I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.



Sharpening is one of the most taxing aspects of the digital process and consequently many photographers prefer to stick to safe and secure ways, either using presets, plug-ins, exporting to Photoshop or ultimately using JPEGs straight from camera. The X-Trans sensor produces wonderful JPEGs, and all the usual advice about always shooting in Raw doesn’t necessarily hold true anymore. There are now many professional photographers who happily shoot JPEG using X-Series cameras all the time and have no complaints.

JPEGs are very convenient, but for a landscape photographer like me, interested in the creative process and using post-processing as part of the digital alchemy, Raw files are so much more versatile. Sharpening Raw files from the X-Trans processor can be challenging for those of us who have grown familiar with more traditional Bayer array sensors; they demand a different approach and even experienced photographers will find there is a learning curve.

The sharpening controls in Adobe Lightroom have evolved to a degree of simplicity and perfection that eclipses much of the competition, including Photoshop. There were some initial teething troubles when sharpening X-trans files using earlier iterations of Lightroom; ‘waxing’ is one of the terms used to describe what can happen in images with high detail frequency (for example scenes with lots of fine detailed foliage). However, Adobe and Fujifilm have been working closely together to perfect the algorithms working behind the scenes. At the time of writing, I’m using Lightroom 5.6 to sharpen all my Fuji RAF files and creating exhibition prints up to A1 size without any significant problems.

This guide offers an introduction to perfect sharpening for Fujifilm X-Trans Raw files (.RAF files) in Lightroom 5

The processing of any digital image requires two essential and distinct types of sharpening: output sharpening and capture sharpening. Output sharpening is the final step in preparing an image for printing or display on screen. Because output sharpening always depends on known variables like printer model, paper type, and degree of enlargement, it is best performed automatically. In Lightroom, output sharpening is applied in the print module or for images intended for display on-screen it is applied on export. This guide relates only to sharpening that requires our human judgment, capture sharpening.


The unprocessed digital image is an imperfect representation of reality due to the degradation of the projected image in various ways including separations between the micro-lenses overlying the light-wells on the sensor and, with conventional sensors, the blurring effects of the anti-alias filter. The purpose of capture sharpening is to correct for these flaws. When shooting JPEGs, the camera applies capture sharpening, but when shooting Raw images, no sharpening is applied. In Lightroom we apply capture sharpening by using the sharpening controls within the DETAIL panel of the DEVELOP module. The panel is appropriately named because sharpening works by looking for edges within the detail or micro-detail of the image; it accentuates some or all of them with relative degrees of intensity and spread according to the parameters we select. The amount of capture sharpening required varies depending on the camera, lens and aperture used and the characteristics of the individual image.


Whereas conventional sensors usually favour a relatively low DETAIL slider setting and risk introduction of artefacts with very high detail settings, for X-Trans files, the reverse is true; they favour a high DETAIL slider setting and do not suffer anywhere near as much from introduction of artefacts. In fact, with X-Trans files, you’ll see more trouble from artefacts (albeit different ones) at lower detail settings. To anyone who has spent time processing conventional (Bayer array sensor) Raw files, this is completely counter-intuitive.

The DETAIL slider affects how Lightroom processes and emphasises fine details. It does this by changing the bias of which sharpening algorithms are being used. X-Trans files can take a lot of capture sharpening and they like a specific mathematical method known as ‘deconvolution’ sharpening. For my landscape work I find that most images work best with the DETAIL slider set all the way over to the right at 100; my understanding is that when the DETAIL is set to 100, Lightroom uses ‘deconvolution’ algorithms in preference.


Addendum, October 2017 : For X-Trans III sensor cameras (X-Pro2, X-T2, X-100F, X-T20 etc…) the images still favour high DETAIL settings, but I’m finding the optimum setting is around 60 rather than 100.


1. Lightroom is designed with a top-to-bottom workflow in mind, because changing one parameter affects the settings required of others. For example, increasing the exposure of an underexposed image will increase the requirement for noise reduction. We should complete our adjustments in the BASIC panel before moving to the DETAIL panel for sharpening. Although a top-to-bottom workflow is most effective, moving back and forth from panel-to-panel and between controls within panels for iterative readjustment and fine tuning is the essence of a good Lightroom workflow.

2. Lightroom automatically applies a small amount of sharpening to all images by default, but this is seldom ideal for landscapes or X-Trans files. The ‘scenic’ sharpening preset is an improvement on the default settings, it can be found in the left-hand panel of the develop module under the Lightroom General Presets drop-down list. The ‘scenic’ preset offers a great starting point but it is a generic preset that disregards the camera and settings used; it is not at all ideal for X-Trans RAF files. The good news is, that you can create your own presets to better suit the characteristics of your camera.

