Fujifilm announced the X RAW Studio conversion package a few days ago and surprisingly...not to very much fanfare.
Personally I would have rolled out the announcement in a much different way given the huge issue most professionals have with RAW (Fujifilm RAW File) conversion. The company offers the (Silkypix) RAW File Converter software free of charge to camera purchasers but like the other proprietary applications I've used excluding Capture One Pro, the performance and user friendliness leaves a lot to be desired. Any effort by a camera company to improve it's software should be a BIG deal.
I'm going to rant a little but before I do, let's back up a little.
When Fujifilm first came on the market with the X100 and X-Pro1 the only choice for most early adoptees was to shoot JPEG. Fortunately for all involved those JPEGs were very good and stood up to additional editing well enough. For those who required their files to be extensively edited later, we were out of luck. That's the reason I stopped using the X-Pro1 way back, at least until Adobe added support for those RAW files in Lightroom. Think that solved the issue?
Lightroom (CC and variants) is a buggy, poorly designed application which seems to get slower each time it's updated. I'm definitely not "happy" with it but when compared to others it's really the best of a bad situation. That meant living with color-smearing and artifacts connected to it's sharpening algorithm. To Adobe's credit, they took care of us a fair bit since the early days by adding Fujifilm camera profiles (Film Simulations) and lens correction which does a great deal of the heavy lifting towards achieving a close match to in-camera JPEGS. The smearing issue creeps up every now and then but improved. The achilles heel is still in sharpening. Sharpen too much and "wormy" artifacts develop. Sharpen too little and the image outputs very "muddy". I've banged my head on the computer screen for years figuring out work-arounds. Most of the time I can get about 90% of the way to satisfaction. Fortunately, at WEB sizes only the pixel peepers can see the flaws.
Silkypix is much better...but slow and not at all user friendly. At least though, all of the editing tools available in-camera could be applied to images with a 95% match.
Enter the X RAW STUDIO
I've been travelling so I got the roll-out news second hand from a workshop participant who wondered why using a camera to make edits to images is better than a powerful desktop computer. The answer is so simple you have to wonder why other camera companies didn't think of it sooner...
ASIC or Application Specific Integrated Circuit.
A highly efficient system designed for a specific purpose, which is exactly what a camera is. This is very different than a desktop computer which is designed to do many things equally well. That involves a lot of compromises which isn't always helpful to applications like video editing or photography. A camera can process an image many times faster than a powerful desktop computer at a much lower cost. This opens up a whole new way of processing image files particularly for those of us who are on the go. No more hauling around powerful but heavy laptops, etc. I'm sure Fujifilm was looking forward...and the eventual dominance of mobile computing over desktops.
And just so you know..I'm no genius. I figured this out while watching a movie (The Hateful Eight) late one night. One of the main characters was explaining how he escaped from a prisoner of war camp. The prison was constructed of wood..so he just burned it down. Simple.
How It Works
Connect your camera (must be the camera you used to make the images) via USB 3.0 cable to your computer and select the folder where the images are stored. Here is the important bit...you are not editing the images "ON" the camera or SD CARD. The camera is essential only where it's superior ability to process the images are concerned. Don't worry, USB 3.0 is plenty fast enough to relay information back and forth. Although I do wish the new X-T2/X-Pro2 had USB-C connector types...I'm thinking ahead too.
So how Does It Work...
Fujifilm X RAW Studio ver. W/Velvia Film Simulation
From my cursory use over the past two days, it works well. It's fast, provides everything I normally have access to in camera and is very accurate to in-camera JPEGS. I assume Fujifilm's other motivation was to preserve the process from capture to output without revealing too much about their "recipe" wrapped up in the Film Simulations and unique image sensor design. Whatever the spur was for this, I'm happy so far. Color, Contrast etc are all ON-POINT.
Adobe Lightroom CC ver. W/Velvia Film Simulation
I've gotten used to the interpretation of these from Adobe Lightroom and resigned myself to the shifts, particularly in the color/saturation. I'm pleasantly surprised here...it's even better than Silkypix.
RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 2.0 Powered by Silkypix ver. W/Velvia Film Simulation
The breakout benefit for me is sharpening...whoa.
Little to no artifacts even at the maximum sharpen setting. The sample image of the duck was shot at ISO 800. Combine that sensitivity with the atmospheric distortion from shooting at an effective focal length of 840mm and I wasn't expecting a whole lot. Processing it in the X RAW Studio though was impressive...the noise reduction is effective and the correction for the lens (with XF 1.4 TC attached) cleaned things up nicely for a crisp image.
As with anything else...your mileage may vary. Try it out and let me know!