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Auditioning a new RAW editor

Discussion in 'Post-Production' started by TonyTurley, May 8, 2015.

  1. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    I would hazard a guess that most of you use Lightroom for RAW editing. I know a few, like myself, use(d) RawTherapee, and I've seen references to several other editors like ACR, UFRaw, and others. Among them was Darktable. I actually had an earlier version installed on my Linux box, but didn't want to make a huge effort to learn a new program at the time. However, I've never been overwhelmed at what I was getting from RT, feeling like the exported images needed more PP than necessary to look good. I've read LR will work fine under Linux using WINE (not Wine :D), but I really didn't want to get into fidgeting with code libraries or scripts to get it to work.

    I have therefore reinstalled DT, the latest version this time, in an effort to find the best RAW editor for my platform. The first few images I've exported have been encouraging. I used just the base curves, the slightest touch of sharpening, and a slight boost in exposure to produce the following images, taken with the A7 & KAR 28/3.5. The scenes look like what I remember from last weekend's road trip with my wife. I do know that comparing them with a RT export, they are not as drab - or as Ad put it, sombre. So far, so good. Time will tell.

    TT
    DSC05711-1.
    DSC05712-1.
    DSC05714-1.
     
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  2. Kirkp

    Kirkp TalkEmount Regular

    151
    Nov 2, 2014
    Those look great. So far I've managed to get by developing with Sony's Image Data Converter and then editing the TIF a bit using xnview or occasionally gimp. These tools very limiting, but can do the basics. I intend to learn Lightroom when I can set aside some time for it. This is the result if my IDC/xnview approach on a scene similar to yours.
    16855130167_ccf6cd46a7_b. Newcastle Golf Club by Telllekstr, on Flickr
     
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  3. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Veteran

    484
    Nov 21, 2014
    The problem with Lightroom is this. As a simple 'raw editor' it isnt particularly good. In fact, I have tested several of the other commercial applications - DXO, Capture One and Photo Ninja - and they are all better raw editors imho in terms of getting results straight at of the box. The thing about Lightroom is this in terms of doing things other than being a raw editor it is easily the best. I mean - DAM, plugin selection, plugin compatibility, PS integration, publishing and export. So I would recommend that if you do use an alternative raw converter you choose one that you can round trip in and out of via Lightroom. But that is just me and your requirements might differ.
     
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  4. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    Can you say more about in what way Lightroom's raw editor is inferior to the other editors you mentioned? I tried Capture One repeatedly but so far I haven't found a way to make lens profiles for my legacy glass to use with Capture One and that's holding me back, though I think my raws easily look better in Capture One than in Lightroom.
     
  5. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    Will
    Checked out Darktable, looks good...but no Windoze version. Mac and Linux users though are in luck. I did have Linux Mint installed on a partition. Perhaps I need to try it. I think Lightroom is widespread due to the need of Windoze users. I remember when Adobe acquired Lightroom, they gave it away for free. At the time, I didn't think much of it. But many adopters switched to it and Adobe built their customer base.

    I tried UFRaw, but it doesn't support the latest ARW files.
    The way around such issues would be to convert ARW to DNG first. So cumbersome!
    So, I've also been making do with Sony IDC. (BTW, Kirk, very good results!)
     
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  6. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Veteran

    484
    Nov 21, 2014
    Ok. But first I would like to emphasize that I said that the other raw editors were better at getting results 'straight out of the box'. By that I mean I do think you can get very good results from LR/ACR but you need to apply quite a lot of work to the image. At 'default' settings LR doesnt look very good while other editors assess the image and make intelligent adjustments on import. But these matters are fairly subjective.

    The only other raw editor I am using at the moment is photo ninja - so I will use that as an example. One thing I particularly like about this raw editor that LR does not do is its treatment of highlights. If you have a totally blown highlight in LR (RGB=100, 100, 100) reducing the highlight will simply result in a mild form of grey (ie 93, 93, 93). With PN it 'interpolates a color from the surrounding pixels. Interpolate is a fancy word for guess but if you dont like it you can switch it off.

    But lets get to my main point.

    I took a random shot and compared LR at default with PN (at default on the right)

    Clipboard Image (37).
    To me I can already see that PN is closer to where I want to end up. PN is particularly good at landscapes. If we close into 100%.
    Clipboard Image (39).
    ...again we can see quite a difference. 90% of the time I prefer the PN version.

    As an aside, you might give PN a go. In terms of lens profiles, it has a very simple build your own lens profile section BUT it doesnt have builtin lens profiles like LR (which is the biggest downside of it as a raw editor for me). I do happen to have a lens profile for the FE 24-70 if anyone wants it.
     
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  7. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    Rob, thanks a lot for elaborating. The PN rendition looks richer to me indeed, I think I'll give it a try if only to satisfy my curiosity. BTW, I looked at your website, simply awesome work IMHO.
     
