss like plastic quality. No expense has been spared.

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Here is an example of a picture. Bare in mind that this is also handheld at f/3.0. The sharpness of the optic is so strong it picks up the dust particles in the air!

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Now compare that to this photo taken with a much more expensive camera and lens, and it’s hard to see how Nikon, Fuji or Canon justify the price differential (no post processing)

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Usability is on a par for what I’d expect. It has a number of buttons on the back that offer the ability to switch on the camera, play photos and scroll through the photos. The rear LCD is an astounding AHD (almost HD) 640×480 which puts in on a par with the pro bodies (in 2001).

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If I was to niggle about anything on this camera that would limit its capacity to hit a 10/10, I’d say the lack of rechargeable battery may be a killer for some buyers, but the AAA batteries have reasonable battery life and are located in most countries if you intend doing international travel. I’d also say that the lack of zoom probably pushes this into the professional territory as most novices will be looking for a zoom.

No IS/VR required on this baby. It’s startlingly sharp. This photo was taken by my daughter and if you compare it to the photos I took of her with my D700, they are barely distinguishable.

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Size is amazing considering the tech that is inside this body. When comparing the Barbie cam against my D700, if you look at 1.4MP sensor vs 12MP sensor, by simply moving the decimal point one character to the left, the Barbie cam actually has a bigger sensor. $3000 vs $20 for one decimal point is pretty hard for Nikon to justify the additional $2980 purchase price! Add the internal memory of the barbie cam, and the fact that the D700 doesn’t come with its own lens, and it’s clear that the barbie cam is the winner in the specifications race. No need for an l plate on this baby, it comes tripod ready

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One of the things I like about having bleeding edge technology at my disposal is the attention it gets from the public. Pull out a pro DSLR or mirrorless these days in a tram or bus, and it’s a dime a dozen with tourists everywhere sporting similar displays. Pull out a Barbie cam, and people really start to stare. Now I know how people in Ferrari’s feel when they get out of their cars. I was one of the first to get an iPhone and even that wasn’t enough to garner the sort of looks I get when I pull out my Barbie cam. You can even see the disapproving looks from the more jealous members of society shaking their heads in disapproval. I was at the Fuji meet last weekend and when I pulled this out it was like I had just shown them a Fujinon 100-400. When a couple of females joined the group, I could feel myself constantly surrounded by them. As I said, this is like having a Ferrari in your pocket. If you don’t like attention, go with a Fuji.

If you’re in the market for a camera and are currently looking at a Fuji, Nikon and Canon pro body, I’d recommend you consider this option seriously, if not just to keep your toddlers hands off your real body. If you’re the kind of person that likes to be noticed and be the envy of people’s attention, this camera fits the bill.

Haoge 23 f/2 & 35 f/2 Square Lens Hood Review

Introduction

I did an article recently on the Fuji lens hoods, and in some respects this is a follow up because it involves replacing these hoods with something which is a little more respectable. For those who want to read the article, you can find it here, but the short and the sweet of it was that the vast majority of the stock hoods supplied by Fuji were pretty dismal, the 23mm f2 and 35mm f2 being part of that group.

Overall, I like Fuji, I like their cameras and I like their lenses, but their standard hoods that come with their good lenses are terrible.

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About Haoge

I haven’t heard of Haoge before, there is very little information about the company. I couldn’t find a website for them and the only online presence seems to be on eBay and Amazon. Amazon had some fairly good ratings for their hoods although they do provide a fairly broad range of photographic accessories. Given the limited availability of bayonet mount metal hoods, I thought I’d give them a shot.

On a side note, it is a pity about their web presence because I actually think they might get a bit more exposure if they put up something up. No one I know of is aware of the company and from the looks of it, they make some nice gear.

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Ordering process and pricing

I ordered off eBay and just to be clear, they’re not cheap, at least not for a third party hood or compared to the filter thread versions doing the round. The hoods are A$73 (US$55) each so they aren’t that much cheaper than the Fuji 35mm f/2 vented hood which retails for just over A$100.

Why would I go for something which is only marginally cheaper than the vented hood? It’s a mix of size and looks. There aren’t a whole lot of hood options for the 23 f2 and 35 f2 and unlike the Fuji 23 f1.4, Fuji don’t offer a square hood for 23 f2 and 35 f2. Most of the third party lens hoods have filter mounts which I don’t like. I like taking off the hood on occasion and filter mounts aren’t ideal for that.

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Shipping

As can be the case sometimes from China, the shipping was lengthy, taking nearly 3 weeks to arrive which was within the timeframes they estimated on eBay. I ordered on the 14th Feb and it arrived on the 2nd March. eBay gave my estimated arrival was between the 6th and 20th March and so it was earlier than expected. They offered an expedited shipping option but at an additional $100 per hood, I decided I wasn’t that desperate. My suggestion to them is to offer a more reasonable expedited shipping, because although the shipping times are conservative, the long wait may put off some buyers.

The hood comes in a box that looks like recycled cardboard along with some foam to protect the hood. Packing is tasteful and seems pretty reasonable. I don’t expect people to go over the top when it comes to packaging a metal hood

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Construction and value for money

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on the construction. The price was quite high and they offer cheap filter versions, so I was hoping it wasn’t a disappointment. It wasn’t.

Construction was very good, pretty much Fuji like, in fact, if it wasn’t For the Haoge logo nobody would even know the difference. It is really well made, the finish is good with no machine marks, the black coating seems to be of a high quality.

