Review: Raw Converters Mega Test part IV

Oriolo Calabro, castle and town

If you haven’t read the first two parts please take a look at them, because there you may see the images unsharpened and sharpened with the native tools of each raw converter, and you’ll learn about the specifics of this comparison.

Raw Converters Mega Test part I

Raw Converters Mega Test part II

Raw Converters Mega Test part III

Here I used the images from the second part, the ones sharpened with the tools of each raw converter, and I furtherly sharpened them to taste in Photoshop CS5.

Please keep in mind that some of the images may look a bit oversharpened here at 100% on screen, but than they will look good once printed.

To my eyes: it’s a tie, the crown goes both to RawTherepee and Apple Preview / Rawker. 

RawTherapee “paints” the scene with a fine spaced, natural looking brush that looks pretty good at 100%, but once printed it looks less sharp that Apple Preview. More, to obtain this result in RawTherapee, like I wrote in part II, takes a lot of processing time, almost 1 full minute per picture, while Apple Preview takes only a couple of seconds for the conversion. Rawker, if set at -2 points of sharpening from the maximum value (not shown here), it’s every bit as good as Apple Preview (not a suprise, given that they share the same raw conversion engine).

On the plus side RawTherapee has excellent tools to correct chromatic aberration that Apple Preview (and almost all the others, at least good like this) lacks.

Once again a good performance from Corel AfterShot Pro, but once again penalized by the insurgence of non-existent chromatic aberration.

If you want to evaluate for yourself the images you may click below to download one of the PSDs. You have to open them in Photoshop or in Gimp, in this last case using the option File -> “Open as layers”.

The “landscape” PSD contains all the crops of the four parts of the review stacked as layers.

The “portrait” PSD contains instead crops from the three best converters (RawTherapee, Apple Preview and Rawker) when used with, guess what, a portrait image.

Landscape PSD 21.4Mb (right click and “Save as…” to download)

Portrait PSD 3.4Mb (right click and “Save as…” to download)

 

100% crops, sharpening for the best result 

CaptureOne Pro
CaptureOne Pro
Corel AfterShot Pro
Corel AfterShot Pro
Digital Photo Professional
Digital Photo Professional
DxO Optics Pro
DxO Optics Pro
Gimp
Gimp
Adobe Lightroom 3
Adobe Lightroom 3
PhotoShop CS5
PhotoShop CS5
Apple Preview
Apple Preview
RawDeveloper
RawDeveloper
Rawker
Rawker
Raw Photo Processor
Raw Photo Processor
RawTherapee
RawTherapee

Review: Raw Converters Mega Test part III

Oriolo Calabro, castle and town

If you haven’t read the first two parts please take a look at them, because there you may see the images unsharpened and sharpened with the native tools of each raw converter, and you’ll learn about the specifics of this comparison.

Raw Converters Mega Test part I

Raw Converters Mega Test part II

Here I used the images from the first part, the unsharpened ones, but I worked them with a 4 rounds sharpening routine in Photoshop CS5.

The routine, the same for all the pictures, consists in:

1) SmartSharpen amount 10, radius 10, “remove lens blur”, “more accurate” checked

2) SmartSharpen amount 40, radius 1, “remove lens blur”, “more accurate” checked

3) Unsharp Mask amount 20, radius 0,5, threshold 0

4) Unsharp Mask amount 39, radius 1, threshold 11

This routine sharpens both the macro and the micro detail; obviously the values above would need to be tailored to each image (but are a good starting point); I kept them constant to allow the comparison between the crops.

Please, keep in mind that some of the images may look a bit oversharpened here at 100% on screen, but than they will look good once printed.

To my eyes: Apple Preview and Rawker win hands down, closely followed by RawDeveloper.

100% crops, 4 rounds sharpening

CaptureOne Pro
CaptureOne Pro
Corel AfterShot Pro
Corel AfterShot Pro
Digital Photo Professional
Digital Photo Professional
DxO Optics Pro
DxO Optics Pro
Gimp
Gimp
perfectRAW
perfectRAW
Adobe PhotoShop CS5
Adobe PhotoShop CS5
Apple Preview
Apple Preview
RawDeveloper
RawDeveloper
Rawker
Rawker
Raw Photo Processor
Raw Photo Processor
RawTherapee
RawTherapee

Review: Raw Converters Mega Test part II

Oriolo Calabro, castle and town

If you haven’t read the first part please take a look at it, because there you may see the images unsharpened and learn about the specifics of this comparison.

