Fujifilm XE-1 Push Processing

If it doesn't make sense to "Expose to the Right" with the Fuji X-Trans sensor, what about exposing to the left and "Push" processing? In the digital world this has been a practical sin, the shadows are where the noise lives! But, if we need to increase the ISO anyway, is it better to purposely underexpose and later push the exposure of the RAW file? Interesting to ponder, but simple enough to do some test shots. 

This sequence is very similar to the sequence from the ETTR post. I'm doing the "push" using Fuji's in-camera raw conversion tool which allows a push of up to +3 stops (see the ETTR post for why I'm converting in-camera). I'm shooting this sequence natively exposed for ISO 1600, then shooting one stop at a time down to ISO 200, keeping shutter speed and aperture identical throughout. The ISO 200 image will be three stops underexposed compared with the ISO 1600 image. The aqua boxes show where I am pulling the 100% crops from. (In each sequence I provide the properly exposed ISO 1600 image both at the start of the sequence and the end, this should make it simpler to directly compare with the ISO 200 image.)   

(Your browser may be scaling the image sequence. Click the image for the full size "lightbox" version, or click here to download a high quality version) 

Tonally the native ISO 1600 and the pushed ISO 200 image are identical. When looking at the noise levels, the camera is definitely able to create a smoother native 1600 ISO image than a pushed ISO 200 image. But… the noise in the pushed version is arguably very close to film grain, even more than the noise in the ISO 1600 image. It almost looks like a VSCO filter to me! And the details in the shadows are sharper because the grain isn't being smoothed. Take a closer look at this larger section compared, again at 100%.

Are you noticing that there seems to be more noise in the highlights than the shadows, even after being pushed up three stops? This goes against every grain of anything we have read on the internet about digital photography. Is this the X-Trans at work? I'm becoming less worried about losing shadow detail with the XE-1, in fact I'm beginning to believe the shadows are rich with details. 

Please leave feedback, I want to hear your thoughts and experience on this topic. 

By Adriel Henderson