Fuji RAW File Processing Improvements


Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.
Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.

Many of you will be aware of my frustration over the poor results when processing Fuji RAW files with Lightroom. This apparently is a well-known problem amongst Fuji users who want to shoot RAW (although it wasn’t well known to me when I purchased my XT1). The problem seems to have spawned many different solutions among users, from trying to work with Lightroom using “quite extreme” settings to adopting other RAW converters. I personally have pursued and experimented with this last option myself, but it’s not ideal. Lightroom is a great tool and provides an excellent workflow.

Then, a few weeks back I reported here that following experimentation, I was now able to achieve improved sharpening results when using Lightroom. This involved minimising the use of the Detail and Threshold slider, then applying a subsequent Structure adjustment in Viveza. What I couldn’t rationalise though is why I was now experiencing such an improvement by holding back on the Detail slider when previously it had often been necessary to push this to 100%.

Then the penny has dropped.

I had been contacted by a couple of Fuji users who asked if I was aware of any improvements to Fuji sharpening in the latest release of Lightroom and Photoshop. Whilst I hadn’t seen anything, it made me realise that I had upgraded to the latest Adobe CC release, just before experiencing the improvement.

I have since processed a lot of XT2 RAW files and all are responding very well to a traditional sharpening and processing approach in Lightroom. In a recent comparison with my Sony A7r (with which I use with Canon L Series lenses), the resulting images are similar except the Sony has slightly larger dimensions and is slightly sharper at full magnification. Both images produce an excellent print where you can’t see any difference.

Here is an example comparison at 100% magnification. The image on the left was captured using the Sony A7r whilst the image on the right is the Fuji XT2.

Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2
Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2

I wondered if this was just an effect when sharpening the XT2 RAW files, so I returned to my XT1 files and tested some of these. The results are also much improved. Comparing the results from Lightroom to the same file processed using the Iridient RAW converter, the gap has narrowed. The Lightroom results now appear much closer to those from Iridient when applying just Capture Sharpening. The Lightroom results can then be improved by applying Selective Sharpening in Lightroom as well as Structure adjustment with the Nik Tools.

Due to the workflow in Lightroom and my use of other cameras (Olympus EM5 and Sony RX10 & A7r) I suspect I will be using Lightroom for most of my Fuji RAW conversion. I may have occasion to venture into Iridient or RAW Therapee but where I need to work fast I think Lightroom is now up to the task.

I’m interested to hear if others have any similar experiences to share.

13 thoughts on “Fuji RAW File Processing Improvements

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  1. An interesting blog. I have recently bought a Panasonic Lumix LX100 and windows 10 does not recognise the files from it. Fortunately Camera Raw does, but the screen view of the LX 100 file in CR is not sharp. I have tried editing in camera raw, as I have done successfully with my Nikon pictures, but cannot get a satisfactory result. So I have tried Lightroom and found this to be much better producing a better all round result in terms of exposure, colour and sharpness. This now gives me a problem because I dislike having to use LR as a picture cataloguing system – one mistake (editing a file outside of LR control) and it won’t recognise the file and if you have to do more editing (with Nik software for example) you can end up with lots of copies of the file and not be sure what did what to which!! So I now have to download to my filing system with Bridge (which recognises the fling system I have been using for years), import to LR and edit, then export back to Bridge as a jpg or tiff then go to PS for any further editing. Perhaps converting my LX100 files to dng might be a better approach.

    1. Hi Bill, that’s an interesting problem as the Lightroom and ACR conversions should be very similar. I also don’t like the cataloguing and keywording in Lightroom and used to use the Phase One software. It is possible to integrate Lightroom and Photoshop more closely to reduce the number of image files when using editors such as Nik. I recently posted a video about this on my You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYMWL3WXU9QMeOUhD3lOpEw. Have you tried other RAW converters? RAW Therapee is free and produces exceptional results with most RAW files (usually better than Adobe). The downside is the steep learning curve, although it may be worth experimenting to understand if you are giving away any image quality by using Adobe.

