Fuji’s X-Trans sensor sucks? (PART 3 – Lightroom vs The World)

“Lightroom sucks the most!  It messes up everything.  Every other processor in the world is better!!!”*

*Let’s face it, if you talk like that you’re probably a troll.

XtransSucksPart3Title

(Note: I know not everyone who has a problem with Lightroom or Fuji is a troll. Tis all in jest.)

 

Now, hopefully I’ve explained that X-Trans doesn’t suck compared to other sensors.  However it’s a common opinion that Lightroom can’t process X-Trans files worth a damn and that other processors are much better. This may be true, this may have been true before but not now, let’s see shall we?

 

COMPARING TO OTHER PROCESSORS

Gosh, I know already, no matter the results, this is going to be a controversial post…

I want to make something really clear right off the bat here.  If you like a particular processor and it works for you.  That’s fantastic.  I’m sure all the processors I’m testing here today can to a great job in the right hands.  I’m just testing the basic, just imported base settings.  That means you can surely do better by tweaking files.  My main purpose here is to see what I personally think is the best and to see if Lightroom really is as bad as some like to think it is.  I actually don’t know and if one of them is better I’ll use it.  If Lightroom turns out to be good enough, I might stick with it.  Let’s see…

 

WARNING

SUBJECTIVE OPINIONS ABOUND IN THIS ARTICLE

 

IF I HAPPEN TO THINK YOUR FAVOURITE PROCESSOR ISN’T GOOD,

THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT BAD

(feel free to come to your own conclusions, I won’t mind)

__________________________________

Programs and versions used in these tests

Lightroom CC 2015.6

Photo Ninja 64 1.3.4

Iridient Developer 3.1

RAW Therapee 4.2.1148

Capture One Pro 9.2

Silkypix Developer Studio Pro 7.0.6.0

Jpeg from the camera

 

Methodology: I tested the default import settings because I wanted to see what the programs did without tweaking.  I think this is the fairest way to do it because if I tweaked each one, my lack of knowledge of a particular program would make it unfair to that program.  Also, if I tweaked them all to the way I liked it, the differences would be so minor I’d probably go blind trying to pick a winner. So default settings is what I used.

As best I could I did the test without knowing which sample was from which processor.  That way I was sure not to introduce bias.

I compared the different samples you see below, side by side 100% cropped.  I formulated the ranking first, then went and made notes on each one giving my opinions.  All this was done BEFORE I knew which one is which.  I only inserted the names after I revealed to myself which one was which.

I wanted to use my own photos for this test, but it turns out a few of the programs don’t support the compressed files from the Xpro2.  So, yet again I turn to DPreviews test chart (thanks guys).  I downloaded the RAW file (200ISO) for this comparison. You can download them HERE.

I’m not going to look into usability, each has its learning curve and if it works for you, that’s all that’s important.

 

 

Illustration Comparison

Remember: Open in new tab (or right click and “view image” in Firefox) to see full size.

CompareIllustration

 

My Opinions:

  1. (PhotoNinja) Slight yellow cast. Good details. Some Smearing
  2. (Lightroom) 2nd best in sharpness. No yellow cast.  Very good details.
  3. (RAW Therapee) 3rd Good details
  4. (Iridient) Sharpest. Lots of details.  Very contrasty.
  5. (Jpeg) Softest. Lacks details in the wall. Lost details.
  6. (Capture One) Yellow Cast. Some smearing.
  7. (Silky Pix) Yellow Cast. Quite soft.

 

My Rankings:

  1. Iridient
  2. Lightroom
  3. RAW Therapee
  4. Jpeg (no yellow cast keeps it from last place)
  5. PhotoNinja
  6. Capture One (too much contrast or “clarity slider” for my liking)
  7. SilkyPix (not terrible but the worst of these, yellow cast and soft).

Actually all of them are quite good here. Iridient stood out as a clear winner though.  I say PhotoNinja and Capture one are bad, but I’m sure with tweaking they’d be fine too (also some people prefer the Capture One look, which is fine, I PERSONALLY don’t like the look it gave to this sample). Silkypix is worse to my eyes, but it certainly isn’t fall on the floor and die terrible.

 

“Foliage” Comparison

CompareFoiliage

My Opinions:

  1. (Lightroom) Slightly soft and therefore lacks details in large areas. Some minor smearing in the fine details.
  2. (Photo Ninja) Quite detailed. Bit too contrasty which seems to bring out some artefacts in the darks.
  3. (Capture One) Worst smearing in fine details. Larger details are fine.
  4. (Jpeg) Large details lost to softness. Some slight smearing.
  5. (RAW Therapee) Not quite as sharp/detailed as Iridient, but fine details well maintained.
  6. (Iridient) Best overall. Details really come through.
  7. (Silky Pix) Lacks sharpness. Fine details smeared badly.

 

My Rankings:

  1. Iridient
  2. RAW Therapee
  3. Lightroom
  4. Photo Ninja
  5. Jpeg
  6. Capture One (smearing in the fine details puts it 2nd last)
  7. Silky Pix (softness and smearing put it at the bottom)

All but capture one were close to the jpeg files enough to say they’re all good.  Capture one smeared the fine details too much for my liking.  Irident wins again.  Adobe, hire that guy NOW.