X-Trans NORMAL : Amount 15, Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Masking 10.

X-Trans SHARP : Amount 25, Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Masking 10.

X-Trans SHARPER : Amount 35, Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Masking 10.

X-Trans TACK : Amount 45, Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Masking 10.

See the addendum above for newer sensor settings: X-Trans III camera RAF files work best with DETAIL set to 60, and all other settings as above.

This particular naming convention ensures that when the settings are listed alphabetically, they are also listed in order of magnitude of sharpening applied from the least to the greatest.

3. We should magnify the whole image to 100% (or 1:1) before applying capture sharpening. The aim is to sharpen the image by an appropriate amount while keeping it looking natural. Throughout the process, repeatedly examine any areas of high contrast or edges and avoid the introduction of artefacts and haloes.

4. Holding down the OPTION / ALT key on the keyboard while moving any of the sliders switches to a black and white view, removing the distraction of colour contrast. This is essential when using the MASKING slider and useful when using the AMOUNT slider; it removes the distraction of colour contrasts and reveals the luminance channel on which the sharpening is actually performed.

5. The AMOUNT slider specifies the overall level of sharpening to be applied. Ask the question: are there any areas within the image that contain textural detail that needs sharpening? If the answer is yes, increase the AMOUNT until those areas start to look ‘crunchy’, then pull back a little. Images made using the best lenses on cameras with high resolution sensors can take more sharpening before developing haloes and artefacts.

6. The RADIUS slider determines the spread of the sharpening effect on either side of edges, it is an approximation of the number of pixels over which the sharpening is applied, while a high value accentuates sharpening, it also causes unwanted haloes. Increases in both AMOUNT and DETAIL will accentuate the effect of the RADIUS setting. For landscape images I find values as low as 0.6 or 0.7 can work well, but portrait photographers will often favour values above 1.0 and use correspondingly lower values for AMOUNT and DETAIL. I have found with my X-Trans files that setting RADIUS to 1.0 works well with such high DETAIL settings. Use lower RADIUS settings for high resolution images containing fine textural detail, but be wary of introducing artefacts and haloes.

7. While AMOUNT and RADIUS control the degree of sharpening, the DETAIL slider determines how the sharpening is performed by changing the individual bias of various mathematical algorithms used to sharpen the image. Conventional wisdom suggests that small values are more suited to ‘low-frequency’ less detailed images. High values are more useful for ‘high-frequency’ images with fine textural details. For practical purposes, we can think of the detail slider as controlling the emphasis of fine detail. The AMOUNT and DETAIL sliders both accentuate sharpening and increase noise, an increase in one parameter often requires a decrease in the other and an increase in either setting might lead to a requirement for noise reduction using the LUMINANCE slider.

8. All the above sliders apply sharpening globally, but our ultimate objective is often to only sharpen certain elements. The MASKING slider allows us to ‘turn-off’ sharpening in the solid or smooth toned areas of the image to remove the distraction of unwanted artefacts or noise. In landscapes, this most commonly applies to skies. With MASKING set to zero and OPTION / ALT held down, the whole image starts off white, indicating that sharpening will be applied to the whole image. As we increase MASKING from zero, any areas that become black will not be sharpened at all and any areas that remain white will be.

9. Should MASKING not allow the control required to eliminate sharpening in a particular area of the image, then we can use an ADJUSTMENT BRUSH with a setting of -50 to make local changes and completely remove any sharpening globally applied by the DETAIL panel, regardless of the AMOUNT. Setting the brush sharpness to less than -50 will actively blur the image and using a positive setting will enhance sharpening locally, this is known as ‘creative sharpening’.


  1. This may well become the most read blog post among the X-community this year. I can’t want to fire up Lightroom and give your settings a try.

  2. Great article Pete,thanks a lot ,i learn new thinks about sharpening in lightroom ! Your way works also with portraits if you play with the masking slider in order to not sharpen the skin.Thanks a lot again!

  3. Peter

    I am gradually moving the emphasis of my work over to landscape photography after years of shooting people. This blog post has been of tremendous value to me. Many thanks!


  4. Thanks very much Pete for publishing this succinct and interesting article on sharpening for the X-Trans sensor. I had experimented with the sharpening settings with my X-T1, but never realised the importance of the Detail slider setting for Landscapes. Having tried your settings on a variety of ‘problem’ landscapes I found them a great help. I also found they work well with House & Garden shots that I have been assigned to do. Thanks again.

