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Wednesday, 15 April 2020

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Try the RAW conversion and then B&W through Silver Efex Pro. Many of us use the Silver Efex Pro for our work.

Yet if the photos are good, why does any of this matter?

[What? Since when do photographers not care about technique? I suppose you can name a few in history. But they would be the exceptions. Even Miroslav Tichy cared enough to build his own cameras. --Mike]

As a Fuji shooter myself, I agree with your tentative conclusion. May I add another one of my own? The point of your experiments (I hope) is to settle on a workflow that produces the results most satisfying to you and with the least amount of wasted time, effort, and money. The fact that other shooters may prefer a different workflow may be interesting, but ultimately irrelevant, given that the differences and results are subjective anyway. Pleasing ourselves is hard enough without taking on the impossible task of pleasing everyone else, all the time.

Not a comment, Mike, though I appreciated your trial run, merely a question for a potential future article.

Apple has released a slightly updated Mac Mini and I could use a new computer. So how's the one you've been using working out?

Stay safe.

PS: Pool videos an be very relaxing....

One thing that Fuji does better with its JPEG engine than anything I've tried (Lightroom 9, Iridient X-Transformer, Capture One 12 for Fuji) is deal with the moire pattern I get on some scenes with my GFX 50R. I realize I'm talking about a Bayer sensor rather than the X-Trans III sensor in your X-H1 Mike, but it's another example of where Fuji has done a really good job.

I've tried the tools you're using. There's no question in my mind that Iridient X Transformer used to handle Fuji X-Trans III RAFs better than Lightroom (back in the version 6 days). However, I can now get better results with Lightroom 9.2 than with IXT.

Another "trial" you might be interested in is comparing Fuji's "Acros" JPEG film simulation to Adobe's "Acros" camera profile. They're not the same thing, but Adobe has done a very good job of simulating the simulation. I still don't prefer it to the "Adobe Monochrome" camera profile in Lightroom 9, which is an excellent starting point for black and white conversion in my opinion. I also don't like that the Acros camera profile takes away the colour channels. But it's nice to have so many options.

In Lightroom I just use the Fuji profiles. A few years ago when I started using Fuji you had to go get the Fuji Emulations from a third party, but now they are built in. I checked provisionally the jpegs against the profiles and there wasn't enough difference to not just use Lightroom since it was much more efficient. With the latest version of Lightroom the profiles are hidden from the initial profile pulldown until you go to the profile browser. Look for Camera Matching and click on the star (favorites.) I did get a Lightroom plugin called X-LR that actually will import the photos based on the film emulation you had selected at the time the photo was taken. For me, that was the final missing piece of the puzzle. However, I'm almost never working on just one or two photos at a time, imports number in the thousands and selects never less than 50. FWIW 90% of the time I use Classic Chrome or PROVIA/Standard.

I forgot to mention that the profiles are all available in ACR as well.

So, for older files we want to process with Fuji X Raw Studio, we need to load them on an SD card and put them in the camera?? The tree branches do look better with X Raw Studio, but it's impractical to use other than at the time of making the images.

[No, only files made with the same kind of camera will work with any particular camera. So with any X-H1 file you need an X-H1 connected to the computer to process them, for any X-Pro3 file you need an X-Pro3 connected to the computer, and so on. --Mike]

You used to be able to run Nik Software as a standalone product and I'm pretty sure you can open the software from Bridge. And DxO has their PhotoLab software you can run it from of course.

Old cliché but the best part about digital is that everything is under your control, the bad part is that you have to do everything yourself.

Isn't it funny that, so far as I know, a home business industry has not sprung up of people at home with photoshop or equiv who do all your development for you, the way labs used to. Seems like a perfect job for computer geeks who like to look at other people's pictures.

Nice comparison. To my old eyes the Fuji XRS images look over sharpened. This is particularly true in the first set, where increased noise is visible in the uniform gray areas. Perhaps I am just being old fashioned or don't know what a really sharp image should look like. I would have to agree the Fuji XRS bushes look better.

This is helpful, and saves me from downloading Iridient - not saying it's bad, but from what you've posted I think I agree with your conclusions. I will play with the Fuji software. I have it, but haven't tried it yet.

Then I will compare with Exposure..

"- the bare tree branches in the background seemed more smeared and less "rounded" or real in the Iridient rendering:"

The difference you are seeing is almost certainly noise reduction in Iridient. Look at the dark areas between the horizontal rails. Iridient has almost no noise, Fuji has a fair amount.

NR in very few converter/editors doesn't reduce detail , softening and/or smearing.

Find the setting, turn off the Iridient NR, and compare again.

(I don't care which is better, just can't help noticing things.)

"I don't have the B&W controls I would like for refinements, but then, that's what image editing programs are for."