Raw Converters Mega Test part I

In this second part we shall see how the converters behave in the sharpening department. We will try to sharpen the images to the best results that each raw converter allows with its own tools.

A few notes:

– not all the raw converters tested in the first part have sharpening tools, so they will be excluded from this second part of the comparison

– RawTherapee has an excellent automatic chromatic aberration feature; it is not tested here, but thanks to that RawTherapee is the only program that for example makes usable, in my experience, the pictures shot with the Canon 24mm f/1.4 at full aperture (loads of spherochromatism…)

Please keep in mind that some of the images may look a bit oversharpened here at 100% on screen, but that they will look good once printed.

To my eyes: RawTherapee, thanks to the deconvolution sharpening, wins clearly WITH THIS IMAGE, followed by the wonder couple Apple Preview / Rawker. I said with this image because with others the placing it’s reversed. Look for example at the two crops at the end of the post, extracted from a portrait: here only Preview and Rawker have been able to “paint” the texture of the fabric of this hairpin, while keeping noise at the minimum and the hairpin borders sharp.

But keep in mind that to obtain this result in RawTherapee, with a deconvolution filter set to 100 passes, my iMac core i5 takes almost 1 full minute for each picture, while converting the same photo in Apple Preview or Rawker with a slightly less satisfactory result takes just a couple of seconds.

Also Corel AfterShot is pretty sharp, but loses some points because it generates a bit of chromatic aberration, not present with other converters.

100% crops, sharpening set for the best possible result in each raw converter

 

CaptureOne Pro sharpening 700-04-1
CaptureOne Pro sharpening 700-04-1
Corel AfterShot Pro sharpening 210
Corel AfterShot Pro sharpening 210
DigitalPhotoProfessional sharpening 7
DigitalPhotoProfessional sharpening 7
DxO Optics Pro sharpening 500-0.30-5-0
DxO Optics Pro sharpening 500-0.30-5-0
Gimp sharpening wavelet 0.8-0
Gimp sharpening wavelet 0.8-0
Lightroom 3
Lightroom 3 sharpening 40-1-39-12
PhotoShop CS5 sharpening 25-1-25-0
PhotoShop CS5 sharpening 25-1-25-0
Apple Preview max sharpening
Apple Preview max sharpening
RawDeveloper sharpening 10-10
RawDeveloper sharpening 10-10
Rawker max sharpening
Rawker max sharpening
RawPhotoProcessor sharpening 15 lc10
RawPhotoProcessor sharpening 15 lc 10
RawTherapee deconv 075-100-20-100 microc 20-50 detaillevel
RawTherapee deconv 075-100-20-100 microc 20-50 detaillevel

 

Digital Photo Professional sharpening 7
Digital Photo Professional sharpening 7
Rawker max sharpening
Rawker max sharpening
RawTherapee deconv 075-100-20-100 microc 20-50 detaillevel
RawTherapee deconv 075-100-20-100 microc 20-50 detaillevel

 

Review: Raw Converters Mega Test part I

Oriolo Calabro, castle and town

In the “old” darkroom days we were used to choose various combinations of film and developer to obtain different results. Some combos exalted the acutance, others put an accent on tonal gradation and so on.

What now? Still different raw converters give different results? Or are they limited by the technology used in the camera sensor?

To answer that question I tried practically all the raw converters that I know of with all my cameras: Canon 5D Mark II, Fuji X100 and Sony Nex-3.

On the top you may see the (processed) picture used for this comparison. I was in Oriolo, a nice little town on the Ionic side of the Calabria (Italy), a few kilometers on the inside; but the light was awful, so the idea of making some shot of the castle and the town just for the sake of this comparison popped in my mind.

For Lightroom 3 I will show only the image sharpened in the raw converter, because otherwise the raw conversion engine is the same of Photoshop CS5. Similarly, I did non put Aperture or iPhoto in the competition because both Preview and Rawker use the same engine. I did try dcraw but, even if it is pretty sharp, the colors are so off without profiling the camera first that I decided to exclude it from the competition; more, from what I understand, Gimp / Ufraw use it anyway as conversion engine (and Rawker has the option to use it too).

