Continuing the blog serialisation of my popular X-Pro Series lust/hate/love story:
Part 38: The X-Pro2 Review: The Fujifilm RFC RAW Convertor: Part Two – Toolsets
Last time (click here) I shared my opinion that RFC (powered by SilkyPix) might not be a great product, but it gets an unfair ‘bad press’ and despite being clunky and slow, and not having highlight and shadow recovery sliders, it’s actually a pretty full featured piece of software.
I also like that it’s free and supplied by the people who make your camera 🙂
I also promised to show you some of the tools and features, which was quite possibly a mistake, as these multiple screen shot articles take ages to write 🙂 🙂
Still, I couldn’t very well not deliver on that, so let’s take a look at what RFC can actually do.
RFC can be set to open a single image or it can be set to work with a folder full of images.
This week we’re going to take a look at a single image, and go through the tools.
Although I’ll show you some of the tools in operation, this set of articles is not so much about “how to edit files” but more about, ‘here’s all the things that free-of-charge RFC can do’
I’m writing for a fairly large and cross sectional audience here, so I’ll try and keep it upper-level, but feel to drop me a line if you have any specific questions.
Single Image Editing
From the File/Open menu (or the folder icon or ctrl + O in windows) the following dialogue box appears. Use it to browse to the location on your machine/drive/network* where the image you wish to edit is stored
(*with RFFC personally I’d recommend keeping the image file on the same machine as the app for editing)
You will get a preview of the .RAF file so you can see if it’s the one you want or not.
The RAF file is demosaiced and displayed.
The main tools are on located in the column on the left hand side of the screen. (Exposure, White Balance, Contrast, etc)
But at the very bottom left of the screen there are 8 additional tools.
We’re going to start out with them.
Here they all are!
From left to right / top to bottom:
White Balance Adjustment
Fine Colour Controller
Lens Aberration Controller
Quite a lot huh?
If you look closely, you’ll notice a little inverted ^ point on most of the sliders. This is the RFC default setting for that function…
If you get lost in your settings and want to reset that tool to default, then move the slider to the ^ marked position.
Also selecting ‘initialize all’ reverts everything in that tool to default.
In windows, pressing ctrl + X reverts the whole image editing back to default.
Lets take a closure look at all of these tools
First up is the histogram. Personally I find the histogram to be a powerful tool, both at time of image capture and later during editing.
I always have the histogram displaying when I’m editing (and in the camera when I’m shooting)
The histogram in RFC is colour (RGB), but only when the image is. (Sadly the live one in the camera isn’t RGB)
Next is image properties. This is basically EXIF.
In RFC you can add a user comment here. I’ve selected “© Adam Bonn” (I actually stole the © symbol from the internet, it’s not native to RFC. There’s some irony going on there no? update July2017 Fujfilm now enable us to add copyright info directly into the Exif via the camera menu)
The next tool is the WB Fine Controller.
By using the mouse on the central point in the circle, &/or the siders you can make subtle (or big) changes to fine tune the WB adjustment. This can useful in removing or adding colour casts. Here in this example I’ve made things slightly blue!
The next tool is the Tone Curve Tool. The Tool Curve is a powerful mechanism for adjusting your image.
The Tone Curve Tool.
Tone Curve Levels – we can make the image darker &/or brighter, by dragging the ends of the graph toward the centre. To make the image brighter, drag the right hand side, darker is the left – to do both, drag both.
Tone Curve S Curve. When you apply a custom tone curve using the S setting the resultant line will be curvy
Tone Curve Straight Curve. When you apply a custom tone curve using the Straight setting the resultant line will be straight
RGB Curve Selection, you also make adjustments to the separate colour channels using the R and G and B curves.
Next up is the Highlighter Controller.
This one is a little tricky to explain… Basically you can (a little bit) control the luminance and hue of the highlight regions.
