Comparison of almost all the raw conversion softwares

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by addicted2light, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. I was talking to another guy on a forum about which raw converter I use and why, and being new here on Photo.net I realized that I haven't spoke to anyone yet of an old post of mine.
    I think it can be useful to others, and that it's worth sharing so here we are:
    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/28/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-i Part 1 - unsharpened crops
    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/29/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-ii Part 2 - crops sharpened in the raw converter
    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/30/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-iii/ Part 3 - crops sharpened by a Photoshop action
    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/31/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-iv/ Part 4 - crops sharpened for the best possible result
    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/31/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-v/ Part 5 - conclusions and ratings
    it's a 5 parts post with 100% crops for each raw converter. I compared against each other almost all the raw converters available then.

    They were: Apple Preview, Canon Digital Photo Professional, CaptureOne 6, Corel AfterShot, DCRaw, DXO Optics, Gimp, Lightroom 3, PerfectRaw, Photoshop 5, RawTherapee, Rawker, RawDeveloper, RawPhotoProcessor, UFRaw.

    And then I added another interesting one, free for Apple users with the Developers pack, some sort of Aperture little brother:

    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/06/30/review-core-image-fun-house-aperture-little-free-brother/ Core Image Fun House

    Hope this helps!
     
  2. Like all things, its a matter of opinion. I'm not a professional, but I use CaptureOne. Unlike the reviewer, I find the interface intuitive and the results excellent. I have compared CaptureOne's white balance with other RAW developers, and found it superior. Your mileage may vary.
     
  3. Hi Benny,
    yes the "user experience" it's a matter of opinion. But the quality (read: sharpness) level of each software I think is not.
    That CaptureOne 6, for example, was not able to extract all the detail in the files is a fact; I think it is not a coincidence that with the 7th release they are hammering on the claim that their software can extract more details that the competitors.
    Anyway this is why I posted the crops, so everyone can make his own mind.
    And in the end the more important thing is to find a workflow (and a software) that suits you; the more "transparent" the instrument become the better the pictures. Nobody will ever criticize a beautiful picture for being a tiny bit less sharp than the theoretical maximum - at least I hope so :) - but it's better to know pros and cons of each tool before committing to one.
     
  4. FYI: I only have the APS size of the Fuji X100, and did not see a sharpness difference between CaptureOne 6 and 7. (But then again, I'm not a professional shooting thousands of images with a full frame camera on a tripod.) However, I do see improvement in color rendering/white balance, shadow detail, and highlight recovery.
     
  5. Color rendering is as much as important as sharpness, IMHO, only much tough to test and more influenced by the user preferences.
    I think the best route, or at least the one I follow myself, is to use different raw converters depending on the strength of each one. For example I use Lightroom for the bulk of my images, RawTherapee for the images shot with lenses that have a lot of ca like the 24/1,4 Canon, and Rawker or FunHouse when I have to extract the last bit of detail from a file.
    BTW, I have a Fuji X100 too, and I found that Rawker (and the ones that use the Apple engine, like Preview or Aperture) are the one that gives you the most resembling look compared with the in-camera jpgs.
     
  6. I was also impressed with Raw Therapee, especially for my older Nikon D2H NEFs (less so for my Ricoh DNGs). Overall I prefer Lightroom 4 for the versatility, but Raw Therapee is an excellent low cost alternative. It's a little resource intensive but offers a fairly efficient workflow for working on multiple raw files from a particular session.
    Raw Therapee can be tricky to get the best results from since the default setting for Contrast By Detail Level was a little high and tended to produce some small artifacts. Setting CBDL to a neutral setting solves that problem. Sharpening and deconvolution tools are also a little twitchy and take some experimenting to get good results.
     
  7. In RawTherapee I tend to use only the deconvolution method, leaving the actual sharpening to Photoshop. Like you said there is the risk of generating quite a bit of artifacts if you're not careful.
    Instead I found the sharpening applied by Raw Photo Processor to be simply perfect - as long as one doesn't exaggerate, obviously. Rpp for this very reason is now my default raw processor for the file of the Sony Nex shot at high iso, being able to give me sharp results without amplifying the noise.
    As always the reviews are a starting point, and everyone should test its own tools to see how can they perform the best.
     
  8. Adobe Camera Raw 6 in Photoshop CS 5 is now long out of date. The current version is ACR 7.3rc (and ACR 7.3rc is
    also the raw development processor in Lightroom 4.3rc.

    Also you did not include Apple's Aperture raw processor.
     