The image above has been taken with the Canon Eos 5D Mark II at 50 Iso, mounted on a heavy tripod, and a Biogon 80mm f/2.8 @ f/8 focusing first with the Live View and a 3x magnifier loupe.

This is the list of the raw converters tested:

– Adobe Photoshop CS5 / Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 (Mac and Windows)

www.adobe.com 

– Apple Preview (free, ships with every Mac) (Mac only), Lion version

www.apple.com 

– CaptureOne Pro 6.3.5 (Mac and Windows)

www.phaseone.com

– Corel AfterShot Pro 1.0.1 (based on the old Bible software) (Mac, Windows and Linux)

www.corel.com

– Digital Photo Professional 3.11.4 (from now on DPP) (free, in boundle with each Canon DSLR) (Mac and Windows)

– DXO Optics Pro (Mac and Windows)

www.dxo.com 

– Gimp / Ufraw 2.6.12 (free) (can manage only 8bit per channel) (Mac, Windows and Linux)

www.gimp.org

–  perfectRaw 0.6 (free) (Windows only)

www.ojodigital.com

–  RawDeveloper 1.9.4 (Mac only)

www.iridientdigital.com

– Rawker 2.3.4 (free) (Mac only)

raifra.fh-friedberg.de

– RawTherapee 4.0.8 (free) (Mac, Windows and Linux)

rawtherapee.com

– RawPhotoProcessor 4.5 64bit (free, donationware to unlock some advanced features) (from now on RPP) (Mac only)

www.raw-photo-processor.com

The placing has been quite consistent despite the camera used, so I will show here only the 100% crops for the Canon 5D Mark II results. The only exception occurred with the Sony Nex-3 when shot at very high Iso (3200 and on), whose files are best developed with Photoshop CS5, closely followed by Rawker, to keep the noise at the minimum. I should also note that with the Fuji X100 files the converters that gave the results more resemblant to the excellent in-camera jpegs (speaking from a contrast / color point of view) were the Apple Quartz Core Image based, namely Preview, Rawker and Aperture.

I will split this post in four parts, bacause there are a lot of images to display. At the end of the last post you will find two PSD files, one with all the crops of the landscape, one with the three best crops for the portrait. The best way to decide for yourself wich converter do you prefer is to download the PSDs and flip through the stacked layers.

In this post I will show you the results of each raw converter with the sharpening set at zero.

In the next the results with the sharpest image obtained with the tools of each raw converter.

In the third post the images at sharpening zero processed in Photoshop with a 4 rounds sharpening routine (details in the post).

Finally in the last post each image sharpened to obtain the sharpest look.

And now the first batch of crops. Good pixel peeping to everyone!

To my eyes: this round goes without doubts to Apple Preview and Rawker, with RPP as a close second.

A quick note: with some files, not with this one, Photoshop showed quite a bit of chromatic aberration around high contrast edges that it was not present with all the other converters.

100% crops, sharpening set at 0 in each raw converter

CaptureOne Pro no sharpening
CaptureOne Pro
Corel AfterShot Pro
Corel AfterShot Pro
Digital Photo Professional
Digital Photo Professional
DxO Optics Pro
DxO Optics Pro
Gimp AHD interpolation
Gimp AHD interpolation
perfectRAW AFD interpolation
perfectRAW AFD interpolation
Adobe PhotoShop CS5
Adobe PhotoShop CS5
Apple Preview
Apple Preview
RawDeveloper
RawDeveloper
Rawker
Rawker
RawTherapee Amaze interpolation
RawTherapee Amaze interpolation
RawPhotoProcessor VCDMF interpolation
RawPhotoProcessor VCDMF interpolation

Review: Fuji Finepix X100

Fujifilm Finepix X100

For the guys in hurry I’ll give you a sum up of this review: “holy crap!”.

Ok, maybe some extra details are needed 🙂

Like many others I also was in search of the Holy Grail, something that I may carry everywhere and on journeys and that can still gives me great quality; like a film rangefinder camera, you know! For this job I used both the Leica M6 and the Contax G1. They are amazing, but film price go higher every day, and developing and scanning prices follow. More the good labs, unless you live in a big city, are becoming rare. So this “everywhere” camera now has to be digital. And here was the problem. Till now.

A disclaimer, so that you will can judge if your needs are the same of mine, and so if this review can be useful to you.