One useful feature this tool has, you use it to set DR expansion to 0.0. This SLIGHTLY gives you more headroom in the highlights. The advantage of doing this varies image by image of course… and sometimes if the highlights are a bit of mess and you don’t care, you can cut them down by providing a positive value here.
But when changed to zero, if you look closely, you can see the highlights SLIGHTLY UN-bunching up at right hand end of the histogram when compared to the screen shot above this one.
The next tool to talk about, is the fine colour controller.
Which won’t really work out with an Acros shot 🙂 so let’s change the image to Astia!
The Fine Colour Controller has some built in pre-sets that are available from the drop down menu at the top. For example, ‘Blue Sky Emphasis’
Which would make this shot look like this
By adjusting the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) values of each colour channel we can selectively edit colours within the image.
Next up – it’s the Lens Aberration Controller
Not all of Fuji’s XF lenses are ‘optically perfect’ (that’s not a slur, very few digital lenses are) but RFC will automatically apply a lens correction profile for Fuji lenses, just like the Fuji cameras do with the SOOC Jpegs.
However this tool can be useful if you’re a ‘legacy lens’ user, or to employ for creative effect.
The ‘Shading Tool’ can be used to create a Vignetting effect. Obviously, you probably won’t want to go as extreme as this… Well unless you’re parodying the opening scene of a James Bond movie!
The next section of this tool fixes distortion, like I said – you won’t need this for the Fuji glass, but it might come in handy for the legacy lens shooters. This shot shows the tool taken to the extreme!
The final section of this tool, relates to Chromatic Aberration. I won’t talk about that here, as personally I think it works more intuitively from the right click menu. But the ‘CA’ tool has the standard eye-dropped method, which you use to click in the image. Please note that for purple fringing, RFC can obtain good results by using the ‘Fringe Reduction’ slider in the Noise Reduction tab.
The next toolset is the rotation and tilt shift functions.
But before we use them, I’d recommend using them in conjunction with another very help tool – the grid tool.
You can enage the grid tool from the menu as shown above, or (in Windows) press the keys ctrl and G together
The grid is adjustable, so that you can make the lines closer together, also you can move the grid around the screen.
The reason for this function, is to make the straight lines of the grid overlay the part of the image you wish to be straight! Then when you use the tools I’ll show you below, you have a visual guide to work from
The rotation and tilt shift functions, these work as you’d expect… In the tilt shift screen shots I’ve dragged the sliders to the extremes so you can get a clear idea of what they do!
Rotation rotates the image
Horizontal rotation, rotates the shot as if you were holding the edges of a flat screen TV and turning it so that someone in the corner of the room can see the screen better
Vertical rotation tilts the shot up and down as if you were trying to see your mobile phone screen in bright light!
After you’ve straightened your shot – you might want to crop it.
The Crop Tool is available from the ‘scissors’ icon on the tool bar at the top of the screen.
You can work freehand or specify an aspect ratio. To change the orientation of the tool (eg landscape to portrait) you can mouse click on the rotational arrows, located just to the right of the centre of the grid.
To show your image as you’ve cropped it (because you can’t really crop RAW, the editing is none destructive) click the icon (in the crop tool) that shows the scissors icon with the arrow that points to the top left hand corner (the 3rd icon down in the tool itself)
Let’s now have a quick look at the ‘Right Click’ (in Windows anyway) menu:
These items are all fairly self explanatory… The items listed with Set ___ here (eg Set Grey Balance Here) means that if you place the mouse cursor on the exact point in the image that you wish to edit or select as a point (eg White Balance) then the tool will make its adjustments from that point. This is how I use the Chromatic Aberration tool – it’s a lot quicker than going into the lens aberration toolset, selecting an eye dropper, browsing to the place you want in the image, then clicking on it. You can zoom in to help nail the exact place you need.
Now that we’ve covered the functions of the less obvious and visible tools, let’s turn our attention to the tools on the left hand side of the main application window.
From top too bottom, they are
Colour/Film Simulation Mode
*We will cover this in detail in a following instalment.
