So here is the answer to the questioned I posted a few days back, I got myself Snapseed, and have been trying this new software (new to me) and I am really liking the processing handling of black and white files. It does the monochrome images very differently, with added quick shortcut processing that adds interesting effects (something mobile phone users have come to love), called filters. I have come to personally love the "Drama" effects, as well as the default black and white processing, which includes flexibility of using color filters (I use yellow and orange filters from time to time to create the skin tone "pop"). The reason I am so drawn to the "Drama" effects was the quick ability to produce a little bit of "HDR" look, without having completely destroyed the image with the overcooked impression, with the option to control how much "strength" applied for the processing. One can judge how much processing and apply individually on image to image basis, and I really love how the details and separate tones just jumped out with this quick "drama" filter. It strongly reminded me of Olympus' default art filter, the "Dramatic Tone", which I loved very much, but my only complain with it was lack of control to tone down the super-processed, over saturated, black-ish look. This issue was solved with Snapseed.
This morning, Kelvin brought along his new gear, Fujifilm X-E1, together with the amazing 35mm F1.4 lens for our street shooting. I had my Sony A350 with the 35mm F1.8, and we attacked the Pudu Market. I think I should start calling my market hunts as "Market Shooting" instead of street shooting, it would sound more appropriate, would you agree? Kelvin was giving his new, amazing X-E1 its first trial run, as I was anticipating what would come out from the oven baking of Snapseed from the files I got this morning !! Giving a new post-processing software a run can be just as fun as acquiring new gear. Ok, Ok, maybe not exactly the same, but the poor self of me who cannot afford buying new gear all the time would like to believe it is the same !! Do cut me some slack hey !!
All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and Sony DT 35mm F1.8 lens.
All black and white images processed with Snapseed
Oxygen in the Market
The dripping water
I did encounter some compatibility issues with the Snapseed, PC desktop version. Perhaps the Snapseed was optimized for used with tablets and mobile phones. When I loaded RAW files from Sony cameras on Snapseed directly (with downloaded plug-ins from Sony directly), the conversion done from RAW to JPEG, being processed with Snapseed, was not satisfactory. The files do not look clean at all, with strong pixelation issues, being viewed at 100%. I have no such issues when using Sony's original default RAW development software, or using Photoshop CS4. Therefore, not being able to work with original RAW file was quite a huge disappointment to me. I had to process the files to JPEG by other means, then input into the Snapseed for further processing, which was redundant and unnecessarily time consuming.
So I thought this problem was unique to Sony, hence I loaded my Olympus RAW files, and to my surprise, the Snapseed was struggling with the Olympus RAW images !! It just lagged very badly, something that I did not expect. The files from Olympus came out perfectly fine, but the extremely painful slowness was unbearable.
Having the above two issues, not being able to optimize RAW files from my old Sony (maybe its too old after all), and working with Olympus files very slowly, Snapseed may not be something I can recommend strongly.
However, I do really, really love the way it handles black and white files. I can see why everyone is falling in love with the Silver Efex Pro software, also created by the same developer. They just made processing black and white images so fun, and added the extra glow and pop such an easy chore to do. Just by a clicks of a few buttons, a slide of few bars, the images come to live so effortlessly.
Over my head
Oh and I did say Kelvin got himself a Fuji X-E1, and he is loving it. I gave it a quick try, and I do think it is an interesting update over the predecessor X-Pro 1. Focusing was much better, noticeably quicker and surely working more accurately this time, something very crucial when handling the 35mm F1.4 lens. X-Pro 1's focusing was just miserably slow and I would say unreliable. It is great to see Fuji made such improvements in AF, after waves and waves of complains from fans and non-fans alike. Nonetheless, if you put the X-E1 side by side with any new cameras this generation, say either a Sony NEX-6 or Olympus E-PL5, the focusing of the X-E1 still struggles to keep up. The gap is still huge. I sure hope Fuji pays more attention to Autofocus. It is one of the most crucial thing in modern digital cameras, that should not be over-looked. I would say if X-Pro 1 did not have the focusing issues in the first place, it would have been the best selling camera of the year.
How do you guys process your black and white files? Anyone using the X-E1? Do share some thoughts !!