Used camera's RAW conversion / avoiding Lightroom

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by jochen_schrey, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. So far I used a Pentax RAW converter included with my once new cameras happily. Now I couldn't resist buying a Samsung Camera similar to my K20D and that one doesn't save its RAWs as PEF. I'll also need to handle M8's DNGs. The Samsung came without software CD and the Capture One 4.1 CD with the Leica didn't allow registering either.
    Which free RAW converters do you recommend? / Why is Lightroom - I don't know it - worth buying? Does any other not free RAW converter appear worth the money?
    How to evaluate trial versions? i.e. what should I be looking for? What kind of test images should I keep at hand to see various RAW converters' strengths & weaknesses clearly?
    TY so much. I feel pretty clueless in this field.
     
  2. Lightroom is worth using if

    - you are shooting with multiple camera's each with its own raw format, and you want to learn only one raw processor
    interface.

    - you consistently uses metadata to identify and keyword so you can find your images at a later date.

    - you want your photo library organized and a catalog of what's in that library, catalogued.

    - you want a seamless way of going from capture to output as email attachment, web gallery , slide show, and/ or printing.

    Otherwise I can't think of a good reason for using it.
     
  3. There really is nothing in the marketplace quite like Lightroom. As Ellis said more eloquently, you can basically run your photographic life with it, from capture and RAW conversion to image editing, sharpening, and all the way to printing. I still use Photoshop to a significant degree for pixel level editing, layers and masks but there are an awful lot of very capable photographers who use Lightroom and nothing else. I can find almost any of the 50,000 or so images in my catalog in less than a second, review it, email it, or print it. Try doing that with any other program. Needless to say, I'm a fan and have no connection with Adobe.
     
  4. There really is nothing in the marketplace quite like Lightroom.​
    Sorry, but this is a totally uninformed statement. There are plenty alternatives, in reality. Yes, Lightroom is one of the best options, and offers a considerable depth, but it's not the only option nor the best at everything. It is certainly worth exploring the other options; personally, I have given Lightroom a try several times and I just cannot settle down on its User Interface - I simply do not like using it.
    There are free alternatives, the best known and most rounded probably being RawTherapee. It does raw conversions (only), no catalog or similar. Its output quaity is something you should really test for yourself, some like it, some do not. Problem of most free programs is that User Interfaces are a quite "acquired" taste.
    Other paid options are Corel AfterShot, DxO Optics Pro, Photo Ninja and CaptureOne. DxO and PhotoNinja are also "dedicated" to doing raw conversions, and both are known to have very high quality conversions (note: I've used these programs too little to have a solid opinion). AfterShot is the heir to Bibble Pro, in its day a very good option, but under Corel's wing it seems to fall behind a bit. CaptureOne exists in two versions: Express and Pro. Express is slightly cheaper than Lightroom, has a little less editing options, delivers very high quality conversions. Its catalog functions are at best functional, but not as seamless integrated as in Lightroom. The user interface is something you should try for yourself, some cannot get along with it, some can (I can - this is my program of choice). It does everything that Ellis listed above, in fact. The Pro version offers a similar level of functions as Lightroom (local edits, keystone correction etc.), but costs quite a bit more. Personally, it adds nothing I actually need, so I am fine with the cheaper version, but this again is something you'd need to evaluate for yourself. Another rather unknown but apparently quite well-rounded program worth looking into is Cyberlink PhotoDirector 5; from review it seems to have grown to be a quite competent Lightroom-clone.
    Evaluating a trial - personally I would try one at a time, and use the program; read the manual a bit to see how it works, and see if it fits your way of working. All of them can pull great quality out of your raw files, use your normal own images to see how much effort you need to get the results you prefer. Check effectiveness of things are shadow and highlight recovery, noise reduction.
    One of Lightroom's largest advantages, though, is a large community and user-base; there are a lot more books on it, more sites, more tutorials, more plug-ins and so on. It really is worth its money and worth considering. And nonetheless, I think it is worth having a look at other options as well. Preferences for user interfaces are a highly personal thing, and Lightroom's UI isn't for all of us.
     
