I’ve been super busy with commercial work and another house move and have disappeared for a while. However, I see that many people are struggling with ugly results from their X-Trans III results using the latest versions of Lightroom. This is caused by operator error, but its not the operator’s fault. The only reason I know better is that someone else was kind enough to explain on a forum how best to sharpen X-Trans III file so as to avoid horrible artefacts. I’d like to share this knowledge here. After all, had I not come across this information, I would never have bought into the Fujifilm system, because the difference is night and day!
The 24MP files from the Fujifilm X-Trans III sensor found in the X-Pro 2, X-T2 and X100F can play very nicely with Lightroom! While Irident is a little better with fine green foliage at certain distances from the camera, it is a dead heat 99+% of the rest of the time *if* you sharpen your X-Trans files in a very unusual manner in Lightroom. You simply cannot use the same sort of sharpening routine you would use for cameras with a similar pixel density and a Bayer filter array. Doing so results in the most horrendous worms, wiggles, painterly affect, halos and all manner of eyeball popping nasties.
Lets say that for a Bayer file you might use sharpening vaguely in the following ballpark (this is just an example):
The above will provide horrible results with the X-Trans III. Just how bad was brought home to me when I was doing importing some files into my laptop and accidentally applied to my X-T2 images the sharpening preset I use for Sony A7 files. The results were so nasty that I thought they’d somehow been corrupted, deleted them all and re-imported them only to see the same result. I scratched my head and realised I had accidentally changed the import preset to that for the Sony A7. I imported the files for the third time and WOW, back to great looking X-Trans III files! Here is the approximate values I apply:
The difference will be dramatic, trust me. Whereas adding too much or the wrong kind of sharpening to Bayer files results in them being either crunch or a bit etched, X-Trans files go from great to atomic meltdown in a few tweaks of the sliders, most notably the Amount slider. Changing the amount from 25-40 has a pretty huge affect, whereas a 15 point change for a Bayer file is much gentler. The choice will depend on the lens, the subject matter and intent. However, I bet you rarely, if ever, stray outside this zone. I am normally in the low 30’s.
Radius does not have a huge impact and you tend to need to go bigger than with Bayer. X-Trans files natively have lots of edge detail and a relatively low amount of (slightly) large radius sharpening just helps add crispness.
Detail is where it happens. Yep, turn it up to 100 and you will see that it has much less effect than doing the same on a Bayer file where the amount of sharpening is at 80 or so. With global changes like this, I back off more when I am shooting at higher ISOs and have more smooth areas in the file (i.e. sky). I am happy to float around anything from the LR default to 100, depending on what I am looking for.
Masking is needed to prevent excessive noise appearing in smooth tones.
If you think this is all crazy talk and want a simple formula to compare the next X-Trans III file you import, if only to dismiss it as hogwash, perhaps apply the following:
I can guarantee it will be dramatically better than your Bayer sharpening routine. I am also confident it will be very, very close to the quality of filed you might get from a RAW file converted by Irident X-Transformer and imported as a DNG into LR (which you will note you can’t apply much if any further sharpening to without it turning crunch.
Yes, with some files showing small leaves or grass at specific distances, with specific lenses, under some conditions, Irident will make a meaningful difference if you plan on printing it very large. The rest of the time you can apply the very simple sharpening formula above adjust to taste) and never look back.
Please share a link to this article if you see people struggling with X-Trans issues with Lightroom. I will add some photos to exemplify the points I am making when I have a bit of time.