I enjoyed a lot both the Leica M6 and the Contax G1, but each one of them had flaws:

– the Contax had no focus confirmation in the finder, and speaking of the finder it was, quite frankly, a crappy one; more the camera was noisy as hell and it has no digital offspring whatsoever;

– the Leica was amazing with even more amazing optics and a spectacular finder; but I found the camera pretty slow to focus to follow action, so I ended up using it almost only in hyperfocal (with excellent results, to be told); more, the Leica digital offspring costs between 2.000 and 7.000 (yes, seven-thousand) euro WITHOUT lens, based on the model you choose (M8 or the full format / empty wallet M9).

And now for the quality level I was aiming at. I normally use a Canon 5D Mark II, often stitching multiple frames, and I’m quite spoiled by its quality; and from an usability point of view the best cameras that I ever owned were a Nikon F4s, a Leica M6 and a Fuji GS645, all three of them almost an “extension” of my own eyes.

So? Here the Fuji X100 came to the rescue.

When I searched online the reviews and the forums for informations about the X100 what I read almost turned me off (you can learn about the technical stuff on Dpreview or Imaging Resource, among others sites). They say, in no particular order, that the Fuji X100:

– it’s clumsy

– AF is slow as molasses

– with the last firmware can’t focus properly

– the lens is prone to flare and not so good at full aperture

– it eats kids  😉

Guess what? I’m really stubborn so I decided to buy one! And I discovered pretty soon that it’s an amazing camera. Yes, the AF is a bit slow, but only in macro (we’re talking under 30cm) with poor light. Unless you spend your time taking pictures of your food I don’t envision this as the primary work of a reportage / travel camera. At normal distances is snappy and precise, even in pitch dark. The lens, especially if you shoot in raw turning on the lens correction in Photoshop, Lightroom or the freeware RawTherapee, is exceptional even at f/2, perfect at f/4 and has an amazing bokeh. I still have to see any flare at all, even shooting in full back lighting and without the hood. Yes, it’s not a Leica. But it’s pretty darn close, and costs like an used Summicron, but comes with a camera attached!

 

100% crop from the center at f/2, with only a touch of capture sharpening:

Fuji X100 center af f/2

 

More, the sensor is really great, way better than the Sony Nex3 (my previous attempt for a travel camera, that now I use only when I absolutely need to go wide / longer with a couple of adapted lenses). What makes so special the files of the X100, and for what I’ve seen is some sort of Fuji fingerprint, is the gentle roll-off of the highlights (that is also adjustable, like the one of the shadows) that renders the pictures like they were shooted on film. Ice on the cake, the shutter noise, once you disable the fake sounds (!) that are enabled by default, it is almost non existent. An awful lot quieter that a Leica M and still quieter than an Olympus XA. Seriously, I can barely hear the noise in a quiet room with the Fuji glued on my face, even shooting a burst of 3 or 5 pictures for second. And the shutter lag, if the camera is prefocused, is almost non existent too.

Last, but not least, the famous finder. It’s justified all the fuss about the hybrid finder?  Yes! The optical one it’s simply stunning, I mean Leica M stunning, and that’s an awful lot. The EVF is pretty good too; nothing to write home about, but I noted that, unlike with the Sony Nex-3 LCD in low light, I’m able to actually use the Fuji EVF to judge focus accuracy.

For my point of view the X100 has only a couple of serious flaws, and with serious I don’t mean deal breakers, just mildly annoying:

1) the notoriously poor designed “OK” button; yes, it is a real pain in the **s, but once you are in the menu you can use an half pressure on the shutter button for the same things; and thanks to the lot of external traditional controls of the Fuji you rarely have to go in the menu at all (pretty much only to enable the self timer, that for an inscrutable reason is not on the “drive” menu).

2) the “focus by wire” ring. With the last firmware update (1.20) it has became usable, but I hate the guts of this thing. Plese Fuji, listen to me: you made the X100 so good that I will buy a X200 only, ONLY, if you put on the lens a proper focus helicoid, so we can “feel” the position of the focus ring and graduate the focusing speed. Oh, I almost forgot: on the next version I want also a Summicron!  😀

Summing up: the Fuji X100 is the first camera that I really like in a long long time. It doesn’t come in your way. After you choose the settings that suits your stile in the menu the camera become transparent, and you can use it simply “by touch” for years to come.

Rating: ★★★★★

Post scriptum for the courious ones: the green thingy on the shutter button it is an home made soft release.