Let ACR take the color image into PS. In Image=>Ajustments=>Black & White (Alt-Shift-Ctrl-B), PS provides enormous control over the conversion. Once you get a conversion you like, you can save it.

What about "worms" Mike like in the large trunk in the last photo? A phenomena often criticized with X-trans.

Guy Couture

There is something seriously amiss with your comparisons Mike. I find the exact opposite of what you have with XT v LR. My advice is 1. Do not import into Lightroom first, or if you do, set XT to ignore lightroom settings. 2. Do not use any noise reduction in X Transformer. 3. Use the "smoother" setting. 4.Tick the boxes to transfer all the file settings to the output DNGs of XT. Then do all the sharpening in LR. The problem with Lightroom is that foliage can be rendered in a sort of mush, although it is not often obvious except when pixel peeping.
Finally, ACR uses exactly the same engine as the Lightroom development module so any differences between the two must be down to settings.

How do you know the problem you're having with Iridient Transformer isn't due the fact you're converting to a .DNG file?

Moreover, I am not sure why you are using Iridient Transformer when, given that you are using a Mac, you can do direct RAF to TIFF conversions using iridient Developer, and don't have to make DNG files via Transformer. Also, your findings are not consistent with mine having shot many trees and foliage with Iridient Developer for many years now. Also, there are many different ways to do "sharpening" and "detail resolution/retrieval" in Iridident Developer, so you may want to examine different sharpening algorithms in that app. I can tell you for a fact that Iridient Developer can pull detail out of tree branches, grass and foliage like nobody's business.

But the simplest and most effective thing you could do would be to use Capture One Pro 20.

In addition to performing excellent RAF conversion and sharpening, you can assign actual Fujifilm "factory" B&W film profiles to your RAF files within C1.

And to top it off, there's the really outstanding Luminosity Masking features in C1 Pro 20, which is incredibly powerful.

Then, there's the amazing Capture One Color Editor for those occasions you shoot in color.

None of these feature and functions are available with either Iridient or Lightroom.

So the X-RAW works well and don't think of it as a JPG device, it just makes the RAW files look like the jpgs with the in camera "enhancements".
Then you can save that as a 16bit tiff and do whatever with it.

My near favorite converter is however Exposure5. You don't need catalogues or all that LR and C1 stuff. You go to your HD and get the folder or file you want and go. The controls are very much LR and if you want you can click a button and make all the LR keyboard commands the same in X5. I like the workflow. I like that I can take a vignette and move it in the position I want, it's not just tied to the edges. I admit I like and use the B&W and some color presets.
The grain size shape intensity is entirely up to you. If you like the grayscale of Ilford 3200 but not the grain you just slide the grain right out.

I've also been liking C1 for Fuji over the last month. I can then go from C1 to X5 for a few enhancements I like.

Yes I have too many ways to work a file.

BTW, the best B&W image control comes when you use the color HSL sliders really make the grayscale what you want. Super easy is C1 and X5.

And you know what? Lots of what we are getting all a little crazy about you don't see what you make a print. You just don't.

I'm writing this from the perspective of a non-XTrans fan, having evaluated the X100S, and X-T2 for myself, and I think the apparent differences between Iridient and the in-camera processing show why.

First, I agree with Bill Skones that the in-camera photos are oversharpened, which I see in the outlines of the leaves giving them an analog-era video look.

Second, the oversharpening highlights what seems to be an inherent quality in XTrans photos: the so-called worm or oil-painting effect. You can see this pretty clearly in the leaves behind the branches in your last photo showing the 100% detail on the branches. The leaves have a wavey texture with a quality not unlike the brushstrokes in Van Gogh's paintings.

It's present in both the Iridient and Fuji-processed files, but it's more apparent on highly sharpened files, and I see it in anything that's high frequency natural detail like leaves, grass, etc. It may not be as apparent in artificial things, but I didn't go that far in my testing once I saw this artifact and encountered a few other (non-image quality) issues that made the system unsuitable for my purposes.

The differences you've shown and my own experience leads me to suggest that adjusting to taste has far more effect than which converter one uses. I choose the converter that gives me more control. That is usually Lightroom with Iridient plug-in for awkward files.
As an aside, for black and white, to ensure complete control over my processing and to allow for my wandering taste and mood, I use a complicated multi-step saved workflow:
Raw (Fuji X and GFX) files in camera, Lightroom with development to get the look I want as a colour file, maximising detail in highlight and shadows while maintaining tonal integrity. Then the colour file is opened as a Smart Object into Photoshop from LR, then Menu>Filter>DXO Nik SilverFXpro to process in black & white to taste. Save to PS>Further levels, curves, etc., Save to Lightroom.
Phew!
Seems convoluted and unnecessary, but when I am doing a large project of 120 photographs such as for one of my A Day in the Life of Your Family books, then by the time I have developed them all, I look back at the earlier versions and realise that they are not consistent with the others. Since all of the processing steps are saved I can open the file from Lightroom, into Photoshop and then SilverFX/Pro to change any one of their controls; the underlying raw by opening the smart filter into ACR; SFXpro's controls; and any work I may have done above the smart filter in Photoshop.
So, complete control over the whole process with the ability to constantly revise to improve the files for consistency and even changing taste.
Not for the dabbler, but typical of what professional workflows may entail where quality trumps speed.

