Comparing X-Trans Sensors

Omar Gonzalez posted an interesting video yesterday that I want to share with you. It poses the question: which Fujifilm X-Trans sensor is the best? I don’t want to get too deeply into what’s “best” because that’s very subjective. Omar directly compares images from X-Trans II, III & IV sensor cameras to see what the differences are. There can be, in fact, some pretty significant differences between sensor generations! If you have a few free moments and haven’t already watched it, push play on Omar’s video above.

I’ve done some pretty similar experiments. I’ve done my own side-by-side comparisons in the past. I know the differences between the sensors, particularly regarding JPEG output, and I agree with most of what Omar says in his video. Each sensor generation produces slightly different results, and that’s largely due to Fujifilm’s programming.

X-Trans II is programmed warmer than the others, and fairly significantly so. For example, my X-T1 Kodachrome 64 recipe requires a White Balance Shift of 0 Red & -3 Blue while my X-T30 Kodachrome 64 recipe requires a WB shift of +2 Red and -5 Blue, so there’s definitely a difference. X-Trans III is slightly warmer than X-Trans IV, but not by much—it would require a decimal in the shift, such as around a 0.3 adjustment, to make them match, which unfortunately isn’t possible. Omar doesn’t discuss X-Trans I, but it’s more similar to X-Trans III and IV in regards to warmth.

Man in Red – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

I don’t find X-Trans II to be punchier than X-Trans III or IV, but they are certainly not programmed the same. Omar detected more contrast and more vibrant colors from his X-Trans II camera, but I think I can explain what is happening. First, the luminosity curve isn’t identical, so highlights and shadows are rendered slightly different on X-Trans II. Second, adjustments in X-Trans II cameras max out at +2 and -2, while adjustments in X-Trans III & IV cameras max out at +4 and sometimes -4; however, +2 on X-Trans II isn’t the same as +2 on X-Trans III & IV. +1 on X-Trans II is roughly equivalent to +0.8 on X-Trans III & IV, so it might seem to produce punchier results, but +3 on the newer sensors goes beyond +2 on X-Trans II, allowing you to get more contrast and color vibrancy from the newer cameras. X-Trans I is more similar to X-Trans II in how it renders shadows, highlights and saturation, but it’s not identical.

High ISO is something else Omar looked at, which is definitely subjective—what one person finds acceptable another might find detestable. On X-Trans I & II cameras, I don’t like going above ISO 3200 for color photographs. On X-Trans III cameras, I sometimes find ISO 12800 to be acceptable for color photography, depending on the subject and settings. On X-Trans IV cameras, ISO 6400 is my upper limit for color pictures. This isn’t too dissimilar to what Omar found, although I believe that ISO 3200 is his preference for the upper ISO limit no matter the camera. There’s no right or wrong acceptable threshold, just what works for you. For B&W photography, I don’t mind using even higher ISOs—in fact, it might be preferable to do so.

100% – Salt Lake City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

In my opinion, of the different X-Trans sensors, X-Trans II is the most “different” looking, although mostly because it’s programmed to produce warmer pictures. In some ways X-Trans I is more similar to X-Trans II and in other ways it is more similar to X-Trans III & IV. There are some differences between X-Trans III and X-Trans IV, but to my eyes they’re the most similar. I don’t personally believe that any one sensor generation is inherently better than another, but it’s clear that they’re not completely identical.

Fujifilm continues to add new JPEG options to newer cameras, which allows you to further customize your straight-out-of-camera look. X-Trans I doesn’t have Classic Chrome. X-Trans II doesn’t have Acros. X-Trans III doesn’t have Color Chrome Effect. This is just scratching the surface! There are just so many more picture aesthetics that one can get straight-out-of-camera on the X-E4 than the X-E3, and the X-E3 can get more than the X-E2, and the X-E2 can get more than the X-E1. For many people, that makes the newer sensors “better” than the older ones, but if you prefer how an older sensor renders pictures, then that sensor is likely “better” for you. It just depends on your preferences—whatever works best for you and your photography. While one camera will render pictures a little different than another, and one might have more features than another, the most important thing is what you do with it. Using your gear to the best of your ability is much more important than the gear itself.

17 comments

  1. Nicolas · April 13

    Thanks for that article!
    Really interesting…

    One question concerning your app and the simulations for each sensor:

    Sometimes when it says IV it shows cameras from the X100V all the way down to the XE4. Sometimes it just shows the XT3 and the XT30 and none of the above…

    Why is that so?
    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 13

      I appreciate the feedback!

      It’s a great question that you ask. There are differences in the JPEG options, even though they are all X-Trans IV. The X-T3/X-T30 recipes can be used on the newer cameras, but you’ll have to decide what the Grain size should be. Also, B&W Toning is different. Most of the X-Pro3/X100V/X-T4/X-S10/X-E4 recipes are not compatible with the X-T3 and X-T30 because they require things like Color Chrome FX Blue, Clarity, Classic Negative, etc., that the new cameras have but the X-T3 and X-T30 don’t. So X-Trans IV can be divided into two generations, or even three (X-T3/X-T30, X-Pro3/X100V, X-T4/X-S10/X-E4), just because the JPEG options are so different.

      Like

      • Nicolas · April 13

        That is a good point!

        So would you agree if you own a XE4 one could also use the XT3/XT30 recipes but not the other way around?

        Thanks 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · April 13

        Yes! Exactly. You can even use X-Trans III recipes on all X-Trans IV cameras, but on X-Pro3 and newer you’d have to decide the Grain size.

        Like

      • Nicolas · April 13

        Cool 😎
        That makes my XE4 (and me)

        Cheers Nicolas

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · April 13

        Glad to hear!

        Like

      • Nicolas · April 13

        >happy< 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nigel Hart · April 13

    It would be nice to know how the Bayer sensor compares to X-trans II for converting recipes more accurately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 13

      Bayer is similar to X-Trans II but not as warm, so it’s closer to X-Trans I in that regard. Or, really, it’s more like X-Trans III, but with the X-Trans II options.

      Like

  3. Nigel Hart · April 13

    Thank you Ritchie.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David · April 14

    Hi Ritchie,
    After watching Omar’s video as well as Chris Orange…thinking about picking up an X-T1. Already have the XT-3 and X-T20 and X-20. Attracted to the warmer output. Would be interested in your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 14

      I have an X-T1 and it’s a very nice camera. You can probably pick one up for not too much money, and if it turns out that you don’t like it as much as you thought you would, you can turn around and sell it for around the same price that you paid for it. That’s worst case scenario. Best case scenario is that you love it.

      Like

  5. shuttersoundtr · 29 Days Ago

    Thanks for this nice article. I was surprised because xtras 3 is better than xtrans 4 in ISO. I thought the new sensors were more successful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nicolas · 29 Days Ago

      I actually disagree on this! I have both cameras and sensors. The xtrans 4 are fare superior to the xtrans 3 especially in low light…

      Having said this I wouldn’t suggest going beyond 6400 ISO

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · 27 Days Ago

        I agree that ISO 6400 is a good high-ISO limit for color photography on both of those sensors.

        Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · 27 Days Ago

      I like X-Trans III just barely better for color high-ISO photography, and I like X-Trans IV just barely better for B&W high-ISO photography. But the differences are extremely small.

      Liked by 1 person

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