Fuji X-Trans Raw conversion - a different view

N.B. I would recommend you read the whole piece, it is very well argued and puts together a coherent argument. I may not agree with it but I can appreciate it.

Above there is a somewhat opposite view to the general enthusiasm for the new updated Adobe Camera Raw conversions for the Fuji X-Trans Sensor. It includes this -

"Firstly, Adobe's products, even in the new LR 4.4RC/ACR7.4 form, still don't stack up. Although much improved over the previous generation, they still have excessive chroma smearing relative to image resolution.  If you were to select a raw processor purely on the basis of getting the maximum out of your X-Trans based camera, Lightroom wouldn't be it."

and this

"If the users are the winners here, who are the losers? Adobe certainly haven't covered themselves with glory - they have huge reserves of money and probably the best engineering talent in the business, but don't seem to have been able to apply it. Fuji is also a loser. It's ten months since I first blogged about the X-Trans processor, and so far it's delivered nothing to justify the "greater resolution than conventional sensors" hype. Finally, the really big losers are the many camera "reviewers" out there that uncritically repeated Fuji's claims about the X-Trans sensor's greater resolution. To their credit, some reviewers did raise warning flags - Sean Reid and Thom Hogan to mention two, but they were the exceptions. So next time you read a camera review, here's a suggestion - take look at what they wrote about the X-Pro when it was introduced, and judge accordingly."

Now the second quote is something that I would have agreed with until last week. However I find I now don't agree with the first either. Now I'm well aware that we all process in different ways and we are all looking for different things. As a landscape photographer who often includes a lot of foliage in his images, the previous ACR conversions were VERY disappointing to me and I made that pretty clear in a number of somewhat robust posts. However there is now a huge improvement. I will admit that its taking me a while to work out an optimum setting for all of those X-Pro 1 raw files I've had around for almost a year, waiting for a decent converter to get the best out of them. Trying some things out I'm currently going between, "Wow that looks great" to "Mmmm.. thats not much better than before." This isn't particularly unusual, it usually takes me a while to work out a preset for ACR that handles the majority of files from a camera.
Firstly though its clear to me that the "smearing" or the so-called "watercolour effect" is non-existent in areas where it clearly showed before. It is also the case that some quite aggressive sharpening can be applied to the files without the degrading of the image that also occurred before.

This has resulted in images with much more satisfactory definition.

Secondly, the normal responses I would expect from a Bayer sensor file when I adjust parameters in ACR simply don't apply. In many instances with regard to sharpening I'm getting results more to my taste by applying the sharpening in Photoshop and not in ACR. This does mean that I'm working with a somewhat soft original. And this is somewhat softer than I would expect from a sensor with no AA filter. And lots of people have mentioned this in terms of these revised ACR conversions. But then there is more than one way to process a raw file, and every camera I've ever used has a different set of camera raw defaults.

So I'm very much inclined to differ with the opinion expressed in the piece linked to above. And those who have read some of my previous posts on this sensor and the raw processing available for it, will know that I have on occasions been ultra-critical of Fuji and Adobe's part in this saga.

I haven't found a go-to-every-time setting yet, but from what I've seen already I'm confident I will. As I mentioned before we all look to do different things and I'm sure that many would be happy with the results I have obtained so far. But as ever I'm looking to squeeze the most noiseless sharpening out of the files that I can, and hopefully be able to upsize them to 24MP or so. Pretty much pushing them to the limit of whats possible, much as I do with everything else. 

I took some useful pictures with my X-Pro 1 when I had it and I would like to make sure that now uploading them to my libraries I can give them the best possible opportunity to be commercially successful, after all this time. I'm still seeing what I can get out of them and I am much encouraged by what I see, but as I said I'm not there yet, but I have every expectation that I will be soon. 

Lastly a few comments about the quote "Finally, the really big losers are the many camera "reviewers" out there that uncritically repeated Fuji's claims about the X-Trans sensor's greater resolution." Well there may be be some reviews out there like that and I'll take the writer at his word, but I certainly haven't seen any. I've talked about how good I think the X-Trans image quality is, seen as a whole package including ISO performance, clean results etc., but I'm not sure resolution is part of this. The X-Trans sensor has some way to go before it equals the Sigma DP Merrills at ISO 100 in terms of clarity, but then so does virtually every other camera. 16MP can't suddenly magically become more and though the files upsize very nicely, this is about a perception of increased resolution rather than evidence of it. 

Despite all my criticisms I have always liked Fuji's colour rendition, some don't I know but this is very much personal preference, and I've always been impressed with the colour depth and the richness of the tones, which strikes me as very Leicaesque and film like. To often digital files can look a bit "weedy" and the Fuji files have never looked like that to me. Incidentally this isn't colour saturation, which is admittedly a bit muted, but that is easy enough to fix. 

Bottom Line - I like what I can now get from my X-Pro 1 files. (and yes its taken long enough!!) They are different to what I'm used to, but I find them very attractive and quite flexible. Everyone who has files from this family of cameras with this sensor will of course have to decide if they are now getting something they are happy with. I was beginning to think that I would never say this, but I am now very happy with what I see. I've even managed to sell a few already so that always makes me think more positively!! 

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