Interesting comparison, I really had no idea it was possible to use the camera that way to make the conversion.

The results are really great, but I can't see myself going that way for RAW development, too much of a hassle in a process I want to flow as smoothly as possible.

As a curiosity, did you also experimented with the new "enhance details" feature of Lightroom/ACR? (just clicking with the right mouse button on a RAW image within LR/ACR and choosing the "enhance details" option in the menu). I find that this feature eliminates all the problems Adobe used to have handling fine details and color resolution with X-trans files. I just edit my RAW files with the normal workflow and when I need more file quality for important images I use "enhance details", it takes a bit of time processing a new DNG file with the extra detail, but even so it's a lot more convenient and integrated with the Adobe workflow.

As a side note, I really enjoy your tonal taste on BW conversion, you should really post more images as visual education contribute.

Lightroom and ACR have improved a lot, and with the new 'enhance details' function, produces more fine detail structure than all the alternatives.

I really have no problems with it. Matching the B&W yellow filter effect requires reducing blue lightness in the B&W conversion, and maybe increasing green and yellow slightly.

I also find ACR needs some adjustment to the tone curve to reduce highlights and boost midtones, particularly for B&W.

I would reiterate Ricardo Silva Cordeiro's comment regarding the recently added "enhance details" functionality in ACR - https://helpx.adobe.com/camera-raw/using/enhance-details.html

I rented a Fuji X100F last summer and found the rendering of fine detail completely unacceptable in the default ACR conversion from RAW. Smeary was definitely the word to describe it. After using the enhance details feature, branches, grass, and leaves again looked like their actual appearance. Although I would note that they never looked quite right in my experience... I question whether the X-Trans attributes are worth the complications.

This post made me try out my Silver Efex Pro 2 that has been hibernating on my MacBook for a few years now.

I selected two images, both monochrome, for the test; a portrait that I wanted to be somewhat soft, and an interior that I wanted rather contrasty.

At first I was rather enthusiastic about the different "Film Type" alternatives available on Silver Efex. Then I realised that I could get the same results using Capture One.

I like to work with RAW files and, as Silver Efex cannot open them, I had to convert the RAW files to jpeg using Capture One before using Silver Efex. Very inconvenient.

Silver Efex is now back in hibernation. KISS.

These kinds of posts always raise some hackles, even with careful disclaimers. I do appreciate them. In my experience it's best to find a way of shooting you like, and then just stick with it and not worry about it and concentrate on finding interesting photographs. Every year or two maybe check out new ways of doing things in case there have been improvements, but make sure you don't spend days comparing 200% detail of fine branches, shadow detail, and highlight recovery in six different software programs, only to return to how you always do things.

I once spent a couple hours showing a longtime nature photographer and author the advantages of "raw." Turned out it just didn't matter for him, and we both agreed it was better to shoot JPEG in his case. He kept churning out well regarded books on.

Hi Mike,

As several people pointed out, would you be able to add samples of ACR conversions directly from .RAF files using 1. Adobe Monochrome profile and 2. Adobe Fuji Acros profile (camera matching)?

Adobe has been continuously improving the X-Trans conversion process. It would be a great complement to the discussion that started with your latest posts around the subject.

Interesting concept to use the camera's hardware to do the conversion. I see several issues:

1. The older Fuji cameras like the X-E1 or XPro-1 cameras can't handle the software.
2. Years hence, many users will have moved on to other cameras (albeit at a slower pace than in the early 2000s), so you will still need a software package of some type to handle the Fuji RAW files.
3. There is no TIFF output except with the medium format bodies?

Regardless, it's great to see a company being innovative.

What did you do staying at home?

Everyone in our home is still going to work- I am a police officer and my wife and daughter are nurses. I enjoy reading your posts at the end of a long day. The Fuji X-Raw information convinced me to finally give it a try, in fact.

Keep up the good work!

"... 'Classic Chrome' profile (which I like best of Fuji's color presets) ...."

I like Acros best but Classic Chrome is also my favorite for color. Classic Chrome is color for people who don't really like color.

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