DR Modes

As with previous X-Series cameras, the X-E2 offers three Dynamic Range modes - 100%, 200% and 400%, plus an 'Auto' setting that decides which is most appropriate for the current conditions (but uses DR 200% in most circumstances).

Each of these modes works by changing how the image data is stored in the Raw file - offering a boost in apparent DR by recording each tone with a lower Raw value so that there's more room for highlight information. This change can be seen as an increase in the lowest available ISO - reducing the exposure of the Raw file to give DR 200% means using half as much light as the DR 100% mode, so the base ISO must increase from 200 to 400.

 

In order to continue to provide a realistic image with these less-exposed Raw files, the camera uses different tone curves for each DR setting. These increasingly extreme tone curves incorporate increasingly large ranges of highlight tones, while still presenting the mid-tones and shadows correctly.

DR 100%
DR 200%
DR 400%

The real-world effect on the X-E2's output can be seen in this fairly challenging demonstration. Increasing the DR mode results in more highlight tones being captured in the sky, but also results in flatter contrast - particularly at the DR 400% setting. In most situations, the DR 200% setting offers an effective means of getting a bit more highlight information into your JPEGs.

Because the DR modes (through exposure and amplification changes) position any given brightness at different Raw levels, the shifted dynamic range also exists in the Raw file. Both Adobe Camera Raw and Capture One now recognise the DR mode tags in the Raw files, so render the files at the correct brightness, but neither applies the different tone curves necessary to incorporate any additional highlight information. This means so you'll need to manually adjust DR200 and 400 images to get the full benefit.

We'll be publishing a separate article about the full consequence of these settings for Raw shooters and when you should use the DR modes.

ISO 100 mode

The ISO 100 setting (only available in JPEG mode) is essentially the opposite of the camera's DR extension modes: it records the exposure higher up the camera's response range and uses a different tone curve from the other ISO settings to ensure that the correct image brightness is still achieved.

 

And, just as with the DR modes, we see the same trade-off of highlight tonal range vs noise in the shadows. You would expect to see slightly less noisy shadow regions at ISO 100 (though you may need to use one of the camera's 'softer' shadow tone options in order to see the difference), but at the cost of less highlight detail being captured.