Photography

Working with X3F files

The Sigma dp2 Quattro has been my go to camera for personal digital works since 2017. It’s by no means a versatile tool, but that’s why I love it. It’s limitations (slow, hates high ISO unless shooting in B&W mode) remind me of shooting film and you need to really consider your image before pressing the shutter button. With this much needed focus, I find that I can remember the photos I take with my Sigma much better than the ones I take with my Canon.

There is also something special about the Foveon sensor. It just feels… nice. 

A week after I purchased the dp2 Quattro, Sigma released a firmware that allowed DNG shooting as an option to its native RAW file, the X3F. Out of convenience (and because I was still making friends with my camera), I chose to shoot in DNG and edit my files in Lightroom. The process worked well for me; however this year, I started to wonder if I was missing anything by not shooting in X3F.

During my travels in May and June, I decided to shoot all my photographs in X3F and learn to use Sigma Photo Pro 6.6 to edit my RAW files (at time of writing, the X3F cannot be edited using Lightroom).

It’s been a couple of months since I started playing around with the program. I tried to only use SPP for my photo adjustments, however certain things (such as cropping) still needed to be done in Lightroom, or another editing software, after exporting it to TIFF.

I admit, it was pretty frustrating at first, but I’m starting to see how SPP can make an image shine… as long as you’re willing to embrace its quirks.

DP2Q4550.jpg

Some of my initial notes:

  • The X3F files are half the size when compared to DNGs (50MB v.s. 100MB).

  • When initially opening an X3F file in SPP 6.6 (Apple), the image rendering does not appear as accurate until you do at least one adjustment. Save, close, and reopen the file, before proceeding with further image adjustments.

  • You need to wait for SPP to finish applying an adjustment before making another. SPP is pretty slow, so it’s best not to confuse it!

  • You can’t seem to adjust the crop (beyond specifying ratios) in SPP 6.6.

  • The shadows and contrast appear darker and stronger when the image is not enlarged to 100% in SPP.

  • Highlights can be easily recovered when shooting in X3F. DNG does not have as much dynamic range and carries less information (it shoots in 14-bit v.s. 16-bit).

  • Set noise reduction filters to ‘less’ and only increase them if necessary.

  • It seems easier to adjust colours in SPP as opposed to Lightroom.

  • The X3F Fill Light can dramatically change the feel of a photo.

  • You can save multiple versions under G1, G2, or G2.

  • I need to figure out how to adjust the ‘whites’ like in Lightroom.

Although shooting in X3F does add an extra step to my workflow (not to mention, I need go back and forth between programs), it’s not too bad… It’s still more time consuming than editing in Lightroom, but I hope to get better at it as time goes on.