Have you seen the recent Adobe Lightroom Enhance Details
feature? The release in February almost passed me by but then I tested it. It
isn’t perfect; some people say it’s too slow and it does produce large file sizes.
BUT I suspect Adobe will develop it further in the future.
Enhance Details is a new feature that’s supposed to extract additional detail from your RAW files. I’ve tested it on a few RAW files, and I can’t see much improvement. Unless that is, you’re shooting with a Fuji. When you process the Fuji RAF files using Enhance Details you don’t get the dreaded wiggly worm effect and the image quality is very good. If you want to see my evaluation you can find it on YouTube or watch the video below.
Friday Image No.216
This week’s image is another from a recent trip to Scotland.
I shot this whilst on a walk on Rannoch Moore that turned out to be a bit of a failure.
We were stopped in our tracks by a river in full flow which had rather too much
melt water. I managed to cross but my wife couldn’t make it (short legs).
Rather than carry on alone I crossed back, and we returned to the car. Who said
there’s no gentlemen left?
The image at the tp of this post is a single shot in RAW format using the Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 10-24 lens at 11mm. I didn’t use any filters as the snow on the ground did a nice job of balancing the exposure with the sky. Although there is a bright patch in the sky on the left where the sun was breaking through the cloud there isn’t any clipping. I also decided to leave it like this for a more natural look.
I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.
This week I feel the urge to highlight something to the
readers of this blog. If the image quality from your camera and/or lens is
disappointing you, don’t rush to change it. Instead, try a different RAW
I’m seeing more and more that there’s a large variation in
image quality produced by different RAW converters. You’re probably thinking
there’s nothing surprising there, except it’s not necessarily one converter
that comes out better than the others.
The Best RAW Converter Depends on Your Camera
As I investigate this further, what I’m finding is that a
RAW converter that excels with one camera can perform poorly with another. And
it’s not just the camera that seems to be a factor. Some RAW converters appear
to handle some lenses better than others.
This is important. The image quality of some RAW converters
with certain camera/lens combinations can fool you into thinking the lens or
camera is at fault. Don’t fall into this trap.
A couple of weeks back I demonstrated this using RAW files from a Sony RX10 and RX100. This week I published this video on YouTube. It shows the results from four RAW converters, processing two Fuji X-T2 RAW files.
There are two interesting points to come out of this:
The difference between the best and worst of the
four RAW converters tested is significant.
The best RAW converter changed with the RAW file.
Although I didn’t highlight it in the video, this difference is down to the lens
So, before you rush out to change that camera or lens that
doesn’t quite perform, try using a few different RAW converters. It could save
you a lot of money.
Friday Image No.215
I captured this week’s Friday Image in Scotland last week on the famous and Rannoch Moor. I was fortunate enough for my trip to coincide with a light snowfall. Had it been a heavy snowfall I doubt I would have thought I was lucky.
I used the Fuji X-T2 with a Fuji 10-24mm lens handheld. The
pool of water you see in the foreground was really very small. It looks a lot
larger than it is because I had the lens set to 11mm. To make the foreground
loom large, I crouched down low and in close to the pool. I was also careful to
avoid distorting the mountain with the super wide lens by keeping the back of
the camera vertical. Had I tilted it the image the mountain wouldn’t have
looked quite so impressive.
I didn’t use any filters for the capture as the camera could just about cope with the dynamic range of the scene. I processed the converted RAW file using a combination of Nik Color Efex, Nik Viveza and Luminosity Masks created with Lumenzia in Photoshop.
I hope you like the video & image and have a great
Today I’m returning to an image that I’ve probably shown before. It may not be the same identical file but it’s possible you’ve already seen this. I’m doing this because I’ve been back through my image library and reprocessed quite a few of the RAW files.
The reason for this is because I noticed some of my image quality problems of the past are fixed by changing RAW converter (no, I’m not talking about Fuji). In fact, some of the lens and camera performance problems were so bad I ended up selling the camera/lens. Now I’ve discovered the problem was mostly my RAW converter. If you want to see five examples here’s my video.
But back to the image above.