  5. Another alternative is a free, open source RAW/photo editor called LightZone. It is the best I've seen of the free applications, although it is missing some of the things that you find in other apps that you pay for. It has an extensive list of cameras that it supports. I've tried it, and have it on my computer, but I still do my editing in Photoshop CS5. Yes. it's free, and worth the price.
     
  6. Thankyou all! - It seems I'll be giving Rawtherapee a go. So far I was happy it pulled nice thumbnails out of a folder of PEFs and hope it will handle the other files too.
    Thanks for pointing the evaluation process out Wouter, - I was somewhat stuck before.
    My reasons not to buy lightroom: I see the option to find it in a camera package someday and I don't know how to get along with the licensing hassle if my main drive breaks / I need to work elsewhere - or I become sane enough to rig up a backup PC from dektop leftovers although I'm aware of the chance to use trial versions to keep working for 4 weeks.
     
  7. The Lightroom license allows you to set up on two different computers. If your hard drive crashes and you next reinstall
    you deactivate the defunct copy.
     
  8. Jochen, honestly it sounds like you assume you will end up with Lightroom anyway, and only want to postpone when you will make the switch? I'd say: do not waste time on temporary solutions. All these programs take some time to learn, time to get used to their approach, particolarities and so on. Especially using a catalog requires some initial time investment to deal with your existing images. Don't make yourself waste that time twice.
    If you know you'll end up with Lightroom, invest your time in Lightroom. The licensing issues are identical for all paid for programs, and basically all deal with it as Ellis described.
     
  9. The Lightroom license allows you to set up on two different computers.​
    Most software these days allows for two computers, some allow three.
     
  10. Sorry, but this is a totally uninformed statement. There are plenty alternatives, in reality.​
    I have to agree even though I've picked LR for my workflow. In the end, one has to figure how and what they need, then test a few solutions and move forward with the one they feel most comfortable. At a time, I was working with Aperture when it first came out, then shortly after, LR (I was doing prerelease work). I migrated quickly away from Aperture because I prefer LR but have some backup converters too. Jochen, download a demo of maybe two at a time, play with them and decide what's the best fit for you.
     
  11. I think I resent a bit being accused of being "totally uniformed," with or without the "sorry." :)
    Seriously, I'll be the first to admit that Lightroom is not for everyone but, with all due respect, except for some relatively special circumstances, eg medium format backs and, for some, Fuji X-trans files, Lightroom will convert RAW files rather well. While I've not spent time testing many alternatives, I'd rather be making photographs than struggling learning new interfaces. Wouter admits Raw Therapee, despite its interesting spelling, has no catalog, duh? Capture One is probably the closest alternative, but I've looked at it and personally do not like it's interface either. I guess for me, LR is the default, another program would have to do everything at least as well, with some areas of superiority to make me switch. There are reasons there are so many books, courses, and experts who use LR.
     
