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Dynamic Range (contd.) - RAW

Fujifilm's (only really useful) RAW converter is Hyper-Utility2 (covered earlier in this review), when converting RAW files which were shot in Wide dynamic range mode it provides the option to adjust the dynamic range 'mix' from 100% to 400%. In addition it also provides some digital exposure compensation but rather surprisingly only to -1.0 EV. The other application which we use regularly and which supports the S3 Pro's RAW format is Adobe Camera RAW (2.4) which is a free plug-in provided by Adobe for Photoshop CS.

Recovering dynamic range from RAW

The following image was just a typical 'snapshot' which when we examined later appeared to have been ruined by over-exposure. Time to see just what we could get back from this RAW image. The results were very, very interesting. As you can see Hyper-Utility2 did indeed manage to restore some image detail as well as some of the original color of the floor and walls, although there is a noticeable magenta color cast in 'brighter' areas of the image.

The biggest surprise however was the performance of Adobe Camera RAW, it almost miraculously recovered huge swathes of dynamic range which included accurate image detail, texture and color. It's almost as though it's a completely different exposure, but trust me the four images below came from the same RAW file.

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Hyper-Utility2, 100% dynamic range
Hyper-Utility2, 400% dynamic range, -1.0 EV digital exposure compen.
Adobe Camera RAW, default
Adobe Camera RAW, -4.0 EV digital exposure compen., brightness 90

Adobe Camera RAW, getting the most from the S3 Pro

This (for me) was a bit of a revelation, it appears as though Adobe Camera RAW is far more capable of using all the R-Pixel information and combining it with the S-Pixel information to deliver detail we would otherwise assume was lost. Just how much more it can recover is a little up in the air but we estimate it's up to three stops. The results speak for themselves. Fujifilm need to speak to Adobe about getting their algorithms into Hyper-Utility2 and into the camera!

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Adobe Camera RAW, default
Hyper-Utility2, 400% dynamic range, -1.0 EV digital exposure compen.
Adobe Camera RAW, -4.0 EV digital exposure compen.

This is all very exciting of course, however the downside is that you have to shoot in Wide dynamic range RAW mode (25 MB per image, 13 sec write time, 40 images on a 1 GB card) and you will need Adobe Photoshop CS (at $2499 for the camera you can probably afford to buy CS).

No side-effects?

Well not quite, it appears as though Hyper-Utility2 (and the camera) are carrying out noise reduction on the R-Pixel 'image' before it is combined with the S-Pixel 'image', Adobe Camera RAW doesn't do this which means that if you carry out 'restoration' negative exposure compensations as above you can get images with the slightly odd effect of noise in mid-to-high tones, this noise comes from the R-Pixels. The following image was converted from RAW by Adobe Camera RAW with a -2.3 EV digital exposure compensation.

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