Ok, well, here’s my quick experiment. These comparisons are never ever 100% but it does give a good idea. I normalized the settings in camera and then adjusted the Dynamic Range in post. The D800 sensor is more sensitive to light than the Fuji is so I had to bring up the Fuji file and bring down the Nikon. These files are JPEGs that haven’t been adjusted (other than the Dynamic Range tweaks and exported to web size). Fuji was in Pro Neg Std. Nikon was in the default Portrait picture control. These are both the suggested portrait settings from the manufacturers.
To my eye, the Fuji file is much, much more pleasing in the skin tones and over all colour. I guess this is completely up to personal preference in the end. But I could easily shoot Fuji JPEG for people photos for the rest of my life and be happy. To me the Nikon files almost always have a yellow undertone to the skin that must be overcome, which is why I always shoot Nikon in RAW. I don’t know for sure, but I’m wondering if Nikon colour was optimized for Asian skin tones. It would make sense to boost that skin colour’s tonality. But on caucasian skin it comes across almost jaundice to my eye. The Fuji files don’t seem to have that colour push. Maybe the X-Trans sensor is more precise in colour handling. Might just be a white balance tweaking question. Let me know what you think.
I read a photography blog post the other day where the author responded to the general claim that Fuji’s colour reproduction is magical. He claimed that the consensus of celebrity pro-togs who love Fuji have their heads up their posteriors. It’s all hear say and media hype. Now, I love Nikon and I also love Fuji (specifically the X100s). I’ve had great success with both. But is the colour really that much better on the magical Fuji? Well I had the opportunity to really test that out today at my daughters birthday party. One of the fun activities was making bead necklaces. So we had lots of different coloured beads available. I brought my cameras and here’s the skinny. 😎
Caveat: Any of these “scientific” colour tests are inherently skewed because it’s impossible to get everything the same across camera platforms. Lenses are different, sensors are different, blah blah blah. You get the idea. 🙂
I normalized the cameras as much as I could across the settings and exposures. I decided that I would use an on camera flash to bounce the same exact light across each exposure. The frame is lit entirely by flash with no ambient bleed. The settings were: JPEG files straight out of camera with no editing whatsoever (other than the down sample of the full res files to 1024px). Fuji was on factory Provia and Nikon was on factory Standard settings. 1/250 f4 35mm ISO 200 WB Sunny/Fine. SB-600 Speedlight on Camera zoomed to 35mm shot in Manual mode at 1/32 power for both. FujiFilm X100s (23mm = ~35mm on FX) vs Nikon D800 with 16-35mm f/4 AF-S VR. Take a look at the results and see for yourself.
I put the photos side by side in Lightroom and did screen captures. I didn’t downsize the D800 so they don’t line up. I put them both at 1:1 just to compare the colour. In all the shots, the Nikon file is on the left side.
So, what do you think? I noticed that there was about a 1/3 stop exposure difference between the two files. I made the histograms the same in post and brought the Nikon exposure down -.35 in Lightroom – but that difference is not shown here. These are all SOOC. Even with the slight exposure tweak, the files to my eye are different. The Fuji has an extra little bit of contrast and pop straight out of camera. And whatever it is, this magical Fuji special sauce is what all the Fuji hype is about. 😎 Just look at the difference in the pinks (read SKIN TONES), it’s quite remarkable!