  5. New life for LR5 in my work
    Thanks very much
    Wish LR had the cabability to brush in a detail setting, as is possible
    in Capture One local adjustments,

  6. I have been experimenting with settings similar to this for quite a while as I really didn’t want to buy C1 or any other raw converter. While I came close, your settings seem to have hit the nail on the head. Thanks you!

  7. Peter,
    Thanks so much for writing and posting this, and all your excellent work in finding optimal settings for sharpening for the X-Trans sensor. You did a really excellent job explaining the rationale behind the sharpening algorithms in LR that really let us understand not only what to do, but more imporantly, why. The only other photographers I’ve encountered who have been able to do this so articulately have been Thomas Fitzgerald and Jeff Schewe. I’ve been shooting with X-Trans sensor Fujis for almost two years now, and have resorted to using LR plug-ins e.g. Iridient Developer or Photo Ninja to get good quality sharpening from RAW files. Both work well, but to date, I’ve found Capture One 8 to do the best job overall. I’m looking forward to trying out your new algorithms and comparing them to IR, Photo Ninja and Capture One 8.

  8. Thank you so much, both for the clear technical explanation and for the recommended settings.

    I’ve been dissatisfied with Lightroom’s sharpening since I got my X-Pro1 10 months ago, but having just tried your settings on several photos I’m really pleased with the results. It had never occurred to me to set the detail slider so far to the right, but it does seem to make a noticeable difference on landscape photos containing a lot of fussy detail (grass, trees, rocks, etc.).

  9. Pete, thank you so much. I have tried every way I could think of to get Lightroom/Photoshop/Camera Raw to stop smudging the RAF files from my XT-1 and finally bought Iridient Developer to do the job. It works very well, but adds time to the workflow (and a bulky Tiff file). Now you have made it easy and rational. Hoo boy!

  10. Hi Pete,
    Very informative and clear article on X-Trans files sharpening.
    I learned a lot from it.
    Many thanks for sharing.

    Best regards,

  11. Hi Pete-

    No offense to you and thank you for sharing your X-trans capture sharpening settings- However, I have to add a warning to those who may use these settings for themselves without proper testing…

    You don’t show any examples at 100% so we are left to accept your personal tastes as being acceptable to our own workflows. I have tested your settings on my own files and anything over 25% sharpening with your Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Masking 10 settings creates very unacceptable (for my personal taste) halo and artifacts. I would highly caution against such an aggressive sharpening workflow on the capture side.

    From personal experience working with X-Trans files, a radius of 1.0 is often too much. Try using a lower radius, ESPECIALLY when in combination with your recommended 100% detail setting. I often find that somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9 works best, though this is of course based once again on personal preference and depends largely on the content of the file. Sometimes a LOWER detail setting and HIGER radius 1.1 works better. A masking setting of only 10 gives actually very little masking for any out of focus or smooth gradient areas in the image, and would need to be adjusted (sometimes much higher) on a per-image basis…

    Once again, I feel that giving such broad recommendations on what I see as ‘heavy’ sharpening and not giving any full-resolution examples is not doing a service to anyone try to cope with sharpening X-Trans RAW files. I know you do state that these are ‘starting points’ and thus they should certainly be treated as such. However, I just don’t feel like such advice can be given any real weight without showing us examples of what results these settings may produce.

    To end on a positive note: your “Capture Sharpening Workflow Tips” are well-written and should definitely aid others to understand the general terminology and effects of the individual settings to better find a workflow which works well for their personal taste.

    Best regards,
    Jason Langley

    • Thanks Jason – I wanted to keep the article as simple as possible while still going into enough detail on what I feel are the most important points; as you say – presets are always ‘starting points’, it’s important for photographers to remember this and to experiment for the setting that best suit their individual workflow. The settings given are my personal starting points that I find work best for my own needs – creating exhibition prints for our gallery (it’s very subjective isn’t it). Thanks so much for your helpful comments, some very important points raised – much appreciated.

      • I agree with Jason. Writing a sharpening article without actually showing some 100% crops seems odd.

        I’m hoping Adobe will fix their muddy X-Trans algorithm soon. Apple Raw (which Iridient Developer uses) produces beautifully sharp images, where Adobe’s produces muddy, painterly detail and there’s little you can do about it. It’s a shame, because I love shooting with my X100s.

        The problem I find is that Iridient, well… isn’t Lightroom and so you lose your whole workflow. I still use Lightroom for my X100s files for this reason, despite the poor detail created by Adobe Camera Raw. At full size, it’s not a big issue, but I’m patiently waiting for Adobe to improve their X-Trans support.

