Raw processors compared

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Amin Sabet, Aug 30, 2015.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
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  2. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Real Name:
    Interesting read. :)
  3. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Real Name:
    Interesting read!

    I anticipated DXO and Capture One to score well/best, but definitely did not expect Lightroom to score so low (and "beaten" by PhotoNinja and the until now unknown to me Irident Developer & Raw Photo Processor) and get such a bad review in the conclusions...

    Would love to give the winners a try :)
  4. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
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  5. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Veteran

    Nov 21, 2014
    Its a long read! I admit I skimmed through bits. But it seems the author has done a very thorough job.

    I actually agree with his findings.

    I use Lightroom as my default raw processor because of its excellent DAM, strong integration with Photoshop and the extras such as plugins and publishing tools. At the same time I recognise that its actual demosaicing is not that strong (unless you happen to like to start with a very flat look.)

    I also use Photo Ninja for exactly the same reason he scores it highly - namely the image it creates at defaults. I also like the way it round trips well back into Lightroom. And the unique way it handles completely blown highlights (something not covered in the review.) The absence of lens profiles, though, is a real pain especially as mirrorless lenses typically need a lens profile. I do, however, have lens profiles for the 24-70 f4 (boy does it need it) and the 16-35 f4. Supposedly a version 2 will be out in a couple of months and it will be interesting to see what that brings.

    I have owned DXO in the past and trialed Capture One. Seems Capture One regularly scores highest as the best alternative to Lightroom especially for Sony users.
  6. dbmiller

    dbmiller TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Mar 2, 2012
    New England
    Nice timing. I have been debating upgrading my LR. I'm still using an older version that doesn't support the A6000, only the 5n. I also happened to notice Capture One for Sony a little over a week ago and have been playing with it. The free Sony version isn't quite enough - Some of the Pro features I think I could use. Things like sessions; clone/heal layers; and the customizable interface would make it even easier to use.

    The newest LR would add panoramas and HDR. And my current LR already has a red-eye tool, which C1 doesn't have.

    But I do find I like what I've seen coming out of Capture One. I actually don't find the default sharpening over-aggressive, and I like that I can push it even farther without destroying the image. LR seems to sharpen everything, including the noise. C1 seems very good at sharpening what can be, and leaving other spots alone.

    So I'm probably going to upgrade to the Pro version for Sony. I can't see spending the money for the full version for all cameras - Yeah, I could work on RAW files from my daughters 5DmkII, but I don't need to.
  7. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    Anyone have any personal experience to know if Capture One Express handles JPEGs, and if so, handles them any better than Lightroom does?
  8. dbmiller

    dbmiller TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Mar 2, 2012
    New England
    It does handle JPEGs. It doesn't treat RAW+JPEG as a single entity, but you can hide one or the other if you want to look at only one set.

    The levels tool is a pleasure to work with. There is a dust / spot removal tool for those pesky sensor spots, but as noted before, no red-eye tool.

    I wouldn't sharpen a JPEG with it - More than likely will get all pixelated. But the same probably holds true for any program trying to sharpen an OOC JPEG that already has sharpening applied.
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  9. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    In 2013 DPreview did a "RAW Converter showdown." When it came to image quality the conclusion was:

    While image quality is what most of us think of as the defining trait of a raw converter, the truth is that the differences among Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8 and Lightroom 4 are relatively small. And those that do exist, revolve around default image rendering. Where global color, contrast and saturation are involved, it's rare that you achieve a result in one converter that cannot be reasonably matched in the others.

    Each program has strengths and weaknesses, but it's a game of leapfrog. I think most photographers will be best served by picking one of the leaders, learning to use its tools inside and out, and then sticking with that program.

    Good luck to all of us with whatever converters we choose.
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  10. HabsFan

    HabsFan TalkEmount Veteran

    Apr 10, 2013
    Ontario, CAN
    The one thing I would say about Lightroom is that the generic Adobe camera profile is horrible. With a decent camera profile, it's easier to get good results. There are some better camera profiles floating around like Maurizio Paraccini's profiles and Huelight profiles that give you a better starting point.

    I've created an import preset for some minor adjustments that I would probably do to 80% of my images as a starting point with Lightroom. I do find things like Clarity, Vibrance, and basic Highlights/shadow/black adjustments easier in Lightroom as well as HSL. The new Dehaze slider is a welcome addition as well for quick adjustment.

    I also have the free version of Capture One for Sony. The HDR sliders work well for a quick adjustment. Images are generally sharper as well in Capture one. I also like the Focus Mask in the full version (when I had the trial) for a quick review tool.

    For me, if I'm not pixel peeping, I find Lightroom the easiest to use for quick results.
  11. storyteller

    storyteller TalkEmount Veteran

    Sep 25, 2011
    I would agree Bill, except that Adobe has sub-par support for Fuji and Sony cameras IMO. Perhaps things are bit more even as HabsFan suggests with custom profiles and presets (of course the same tools are available in C1 as well) but I found working with C1 compared to LR a revelation. I don't think all converters are equal. Unless you're heavily invested in one, you should get the converter that works best for the camera system you use and in the case of Sony I strongly believe that is C1. Sony clearly feels so as well.
  12. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    I don't think you should place too much emphasis on what software the various companies bundle with their cameras. Sony bundles C1, Leica bundles Lightroom, Fujifilm now bundles Silkypix. Canon and Nikon each have their own (and I don't know anyone who uses either). Sure, Fujifilm's X-trans files presented a challenge to Adobe, but to others as well.

