Fujifilm Raw

Dave Etchell's interview with Fujifilm executives at Photokina (imaging-resource.com) seems to be generating a lot of comment on various Web fora as well as in my In Box. 

In particular, there's the "we are working with third-party vendors to provide support" statement from Hiroyuki Saitou. Some of you may remember my comment in June about Fujifilm's raw support (from my review of the X-Pro1): "An aside: Fujifilm is to be reprimanded for introducing a new sensor pattern into the market and not working closely with software developers prior to the launch (I'm not sure they're working all that closely after the launch, either). This is blatant disregard and disrespect for the serious photographers Fujifilm targets, in my opinion. We have an existing workflow. We don't want to be forced to change that workflow and our software mix to get good results from our raw files."

The operative question here is what does "we are working with" mean? That isn't a rhetorical question, it's a real one, and one that has strong implications on what X-Pro1 and X-E1 users will be able to get out of their cameras. As I noted when the X-Trans sensor was first introduced, it has lower color discrimination than a Bayer sensor, and this would be an issue if not dealt with. At present, the Adobe converter definitely has color smearing issues with the X-Trans sensor. Apple, DxO, and a few others have not yet supported the X-Pro1. So if Fujifilm is actually "working with third-party vendors" it's not generating much in the way of visible progress.

Thus, here we are many months later and in the same position as I noted several times along the way: X-Pro1 users will get sub-par or no results at all with many common workflows. As noted by Fujifilm execs in the Etchell's interview "The biggest problem was how to process the signal from the sensor to the final image." If indeed it took Fujifilm five or six years to move from concept to finished processing, I'd say it's even more incumbent upon Fujifilm to make sure that the common user workflows fully support what Fujifilm knows about this process, because these software companies don't have the luxury of time, and the very low sales volume of the X-Pro1 (even adding in the likely more popular X-E1) means they're not likely to dedicate engineers to finding the solution that Fujifilm already knows.

Camera makers seem to think that all they need to do is make a good camera. No, they need to make sure that we can get the best possible results out of their products when used in the users' desired workflow. The camera makers are still thinking like we're in the film world and everything is in control of only a small number of companies (camera makers and film makers). That ship sailed long ago. Cameras today are a very small (but important) part of creating, manipulating, and outputting an image. If you do something at the camera end to impede the rest of the process, the image makers start voting with their dollars.

Short version: Fujifilm needs to do everything under the sun to make sure that Adobe's conversions are optimal for X-Trans, then they need to make sure they do that for the #2, #3, #4…et.al makers of converters. Failure to do that puts them in the same corner Fujifilm was in with DSLRs and never got out of: an interesting and oddball choice that has no optimized workflow most users would embrace.

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