Choosing a raw processor for Fuji X-Trans Files
I've written a new, updated version of this post as the information here was written in 2014 and is now a bit out of date. Please see the new version for more up-to-date information
I've covered post processing of Fuji X-Trans files fairly extensively over the last two years on this blog. In particular I've discussed how, if you're a Lightroom user, using a third party raw converter can give you much better results than just using Lightroom or Camera Raw when working with X-Trans files. I've used and written about Photo Ninja and Iridient Developer the most, but since Phase One have released Capture One Pro 8, I've been giving that a good work out too (and I'll have a report on that in a week or two)
One of the things that I've noticed though, is that usually, when you talk about one piece of software, someone will invariably tell you "how much better" the other is. There seems to be a lot of strong opinion as to which is the best. Some people swear by Photo Ninja, others swear by Capture One. In terms of pure image quality, a lot of it is quite subjective, and personally I've changed my mind over the last little while. To put it diplomatically, all three of the main third party converters have image quality that is sufficiently better than Lightroom or even Fuji's own Raw converter that picking between them comes down to your personal perceptions.
In my personal opinion, I think that the best, in terms of pure image quality, is Photo Ninja, at least when you tweak the default settings. It's the best at highlight recovery, and it's very good at maintaining detail and saturation in the shadow parts of an image.
Second, in my opinion is Capture One Pro 8. The quality is pretty good on X-Trans files, and in most cases is near enough to Photo Ninja, but it just lacks something compared to the former. Again, I can't emphasise this enough, this is just my opinion.
In third place is Iridient developer. This still does nice all round conversions, and for a while this was my favourite, but having worked with all three now for quite some time, I think that images rendered from Iridient Developer just aren't quite as good as those from the other two.
[update] Since first writing this, there have been new versions of Iridient developer and Capture One. This is still referring to version 2 of Iridient Developer. Version 3 includes a lot of new controls and so on. I'll be posting an updated version of this article soon
As I said at the start though, they're all reasonably close, and depending on your perceptions, you may favour one over the other. The thing is though, there's more to an application than just the image quality. Some people may prefer the user interface of one over the other, and the feature set of one over the other. So how do you decide?
I've made a little pros and cons list for each piece of software. I've based this on my experience using them and not just the specs. I've also tired to be as fair and honest as I can about each of them I'm sure some out there will have their own features that they prefer, but I've tried to keep the lists short, and focus on the areas that matter, especially if you're primarily using it for X-Trans conversion:
|Software||Pros||Cons||Reason To Choose|
High Quality Conversion
Detail Slider is powerful when used sparingly
Highlight Recovery is very good
Can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop
"Noise Ninja" Noise reduction
Ability to learn settings for specific camera/iso combinations
Can render out 32 bit Tiffs and Pro Photo RGB
Vignette tool not very useful for creative vignetting
User Interface is a little unusual
Doesn’t Auto Crop when rotating images
Chromatic Aberration tool a little complicated
Not Retina Display Optimised
No Curves Tool
If you want a companion App to work along side Lightroom
You also get “Noise Ninja” included
|Capture One Pro||
Works well as a complete solution with integrated database and management
Highly customisable interface
Powerful level of control over an image
Very good colour manipulation controls
Selective and Layered Adjustments
Has a curves tool
Retina Display Optimised
Only basic Unsharp Mask type sharpening (although functional)
Steeper learning curve than other software in this group (but much more powerful overall)
|Ideal if you want a complete stand alone solution.|
Works as a plug-in for Lightroom
Lightweight and Fast
Wide range of sharpening and noise reduction options
Cheaper than the alternatives
Certain adjustments work post raw conversion and therefore cause clipping
If you want a lightweight companion to Lightroom that uses a traditional mac interface.
You want the most inexpensive option.
As I said, this is by no means a complete list, but people keep asking me which is best, and as it depends on what you want, so I hope that little chart is of some help. Incidentally in terms of price, Capture One Pro is significantly more expensive than the other two. Capture One Pro is around $300 (€229). There used to be a less expensive "Express" option but it's gone. They do however, offer a subscription option. Photo Ninja is currently selling for $129 and Iridient Developer, which is the least expensive of the three is currently selling for $75
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