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) 

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

– CaptureOne Pro 6.3.5 (Mac and Windows)

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

– 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) 

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

–  perfectRaw 0.6 (free) (Windows only)

–  RawDeveloper 1.9.4 (Mac only)

– Rawker 2.3.4 (free) (Mac only)

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

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

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
RawTherapee Amaze interpolation
RawTherapee Amaze interpolation
RawPhotoProcessor VCDMF interpolation
RawPhotoProcessor VCDMF interpolation

Free Adobe Lightroom preset

A little present for all my readers!

This is an Adobe Lightroom preset that I’ve developed mostly for people pictures, but that suits well even to some kind of landscape photographies:


Happy people (right click and “Save as…” to download)


To import it into Lightroom just right click (on Mac: option + click) on one of the developing preset in the left panel and choose “import”, then navigate to the path in which you have stored the file.

If you’d like to have an idea of what it does you may look at the pictures below: on the left the original one, on the right after the Happy people preset.

That’s all!

And happy holidays to everyone.

Review: Pocket Light Meter for iPhone

Pocket Light Meter logo

The software house Nuwaste studios produce an app very interesting for everyone still devoted to film photography that own an IOS capable device, say an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

It’s called Pocket Light Meter and it does exactly what it sounds.

It’s a very functional light meter that you can carry in your pocket all day “embedded” in the thing that most likely you will carry anyway with you: your phone!

Just to be clear: it is not a toy.

Indeed it is precise once calibrated (but this is a process that you have to do for every light meter, even those in your cameras).

Pocket Light Meter

It gives you the possibility to take spot readings moving around the red square, to lock one or two values (for example iso and speeds), and to take a picture to store the reading in its metadata (included the GPS datas!).

In alternative you can log your readings to your Dropbox account, if you do have one (and if not, WHY???).

You can set the readings in full stops, halves or thirds; and it support even the cine shutter speeds.

Enabling the display of additional info you can read the values in EV, Lux and FootCandles.

Can you ask for more?

Yes, because by the way…it’s FREE.

And if you find distracting the ads that pop in the base of the screen you can alway buy an ad-free version for only 0,79 €.

Rating: ★★★★½

Review: Apple Mac Os X Lion (7.1)

Mac Os X Lion

I’ve just upgraded my iMac core i3 from Snow Leopard to Lion, so I want to share my first thoughts with you.

With Snow Leopard the iMac has had troubles from day one.

Strange freezings, kernel crashes, sudden loud siren-like noises from the speakers.

Once I made the upgrade to Lion ALL the problems are gone, and now the iMac performs like every other Mac I ever had: silky smooth.

So I strongly commend the upgrade, especially now that Lion is at the 7.1 version.

By the way, from the AppStore they make you download the 7.0 version (and with this version Mail on my Mac refused to work, crippling the installer and the software update too; once installed the 7.1, like I said, all problems were solved), so be sure to immediately run the software update once the install is done.

Kudos to Apple for the installation process; mine went pretty smooth, even if I have a not-so-standard configuration (I have my home folder on another disk).

Mac Os X Lion and iMac

There are over 250 new features, to know them all just go on the Apple web site.

But the more intriguing are the possibility to run all the apps at full-screen giving at every one a single desktop to operate, the auto-save and versions functions and the multi-touch gestures (for who own a laptop).

And sure, Mission Control is useful (but so was Exposé), and LauchPad could be useful too, especially on a laptop.

But I think that the main reason to upgrade is to have a faster, more stable operating system.

There are only two quirks that bugs me in Lion: the icons in the sidebar are now gray, much more difficult to discern one from the other; and changing space via the combination ctrl+arrow is now painfully slow because of an eye-catching animation (but in this case it’s just a matter of time before someone discover the right terminal command to get rid of it).

Unless you have an old PPC (they are not supported anymore) for less than 24€ (23,99€ to be exact) I think that it is almost a shame to not upgrade, especially considering that Snow Leopard was not one of the best achievement of the Apple…and many people like myself was looking forward for its replacement.

So buy it!

Rating: ★★★★★