The metal on this hood is also very light, so light that it’s mistakable for plastic when you take it out the box. I think they have done well to achieve this, because the 60mm metal hood is substantially heavier than this.

On inspection of the mount, the higher cost of the bayonet mount does seem to be valid, although how much higher the manufacturing costs are higher over the filter mount, I couldn’t say. What I mean by this is that Fuji’s bayonet mount doesn’t seem to be the simplest mount and even the plastic 23mm hood seems to consist of multiple components, rather than a single moulded plastic piece. This seems to be the same reason you’ll see screws in the photos of Haoge hood, so there must be some reason why it can’t be manufactured as a single part which adds to the cost.

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Fit

Fit it is one of the most critical part and Haoge do not disappoint. The fit is perfect. It’s the right balance so it’s still easy to get on and off, won’t damage your lens and it’s also not going to fall off in a hurry.

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Performance

I’ve reserved performance primarily for vignetting, field of view etc. I’ve taken some pictures which I will upload to the review to show the lens with the stock hood, no hood and the Haoge hood so I will upload these when I get a chance.

Personally I can’t see any noticeable impact with both the 23 and the 35 but I also don’t have the technology to do so under a varied set of conditions that may exposure problems with it.

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Conclusion

So as you have gathered already, it’s a very good hood and an excellent alternative to the vented hood that Fuji offer. Is it worth the premium that Haoge charge? I think so but I also freely admit that it’s probably more than most people want to spend. I think if it was priced closer to the A$50 mark they may find a lot more buyers but I don’t know how difficult and costly this particular design is to make so maybe that’s just an unreasonable expectation.

For a lot of people, the $20 filter mount may be an acceptable alternative and I guess it comes down to one thing…how important is a bayonet mount for you? For those wanting the bayonet mount, there isn’t a lot of choice. From what I have seen, there are only a handful of third party options with bayonet and only for limited lenses. That doesn’t leave owners with lot of choice. Personally if I could find a decent metal bayonet mount for my 50-140, I’d take it tomorrow.

It is also worth noting that if the price of this square hood doesn’t meet your requirements, they do offer the vented style for A$65 which is almost half the price of the Fuji version so it’s not the only option if the vented is your preference, I personally prefer the square.

So, overall, I give this an 9/10, with the lost point coming mainly from the cost rather than anything relating to quality.

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Fujifilm 23mmF2 Review

Introduction

The Fujifilm 23mmF2 has already built a reputation in the short time it’s been on the market. Some love it, some hate it, but the majority of the reports I have seen hold it in high regard. When I bought the Fuji 23, I did it on reputation without knowing whether it would suit my requirements. I’ve never shot 23mm (or at 35mm on my full frame) other than when I was shooting my 24-70 which would have covered this focal length in the range. The demand was high so I thought it wouldn’t be hard to swap out if it didn’t meet my requirements. Sometimes you just have to take a risk.

Continue reading Fujifilm 23mmF2 Review

Thumbs Up Bop for X-T2 (Soft Shutter) Review

Introduction

Soft shutters are weird for me in the sense that I don’t get them. When I say I don’t get them, I don’t get why they’re are required in the first place because it’s the sort of thing I think Fuji, Leica and the rest of the companies should provide with the camera. Maybe I missed something on the retro train, but when you spend $1000, $2000 or $5000 on a camera and they want you to provide your own shutter, there is something wrong with that picture.

Continue reading Thumbs Up Bop for X-T2 (Soft Shutter) Review

Tap & Dye Legacy Spring Clip Strap Review

Introduction

Prior to getting my Fuji X-T2, I used a Black Rapid strap on my Nikon D750. A neck strap and a full frame body with pro glass is painful. With the arrival of my X-T2, I decided to go back to a neck strap as the small size of the X-T2 meant it was feasible. Sadly, most OEM straps are somewhere between “terrible” and “if this was the last strap on earth” so I decided to venture out and seek a aftermarket strap.

My key criteria for the new strap were (in no particular order):

– Something leather that fitted the XT-2’s retro theme

– Easy removal of the strap as I don’t like having a strap attached permanently

– Neck pad or some form of wider neck for heavier lenses (as opposed to the platted leather straps)

– Good quality

That’s where the Tap & Dye Legacy Spring Clip Strap came into the picture.

Continue reading Tap & Dye Legacy Spring Clip Strap Review

Fuji XT-2 Battery Grip Review (VPB-XT2)

Introduction

I’m going to apologise in advance for some of the photos. I had to take some with my iPhone as I didn’t have a spare camera around. Unfortunately it’s difficult to take a photo of a camera and grip with the camera you have on the grip so if you spot something of poor quality, that’s the iPhone photo (or just my terrible photography skills with the X-T2). All the photos in this review were taken with the 35 f/2, most at ISO1250 and no noise reduction.

This is a review for something Fuji call the VPB-XT2, as opposed to the logical choice Fuji could have used which was X-T2 Battery Grip. Nikon did the same but at least they had an excuse as a grip was sometimes used with multiple cameras, but Fuji wasn’t content to call it the battery grip, they called it the Vertical Power Booster Grip. Obviously there are so many non-power boosting battery grips in their range that couldn’t be covered by the name (Sarcasm Alert). I’m guessing someone at Fuji must have just attended a technology marketing academy when they came up with that name. For the sake of keeping things simple, I will hereby refer to it as battery grip.

Continue reading Fuji XT-2 Battery Grip Review (VPB-XT2)