 

Printed Words Comparison

CompareWords

 

My Opinions:

  1. (Photo Ninja) Quite clear. Not any apparent colouring from what appears to be moiré . Lacks contrast/sharpness of Iridient but fine details are well maintained.
  2. (Capture One) This APPEARS almost as good as Irident in terms of sharpness, but slight colouring from moiré lets it down. It seems over sharpened, which doesn’t make it better, in fact it introduces fine artefacts that affect the details.  It is the most contrasty though.
  3. (Lightroom) Slight better contrast than Photo Ninja, also less slight artefacts/moiré colour than Capture One.
  4. (RAW Therapee) Worst in this test. Too much colour from apparent moiré.  Words looks jumbled and therefore not clear.
  5. (Jpeg) While not the sharpest, it manages to maintain fine details without sharpening artefacts.
  6. (Iridient) Sharp and contrasty without introducing artefacts that affect detail. Best in this test.
  7. (Silky Pix) Good details overall. Let down by slight smudging and lack of contrast.

 

My Rankings:

  1. Iridient
  2. Photo Ninja
  3. Lightroom
  4. Silky Pix
  5. Jpeg
  6. Capture One
  7. RAW Therapee

 

OVERALL RANK

So I’ll give them a ranking based on points according to their rank above.  7 points for 1st place, 6 for 2nd and so on…

  1. Iridient (21 points)
  2. Lightroom (16 points)
  3. Photo Ninja (13 points)
  4. RAW Therapee (12 points)
  5. Jpeg (10 points)
  6. Silky Pix and Capture One (both 6 points).

 

Oh boy.  I’ve made someone upset I guess.  I want to make it clear again, this is MY opinions. Feel free to think I’m wrong. 🙂

 

CONCLUSION FOR PART 3

I conclude that (for me at least) Lightroom is a very good choice and can keep up with or beat most of these other processors.

I am extremely impressed by Iridient.  How can one guy beat Adobe like that?  I will be testing to see if I can get the Iridient look in Adobe, but I suspect even if I copy it, Iridient can probably still beat Adobe.  Pity I don’t use a Mac.

I’m pleased Adobe isn’t as bad as some seem to make it out to be online.  Maybe it was a lot worse before.  I think it was.  I remember processing my Xpro1 files and thinking it wasn’t very good.  Especially with colours. I also think some people have legitimate problems with Lightroom and I don’t dismiss them.  I personally don’t see it,  but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

So for me, I’ll stick with Lightroom.  It seems to be slightly better than the Jpeg files to my eyes. If you use something else and love it, that’s great too.  When Iridient comes out for PC I might pick it up too.  It’s pretty impressive.

Oh and feel free to dislike Lightroom.  I think it’s OK myself, but I understand people not liking Adobe for various reasons 😉

 

NOTE: I’ve since come to realise that PHOTO NINJA can pull out a lot more detail in landscapes than Lightroom.  Lightroom will produce worms or painting effects when trying to push it as hard as Photo Ninja can go.  So I will be integrating it into my workflow.

 

So, that’s it for this series I think.  I will be back soon with a comparison of some SD wifi cards (Eyefi and Ez Share, two ends of the Wifi Card spectrum… you might be surprised which one is better and why).  Stay tuned.

 

Thanks for reading,

signature

 

 

Addendum

I played in Lightroom a bit and the following setting get LR closer to Iridient.  Close enough that Lightroom is now more than good enough for me:

IridientCloseEnough

CLOSEENOUGH

 

t-shirt-close-enough

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR BETTER PROCESSING

(from readers)

From:  “Funkmonkey” made on Fuji Rumour’s comments section

For users of Capture One:

“Interesting article. I take on board your caveat that specific processing within individual tools may improve things. On that note, Capture One did not score highly in your tests, so some comments for those who might want to experiment more.

1) Use the colour profiles/simulations available in a thread on Fuji Rumours forum (these are essentially user created icc profiles that allow you to have approximations of the Fuji simulations in C1, just like LR has as default)

2) Just like LR C1 is sometimes counter intuitive when it comes to best results for sharpening. Firstly by default the NR in capture 1 is too strong for Fuji files, pull that slider right back. I think you can change the default to be lower, can’t remember how off the top of my head. Secondly as in LR I find that the sharpening slider is often not your best friend. I find that the Clarity slider (possibly analogous to details in LR) is a better place to start if you want to add sharpness to an image with less artifacts. The sharpness slider gives you worms if you over do it the clarity slider gives you grain which I find to be more pleasing. The best results usually come from juggling these sliders. I find that first off i drop NR down this usually brings back some detail, then I push clarity up a few notches, this adds some crunch, and then maybe a little bit with the sharpness slider which cleans up fine detail a bit more. YMMV”

 

From: “David Owen made in the comments section below (edited into points by me, you can scroll down to see the whole comment)  

For users of Silky Pix:

