It’s been a while since I’ve talked about what I do to avoid worms when sharpening Fujifilm X-Trans files. In the past, I wrote about using Iridient X-Transformer, which was the best tool at the time. I have found that Iridient creates a fair amount of noise, especially in areas without detail. I also noticed detailed areas lost color detail, so I no longer recommend it.
Since I wrote that article Adobe has released new features in Lightroom and ACR, and I have also come up with new sharpening techniques that create incredibly clean, sharp images.
Let’s start with one of the new features Adobe added to Lightroom and ACR; Enhance Details. This feature was developed specifically for X-Trans files to increase detail and color detail while avoiding the wormy effect. Enhance Details use Adobe Sensei, which is Adobe’s AI or machine learning to improve detail and colors in your images.
Enhance Details can be found in Lightroom under the Photo menu > Enhance Details, or right-click on the file to get to Enhance Details. In ACR click the icon in the Filmstrip and select Enhance Details in the pop-up menu in Camera Raw. You can only use this on a raw file that is an X-Trans or Bayer sensor. When you click Enhance Details a new dialog will pop up.
There are no options, just a quick preview to see if it is worth your while to use this feature. If you click on the preview, it will show you the before image, and you can pan around to different areas.
The biggest downfall of this feature is the fact that it is a sophisticated algorithm that can a long time to process. How fast it processes is a function of your GPU. If you have a fast, modern graphics card, this will breeze by quickly. If you have an older computer, this could take several minutes. I have a 2015 MacBook Pro with an AMD Radeon R9 M370X, and it takes about 30-40 seconds for each image I convert.
When it is finished processing it will create a new DNG file, which is still a raw file, but it has been ‘enhanced.’ Because this process takes a significant amount of time, I do not convert every single file in my library. Instead, I only convert the images where detail is a significant concern and the image will end up in my portfolio.
It’s also important to note that this does not need to be applied to every image; on certain images that have little detail, it can have a slightly negative effect. This is best used for scenes that have very high detail, i.e., sand, leaves, rock, anything with a lot of texture.
Speaking of texture, Adobe recently added a new feature to Lightroom and ACR called the ‘Texture’ slider. This adjustment does exactly what you would think it does; it enhances very fine texture. This, in combination with Enhance Details, can create extremely detailed images. Be careful not to overdo it with this adjustment as it will start to look fake. If your image only has high detail in certain areas, it is best to apply this adjustment local using an Adjustment Brush, Radial Filter, or the Graduated filter.
The last piece of getting extremely clean, sharp images with X-Trans files is by using the correct sharpening algorithm. Lightroom has two sharpening algorithms even though they’re not listed anywhere. The two algorithms are deconvolution sharpening and unsharp mask. The way you access these are by using the Detail slider in the Sharpening section. If you slide the Detail slider all the way to the right you are using deconvolution sharpening; if you slide it all the way to the left, you are using the unsharp mask. In between is a mix of these two sharpening methods.
So do we want deconvolution or unsharp mask? If you ‘Google’ Fujifilm sharpening almost every blog you come across will recommend that you slide the detail slider up to 100. The problem is the deconvolution algorithm in Adobe products is what causes terrible worms on X-Trans files. We don’t want worms, so we need to go in the opposite direction. I recommend setting Detail to 0. Try it yourself while setting the Amount very high; Detail 100 = wormy mess, Detail 0 = no worms.
When you use a Detail of 0, you will notice that you lose detail. The key to bringing back your detail is using a very high Amount in sharpening. I start with 100 and evaluate each image, sometimes I go lower around 80, and sometimes the image can handle cranking it up to 150. When you have the Detail slider low, don’t be afraid to push the Amount quite far.
The other setting is Radius; generally, for landscape photography, you want a very low radius for high detailed scenes. Most people recommend the smallest setting of 0.5; I have found that X-Trans files tend to prefer a slightly higher radius of 0.8 and occasionally 1.0, which is best evaluated while holding down the alt key. I also use masking to remove sharpening from areas that do not have detail, and shadow areas. A good starting amount is 30, but you will need to adjust this for every image again while holding down the Alt key to evaluate.
To sum up my raw processing:
- Convert to DNG using Enhance Details
- Apply ‘Texture’ to areas in the image with high detail using a local adjustment.
- Sharpen using these settings
- Amount – 80-150 (usually around 100)
- Radius – 0.8 or 1.0
- Detail – 0
- Masking – adjust while holding the alt key to remove sharpening from areas without detail and shadow areas.
These settings will give you very clean files and will work well for most people. If you want to take your sharpening to the next level, stay tuned for another article on the additional sharpening that I do in Photoshop when I want incredibly sharp images.
Thanks for the excellent article.
A question… Your suggested sharpening method, is that for the Enhanced Details file or for the
.RAF file as best practice when not using Enhanced Details?
That is for the enhanced details file, although it will work with the raf as well.
Or, just get Capture One Pro
I switched over to C1 for quite a while because of this but with this method, I can actually get better results and I like results I get out of Lightroom more in general. But to each their own!
Very helpful article. I have just upgraded from an X-T2 to X-T3 and having taken a batch of images at 6400 iso felt my sharpening setting from the X-T2 needed to be improved upon. This article has helped me do that.
