Using Luminar 2018 for Fuji Files. A Basic Overview
As many of my readers shoot with Fuji cameras, and many of you have expressed an interest in using Luminar 2018 for processing Fuji files, I wanted to give an overview of what I think is the best way to work with Fuji files currently. This is just an overview, and doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail. I am planning do a proper guide for this, but for now, this is a basic outline of what you need to know.
Again, just to make it clear, this isn’t super detailed, as I’m really busy with work at the moment, and I can’t answer every question or issue that you may have. I also want to point out that I don’t work for the software developer or have any insight into their plans, so if you have specific support issues or complaints about features, there’s not really much I can do about it. They’re pretty good at listening to customers though, so I suggest you use their support for specific technical problems or issues that you might be having.
Can it replace Lightroom / Other Software?
This is the question al lot of people are asking and some people seem to assume that this is the only reason to try Luminar. Personally, I don’t think it’s quite there yet. For a start, it still has no browser or asset management, although they’ve very publicly stated that it’s coming as a free upgrade. As of now though, you still need to use it with other software, and ironically, the software that works best with it is Lightroom, as it is very well integrated.
Someone took issue with me mentioning this in a video I posted recently, but I really don’t see what this should be a big deal. It does work, and it works well, so why not use it? Even if you are planning to move away from Lightroom eventually, consider this as part of the transition. If you don’t want to keep using Lightroom, then it also works with Bridge, or Apple Photos, or just about any other browsing software.
For editing single images, in my opinion the quality of Fuji Raw files in Luminar 2018 is definitely better than Lightroom. Of course, I always have to include a disclaimer with that, to point out that this is just my opinion, but subjectively, in my opinion, it’s definitely better. There are some caveats though.
They have added lens correction but it isn’t automatic, and this goes for both distortions and aberration correction. This is a let down, but you can work around it. It’s only really a big issue on Fuji zooms, as fuji primes are relatively distortion free anyway. If you have X-Transformer, passing your images through that software first will solve a lot of issues.
However there are also other downsides, and the workflow at the moment is slow. If you were to process every single image you take with Luminar, the process would be very long winded, and that’s why it’s still a little ways off from fully replacing Lightroom. They will need to speed it up significantly, and add a way to quickly go through images. You can batch process, but this really only lets you apply a preset to your files. All of this could well be part of the upgrade that adds the much publicised asset management solution, and so we’ll have to wait and see how well that works when that comes out.
There’s another issue that you should also be aware of, and that is feature parity between the Mac and Windows versions of the software. At the moment there are a few features missing from the Windows version, although all of these are slated to be added. Even as I was writing this, the first upgrade was released that added a few of these features, including workspaces.
First Steps and Setting Up
The first thing you should do is create a workspace for working with your Fuji Raw files. Alternatively, you can just use the “Pro” workspace, although I would add a few filters to this and save your own.
The workspace I have created for working with raw files consists of the following filters.
- Raw Develop
- Saturation / Vibrance
- Lut Mapping
You don’t have to follow this exactly, and I encourage you to make your own and customise it to your own needs, but at a minimum, this is what you’ll need.
Using the develop filter
The develop filter is fairly straightforward, and should be fairly self explanatory, however, if you need to correct for lens aberrations, then you should go to the “Lens” tab. Unfortunately as mentioned previously, you will need to manually correct for distortion and aberration, as the system doesn’t (yet) allow for automatic corrections, even for cameras which embed the information in the raw file, which is the case for most Fuji cameras.
To correct distortion drag the slider to the left of right. Again, this is a somewhat limited feature, and at the moment it has some issues. It corrects distortion evenly across the frame, but unfortunately, distortion often isn’t even, and so you will have to just find the best compromise.
For correcting chromatic aberration, the best way to approach this is to zoom into the corner of your image, or other area where it is most visible, and manually enter values in increments of 10 until you get the result you desire. This is because the image pixellates when you drag the slider, so, it makes it difficult to visually correct when interactively dragging. This is why I suggest entering values manually.
Using Iridient X-Transformer with Luminar
If you have X-Transformer, this can solve the lens corrections issue. By baking in the lens corrections you can get around the lack of automatic distortion correction. I suggest you set the sharpening and nose reduction to “off” in X-Transformer, and set colour noise reduction to low or medium. For the lens corrections, set it to include with the file. If you have my Iridient X-Transformer Lightroom Guide, basically use recipe 1 or 2.
One of the things that you should be aware of when using X-Transformer with Luminar is that the highlight recovery works a little differently than it does when just using plain RAF file. I found that having the slider at more than -75 produces weird results. It’s still better than it was in the previous version, but it’s worth being careful about. I have also found that a value of -75 on a X-Transformed DNG is also visually similar to what would be -100 with a normal raw file, and so I think it’s just a matter of the way the files are encoded.
Sharpening and Noise Reduction Settings
The settings that you use here depend a lot on the image, and the ISO. For noise reduction, at lower ISOs you probably don’t need any, most of the time. When you do need to add some, keep the values very low. Also, you may want to turn the “boost” setting down. Even a small amount of noise reduction works well. The algorithms the software uses are very effective, so you don’t need a lot.
For sharpening, again, you may not need any. If you’re shooting with a sharp prime, you may find that everything works perfectly well, without any sharpening. If you do need to add some, then again, keep the values reasonably low. I would turn down the threshold though, as this will allow more of your image to be sharpened. You’ll need to experiment to get the values right. I thing having the radius value at 50 works well but I need to do more testing.
I will endeavour to produce either a set of presets or suggested ranges of values for both sharpening and noise reduction at some point in the future, but for now, these are my suggested guidelines.
While the software doesn’t include any of Fuji’s film simulations directly, you can simulate this with some LUTs. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t currently in the Windows version of Luminar, although it should be added soon. To use a LUT just add the LUT Mapping filter to your filter stack, and then load a LUT file. If you save a preset that includes the LUT mapping filter, it will save the LUT mapping filter with the LUT included. This way you don’t have to keep re-adding it manually. It’s important to be aware of copyright issues with this. If you’re distributing presets which contain other people’s LUTs as you could be violating their copyright.
I have found a few LUTs online, and I have a video on how to use them here. The LUTS that I found for this video can be found on this website. You need the .3dl version which can be found at the bottom of the page. They’re not perfect, and they are missing a few profiles, but it’s a good start. I am working out how to make my own LUTs for this purpose. I have created several LUTS based off my own Lightroom presets, but I’m still working out the best way to create a good set for matching Fuji profiles. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before there are lots of these out there anyway.
There’s one kind of annoying thing about the way that Luminar applies presets. When you apply a preset to your image in Luminar, your entire filter stack for the current layer is replaced by whatever is in the presets. This makes it difficult to use it for single tool presets, like sharpening settings and so on. The way to get around this is to break your approach to editing down into stages and use layers.
I would consider using the first default layer for raw conversion, and then add another layer for creative effects. This is important when working with presets, as applying a preset wipes out everything else on a layer. If you create presets for common settings like sharpening etc, apply this to a base layer, then add a second layer and use if for other, more creative presets.
This has been a fairy short and brief overview, and I will go into more details on specifics in future posts. I know lots of people have bought Luminar 2018, and so I wanted to give you a quick primer while I work on a more detailed guide. Stay tuned to my YouTube channel to, as I’ll be doing a few more videos on this topic soon.
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