  9. Hi Ellis,
    as I said the post is a few months old, so I tested what was available at the time.
    From what I know, though, Aperture shares the processor engine with the other Apple/Mac apps (Core Image, Preview, iPhoto, Rakwer), the difference being the various additional functions but not the engine itself.
     
  10. I've used most of these and my experience has been that Capture 1 gets the most out of a file in terms of exposure latitude. I've never been in love with the step through interface, but I've developed a decent workflow for it. Unfortunately it doesn't support retina screens yet so I haven't been using it as much.
     
  11. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    Adobe Camera Raw 6 in Photoshop CS 5 is now long out of date​
    Absolutely, if you're not using PV2012, you're using an old, far less capable raw engine.
     
  12. Absolutely, if you're not using PV2012, you're using an old, far less capable raw engine.​
    Actually, given that I'm using CS6, I did for my own sake a comparison between CS5 and its successor with the same pictures used for the test. While the new engine is better in many ways I didn't see any improvement in the capacity to extract detail. Mind you that this can be even camera (model) specific.
     
  13. Nikon ViewNX2 or Capture NX2. Gets the mostest from Nikon NEF files. Suck the files in, save as tifs and then use one of the "monster" picture editing programs mentioned above to do your post.
     
  14. "Nikon ViewNX2 or Capture NX2. Gets the mostest from Nikon NEF files."​
    Depends on the camera. I get better results from my older D2H NEFs using Raw Therapee and Lightroom than I did with Nikon's software.
    Several years ago, sure, I found Nikon's software did a consistently better job with my D2H raw files than anything else then available on the market (2005-2007). And that may still be true for newer Nikon dSLRs. But now I'm getting better results with RT and LR4.
    In particular, Nikon software noise reduction was pretty awful compared with standalone programs like Noise Ninja and Noiseware - which were necessary with many raw conversions back then because Nikon's dSLRs in general were noisy above ISO 400. The NR integrated into Raw Therapee and Lightroom 4 are very good, although Noise Ninja and Noiseware are still excellent.
     
  15. Sad part is there are many situations where Canon's FREE software does the best job.
     
  16. Sad part is there are many situations where Canon's FREE software does the best job.​
    I see that written on occasion, but personally I've yet to experience a single instance of it being true.
    DPP has very poor highlight "recovery" - especially compared to the magic that Lightroom 4.x and Photo Ninja can perform - and its high ISO noise reduction is clumsy and costly to detail.
    Its sharpening algorithms are basic and unrefined: the masking slider in Lr's sharpening function is in itself worth its weight in gold, as is the ability to invoke deconvolution sharpening for better fine detail without artefacts - something you get by default with Photo Ninja.
    And frankly, DPP's colour rendition does nothing for me either, especially compared to, say, Capture One. Canon doesn't know best, as it turns out, and the absence of fine HSV/HSL control over colour in DPP is a big miss.
    It's great for what it costs, but it's not in the same league, in like-for-like terms, as the better commercial converters.
     
  17. It's great for what it costs​
    Actually not even for this, IMHO, because RawTherapee (one between many others) is a much better alternative with the choice among multiple better demosaicing algorithms, and still free.
     
  18. Oh I'm very familiar with RT, Gianluca. I was using it back when Gabor was the sole developer, long before it went open source - I contributed to some early versions of the user manual and wrote some articles on RT-based workflows.
    But in its current incarnation it has lost its focus, in my opinon - it isn't the quick, efficient, intuitive converter that RT 2.4.1 was.
    I'm as big a fan as anyone of lots of options, but - in my opinion - they've gone too far with RT, and the sheer amount of functionality, along with a lack of logic to the interface, and the (painfully slow) speed of conversion, have reduced its appeal immensely for me.
    DPP is as least quick and straightforward to use, which I would suggest is a good thing from an engagement point of view: a lot (and I mean a lot) of people I've talked to are completely put off my how confusing and unintuitive RT is. A converter isn't much good to users who are immediately confused and alienated by a perceived lack of usability.
    Oh - and on an objective level (interface and usability issues are subjective things to discuss, I acknowledge) - RT's highlight recovery capabilities are really not as good, in my experience, as they were before it went open source - too much uncontrolled, untested fiddling-about with the source code by devs with different objectives, tastes and priorities.
    I'll still fire up RT on odd occasions, but I'm not a user any more - and back in the day I was one of its biggest advocates. But now its just a testbed "playground" for the devs' algorithm ideas, really.
     