  2. Hi, Robin!
    You are certainly cracking this tough nut on our behalf.
    Could you find time to record a demo video, to include “structure adjustment wth Nik Tools”.
    Best wishes

  3. Robin, interesting exploration on the various RAF file processing. Your pictures seem to show LR doing a very fine job of it. I am curious, have you explored On1 lately? They recently alerted me that the now are able to process RAF files. This program intrigues me as it has numerous capabilities under one roof.

    Steve

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    1. Thanks Steve. Yes I am an On1 user. I really like the enhancement filters they have, although I find it a little unstable and slow on my Mac desktop (top of the range). It’s a little faster on my Windows PC but a little buggy. This seems to be the way historically with On1; great tools but they often release the software a little too early (in my opinion). As I write this I’m opening a RAF file from the XT2 in the Develop module and that seems to perform reasonably well. The result is very nice with a lot of detail but the tools aren’t quite a polished as Lightroom. It does look like its worth exploring further for Fuji files though.

  4. New XT2 shooter (formerly A7rII) here, found your blog looking for LR CC sharpening advice. I’ve seen others using the low settings in the detail slider and that’s the approach I’m using. But I was wondering if you’re applying anything other than LR defaults on import? If so what are your settings? Still don’t feel I’m getting the best out of my files. Thanks in advance.

    1. This is actually quite a big question to answer. In short, it comes down to how much time I have and for what purpose the image is being used. For the absolute best results I will tend to use conservative settings in lightroom then sharpen with nik sharpener pro or focal blade.

      Most of the time I just use lightroom and my three stage sharpening approach. Each image is sharpened according to detail and need. I don’t try to get the capture sharpening (details tab) perfect and always apply additional sharpening and noise reduction selectively. My book on Amazon (photographers guide to image sharpening in lightroom) covers my approach fully. It’s well over 100 pages which is why I say this is not an easy one to answer. I never sharpen by numbers and treat each image uniquely.

  5. Hello Robin. Stumbled upon your blog while searching for info on processing Fuji RAF files. Like you, I’m tied to Lightroom – multiple cameras, plus the subscription includes Photoshop. Was looking into getting myself a Fujifilm X-Pro2 (plus 35mm f/2 lens) for my street, travel and family photos, but have read multiple blog and forum posts about Lightroom’s trouble with Fuji raw files.

    You’ve sorted any doubts I’ve had about image quality, but the other issue I’ve often read about has been LR’s slow speed dealing with Fuji files. Some posts I’ve read claim that performance with 24mp Fuji files is noticeably slower than large 30+mp files from Canon or Nikon raw files. Can you offer any enlightenment on this issue?

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Matti, I’m now very pleased with my X-T2 and he results I can achieve. I can still see a difference between a “traditional” RAW file and one from the X-Trans but I need to view the images at full magnification or beyond. The X-Trans images appear somehow cleaner in terms of image noise and you need to push the ISO up (ISO800 or 1600) to replicate what you see in other RAW files. This tends to create a different look which does take a little getting used to. For the type of photography you mention, this shouldn’t be an issue and will probably work in your favour.

      As for the speed issue, I haven’t noticed any slow rendering from Lightroom when compared with my Sony A7r files or any of the RAW files. That said, I am using a top of the range Mac with i7 processor or a custom built PC (i7 processor with 8 cores). If you would like a sample RAW file from the Fuji, send me an email using robin@lenscraft.co.uk. That would help you determine the speed on your computer.
      Robin

  6. Really appreciate you taking the time to reply, Robin.

    Picked up a 5K iMac (maxed out the CPU, RAM and GPU options) early last year, so I reckon it should be up to snuff. Thanks for offering sample RAW files, but I’ve actually got a friend lending me his X-100F later this week (same sensor as X-Pro2 and X-T2) so I’ll just grab some RAW shots from that.

    Again, thanks for all the help.

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