Feeling sensor-tive

No subject divides the Fujifilm user base more than the X-Trans sensor. The proprietary imaging sensor uses an unconventional colour filter array to, in Fuji’s words, ‘reduce moiré and false colours without the need for an optical low pass filter’. In theory, this allows the resultant images to appear sharper, ‘achieving … resolution comparable to the 35 mm full size sensor’, the ever-insecure Fujifilm claims.

In practice, it produces complex raw data that requires complex demosaicing algorithms to process into images, sometimes producing artefacts in the process. The most infamous of these artefacts being ‘wormies’ — little jaggles that appear as part of the sharpening process. They can most often be seen in natural scenes that include grass and foliage, but also in synthetic textures such as carpet.

I’ve seen my fair share of ‘wormies’ since using Fujifilm. Out-of-camera JPEGs were always fine, but Fujifilm RAF files edited in Lightroom 5 were often riddled with these artefacts. But with every subsequent release of Adobe Camera Raw, the demosaicing algorithm for X-Trans RAFs became better and better. In the current version of Lightroom Classic, I can barely tell the difference between Adobe-demosaiced images and those from well-regarded converters such as Iridient X-Transformer and Capture One — and this is before you consider the ‘Enhance Details’ option that has been a feature of Lightroom since 2019. 

Regardless, Fuji’s continued use of the X-Trans sensor is a totemic issue within the user community. With a new generation of X-Trans cameras said to be on the horizon, shooters are wondering whether Fujifilm will persist with their quirky sensor. Fujifilm is no stranger to the standard Bayer colour filter array, utilising ‘normal’ sensors in their entry-level X-mount cameras and their medium format GFX cameras. 

Me? I don’t really care what sensor is in the camera, to be honest. There isn’t a bad imaging sensor on the market at the moment. Even the most basic, entry-level SLR boasts a sensor on par with expensive pro cameras of yore. I was working at a camera store when the “extremely high imaging resolution” Nikon D3X came out in 2008. It retailed for AUD$13,999 and boasted a 24.5 megapixel sensor. Today, the same resolution can be had in a $500 mirrorless camera.

With my basic understanding of imaging sensors, however, I would guess that the ‘advantages’ of the X-Trans sensor trumpeted by Fujifilm since the first generation sensor in 2012 aren’t particularly relevant a decade later. Plenty of high-resolution APS-C and full-frame sensors are in use today and while moiré and false colours are issues, they are minor ones rarely mentioned by photographers. I care much more about what surrounds the sensor. I care that the next generation X-Pro, X-H and X-T cameras are the best package of design, controls, viewfinders, processors etc. they possibly can be, regardless of what sensor is in them.

Using Format