I shot this with an Olympus EM5 (micro 43) using the Olympus 9-18mm lens at 10mm. The camera was tripod mounted and I used an ND grad on the sky (2 stops I think). In the past when I processed this file it was a struggle. There were noisy shadows which lacked detail and a blown-out sky. The image also had a lot of distortion, especially in the corners of the frame.
The difference is that I used DxO PhotoLab to process the RAW file.
Now I’m not recommending switching to DxO, but it is interesting how good the RAW processing now seems to be. What I am recommending though is to always shoot in RAW format and hang onto your files. At least that way you can take advantage of future developments in software.
An unfortunate side effect of all this though is that it’s made me think of buying another Micro 43 camera.
hope you like the image and have a great weekend.
I’m going to start by apologising for showing this image. I have shown it in the past, well a similar one anyway. The reason I’m sharing it again is that I’ve been experimenting further with Alien Skin Exposure X4.
I shot this image back in 2016 using a Fuji X-T1. At the
time I recognised the potential of the Fuji system but couldn’t achieve a good
conversion of the RAW files using Lightroom or Photoshop. I almost gave up on
the Fuji entirely but decided to try the X-T2 because I liked using the camera
so much. The X-T1 went back as a trade in and I stuck with the X-T2 which is
now my main camera.
Although I deleted most of the images shot with the X-T1, I
did keep a few of the RAW files. I thought that I would keep these to test RAW
converters in the future. That’s why I’m sharing this image now as I processed it
using Exposure X4 and I’ve very happy with the results. When I processed this originally
using Lightroom, the trees had a terrible wiggly pattern and it lost the fine
details. Using Exposure X4 the image is full of detail and very sharp. It’s
also made a great job of recovering the shadows in the image.
I think when I have some time I’m going to do a review of a
few popular RAW converters processing Fuji RAW files. I think it will make for
an interesting experiment.
If you haven’t seen my latest video showing my recommended Exposure workflow, you can watch it on Youtube.
If you’re a user of the Nik Collections, you’re probably aware that Google withdrew support and ceased development of the tools earlier this year. Yesterday I heard the news that DxO has purchased the Nik assets from Google and they have already integrated the Control Point technology into their DxO Photo Labs software. Some time back I was a user of DxO, but found it slow in comparison to other tools. With the integration of Control Point technology, I can see DxO software tacking a major step forward.
Having downloaded and tried the DxO Photo Labs software, I’m very impressed with its capabilities on my Olympus and Sony RAW files. The only issue I have at present is that it doesn’t support many of the Fuji RAW files including the X-T1 or X-T2. Unfortunately, this is enough to prevent me making a purchase.
If you want to read more you can find the announcement here
This also includes a link to download the current version of the Nik Collection if you need to reinstall it (such as after upgrading Photoshop).
This is great news for the Nik Collection as not only integrating the control point technology into their own products, they are planning a new release of the Nik Collection next year. Once the new release is available I plan to invest time revising and updating my Nik Collection books.
I have now been shooting with the Fuji X-T2 for a couple of months. Whilst I have only had a few outings, I’m very pleased with the results. I like the handling of the camera and also the lens quality despite a couple of problems. In fact, the 10-24 and 16-55 lenses are nothing short of exceptional.
There is though one problem that has niggled me for a while and this is the “Wiggly Worm” pattern. You tend to find this in areas of fine detail when converting RAW files using Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. This is a real shame, especially as I use Lightroom for much of my cataloguing and image management.
To illustrate the problem, a look at the image below which has been magnified at 2:1 in Lightroom; you may need to double click the image to open it at full resolution (I was also running my Mac at 2048 x 1152 when I took the screen shots so this will magnify the image further).
I can easily avoid the problem by switching to Iridient Developer or RAW Therapee but I like working in Lightroom. I have therefore been looking at how to reduce the “Wiggly Worm” effect and I think I have hit on something.
I had originally put the effect down to the demosaic routine that converts the RAW file. But I have changed my mind and now think it’s the sharpening routine that creating much of the problem. The example I showed above was created using the default Lightroom Radius setting of 1, an Amount setting of 45, a Detail setting of 75 and Threshold of 10. The culprits that seem to exaggerate the problem are the Amount and Masking sliders.