  19. ...the sheer amount of functionality, along with a lack of logic to the interface, and the (painfully slow) speed of conversion, have reduced its appeal immensely for me.​
    You got a huge point here. The "too many options" problem is THE problem with open source software, at least for me.
    I still remember, before the Mac days, when I used to be an almost - Photoshop excluded - Linux user. Just to find a decent text editing program was an immense hassle, because of too much choices every one of them lacking something essential.
    The slow speed though doesn't bother me too much, mostly because I use it for specific images - not for the bulk of them - and because I'm using a version I compiled myself from source eliminating some bells and whistles, that's quite a bit faster that the downloadable one.
    Still if I had to choice between RT and DPP I'd avoid the second without a thought, more because of its interface that of its results. I guess as everything else it is a matter of taste.
     
  20. The "too many options" problem is THE problem with open source software, at least for me.​
    Indeed. And on that point, have a look at Photivo some time, Gianluca - great conversions, but its complexity will make your ears bleed.
    At the other end of the spectrum there's a little (commercial) converter called Nama5 which is a model of efficient minimalist interface design. Not the best converter in IQ terms, but not at all bad, and it's OK as a lightweight "travel" solution. If it had better highlight recovery (yeah, I know I bang on about that - it matters immensely for what/how I shoot) it'd be a pretty handy solution.
     
  21. And on that point, have a look at Photivo some time, Gianluca - great conversions, but its complexity will make your ears bleed.​
    O my, I followed your suggestion and tried Photivo. The developers made a nice effort indeed, but after 10 minutes I was on the verge of smashing the iMac on the wall! And here I thought CaptureOne was needlessly complex.
     
  22. Funnily enough, I actually really like Capture One's interface - it's probably my favourite, in UI terms, of all the commercially available converters.
     
  23. Well, to be fair my main problem with Capture One is the fact that it litters the file system with a lot of configuration folders and files, more than the interface that is a matter of habitude. I barely can stand the fact that the camera makers never agreed to a raw standard format, so now we have to mess around with the xmp files.
    Having to cope also with other configuration files from the software I use makes me nuts. I think it's just poor programming; put them in a unified hidden/library folder instead of the middle of the one I keep the images in and I will not care so much (but I know, this is my problem, not everyone)
     
  24. my main problem with Capture One is the fact that it litters the file system with a lot of configuration folders and files​
    Yep, a royal pain in the butt: that, and the fact that (pre release 7), you couldn't process a single file until the program had built "proxies" for all of the images in the session - a joy when you've just come back from a day in the field with something like a thousand images...
    Release 7 is an awful lot better in that regard and in several important IQ respects (most notably high ISO noise and - again - highlight recovery, both longstanding and significant weaknesses prior to 7), but the fact that without any prior "end of life" indication or current explanation Phase One seems silently to have withdrawn the "Express" version of the software (which I've always preferred to the Pro version - I don't need any of Pro's "extras") means that I'm finished with Phase One and Capture One - you don't just drop a product with a significant user base without so much as a "tough luck, we're done..."
    I'm pretty angry about that, I have to say.
     
  25. ...you don't just drop a product with a significant user base without so much as a "tough luck, we're done..."​
    Absolutely right, more so because it's not the 2003 anymore. I found the commercial "pure" raw converters - i.e. the ones without the organizing and mass development functions of Lightroom and the likes or the power of Photoshop - basically way overpriced for what they do. It was maybe justifiable ten years ago, when they were still in their infancy and the manufacturers were still cracking the technology, but not now.

    So it is even more unforgivable that they drop the one product they had that was a bit more fair priced.
     
  26. Gianluca - thanks for the review and personal opinions. Thanks to all the commentators for the insightful feedback and personal experience.

    I am a new owner of a Sony NEX-6 and notice you (hopefully other commentators too) are also using the NEX-6. I would like to get some recommendations for the best set-up to handle (convert) and post process RAW files imported from the NEX-6.
    I am limited in one way: I am not a Apple/Mac user. Therefore I would be interested in recommendations either for Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, etc.) and/or MS-Windows systems.
    I see that GIMP is working on 16/32 bit support with version 2.10 and GIMP comes highly recommended for post processing and raw conversion (with UFRaw only?). Until such a time that ver. 2.10 is up running and bug free what would you and the others recommend?
     
  27. I am a new owner of a Sony NEX-6 and notice you (hopefully other commentators too) are also using the NEX-6​
    Hello Jasper, and thanks to you for your kind words.