  12. Thanks very much Pete for taking the time to fiddle and for sharing the results. A couple of requests and suggestions below. Note that I’ve not tried the settings yet (will do shortly) so I’m assuming they work 🙂

    1. Do you have any suggested settings for portraits?
    2. To save lazy arses like me from entering the values and saving the presets, feel free to package them up (ideally with portrait ones) and charge me $5 🙂 – actually I think you deserve a few $$$ for solving a big problem that’s causing much hoohaa across the net.
    3. Talking of hoohaa, did you let Fuji film and Adobe know? They are both getting a fair degree of panning on every forum going about this issue.
    4. Luminous Landscape are also worth telling if you haven’t already. The principals are Fiji users (certainly Kevin Raber) and they have close ties to Adobe.

    Nice one

  13. Thanks for all your comments guys – much appreciated.
    Lovely to hear from so many how it’s helping your own workflow.
    Some folks on Twitter have mentioned Capture One and Iridient etc…
    The LR / X-Trans combo creates a certain image-feel, a style, a ‘flavour’ that’s hard for me to articulate – I guess a good descriptor is ‘filmic’. The X-Trans captures colour so beautifully and so honestly and then processing with LR (for me at least), adds a little extra alchemy. I’m in love with this combination. The only real way I can demonstrate what I’m saying here is for you to see some prints. If you’re close to Nottingham, do pop by and see my current exhibition, all large prints using this method and all made using X-Pro and X-T1.

    • Very nice images Pete. I might just need to head over to Nottingham with the missus to see them. Are you ever on site to the exhibition space in the week? It would be nice to say hi

      • Hi,
        Thanks for all your comments, much appreciated – if you do get chance to pop by, let me know your thoughts. Sorry but won’t be there myself at any point in the near future. 🙁

  14. This is a very helpful post. Do you have any insight on output sharpening?

    Does sharpening in the print module override sharpening in the develop module?

    I generally print on Epson ultrachrome printers.

      • Hey Pete,

        I’m trying to understand a little more about what you mean by “output sharpening always best done automatically in my experience”.

        Do you mean just letting Lightroom be set to Low, Standard, or High in the Print Sharpening area of the Print Module?

        If so I would assume the choice in sharpening amount would vary based on image subject, contrast and paper.


  15. I’m still waiting for examples of photographies. I read your process and tried with some of my files (X100s): same issue (waxing or “effet peinture” as we say in french). I love Manet and Monet, but it’s still there: before, I had waxed foliages. Now, I get sharpened waxed foliages. 😉

  16. I’m still ending up very waxy and swirly with my X-T1 files. Especially in slightly out of focus areas. I’ve found that at smaller viewing sizes, I absolutely love my Fuji files, but at 100% or large prints, I just can’t help but be disappointed. I’d love to find a way to overcome the issue.

    Screen Shot:

  17. Hi Pete,
    thanks for your work. When I read Your lines, I realized how much testing and combinations you had to try before you came to the right “ratio”… 🙂

  18. Thanks,
    This really seems to work, I think it may be similar to the approach in Iridient developer that I have been experimenting with.

    Best regards, Richard.

  19. Being a new X-T1 / LR user, I find your post very useful. Thank you Pete. It is much appreciated…

  20. Very interesting tutorial Pete. Can’t wait to try it out later on today when I edit a photoshoot I did yesterday. They are portraits but I will try out the results of the sharpening and the newly aquired understanding of what each slider does. I did mess around with them in the past when I had a canon but I gave up sharpenning lately because the jpeg files of the Fuji X-E2 are great. You did say something at the very beginning of the article that I was wondering before. You said “In Lightroom, output sharpening is applied in the print module or for images intended for display on-screen it is applied on export.” And when I look at my images in flickr and compare them to the lightroom version they ALWAYS look much sharper in flickr. I’ve asked around but no one could answer why, and I always thought it had something to do with my monitor and compatibility modes in windows 8, but I guess LR might be aplying some output sharpening while exporting to flickr.

  21. Great article! Tried the sharpening method for LR and its helpful, but Photo Ninja still produces better details with foliage. Better details are only noticeable if you zoom in 100% though, but i almost never print very large, so LR results are acceptable most of the time.

  22. Thanks for the great article. On a hunch, I thought I’d try this on some of my JPEGs too. So, potentially I have a better starting point with the JPEG – I am currently liking the Pro Neg simulations – and then set sharpening to about 30 and detail 70-100. I think this actually works better than RAW in many cases.


  23. Great article. I would really love to see an article on your methods and workflow for making large prints from the 16 MB files of the Fuji X Series. I am an alt process printer who makes carbon transfer prints from digital negatives. For digital I exclusively shoot the X Series. As I bergin to make larger carbon prints I am concerned about the best methods for making large prints from 16 MB files. Your blog post mentions that you make A1 size prints.