Photoshop plugin for X3F Raw files by SCA Paul Monaghan

Photoshop plugin for X3F Raw files by SCA Paul Monaghan

SIGMA Camera Ambassador Paul Monaghan, aka “The Foveon Wizard” tests the new Photoshop plugin for X3F Raw files announced on the 25th December and shares his result in this latest article.

SIGMA cameras have mostly been limited to using SIGMA Photo Pro software to process their cameras X3F raw files. Now using the new plug-in you can bypass SPP and bring your X3F files straight into Photoshop. I was intrigued with the news and so thought I’d put it through the test by editing some images and recording my initial thoughts on how it performs.

The first thing to note is that this plug-in doesn’t bring native raw support to Photoshop, but offers a way to import images without the need of SIGMA’s Photo Pro.

Quote from official announcement:

“This Plug-in is available to customers who own the DP Merrill series, dp Quattro series, SD1/SD1 Merrill and/or sd Quattro series cameras and use the digital image editing and post-production software “Adobe® Photoshop® CC” from Adobe Systems Co., Ltd..

X3I files taken with SFD mode are not compatible. Furthermore, X3F files taken with the SIGMA SD9, SD10, SD14, SD15 as well as DP1, DP1s, DP1x, DP2, DP2s, DP2x cannot be developed in the SIGMA X3F Plug-in for Photoshop®. Please use Adobe Camera Raw instead.”


Once the plug-in is installed, to open an X3F file in Photoshop, go to “file, import” and then select the “SIMGA X3F plug-in for Photoshop” as shown in the picture below.

This will open a window for you to select the file you want and then the X3F plug-in will appear with your image. Below is the image I selected for editing.

While the image control features of the plug-in are rather basic at the moment with only offering a “fill light” slider, you do get more control of the image once it is imported into Photoshop. The plug-in can handle embedded settings as well as settings previously set in Sigma Photo Pro (SPP). You now have the convenience of bringing your SPP edited images straight into Photoshop with all the settings without having to deal with intermediary TIFF files.

Windows users like me will still have the issue of not being able to preview the thumbnails. I would love to see a future Windows plug-in so that it will read the JPEG preview file but for now you must know the filename of the image you want to bring into Photoshop.

Here’s a quick edit of the file:

I also tested a landscape image that had more dynamic range to see how much I could push and pull the file. Here’s how it looked in the plug-in:

Here is how it looked after a quick edit. The plug-in did very good here in my opinion. There are a few areas in the image around the water where I had lost all of the highlight information but I did gain some detail and colour in the sky and the shadows pushed very well. Overall it’s pretty close to what I would’ve gotten from the Sigma Photo Pro.

Next I chose an image with fine detail such as this still-life image.

I felt the fine details rendered in the usual Foveon way; picking out the subtle hue and texture changes that would be missing from a regular Bayer chip.

When I first heard of the plug-in announcement I was very excited. I hadn’t expected SIGMA to release something like this as there was already the DNG option which allows photographers to open files directly into Lightroom, Photoshop or other software’s like Capture One. So having this plug-in allows individuals to bypass Sigma Photo Pro, as long as they have perfected white balance and other settings during capture, and help speed things up. However I still enjoy the option of using Sigma Photo Pro for finer control to develop the X3F Raw files. So having the ability to read the settings saved onto my X3F files from Sigma Photo Pro is a real winner for me. I also appreciate the ability to open the files directly into Photoshop, after the Raw file has been tweaked in SPP, without having to export a 140MB, 16bit TIFF file. It definitely saves time and space on the computer.

If I could wizard up ideas for the future, I’d like to see more Sigma Photo Pro controls added which could help speed up my workflow and make the editing of X3F files more accessible to all. It would also be great to be able to drag and drop the files for easier editing and as I mentioned earlier I would love to see a future Windows plug-in so that it will read the JPG preview file. Hopefully future versions of this plugin might see more of Sigma photo pro controls added but this is a welcome addition that will help speed up my workflow while making the editing of X3F files more accessible to all.

You can see more images created by SCA Paul Monaghan on one of the following links: