Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sharpening the Fuji X10 RAW Files ** Updated for CS6 **

Note: The article is more or less redone as I screwed up the second crop, leaving the panel on exposure instead of sharpening and thus removing any value :-) My thanks to DPReview user timo for pointing this out to me.

The X10 is a tricky beast. It is not always easy to get really nice textures out of it because of the rather ugly patterns that get embedded during demosaicing of the kinky EXR matrix.

Note: Adobe may have removed most peoples’ objections to ACR with X10 RAW files. The new process 2012 is impressive with sharpening of X10 files. Following are three sets of settings and you can decide for yourself how you will sharpen these images.

The first is default settings. ACR comes up with these settings and they are not too bad, at least in ACR7.

Click for the full sized crop

The second set is how most people approach a more aggressive sharpness. You see the Fuji EXR pattern that shows up on all the RAW files when you get a little frisky with the “amount” slider in sharpening. However, in ACR7 the pattern is very fine and is less obtrusive. I’ve had to really crank the settings to show the effect and it is less obvious even then. Still, you don’t want this pattern as it will make your images look “crispy”, which means that they look “digital.”

The third is a method I recommend using for EXR cameras. Works much better and creates very crisp images when you want a bit more sharpening than the default.

click for the full sized crop

That herringbone pattern is from the mosaic, it is not real texture from the lens. Here is the real texture with the settings I consider optimal for more aggressive sharpening … again, ACR7 appears to make this less necessary.

click for the full sized crop

It helps if you boost clarity a bit too (on the main exposure panel.)

The differences here are somewhat subtle in the Adobe 2012 process. But there is a definite improvement in the very fine details on the lens. The key is that there is a bit more sharpness but no more halos, a real problem in Adobe process 2010. This technique works even better there.

What I find with sharpness is that you need just the right amount to improve dimensionality. Going over the line and letting edges degrade, especially with halos, immediately removes all sense of dimensionality and makes the image look crispy, as in highly processed and digital. Frankly, that looks like crap, and far too many photographers continue to publish images like that. Maybe they are using older monitors or monitors with poor focus. Check yours if people complain about that. Try the infamous web site

The bottom line: I see a lot of posted X10 images that are either soft, or have a crispy feel. Sharpening is absolutely critical if you want the X10 to meet its potential. Too sharp and not sharp enough make the X10 look ordinary.

The EXIF for the above image: