In the comments section of my last article, I remarked that "I always liked the rendering of X-Trans files on C1 more than Lightroom anyway, so maybe this is just the reason I need to make the switch back." A longtime contributor to the comments, Pete Miller, asked if that was indeed the case. Good question! Let's find out if the reputation Lightroom has gained for inferior Fuji X-Trans processing is still warranted.
As I'm not a professional software reviewer by trade, I had no intention of throwing up a bunch of charts, graphs, doo-hickeys, and gizmos to make my assessment. I'd rather do side-by-side comparisons and see if there are any glaring differences between the outputs of the two pieces of software at default settings. Of course, each of these apps have noise reduction, color correction, and every other algorithm imaginable to tweak your photos to your heart's content. What I wanted to compare here, however, was how the programs handled X-Trans files right out of the gate. But, what to test?
I decided on testing the two factors that were the most important to me: output when I nail the lighting (ideal conditions) and output when I screw up the lighting (not so ideal). I took a well-exposed photo of musician Ryan Chrys, shot on my old Fujilm X-T1, imported the file into both Lightroom and Capture One, cropped, and set up a side-by-side comparison. For all of these photos, the Lightroom version was Lightroom CC 2015.5. The Capture One version is Capture One 9.1.1.
First up is ideal lighting. On the left is Capture One; Lightroom is on the right:
Right off the bat, it's obvious that Capture One seems more "finished" than Lightroom. Lightroom brings more of a washed out look to the photo, which is typical of unprocessed raw files. There seems to be a bit more detail apparent in the C1 file, but nothing that a little tweaking in Lightroom couldn't bring back as well. There doesn't appear to be the smearing that was present in old Lightroom versions with X-Trans files.
For the next test, I wanted to use a model. I brought out one of the hottest commodities in the biz at the moment. This model is known for a fiery attitude and curves in all the right places. Well, curves everywhere, really.
The methodology for this test was to underexpose images to various degrees, then bring back the exposure to match an "ideal" exposure according to my Sekonic L-358 light meter. The ideal exposure was shot on my Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with my Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 at f/5.6 to ensure any sharpness issues would be a result of the software and not the lens. This lens is stupidly sharp at f/5.6, so any issues should be the fault of software.
First, both Capture One and Lightroom at correct exposure:
Next, one stop underexposed and brought back to correct:
Two stops underexposed:
First off, I think both processors did a fine job pulling the exposure back, considering the abuse. The general trend seems to be that C1 retains more detail throughout the entire spectrum, but I did see that there was a noticeable color shift as the exposure was brought back. Lightroom fared better in the color fidelity from shot to shot throughout recovery; however, the details were a touch muddier as the abuse got worse and worse. In Lightroom's defense, though, there seemed to be a splotchy quality in the out of focus areas in C1 past three stops of recovery. Lightroom had no such issues. Perhaps that is because C1 attempts to show a more finished file.
All in all, the results are close enough that each individual will have to prioritize what's most important to them in their workflow. Do they want less work on the front end to make the colors right, and are they pretty much hitting their exposure right on the money? C1 might be the way to go. Do they plan on severely underexposing? Lightroom may be the way to go if detail isn't a priority.
What's my choice? As a Fuji photographer who likes to nail the shot as close to final as possible in camera, C1 is a no-brainer. If you're a bit newer and see yourself making some exposure mistakes (and maybe you just want a more user friendly interface), I don't see a reason to go to C1. They're both fine choices as far as image quality goes. I do find that the processing speed for X-Trans files is significantly faster in Capture One than Lightroom, but speed is beyond the scope of this article.
What's your choice, Fuji users? Anyone out there using alternative raw processors?