What’s the difference between Fuji’s Dynamic Range Priority and Dynamic Range?
There’s been some confusion about the differences between Dynamic Range Priority vs Dynamic Range in Fujifilm X cameras. They have similar names – which is where the confusion is coming from – but they’re not the same thing.
They’re settings that alter how a Fujifilm JPEG is processed in-camera. And they also show RAW-only photographers how they might be able to recover dynamic range in post-processing.
What is Fuji’s Dynamic Range?
Fujifilm has a Dynamic Range setting, like many other digital cameras, that help preserve details in bright highlight areas.
Digital cameras can’t see the wide range of tones, from dark to bright, that our eyes can, and so these settings are an attempt to get it closer to how we see.
Really bright areas, where your eyes may see details, may come out pure white in the photo. The Dynamic Range setting “underexposes” only these bright areas so that instead of pure white, you can see some of those details that would otherwise be lost. Darker shadow areas are unaffected by this underexposure.
How does Dynamic Range work?
Well, that’s an entire post in itself, and you can read how the Dynamic Range setting works here if you want to get further into the details.
In one sentence, Dynamic Range uses ISO to “underexpose” the photo and then increases the exposure of only the shadow areas.
The four Dynamic Range settings:
- DR100: Dynamic Range adjustment is off.
- DR200: Dynamic Range reduces the highlight exposure one stop.
- DR400: Dynamic Range reduces the highlight exposure two stops.
- AUTO: The camera assesses the scene and selects either DR100 or DR200 (no 400).
What is Fuji’s Dynamic Range Priority?
Think of Dynamic Range Priority (D RANGE PRIORITY in the menu) as a “package” setting. Its goal is the same as Dynamic Range, but it combines both the Dynamic Range setting and the Highlight/Shadow Tone setting to do it.
So Dynamic Range is one setting that does one thing. Highlight & Shadow Tone is another setting that does another thing. Dynamic Range Priority doesn’t do anything new; it just combines the functions of Dynamic Range and Highlight/Shadow Tone to further reduce contrast.
There’s no indication of the specific curves used in Dynamic Range Priority – it all happens behind the scenes.
The four D RANGE PRIORITY settings:
- Off: No Dynamic Range or Highlight/Shadow adjustments are made.
- Weak: Moderate compensation. Requires a minimum ISO of 320 (newer cameras) or 400 (older cameras).
- Strong: Extra compensation. Requires a minimum ISO of 640 (newer cameras) or 800 (older cameras).
- Auto: The camera will choose between Off, Weak, or Strong, based on the scene.
When Dynamic Range Priority is in Weak, Strong, or Auto, the Dynamic Range and Highlight/Shadow Tone settings are disabled since Dynamic Range Priority controls both of those.
The first image is a high-contrast scene with no Dynamic Range or Priority settings applied. See the captions for settings in subsequent images.
The main differences between Dynamic Range Priority and Dynamic Range
The big takeaway for understanding the difference between Dynamic Range Priority and Dynamic Range is the “package” concept.
“Dynamic Range Priority” includes “Dynamic Range.” The regular “Dynamic Range” setting sometimes isn’t enough for really high-contrast scenes; “Dynamic Range Priority” can further increase dynamic range by outputting a much flatter image.
Think of Dynamic Range Priority as a boosted Dynamic Range setting.
Which cameras have Dynamic Range Priority?
So while all Fujifilm X cameras have Dynamic Range, if you want to get a “Dynamic Range Priority” look with other cameras, you’ll have to manually control Highlight & Shadow Tones.
When should you use Dynamic Range Priority and Dynamic Range?
Dynamic Range and Dynamic Range Priority with RAW & JPEG
First off, as I mentioned in the beginning, these settings permanently alter the JPEG file. But the reduction in contrast in the JPEG file will give you a little more latitude when processing the JPEG (which should still only be done cautiously since those files can’t take a lot).
Whichever “Dynamic Range” setting is used within Dynamic Range Priority will also alter the RAW file. The other tone curve settings won’t be applied to the RAW file but the Dynamic Range processing occurs before the RAW file is saved.
Dynamic Range Priority vs Dynamic Range situationally
Like everything, it’s a matter of personal taste.
Some photographers like really flat, low-contrast photos. And some photographers prefer that look to be able to add contrast back to a JPEG file. In that case, Dynamic Range Priority may be something you prefer.
If you don’t like flat, low-contrast photos, you may want to avoid Dynamic Range Priority altogether and only use Dynamic Range at times.
But there are times when both types of photographers encounter really high-contrast scenes, with really bright brights and really dark darks. Dynamic Range Priority might be a good solution for everyone.
Affected by film simulations and custom settings
Fujifilm’s film simulations will also alter how Dynamic Range Priority is rendered. Some simulations, like Pro Neg Hi, already have a high-contrast curve. Provia has a curve with a lower contrast.
So when Dynamic Range Priority is applied, the images will look different from both simulations. Experiment with these to see which looks you prefer the most.
If you’re in a custom setting where you’ve programmed a Dynamic Range setting and Highlight/Shadow Tone settings, enabling Dynamic Range Priority will disable these.