  1. Silkypix Pro 7 (SP7)  is a lot better than the Raw File Converter 2 based on the old Silkypix 4 which is a free download.
  2. SP7 has a new sharpening method called “natural sharp” which is far better than what came previously and using this with a slight boost to the outline emphasis — around 20-25 is usually ideal — gives very good detail but at the same time an organic rendering which lacks the excessive textural contrast of, for instance, Photo Ninja.
  3. The film simulation colours are gorgeous too with a freshness which seems unique to this software. The only significant issue I find with SP7 is dealing with very high contrast images. Highlight recovery works very nicely in restoring colour but is weaker with the actual details in the highlights. Additionally, there can be a tendency for some desaturation in shadow areas which increases in high ISO images. This can be significantly reduced by moving the “demosaicing sharp” slider down to zero but doesn’t eliminate entirely. However less contrasty high iSO is dealt with very well because of the excellent luminance noise reduction in this software which is far more sophisticated than LR.
  4. SP7 and Lightroom complement each other well.

Regarding Lightroom:

  1. LR6 has mostly good highlight recovery and shadow boosting and in general is a safer pair of hands with difficult high contrast images, especially with the new HDR photo merge. (Editor’s Note: I totally agree with this.  The HDR Merge in LR6 is excellent)
  2. It also does a pretty good job with the film simulations on the X-Pro2 (and presumably X-T2) though the default Adobe standard is totally lifeless. (Editor’s Note: TOTALLY True.  The colour profiles almost perfectly match the Fuji Jpegs.  Adobe standard sucks, though I did use this in the test above for fairness)
  3. The basic demosaicing problem remains though and no matter what setting you use, you can be stuck with choosing between worms or smudging with certain types of textures, especially some sorts of foliage. High detail and lowish amount often help but, unlike what some have maintained, there is no magic bullet and each image has to be dealt with individually. (Editor’s Note: Yes this is true.  It’s quite hard to balance in some images.  Pushing NR can/will encourage paint effect to come in very easily with X-Trans files.  Worms come in if you push the sharping slider too hard (sometimes not even by that much.)

In summary, my choice is SP7 for most images, LR6 for difficult high contrast, PN for really gritty landscapes, RT if you really want the funky film simulations. ID I cannot judge, not having a Mac.

 

From: sir_c (comment made on Fuji Rumours)

Regarding Lightroom Settings:

“Instead of Clarity/Saturation/etc, I sometimes mess around with the Dehaze function. Works better with some images than others though, as it does more than plain vanilla clarity/contrast adjustments.”

 

From: Tommy Weir (comment made below, edited slightly by me)

Regarding Capture One

  • Set Details to 100
  • Set Luminance Noise Reduction to 0
  • Set Sharpening to low, I have 120, Radius 0.8 and Threshold 1.0
  • You can save these as Presets and have them automatically apply to imports.
  • In addition, Capture One’s Clarity and Structure slider are more subtle in effect than Lightroom’s versions, you can use them to aid sharpening if needed.

Sometimes there’s a file I see which could use the additional detail and sharpness Iridient certainly delivers. Luckily Capture One and Iridient work really well together, Using the ‘Edit In’ option in C1 creates a Tiff, launches ID, which is smart enough to load the Raw file, ignoring the Tiff. Once ID outputs, it overwrites the C1 Tiff. Can have best of both worlds. ID does a great job converting Raw, but C1 has wonderful editing tools, especially color and local adjustments, and is a decent DAM to boot.

 

From: DFogle (on Fuji Rumours)

Again, it’s just his opinion and they are like armpits, everyone has one and they all stink :).

I absolutely love Photo Ninja, easily the best raw converter I’ve used for XTrans. Highlight recovery is phenomenal like you’re working with film, and then using the detail slider is amazing. Taking it past 10 on most images brings out so much detail without smearing can make it look fake. LR creates those little worms and can’t sharpen anywhere close to Ninja. Of course I use LR when the images aren’t critical, and just need to batch process wedding pictures for albums and small prints. You do have to know how to use Ninja, especially with the color corrector, if its set to landscape, portrait, or plain it can give images a color cast, just like any converter that has a specific setting. Noise reduction, I only use Ninja, or Topaz.

 

From: 

  • It is very important to turn on X-Trans false colours suppression. It is off by default and it really should not be. Push it all the way to 5 passes. It does not slow things appreciably.

 

If you have any suggestions on how to process better in any of these programs, please let me know in the comments section.  If you have a good point I’ll add it here.

 

MAJOR ADDENDUM

I’ve been playing with PhotoNinja a bit more and I’ve come to really like what it does with landscapes and fine details.   I am still exploring it’s colour accuracy (compared to Fuji Jpegs) but to me, I’m strongly considering adding PhotoNinja to my workflow. Especially for Landscapes and highly detailed work.  I also really prefer the way it deals with noise.  It has a much more pleasing grain effect (smoother) than Lightroom.

 

 

NOTE: I think you can pull more out of LR using my new settings, read about them here: http://www.aevansphoto.com/my-default-lightroom-sharpening-and-nr-settings/