Adobe´s got the best RAW converter for Fuji X-Trans now, or what ? Part 1

Recently I got this pop-up on my MAC informing on new Creative Cloud App updates, so I downloaded ´em & was looking at some high contrast images after import using Lightroom´s ACR (Adobe Camera RAW). Here FYI the JPEG SOOC, with totally jacked highlights & shadows:

Dogging the Fountain - Fuji X-Pro2, WR 35mm/f2, JPEG SOOC: Jacked highlights & shadows !

But when opening the RAW´s with ACR - what the ... ??? ;-) Hey, could it be that Adobe´s now finally gotten their Fuji X-Trans rendering act together ? Intrigued by this performance I decided to (again ... yawn ;-) compare Adobe´s Camera RAW (included in Lightroom & Photoshop CC) with the best external RAW converters out there (Iridient & Photo Ninja) - ya just gotta keep on your toes here ;-) please read on if interested !

I´ve been using Photo Mechanic for culling / key-wording & Lightroom for (mobile) image management / processing since way back, so obviously a built in RAW converter would have major advantages for my workflow compared to an external one (no more needing to export & copy back in, nor splitting image processing over 2 bits of software, etc.)

I´m posting this in 2 instalments: 1. Highlights & Shadows Performance (this post), and 2. Detail & Sharpening (coming up soon !)

Let´s start with Highlights & Shadows Performance. Although aesthetically the SOOC JPEG quite faithfully rendered what I´d originally visualised at time of capture the highlights & shadows are like totally blown out. So I was interested how much detail I could pull back into the image during post processing:

To do this I basically first maxed out the highlights recovery and then pushed the shadows by slightly increasing exposure until just before the highlights started blowing out again (thereby keeping an eye on not losing too much contrast). See below the comparison & results !

1. Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop CC:

This one I liked the most:

Highlight & Shadows compression using Photoshop CC´s built in ACR RAW converter

Dunno why, but i seemed to get a slightly better rendering outta Photoshop´s built in version of ACR than LR´s (maybe the PS ACR interface is better, or I was too dumb or lazy to get 100% the same result with Lightroom´s built in ACR ...). Here a 100% crop view showing vastly improved shadows & highlights areas vs. the JPEG:

100% Crop of Photoshop´s ACR rendering

2. Adobe Canera RAW in Lightroom CC:

Nearly as good (yeah, right - both platforms use the same Adobe Camera RAW built in RAW converter):

Highlight & Shadows compression using Lightroom CC´s built in ACR RAW converter

Here a 100% crop view showing the improved shadows & highlights areas, with slightly less contrast in the shadows whereas highlights seem to have a bit more detail ...

100% Crop of Lightroom´s ACR rendering

3. Iridient Developer:

Iridient is amazing in its ability to bring out detail with a unique & careful sharpening of Fuji X-Pro2´s files, but I was quite shocked to see that its highlight & shadows detail recovery seems to be limited:

Highlight & Shadows compression using Iridient´s external RAW converter

Compared to ACR the highlight head room is quite limited, meaning I have less "foot" room available for pushing the shadows, before the highlights blow (compare the crack between the tiles on bottom right with the ACR versions):

100% Crop of Iridient´s rendering

4. Photo Ninja:

This one I liked the least - highlight head room seems a bit better than Iridient, but didn't matter what I did, i just couldn't manage to bring out more shadow detail (it always kinda remained a dark soup). Also Photo Ninja does not react on EXIF lens correction parameters, you get the total image (see the additional details at the image borders), but the image is still distorted:

Highlight & Shadows compression using Photo Ninja´s external RAW converter

And here the details - highlights OK´ish but the black dog just remains a black silhouette:

100% Crop of Photo Ninja´s rendering

Sorry, did´t have no more access to Capture One & never used Raw Therapee so those two are not covered here ...

Interim Conclusion: Adobe´s ACR wins the dynamic range battle !
(please also check out part 2 soon for details & sharpness comparison and for the final conclusion)

From a highlights & shadows recovery point of view the benefit of not needing to use external RAW converters seems to be an achievable target, Adobe´s ACR is doing an excellent job here ! OK I´d not push it that far for a fine art print to preserve the visual impression of the original situation, but good to know there is room for manoeuvring !

I hope this was an interesting read for all you Fuji fans out there - please leave me a comment in case you´ve any questions and/or suggestions ! Many thanks for looking by & wish y´all good light !

Best regards


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