  12. If you don't need the advantages of Lightroom's organizing tools and interface with some good non-Adobe editing tools, Photo Ninja is a good raw processor that works very well with Fuji X-A1 raw (RAF) files. I haven't personally tried Photo Ninja with X-Trans Fuji RAFs but other experienced photographers vouch for it. Excellent noise reduction tools as well, although I wish Photo Ninja retained more of the old Noise Ninja interface that I was accustomed to for finessing tricky high ISO files.
    Photo Ninja also includes some excellent tools for fine tuning lens corrections, including tricky waveform/mustache distortion. It's been an interesting challenge using it to correct the Fuji 16-50 kit zoom, a very sharp lens but with near-fishbowl level distortion at 16mm, with complex waveform distortion.
    However Photo Ninja isn't free or cheap - it costs about the same as Lightroom. On the plus side, the trial version is fully functional other than for output (printing or saves). And it can be used indefinitely, no 30 day or shorter restriction. To compare Photo Ninja results against Lightroom and other raw conversions I'll make screencaps of the finished version, which works tolerably well for large screens.
    Silkypix is powerful and very good, but the current version (6.something, I think) was really sluggish, even on my desktop. The Fuji version of Silkypix 3 included with the Fuji X-series cameras is good and reasonably quick, tho' not as quick as Lightroom.
    RawTherapee... meh. It's free and powerful, but also excessively complicated for routine use. Sure, it offers choices of several demosaicing algorithms, but most aren't worth using anyway. The sharpening and detail tools are very good but the noise reduction is inferior to almost everything else I've tried. Be very careful with the Contrast By Detail Level (CBDL) default - it tends to create excessively gritty artifacts with some raw files. I tried RawTherapee for a few months in 2012 after having tried Lightroom 3 and 4. By the end of 2012 I was fed up with RT and bought the then-current Lightroom 4. A few months ago I tried RawTherapee again after having tried Lightroom 5. Again, I found RawTherapee more annoying than anything else. Occasionally I'll use it for some of my trickier Nikon D2H NEFs, to help minimize banding at high ISOs (RT does include adjustable tools to minimize banding, a big plus for some older digicams), but that's about all.
    "Another rather unknown but apparently quite well-rounded program worth looking into is Cyberlink PhotoDirector 5; from review it seems to have grown to be a quite competent Lightroom-clone."​
    Thanks for that tip, Wouter. I'd never have thought to try anything by Cyberlink because they were a notorious spammer years ago. For a couple of years Cyberlink's spam-agents based in India and China flooded photo.net forums almost every day for a year or so. They still have a sketchy reputation for customer service. I would have dismissed them just on that basis alone, but they appear to have developed some good software. I'll give it a try on my main editing PC and see if it works as well as the hype promises.
     
  13. I've tried RawTherapee several times on my Mac, but always went back to Nikon Capture NX 2.4x.
    A couple of days ago Nikon abandoned the proven CNX and launched Capture NX-D (based on Silky Pix). It is unstable, lousy, hard to handle (very small text and boxes), doesn't offer the U-Point technology anymore, and it is slow.
    So just this morning I installed the latest RawTherapee. Small footprint on the HD, it is fast (comparable speed to CNX) and offers many options. OK, it took my 2 hours to set up some settings I prefer for my NEF files, but that's ok. It can even process TIFF files.
    The output TIFFs are as brilliant as the CNX TIFFs. RawTherapee will be the RAW developer for me, so I have some time to get used to it before CNX will quit its service with the new Mac OS X.
    I favor RT because I don't like the Adobe cloud business model.
    More and more open source software is installed on my Mac, and I am really fascinated by their performance. Scribus (instead of InDesign), XNView MP (instead of clunky Adobe Bridge), PhotoLine (instead of Photoshop) with 48bit color mode - ok, not open source, but for 60 Euros it's a bargain. Hugin for Panorama stitching, several utilities...
    Times are changing, and I don't see a reason to support arrogant and big companies who don't listen to users.
     
  14. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I favor RT because I don't like the Adobe cloud business model.​
    If you use Lightroom (which is what you would do if you wanted primarily Raw conversion,) Lightroom can be purchased without the cloud model.
     
  15. Lightroom can be purchased without the cloud model.​

    Yes, currently, but for how long? Sooner or later it will go the same path as PS and the Rest of Adobes software.
     
  16. Yes, currently, but for how long?​
    Well it appears as long as Tom Hogarty works for Adobe as the LR product manager:
    http://blogs.adobe.com/lightroomjournal/author/thogarty
    Q. Will Lightroom become a subscription only offering after Lightroom 5?
    A. Future versions of Lightroom will be made available via traditional perpetual licenses indefinitely.
     

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