Masking causes the sharpening effect to be concentrated onto the edges in the image. Only when the Masking is set to 0 is the entire image sharpened. The “Wiggly Worm” effect seems to be created when the edges in areas of fine detail become exaggerated. Effectively the edges are becoming over sharpened, which is why the Amount slider has such an impact on the result. You only need to increase it slightly and the effect is emphasised. The Detail slider has less of an effect because it sharpens only very high frequency details.
So, what does this mean and how can you use it?
Limit the sharpening applied in Lightroom. Here is the same example but sharpened using much less aggressive settings.
This used the settings or Radius = 0.8, Amount = 30, Detail = 30 and Masking = 0. The image is a little softer but much more natural.
Following this approach, I have found I can minimise the “Wiggle Worm” effect whilst producing images with greater detail. Although the images coming from Lightroom are slightly softer, they respond so much better to additional capture sharpening using Nik RAW Sharpener or Photoshop Smart Sharpen. You can see a further example here viewed at 100% magnification.
You may now be wondering why bother with Lightroom capture sharpening at all and simply apply Capture Sharpening in another tool. Well, I tried this and to my eyes at least, a small amount of Capture Sharpening in Lightroom seems to produce better results when sharpened a second time outside Lightroom.
But does all this pixel peeping matter? My answer to this question is yes and no.
If you are going to be displaying your image on the internet, then you will most likely be down sampling them. The act of down sampling will remove some of the “Wiggly Worm” effect and can even remove it completely depending on how much you reduce the image size. If you are going to be printing the image, the softening effect of printing will also remove the pattern. For these reasons, I say that it doesn’t matter.
Where this effect does cause a problem, is if you are submitting your images to others for inspection. A typical example might be when you submit images to a stock library for sale. Here they probably will pick up on the pattern and might well reject the images.
Since I purchased the Fuji XT1 (and had the fright of my life due to soft, distorted images) I have become a little obsessed by image quality. The results I can now achieve using the XT1 are far beyond my expectations. I’m even beginning to question the need for my Sony A7R, especially as I have the Fuji XT2 on order. I need to give this some serious thought.
Anyway, back to the purpose of today’s blog post. I should stress that whilst I am using the Fuji XT1 RAW files as an example, other RAW files also see improvements. Whatever your camera, you need to experiment with alternate RAW converters.
So far I have concluded the best converters for the XT1 files appear to be RAW Therapee, Photo Ninja and Iridient. This is purely in terms of ability to render fine detail and image sharpness. If you’re not a Landscape Photographer, this might not be as important to you.
I have now returned to test Affinity Photo and have been quite impressed.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Affinity Photo is an image editor with Photoshop like capabilities. Currently it’s only available for the Mac but its priced well and includes a RAW developer module. If you are a Mac user and want an alternative to Adobe, it’s worth exploring. It also costs less than Elements and Iridient (but infinitely more than RAW Therapee which is free).
In this test, I processed the same RAW file (from which the above image was produced) and developed this in both Iridient and Affinity Photo. The conversion was done on a Mac and then the resulting TIFF files loaded onto my Windows PC. Here the two images can be seen side by side at 100% resolution.
The image on the left is from Affinity whilst the image on the right was converted using Iridient. The Affinity image appears sharper and with better defined detail. It does though suffer a little from my having added too much clarity. The Iridient image appears slightly more natural and softer. For the Iridient image I used the Deconvolution sharpening. If I apply a further round of sharpening using Nik Pro Sharpener (RAW) I can pull more detail from the Iridient image but not from the Affinity image. I suspect the difference in performance between the two is down to my (as yet) lack of experience with Affinity.
Something further that I noticed when doing the tests is that Iridient appears to have automatically corrected for lens geometry whilst Affinity didn’t. Overall, both packages did a great job of converting the RAW file as can be seen below (Affinity is on the left).
As I mentioned at the start, the results from the Fuji XT1 have impressed me greatly. I’m so pleased I didn’t dump the camera. I can’t wait to test out the XT2.