A little while ago Apple finally added support for the Fuji X-Trans series of cameras into Aperture. With their non-bayer sensor design I had previously been skeptical that it would ever happen, but as an owner of a Fuji XE-1 I was delighted that it did. The quality of Aperture's conversion was a little difficult to quantify at first. On the one hand it seems to render detail and colour much better than other converters, particularly Lightroom, and it doesn't suffer from the fractal pattern issue that Lightroom conversions seem to suffer from in fine detail. On the other hand the control of moire is not great, and you can get some pretty bad patterns and colour noise depending on the source material. Since it came out, I've been going back and forward on whether or not I prefer it to Lightroom. I've written a few posts (2) about it over on my photography blog. Since then I've come up with a workflow for dealing with the Fuji X series files in Aperture that provides a way to deal with the issues, and gives you the best of both worlds. The approach starts by making a few tweaks to the raw conversion. You'll need at least one raw file from either an X100s, a X-Pro 1, an XE-1 or a X20 to make these changes for the first time. (If you have more than one fuji camera, you need to set the raw fine tuning for each of them) Here's what to do to set things up:
1. Select a file in Aperture and go to the Adjustment brick
2. Go to the raw fine tuning brick and turn the sharpening control off. In my experimenting, I found that this exacerbates any artefacts. Don't worry though, we're going to add another sharpening brick later.
3. From the cog menu on the Raw fine tuning brick choose Save as camera default.
Ok, that's the first step done with. Now we need to create a preset to apply on import. The main thing we want to do is add a sharpen adjustment automatically. I added an edge sharpen adjustment with the following settings.
I also made a few other changes. I added a little bit of contrast using curves, and I also added some shadow and highlight adjustments, to mimic the shadow and highlight tone options I use on my Fuji XE-1. You don't want to make andy drastic changes as this is an import preset that we're creating, so only do very mind tweaks, and remember this is war you want to apply to everything. If you want just leave it with the sharpening.
Once you've set it up the way you want to, save your preset with some name so that you can find it easily later. I called mine XTRANS-import.
[box type="download"]If you want you can download my version of the preset[/box]
Ok, tat's the set-up part of the workflow over with. Now for the actual workflow!
When Importing X-Trans files I use a three step approach:
First, I always shoot RAW+JPEG, and when I import the files front he camera I choose Raw+ Jpeg Pairs with RAW as default. In the import dialog under Effect Preset, I choose the Xtrans-Import preset I created earlier.
If any of my images have any issues with the raw conversion, such as the colour noise, aliasing or moire, I simply right click on the image and choose Use Jpeg as Original. This generally solves 90% of the problems.
If I'm still not happy with the file, for example if there are blown highlights, or if there's any other reason that I would prefer to have the raw file I use the plug in Catapult to send my raw file to Silkypix to do the conversion. Once I've made my changes in Silkypix I just render out the file and Catapult will re-import it and re-stack it to the original in the Aperture library. Incidentally, you don't have to use Silkypix with catapult, you could use camera raw or Lightroom or Capture one if you have it.
In my opinion Capture One does the best quality conversion over all of X-Trans files, but that's a whole other story! Send your hate mail to..... :-)
So there you have it. For the most part, Aperture's conversion is fine, it's only really when you run into an issue with a file that you need to go to step 2 or three. I know that sounds awfully complicated, but in practice it's really not, and it means you can use Aperture to manage your X-Trans Raw files without having to sacrifice any quality.