Most of these tools do “what they say on the tin” and are fairly generic in terms of image editing software. These tools all have pre-sets native to RFC, and use definable adjustments in the tool itself. The pre-sets are available from the drop down menus. Eg, where in the shot above it shows, “0.0” for Exposure Bias and “Camera Setting” for White Balance (etc) click the down arrows for the list of presets
The exposure tool lets you adjust the overall brightness of the image by dragging the slider or by using the drop down menu
The WB tool lets you set WB values! The drop down menu has the standard options (daylight, shade, cloudy etc) and the tool has the regular sliders for value and tint. RFC also includes an additional slider for adjusting WB in dark areas of the image.
The contrast tool has more options than most RAW software! Not only can you adjust the overall contrast, but you can up the black level and change the gamma and contrast centre, which affects brightness relationships between light and dark
The Colour Setting allows you to select the Fuji Film simulations (and some native RFC/SilkyPix ones) and adjust the saturation. If (for example) you like Classic Chrome jpegs with colour and shadow +1 from the camera, you can replicate this effect using the Classic Chrome setting in conjunction with the saturation and black level sliders
Ah yes… the X-Trans elephant in the room… 🙂
So, so, SO much has been written and claimed about X-Trans and fine detail…
I almost don’t want to write anything about it…
Let me attempt to be brief…
Sharpening is a personal thing… we each have a sharpening look that we feel comfortable with. One persons tack sharp foliage, is another’s crunchy detail, worm ridden epic fail
You must find your own way…
…But I will say this.
Sharpening is NOT a ‘one size fits all’ setting
You wouldn’t ALWAYS set your WB to 7000k, you wouldn’t ALWAYS set your Exp Bias to +2EV.
You don’t want to have exactly the same sharpening settings for all of your images either.
Sharpening adds micro contrast to an image, how much the image needs depends on your tastes and your image.
Overall image sharpening is 3 things combined.
Demosaicing sharpness = how much detail the software pulls from the RAW file
Capture sharpening = how much detail you chose to add in editing
Output sharpening = The sharpening you apply in regards to what the images is for (eg Facebook vs a colossal sized print etc)
Unlike quite a few RAW convertors, RFC lets you control these parameters independently of each other.
The Demosaicing Sharpening tool
RFC will change the value of this tool, depending on the ISO of the image. If the ISO is high, this value might want to be less, because you’ll be extracting noise from the RAW as well as detail.
Personally if the ISO is base, or very low – I use 100%, rather then the base ISO default value of 85
update July2017 having experimented with this, I find that having a 100% value reduces colour and adds noise, as well as making the image a fraction sharper, therefore I now suggest always having this value set to zero. This is also true in SilkyPix Pro v7, but not so true for Pro v8
The Sharpening Tool (capture sharpening)
These are the default values – if required change them in order to find the look you want for capture sharpening (as I said so much written about sharpening X-Trans… personally I find they like more outline and less detail, but as ever – YMMV)
To be used in conjunction with sharpening is Noise Reduction
These are the default values – if required change them in order to find the look you want for noise reduction (personally I like to keep NR as low as possible, especially colour noise reduction) – the ‘Fringe Reduction’ slider is for purple fringing
In RFC output sharpening is an option you select when you save (‘develop’) your RAW file into a jpeg (or tiff) file.
This is the point where you’d consider what the file is for, where it will be used and how much output sharpening it needs.
Some RAW software has pre-sets here (web, print etc) but RFC lets you specify exactly what you need.
To access this tool; you’ll need to open the save (develop) dialogue box, this is done from the ‘development menu’ or the toolbar or by right clicking and choosing ‘one scene development’ or by pressing ctrl and S
Once you’ve chosen the location to save the file, you’ll need to click on the ‘settings tab’, here you can specify file type, size, overall quality etc
On the enhance tab, you’ll find the output settings – you’ll get a preview of the image, which you can zoom into and move around in order to work out which output sharpening settings you want to use.
Next time we’ll look at batch development.
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