    Keeping in mind that:
    a) I have a Nex-3 (not 6), and
    b) I don't use Linux for photo processing anymore, so I don't know the last development in this kind of software for the penguin

    FOR LINUX
    I would suggest you RawTherapee. It's a terrific piece of software, that gives you terrific results as well.
    It can be intimidating at first, because it has a ton of options, but it's just a matter of become "acquainted" with them (a week or so will do the trick).
    http://www.rawtherapee.com
    If you want you can take a peek of what I mean at this old post on my blog (it is the last of a series of five, the links to the other four are under the title) in which I compared almost all the serious raw converters available at the time, using the same set of pictures (yes, Nex-made included):
    http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/31/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-v/
    Another excellent option would be using UFraw in the stand-alone version (the one that comes without Gimp). This way it will support 16bit output, and with really nice results. The biggest downside, in comparison to RawTherapee, is the substantial lack of developing, de-noising, etc. options.
    http://ufraw.sourceforge.net
    Last bit of software to suggest, not listed in the aforementioned review and that I tried only briefly, is DarkTable. It's Lightroom-inspired, and many people swear for it. Give it a try.
    http://www.darktable.org/features/
    BTW, all of the listed softwares are free and open sources.


    FOR WINDOWS
    For Windows there is, obviously, a much vaster offer, but not necessarily a better one.
    Just check the first part of the review on my blog I mentioned before; there I listed for each piece of software the operating system for which they are available.
    Anyway, even on Windows I would still use RawTherapee.
    The only serious alternative would be using PhotoShop (but more for the possibilities in image manipulation that for the CameraRaw module) or Lightroom (that keeps your pictures organized as well). Obviously the price tags here would be wildly different!
    And remember that now PhotoShop has gone online-only, so you would probably have to search for an old (CS 5 or 6) version.
    I hope I've been able to shed some light, in the meantime enjoy your new camera and happy pictures!
     
  28. Garret

    Garret amateur wannabe

    I'm a bit late to the thread but thought I'd express my appreciation for all the information and opinions here. It's much more than I can absorb but certainly more than a taste of the complexities in the world of raw format. The opinions and photos are extremely helpful.
    I'm just now trying to educate myself about raw format, its benefits and the learning curve(s) to the software. I've seen some eye-popping photo comparisons and post-processing results that defy anything I might've dreamed possible with the best jpeg. That said, I've also been finding un-affordable software. This stuff's expensive! It almost makes more sense to rent some of it than to own it.
    Which brings me to a questions from an amateur photographer who's hobby might include some very nice gear used primarily to shoot mediocre jpegs; gear that is far more advanced than his photographic skills. Is there a cheap bastard's guide to raw format software somewhere, i.e. which software would a cheap bastard be content with as he tests the waters of raw format?


    Thanks again for all this information. Greatly appreciated.
     
  29. i.e. which software would a cheap bastard be content with as he tests the waters of raw format?​
    Hi Luke,
    I don't know what camera do you have. Keep in mind that the results with raw converters can be extremely camera-dependant; what works like a charm on a Canon 5d mk II files can work poorly on Sony Nex 7 files for example (here I'm talking for experience).
    That said, there are at least two free raw converters out there that I can recommend, even more than a few commercial ones. Which one will you choose will depend mostly by which camera do you have (compare the results), which operating system are you on (Windows, Linux or Mac) and by how comfortable you are with the user interface.
    1) RawTherapee (Windows, Linux, Mac)
    http://rawtherapee.com/downloads
    Extremely good and powerful; the downside is that with a lot of cameras it isn't the top performer, but only the second or third best. Avoid it like the plague (or at least don't use its default demosaicing algorithm AMAZE) if you happen to have a Sony Nex 7; results are way too soft.
    2) RawPhotoProcessor (Mac only)
    http://www.raw-photo-processor.com/RPP/Downloads.html
    Few options, but this is deceiving because it is one of the program with the best output out there. With Sony Nex 7 files, for example, is one of the few that gives me zero chromatic aberration and magenta shift, and this without having to mess with anything. Also quite often the one that gives the sharpest results, at the price of a tiny bit of more noise. Technically not a freeware but a donation-ware, meaning that you can use it for free forever, but to unlock some advanced feature like the batch processing you will have to donate.
    3) UFraw (Windows, Linux, Mac)
    http://ufraw.sourceforge.net/Install.html
    Not in the same league with the two above mentioned, but still a really good piece of software. Quite fast to learn too. Use the stand alone version (not the Gimp plugin) if you want (and you do) 16bit output.
    4) Whichever raw conversion software came with your camera
    This are often overlooked, but are quite good even if not the best one. Even the more despised, like the Sony Image Data Converter, are in reality quite good and useful at least as training wheels to learn the intricacies of raw conversion.
    And don't get intimidated by the many options of some of this softwares. What you need is mostly set exposure, curves, and optical corrections if this is possible (chromatic aberration, distortion etc.). The rest is often best managed in Photoshop, Lightroom and the likes.
    Well, it is not a cheap bastard guide (many other free raw converters are missing) but at least is a beginning. I hope this will help you with your decision to switch to raw!.
    Happy holidays!
     