  8. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    Very good results, Kirk.

    TT
     
  9. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    339
    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill
    Nice images, Tony.

    I think my understanding of RAW conversion is different to what's been mentioned here. My experience is that,
    • When an image is de-mosaiced from the manufacturer's RAW format, it's really flat. No sharpening very little contrast. (It looks like hell.)
    • When you open a demosaiced file in your post-processing software, the program usually applies some defaults.
    • The quality of the job in demosaicing that image is completely separate from what it might look like with the defaults.
    • You can only tell about the quality of the demosaicing (the quality of the RAW conversion) by exploring the information that's been captured from that earlier process.
    • There is no way to judge how much information has been captured by looking the defaults in the program.
     
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  10. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Veteran

    484
    Nov 21, 2014
    I definitely understand the point you are making and agree to a certain extent. However, I think it perhaps wrong to equate quality of demosaicing = quality of raw conversion and perhaps by extension = quality of raw converter. Realistically virtually everyone uses a raw converter nowadays for far more than demosaicing - this would include shadow and highlight recovery, sharpening, noise reduction, DAM, publishing, export. So for instance, the lens softness correction in DXO Optics is incredibly sophisticated (and very impressive if you are corner sharpness sort of guy) and clearly has nothing to do with demosaicing.

    And I do think it is a valid criticism of LR/ACR to say their images do not look great at their defaults. Here is someone showing Capture One v LR...



    Of course, others would say that they never use Lightroom at defaults and I would say - well, you wouldnt, would you? But I think a better starting image is a good start to a better image at the end.
     
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  11. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    339
    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill
    If that's all you're worried about, then just drop in a little sharpening, clarity and vibrance as automatic adjustments in "quick develop" at import. Done.

    That still won't have anything to do with the quality of the RAW conversion.

    There's nothing wrong with using quick develop. I use it to automatically set the lens profiles. And, if I had a set of consistent images and expected more than a few "keepers," I would use it ad hoc to save a little time.

    Jeff Schewe (author of The Digital Print and the The Digital Negative) had this to say about how RAW files look.

    If you're shooting a RAW image, by default you gotta start somewhere. And Camera RAW and Lightroom's default have often been accused of not looking like the the LCD. Well yeah. Thomas Knoll, our good friend, who was the founding engineer on Camera Raw and does the Camera Raw pipeline [and with his brother, John, was co-inventor of Photoshop], is of the mind that what he's trying to do is provide a normalised version of the file. It will not look good; it's not intended to necessarily look good. It's intended to show you what's in the file.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2015
  12. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    David
    For a few weeks I had been applying a very basic import preset (that someone here posted about, can't remember who) to all of my raw files. And initially I was pleased with the results. After all, the files did look better initially. But soon I found myself undoing parts of that very basic preset on almost all of my images because it didn't do what I felt was needed on that particular image. So I deleted the preset. I'd rather start with a rather washed out, low contrast, unsaturated file that allows me to develop to taste rather than have some software algorithm decide for me, even if the algorithm gets it right every now and then.
     
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  13. pbizarro

    pbizarro TalkEmount Veteran

    349
    Nov 24, 2014
    Portugal
    Indeed, LR defaults are tailored to deliver a subdued file. The beauty of LR is that it is so easy to change these defaults to suit one's taste, or a particular batch of images, save as a preset, and apply upon import. The above mentioned book by Jeff is mandatory reading for someone wanting to (fully) explore LR.
     
  14. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Veteran

    484
    Nov 21, 2014
    This is a fair point. But I wouldnt recommend Anyone applying a 'preset' to an imported image because that 'preset' will not be applicable to every image (unless it is something like applying the 'lens correction in LR'). However, these raw converters are far more sophisticated than that - they analyse the photo and determine an 'appropriate' default adjustment to make. Consider 'white and black point' you cant make a single 'preset' adjustment but I think you can make an 'intelligent' adjustment based on a photo that is far better than no adjustment at all. DXO applies sharpening for lens softness based on an analysis of the lens combined with the sensor that is used.

    Without getting into any conspiracy theories my personal opinion is that LR is marketed towards people using PS. I, for instance, do all my sharpening in PS because I generally like to do 'selective sharpening'. So I dont think it is a case of Adobe not being capable of developing intelligent algorithms.
     
  15. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    339
    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill
    I think that's right, that Lightroom is directed to Photoshop users. Camera Raw (that works within Photoshop) is Lightroom's twin.

    As for sharpening, Lightroom's masking for sharpening is brilliant, and you can use the adjustment brush to add or subtract sharpening if necessary. I wasn't aware that other programs automatically pin the white and black points following conversion. Personally, I want to do that myself.