Giving Digital Another Try

I had one more camera to try, a borrowed Fuji X-H1. Auto exposure, auto focus and image stabilization, all in a package no heavier, and not a lot bigger, than my unmetered Nikon F’s. But it’s digital.

I spent about an hour with the 290 page printed manual figuring out how to set everything possible to automatic. A series of test shots and another hour or so playing with the menus and I’d pretty much figured out how make the auto focus and auto exposure do what I wanted. I set the camera to create both RAW and JPG files. All of my digital camera scans are RAW so I wanted to see how that compared, and I wanted to see how the different JPG film emulations worked. 

Sneaking a peak now and then at the rear screen the pictures looked pretty good, especially the ACROS 100 film emulation. I’ve been using the Fuji for a couple of weeks with mixed results. 

First and foremost, camera shake disappears as an issue. The in-body image stabilization really works. I haven’t pushed it to see how slow a shutter speed I could use because I am trying to use the all-automatic digital Fuji more or less the same way I use the all-manual film Leicas and Nikons. The hyper-sharp images, when the focus is as I wanted it, make me much more aware of subject movement. Cats and leaves are the worst. 

I focus my film cameras on moving objects by focusing on a fixed spot and drawing a mental line from my position to that spot, and then drawing a second mental line also through the same spot and perpendicular to the first line. (It’s a lot quicker and easier to do than to describe.) I then track the moving subject with the camera viewfinder and press the shutter just before they cross the second line. My success rate, at least regarding focus, is quite high. I tried photographing oncoming cars going about 30 mph at a 45º angle using the X-H1 focus tracking and my usual focus method. The first results heavily favor my manual method. 

The X-H1 auto exposure works well as long as I remember that digital has limited exposure latitude for highlights and excellent latitude for shadows. (Film is just the opposite with outstanding latitude for highlights and limited latitude for shadows.) The difference is not a particular issue for subjects of low to medium contrast, but I have yet to make a print I really like of a high contrast subject taken with the X-H1. 

[I know how to do this with a scanned film negative by manipulating the exposure curve with Affinity photo. So far when I try the same approach with an X-H1 image I get washed out mid tones.]

To be continued…

5 thoughts on “Giving Digital Another Try”

    1. Sometimes too spectacular, particularly with the overuse of HDR or sharpening 🙂

      There are two separate issues for me, automation and digital capture. I am confident that if I was interested in doing so I could get auto exposure and auto focus to work for me as well as my manual controls.

      Digital capture is more problematic for me. One example: Film has tremendous overexposure latitude but when I take advantage of that and deliberately overexpose an element in the picture, such as a bare light bulb in an otherwise dimly lighted room, the combination of a fast cubic grain film and vintage glass produces a halo around the bulb, which I intend for the viewer to read as extreme brightness. When I put the same lens on the Fuji X-H1 and bracket a series of exposures of the same scene none of the otherwise usable images show anything but a blank white bulb and a barely perceptible halo.

      I also have a personal issue with hyper sharp elements in a photo contrasted with less sharp or totally blurred elements in the background. Painters most often employ atmospheric recession, not unsharpening, to produce a three dimensional effect. My personal feeling is that perceptible grain in a photograph makes the near/far contrast less jarring. (The grain IS the image.) I know that grain can be added with software, e.g., with Silver Efex Pro, but we have now strayed further from a quasi traditional workflow than I like.

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      1. I don’t have any issues getting the result I want with digital capture and processing. I prefer digital images. Film photography is a fun hobby but it seems stuck in the past.

        It must be personal preference. Not absolute. Traditions are ok so long as they don’t limit.

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