Have you checked the boxes in Iridient to turn off the default Lightroom sharpening and noise reduction upon import? I suspect this article could be a workaround of an Adobe problem, not Iridient. Checking those boxes leads to a noticeable improvement to the dng’s.
Hello, David, I just came across your article this past week and can’t thank you enough for the detailed and well-explained process for developing Fuji raw files. I switched to a Fuji system from Nikon a few months ago. Like yourself, I tried Capture One and was turned off by the lack of a good organizational library. I am eager to try this new work flow. I really like the SOOC jpeg fuji files but sometimes use raw files for tricky lighting situations. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!
Hi David and first of all glad I found your article!
Being into landscape photography i almoaat gave up on my Fuji’s since any combination didn’t really please my eyes and I am talking here about Capture, Lightroom and yes, even the Irident files.
However i have a small question.
My raw files are about 40,50 mb. Converting them to dng(enhanced details) results in 100 120 mb files.
However that dng file after being sharpened according to your protocol and saved it only results in a 2,3 mb jpeg. Are there any settings i am missing? My original jpegs stood between 17 and 28 mb in size. Many thanks, Stefan
Hi Stefan, glad you’re finding this useful! This shouldn’t have much effect on the jpeg size, are you sure you didn’t change the quality or size setting when exporting the jpeg?
Hi David! Sorry i didn’t see your response sooner!
Must have been a glitch… I presume because after a couple of restarts the files started coming out large:)
Anyway, many thanks!
The files certainly look much better now.
Will also try printing a picture at a decent size(60*40 cm) and see how that goes:)
Nice, I had dumped LR for awhile in favor of Capture One, but back on LR recently as well that they have Fuji improvements. I have the full Adobe CS suite for work, so just makes sense to use it and to up my skills in Adobe products. I’ll try the last sharpening/detail step you did at 0. Thanks!
having just tried your method I can say that I see a big improvement! Thank you! Have you tried using RAW presharpener from NIK collection? In my humble opinion it works great for x-trans, producing a crisp and very natural image (that doesn’t look painted as much as with LR/ACR)
I usually set sharpening to 0 in ACR and perform input sharpening after the basic adjustments (exposure, lights, shadows, hsl, etc)
As a starting point I use: Adaptive 75%, Areas/Edges default, High ISO (for some reason seems to work better on x-trans)
It produces an image which is not as sharp (just slightly less) as the one created with ACR/LR, but the transitions between patterns/colors are smoother and so is micro-contrast, creating a more natural-looking image; give it a spin!
Excellent advice. I´ve tried RAW presharpener from NIK and the details are excellent. Night and day using the same sharpening adjustments in Lightroom=
Amount: 120, Radius: 0.8, Detail: 0.
Keep in mind I´m using Lightroom CC 2015, so no latest improvements.
Hi David, just came across your post here. Just a question. I have been using deconvolution sharpening successfully on xtrans files but your recommendation is against it. I was wondering whether you’re applying deconvolution sharpening on the ‘enhanced’ DNG files (bad idea indeed) or on the RAF files?
Hey Chris, I am not using deconvolution sharpening at all in Lightroom anymore whether it is enhanced, raf, or even on bayer sensors. I have done extensive testing and I just don’t like the artifacts created at this stage in the game. The thing with Lightroom sharpening is that it should just remove a slight amount of softness while adding no artifacts because this is only the raw sharpening. If I add any artifacts at this point, they will be carried over into Photoshop, etc., when I apply final sharpening for print or web those artifacts will be enhanced, especially if you need to upsize the image considerably for a large print.
David, This was the most helpful article I have found on getting a clean xtran file in LR. Thanks! I switched from Canon to a Fuji X-T3 one month ago. Initial results were bad and alarming. I read 100s? of posts on worms and sharpening, etc. Most just whining. I tried your method and it worked great. Thanks for saving the day.
Do you recommend this basic order of operations:
– import with no sharpening
– enhance detail
– texture adjustment
– general import sharpening as described in this post
– all other adjustments (color, levels, filters/local adjustments)
– final output sharpening for target size and medium
Excellent, I’m glad you found it useful! I went through the same process of not finding good information out there so I started experimenting on my own and finally came up with this. Below is my workflow:
1. Import with import settings in the post
2. Global adjustments (exposure, blacks, whites, curves, etc.)
3. Enhance detail on the best photos
4. Adjust sharpening amount as needed
5. Local adjustments for texture, etc.
5. Final output sharpening
I import with the sharpening settings because those get carried over to the new dng file created in Enhance Details along with all of your adjustments, but it is not applying sharpening twice. I only do the Enhance details after I have applied some global adjustments to see if the file is worth spending more time on. Same goes for local adjustments, I only do those when it’s worth the time. Hope that helps!
Dave — Thanks for the update on this topic! A while back I think you’d decided that CaptureOne was your go-to software for processing Fuji raw files. Are you moving back to Lightroom now? Would love to hear if you think the process you outline in this post is on par with the output you experience with CaptureOne, e.g., similarities, differences, pros, cons, etc. Thanks!
Hey Justin, I did move back to Lightroom some time back. The organizational tools in C1 were just not up to par compared to Lr, thus my search for the perfect Lr workflow. I think the quality of what I can produce from Lr is actually better than what I could in C1. I did many comparisons and eventually settled on this Lr workflow as being the best!