    Since you like C1 it's great you're using it.
  13. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Dec 9, 2013
    Bellingham, WA (displaced Canadian)
    Real Name:
    I like Capture 1 Pro and I would probably use it by itself if it wasn't for the fact that I also shoot with Olympus. The idea of paying an additional $240 when I already own Lightroom. I agree that noise and sharpening aren't great for it, but I'm not sure those two things are worth $240 simply to be able to use them with Olympus.

    (DxO has never interested me because I use so many legacy lenses)
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  14. storyteller

    storyteller TalkEmount Veteran

    Sep 25, 2011
    Why doesn't it matter? It might not always matter, but often it does. Sony isn't just bundling Phase One software for convenience. Phase One and Sony are clearly collaborating on several fronts. C1 supported the A7RII BEFORE it even launched for example and many independent reviewers have pointed out that C1 solves many of the long exposure issues some users were reporting with Lightroom.

    You use Lightroom and you process Sony files well. That's great for you but it doesn't mean the support and abilities of the programs are equal. It also doesn't mean you have to switch.
  15. pbizarro

    pbizarro TalkEmount Veteran

    Nov 24, 2014
    Well, it is a fine piece of work but in the end, I came out with a "so what" sort of feeling... I think that this RAW conversion comparison between different tools is as subjective as discussing cameras, lenses, etc. In the end, the RAW conversion is part of an integrated workflow that starts with making the image in the field/studio.

    I have been using PS, ACR and later LR for about 10 years, since I started scanning my slides and negatives... When I transitioned to ACR/LR, I bought and studied Jeff Schwewe's "The Digital Negative" book (some of my best ever spent money). The philosophy from LR is to start with a "flat" rendition, then you need to develop your skills in it to match your vision.

    Of course other RAW converters will give straight out-of-the-box more pleasant results for one's particular purposes, and one should choose accordingly.

    I also noted the following comments from the author of the comparison:

    "In order to rank them I have opted to order them according to my personal preference on each of my tests and score them from 8 down to 1 accordingly. The reality is that these rankings are based in many cases on such marginal judgements that the differences in image quality between one RAW converter and another ranked three or four places lower on a particular test may be barely discernible."

    "As I stated in the introduction to the article I struggle with the combination of Lightroom’s noise reduction and sharpening tools. This really is my best effort after half an hour of work."

    The first quote is as expected, stuff is so good these days, that most users will not note the difference. And any differences can be overcome with judicious experience.

    The second quote I interpret as the author not having enough experience with careful use of some LR tools.

    But it is a very interesting read. I am not defending LR, I am defending that one should pick the tool that best suits the job, and really get experienced with it.
  16. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    The A7RII became available for sale in late August. It was supported by Lightroom on 29 July.

    At release Capture One Pro 8 had a list of "known issues" that Lightroom didn't have. No big thing. They'll fix them. That's how it works.

    If you prefer Capture One, it's great that you're using it.
  17. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    Real Name:

    So much of what I read about the advantage/disadvantage of one raw developer vs. another comes down to familiarity with one's favorite choice and lack of knowledge about another. No raw developer I've ever used could be learned by the what-does-this-slider-do? method. Getting to the point where you can get the most out them requires some study.
  18. storyteller

    storyteller TalkEmount Veteran

    Sep 25, 2011
    Bill there are still reports of Adobe LR having issues with A7RII files (especially long exposures) that C1 doesn't have. I'm not sure why you're even bringing up "known issues" since Adobe software also has had many bugs over the years. As I have repeated in every post, you clearly know LR. Stick with it. It works for you. I used Aperture for years, even knowing its faults, because I could get the results I needed in less time than it took to learn new software. When I was forced to changed I did my own comparisons and came to similar conclusions as this author did.

    RAW converters seem to be a bit like religions for people and I'm not out to try to convert the devoted but we get a lot of new Sony shooters on this forum and given that many are not invested in any Raw converters, shoot only/primarily Sony, and C1 is free (express) or nearly free ($50 for pro) for Sony users AND is demonstrably (if only marginally) better at processing Sony files, they should know that. It is also relevant to the OP's original link.
  19. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    @storyteller@storyteller I'm a C1 user, but just to play devil's advocate here, some (most IMO) of what you and I see as some problems with LR support of Sony and Fuji files may not even visibly affect the final output for print or web viewing. Meanwhile I think the latest LR still beats C1 in some aspects, highlight retrieval being one of them. So I don't think it's a cut and dried one is better than the other situation for new users.

    That said, I do greatly prefer C1 for the A7RII files. Maybe doesn't make a difference to the prints, but pixel peeping on screen, I think C1 gives much nicer results for this camera. But lots of people don't see it that way. It is subjective.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015