  30. Garret

    Garret amateur wannabe

    Thank you so much for that. It looks as though RawTherapee is compatible to my cameras.
    I have a first generation Canon 5D and a Canon 40D with a modest assortment of glass. However . . . I'm lately considering a point & shoot with raw format for the convenience of my shirt-pocket. I was leaning toward the Canon S100 and/or Pansonic LX-series. But, given your assessment of raw software and the camera-dependent issue, I'm having second thoughts about a p&s camera shooting raw.
    There are some conveniently cataloged raw image comparisons between cameras at http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canons100/12 . The obvious lesson from this site is that all cameras do not shoot raw format to the same degree of quality/detail. And, it would seem that attempting to post-process some of that stuff would be an exercise in futility. Since raw images from a point & shoot camera will generally be inferior to those from a DSLR does it even make sense to own a p&s that shoots raw? It would seem that lens quality and sensor size/performance are both critical to achieving a quality raw image even worthy of post processing. (?) And, yet....I see some not-so-bad images come from those p&s cameras after post-processing. Your opinion would be appreciated.
    Thank you again.
     
  31. But, given your assessment of raw software and the camera-dependent issue, I'm having second thoughts about a p&s camera shooting raw.​
    It's not a matter of issues. But each raw converter gives the best possible results with a few sensors / cameras, average results with the bulk of them, and not so good (that does not mean unusable by any means!) results with a few others.
    It would seem that lens quality and sensor size/performance are both critical to achieving a quality raw image even worthy of post processing.​
    Lens definitely, sensor yes and no. Meaning that a smaller but newer generation sensor will give you the same results of a bigger but older one. Think how amazingly good have become the Olympus m4/3 (an excellent choice for you, BTW).
    Now, I don't know how small a camera do you need, but I can share my experience in the search for a pocketable one. After many many failed attempts (cameras that I ended up selling as fast as I could or sending straight back to the seller) I liked very much the Fuji X100 and the Sony Nex3.
    This last one, in particular, in its latest incarnation is the same size of a Panasonic LX, with maybe a couple of mm more depth if you choose a zoom lens, but delivers quality in spades. I've seen it go just the day before yesterday for 320 euro with a 16mm lens, new, in a brick and mortar store in my city. If you are comfortable in buying one used you can have it - and try it for yourself - for much less.
    As for myself I'm now selling the big and heavy Canon 5d mark II after having bought a Sony Nex 7 (not A7). The quality is actually higher with the Sony (more recent sensor), even if it is an APS-c, and it covers all the bases: tripod / landscape camera & events / travels one. And yes, I tested it one agains the other by myself, because I could not believe the review found on the web; but they were definitely right.
    YMMV, but for me sacrificing a few mm for more compactness is not worth the price paid in image quality loss and the usual lack of "speed" and responsiveness of the classic compact cameras.
     
  32. Garret

    Garret amateur wannabe

    This is good stuff for me to read right now.

    . . .Meaning that a smaller but newer generation sensor will give you the same results of a bigger but older one.​
    I hadn't even thought about that.. To consider a full frame CMOS sensor to be less acute than any APS would've been an unconscionable thought...heresy even. I remain a willing victim of stagnant advertising without independent research....which you've helped with tremendously.

    YMMV, but for me sacrificing a few mm for more compactness is not worth the price paid in image quality loss and the usual lack of "speed" and responsiveness of the classic compact cameras.​
    That makes perfect sense as well. I've tried to avoid the additional cost of a 4/3 system but it looks as though I'll have to revisit that option. And, I'll be looking again at the LX-series with different eyes. Even though I don't much care for FujiFilm customer service, I'll take another look at the x100. The NEX3 will be a newer assessment.

    And, your demonstration in choosing the right converter.... That's really amazing! There is no way I would have considered what might be an optimum converter software for a specific camera without seeing the dichotomy. Good stuff.
    ________________________
    Thank you again for sharing the benefits of your efforts here. I learned something today.
     
  33. Thank you again for sharing the benefits of your efforts here​
    Many thanks to you; half of the fun, in photography, is really learning new "tricks" and sharing them!
     

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