The importance of choosing the right raw converter

Forest of the Tasso

A while ago I tested pretty much all the raw converters available at the time with a Canon 5D Mark II: http://www.addicted2light.com/2012/05/28/review-raw-converters-mega-test-part-i/

But I advised in the review that the results were camera-dependant, meaning that each software gives the best possible results with a specific sensor / camera combination.

This does not mean that the results with other cameras are unusable, by any means; they will be simply average.

To “visually” understand what I’m saying just take a look at the following pictures.

 

Photoshop CS6RawPhotoProcessor

It’s exactly the same file, with zero post-processing other than the a straight raw conversion, without any optimization or aesthetics considerations to have the output look pretty much the same between the two softwares –  meaning that it sucks big time. 🙂 It has been shot with a Sony Nex 7, then developed once with Photoshop CS6 and the last iteration of its Camera Raw and once with RawPhotoProcessor (RPP for its friends and family!).

Obviously in both cases the sharpening has been set to zero, even if this is hard to accept given the vast difference visible – and yes I double checked!

Photoshop CS6RawPhotoProcessor

RPP “corrected” also the magenta shift you can see in the borders of the image and the chromatic aberration present in high contrast transitions.

 

Photoshop CS6RawPhotoProcessor

I’ve wrote “corrected” in quotes because there is no specific command in RPP for doing so, it’s a matter of demosaicing algorithm used. Especially the CA can actually be often a product of the algorithm used and not of the lens.

Keep in mind that I’m showing here one result only, but I tried different files, shot ad different ISO values, and different raw converters. And the ones that worked best with the Canon 5D Mark II files performed rather poorly with the Sony Nex 7 ones.

So it definitely pays testing your own equipment. It takes a few hours, but then you will be sure to extract each ounce of quality from your gear.

Happy Holidays!

Review: Raw Converters Mega Test part V

Oriolo Calabro, castle and town

If you haven’t read the first four parts please take a look at them, because there you may see the images unsharpened and sharpened with various tools, 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

Raw Converters Mega Test part IV

 

Now that we have seen, in the previous parts, who the winners are it’s time to draw some conclusions.

 

– Adobe Photoshop CS5 / Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Pretty good raw conversion quality with industry leading performance for all the other aspects. Both programs are easily usable in a workflow that includes other softwares as raw converters when it’s mandatory to obtain the maximum quality.

Rating: ★★★★★

www.adobe.com 

 

– Apple Preview

It’s a Mac software, so what can you aspect? It’s easy to use and does the job, and an excellent one. A bit limited for “creative” interpretation of the pictures, but really great as a plain raw converter.

Rating: ★★★★★

www.apple.com 

 

– CaptureOne Pro 6.3.5

Many professionals used to use this program. I, quite frankly, nowadays I don’t see the need. The results are pretty good, but not better than Lightroom, and it costs a lot more doing a lot less. More, the interface is confusing, and it litters the file system with useless proprietary configuration files for each and every image. Too little for too much.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

www.phaseone.com

 

– Corel AfterShot Pro 1.0.1

The interface is well studied, but it’s not the 2003 anymore. There are better softwares out there, also free.

Rating: ★★★★☆

www.corel.com

 

Digital Photo Professional 3.11.4

One may think that Canon should know a trick or two about its own cameras, but if so it is not shown in this software. Good results, but nothing to write home about, and limited conversion options. It may came in handy if you save a dust removal image on the camera, to apply it to the raw files (that you can save again as raw and than open with a better app). At least it’s free.

Rating: ★★★½☆

 

– DXO Optics Pro 7

If your camera / lens combination is supported maybe it’s worth a shot. But try it first because, for example, with the (supported) Fuji X100 both Rawker and Preview do a better job…

Rating: ★★★½☆

www.dxo.com 

 

– Gimp / Ufraw 2.6.12

If you are on Linux go for it, but the 8bit limit it is not a good thing. When it will sports a full 16bit support the rating will become a full 4.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

www.gimp.org

 

–  perfectRaw 0.6

Forget about it; it was a noble attempt, but the years do not pass in vain.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

www.ojodigital.com

 

–  RawDeveloper 1.9.4

Pretty good results, but it lacks an histogram and it costs too much for what it has to offer.

Rating: ★★★★☆

www.iridientdigital.com

 

– Rawker 2.3.4

The interface could use a radical redesign, but quality wise it’s one of the winners, and it’s fast and it’s free!

Rating: ★★★★½

raifra.fh-friedberg.de

 

– RawTherapee 4.0.8

Another one of the winners, in various categories, and overall one of the best. Probably the one with the best interface, with the exclusion of Lightroom.

Rating: ★★★★★

rawtherapee.com

 

– RawPhotoProcessor 4.5 64bit

Great results, but Rawker and Apple Preview do almost always better quality wise and RawTherapee beats it in the usability department. Overall still a good choice for low Iso images.

Rating: ★★★★☆

www.raw-photo-processor.com

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