About 11 months ago I published an article entitled Fujifilm X100F Noise Reduction & Sharpening, which detailed my opinions on these two features. I felt like this topic needed a quick refresher, but I didn’t want to rehash what I’ve already said. I think I came up with a good way to approach this topic while not repeating myself.
All Fujifilm files, whether RAW or JPEG, have some level of sharpening and noise reduction applied to them. The options found in the camera for sharpening and noise reduction are specifically for in-camera JPEGs. If you shoot RAW you apply whatever sharpening and noise reduction you’d like with the software of your choice in post-production. If you shoot JPEG you decide this using the options that Fujifilm provides inside their cameras. You cannot turn these off, and the lowest setting, -4, still applies some sharpening or noise reduction, even if a tiny amount.
I don’t think Fujifilm named the setting levels very well. It should be +1 through +9. Naming it -4 through +4 just causes confusion. Instead of thinking of 0 as zero, think of it as the middle option. 0 is really 5 on a scale of one through nine.
Sharpening and noise reduction are great because they make your photographs crisper and cleaner. They help give your images a polished look. However, too much of a good thing is not good at all. Apply too much of either and weird things start happening to your pictures. It’s a balancing act, and it’s easy to go too far.
How far is too far on Fujifilm X-Trans III cameras? That’s up to you to determine. I will give you my opinion, and you can take that for what it’s worth. I will say that for internet use or prints no larger than 8″ x 12″ it really doesn’t matter what settings you choose because it’s difficult to notice the difference between -4 and +4 when viewed that small. If you don’t pixel-peep or print large, using the default settings of 0 are a perfectly fine approach. If you do pixel-peep or print larger than 8″ x 12″ you may want to more carefully consider your choices.
What can be determined from the three crops above? Not much, because to notice anything you have to look much closer. If you do take the time to study them you can spot the differences. The change from -4 to +4 isn’t especially obvious, so, as you can imagine, a plus or minus of one is very difficult to perceive. My opinion is that anything from -2 to +2 sharpening is where the best results are found, and I stay in the -1 to +1 range for my own photography, which I believe is the sweet spot. I used to use +2 all of the time but I haven’t used that high of a sharpening setting in probably a year.
By looking at the three crops above it might seem as though there’s not much of a difference between -4 and +4 noise reduction, and you are correct, but it’s actually a bigger difference than you might initially think. In my opinion, the noise reduction setting is a little more critical than the sharpening setting as Fujifilm applies it a little heavy-handed on X-Trans III cameras. I think the best results are found between -4 and -2. In my opinion -2 can be marginal sometimes so I typically use -4 or -3.
If you aren’t pixel-peeping, and you are just sharing to Instagram or Facebook, none of this matters. Worry about sharpening and noise reduction if you like to zoom way in on your pictures or if you like to print them large. I personally worry about it, but I take great care with all of the settings so that I get exactly the results that I want. Just because I worry about something or like things a particular way doesn’t mean that you should, too. Find what works best for you, even if it’s unconventional or goes against popular opinion.
This is an illuminating and useful post. I’ve had my X-T2 just a few months and have started wondering about these settings. My JPEG images are all meant for social media.
I appreciate the feedback! Glad you found it useful.
Thank you for this post. Does it apply as it is to the new sensor and processor of the X-T30? You said that the sharpening is better in the X-T30. Does it have an impact on the noise reduction setting, or does your recommendation still apply?
Thanks in advance for your answer.
Thank you for the question. On the X-T30 I use -4 noise reduction. I find you can go all the way up to +4 sharpening on the X-T30. It depends on the exact look I’m after, but I go anywhere from -2 to +4 sharpening. My personal findings on the X-T30 is improved sharpening, and noise reduction that’s too heavily applied except at -4. Really, -3 is fine, too, but I don’t use it. I hope this helps!
Thank you very much, very helpful!
I’m going to experiment a bit with noise reduction at -4, then. Love my X-T30!
You are welcome! I think you will like the results at -4.
Thanks again for demistfying certain issues. I’m working on my own film simulation to emulate Agfapan 25 and Efke films and I think one of the objectives is to create a textured feel by dialing up noise verses always seeking a clean crisp result. I’ve found that dialing up noise causes a softness, countered with grain and sharpening it could work. Thanks!
Yes! “Clean crisp” is not very film-like, but noise can add the texture that’s so nice. I appreciate the comment!
Don, how did you go with an Efke recipe simulation?
I shot a lot of Efke in the past, especially capturing my going through chemo and the like, and it’s a style I’d love to revisit with many X-T4.
So before I try to emulate it using old photos, I thought I’d check if you got anywhere with it!
Does this article still apply to X-Trans IV cameras? Does sharpening negative settings still apply sharpening? I tested it and it does seem that any negative setting makes the image soft, even using a known “sharp” lens. Are you sure that negative numbers don’t introduce a blur effect to soften images?
It sort of still applies to X-Trans IV. It’s similar enough.
The difficulty in knowing exactly what the in-camera processing is doing is that you have no idea of exactly what was programmed by Fujifilm. Even comparing it to RAW isn’t exactly fair because Lightroom, Capture One, etc., is applying things behind the curtain that you don’t know about, including sharpening and noise reduction.
With that said, I do believe that -4 Sharpness is basically Sharpness Off, that 0 Sharpness is basically a mid-level amount of Sharpness applied, etc. I hope this makes sense.