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Author Topic: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor  (Read 8035 times)

CWuestefeld

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Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« on: November 25, 2009, 03:15:16 PM »
I'm looking for a better means of processing RAW images from my camera. There are a bunch of apps to do this, some free and some commercial, some standalone and some integrated into image editors. I'd really like feedback about what you folks have experienced, most significantly in terms of image quality, but also in terms of ease-of-use.

Here's where I've looked
  • Paint Shop Pro - My camera outputs DNG, which PSP can read directly. But it seems a lame way to do this, it doesn't seem to give the opportunity to really use the additional information that's in the RAW data.
  • Photoshop (Adobe Camera RAW) - The expense of Photoshop pretty much eliminates this
  • ACDSee - I've been meaning for some time to start using ACDSee more for cataloging my photos, but haven't really given it a try in this respect yet. Has anyone out there?
  • RawTherapee - Does a very good job, but involves some effort, and I hate the user interaction. Free
  • RAWHide - Apparently decent quality, although I haven't really put it through its paces. Also seems to involve some effort (I'd prefer to be able to get good results from default settings, and go back to tweak just the photos that deserve it). Free
  • Silkypix - Apparently equivalent in quality to Adobe, but much more expensive than free.

Any suggestions that produce good quality, especially for default settings, is easy to use, and hopefully free or cheap?

JavaJones

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2009, 03:54:23 PM »
I've just started playing with the new Lightroom 3 Beta, as well as the even newer Bibble 5 Preview 3. I'm impressed with both, though I'm leaning toward Bibble quite a bit more for various reasons, including speed and intuitiveness.

Lightroom you probably already know about or have heard of. It's an Adobe app, and it combines both photo organizing and image "development"/editing. It's a very capable app in its current incarnation by all accounts, and version 3 seems to be making some further improvements. I don't know enough about the differences to comment in an educated way. But the beta is currently free, so it's worth a try:
http://labs.adobe.co...nologies/lightroom3/

Bibble is a bit of an underdog favorite in the RAW processing world. It has a reputation for quality, power, and flexibility. Version 4 has been around for several years and was/is widely used, but its features are getting out of date, as well as its camera support. Bibble 5 has been in development for a number of years now and has something of a tarnished reputation because of its long development cycle, but within the last year they started putting out public previews of its development progress, which has helped a lot. The Bibble 5 previews show a much faster, and even more powerful app in its current state. I for one find it a lot faster and more intuitive than Lightroom thus far, though I am still testing both. You can find more info and the download here:
http://bibblelabs.co...s/bibble5/index.html

Unfortunately there is no release date for either one of these as a final product. Bibble 5 has been in development for quite a while now. That being said the latest preview does seem pretty fully functional and stable, and I could see it getting finished up within the next 6 months or so. The same timeline may well apply to Lightroom 3. It's a shame that Bibble in particular is not done yet, perhaps that doesn't recommend it for your needs, but I've already found it to be better than any other app I've tried so far, even in its preview state, and I'm considering buying. It isn't particularly cheap, much less free, but it's definitely cheaper than Lightroom (about half for the Pro version), and there's a version for under $100 that I think would be well worth it.

Other options to consider are:
  • DxO Optics Pro 6 (new version) - not cheap, similar to Bibble, good reputation.
  • Google's Picasa 3.5 - Yes, really! If your needs are reasonably basic, it has decent RAW format support, easy adjustments, photo tagging and organizing capabilities, face recognition (fun!), upload to multiple websites, etc. and it's free. Despite my interest in more advanced apps, because I have yet to find one (and because face recognition is so cool and fun), Picasa is actually my main photo viewer and organizer at the moment. I use Photoshop when I need to do heavier or more precise editing.
  • Capture One 5 Pro - I've heard good things about this too, but have no personal experience. Also not cheap.
  • Helicon Filter - I have no idea how good or bad this is, but it supposedly supports RAW formats and is a decent general image editor. It's cheaper than the rest (except free options of course).
  • Silverfast - Another mystery option. Tons of product options at different price points.
  • Lightzone - Focused on RAW development, the most used feature I see is tone mapping, which can produce cool results but also weird and downright bad results if misused or overused. Seems to have interesting features though. It's on my list of apps to test further.

Many of these are professional-level tools and carry a price tag that reflects such use...

- Oshyan

Dormouse

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2009, 04:21:23 PM »
What works best will depend on your camera. It's not a one size fits all situation really. I don't use ACR because it is awful on my cameras.

I've used them all at one time or another. The 'professional' apps are generally better for dealing with large number of images, tweaking, running automatically and workflow generally. I use DxO. Quality good. Default settings usually extremely good on most cameras. Have been fearsome glitches sometimes with new versions (especially when they recoded completely for v5), but they get it sorted in the end. v6 actually seems OK, but I've not had much time with it yet. Would need to check whether it has modules for your camera and lenses (makes automatic adjustments much easier). Quite a lot of complaints from time to time about their install of a system to avoid theft, but it has never bothered me.

That's for the Raw processing. What you choose might also be affected by what other features come included that you want to use. They all vary on that.

I agree that Picasa and Helicon Filter are pretty good for free. As is RawTherapee.

The free progs are good, but they do take time (and you might have to do it on every photo) or there's a limit to how much you can achieve. The 'professional' apps are much better for speed and ease, and if you have a lot of photos to process they might well be worth their high price to you. For free and automatic and easy, you can do a lot worse than Picasa.

Lutz_

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2009, 10:56:42 PM »
I agree with JavaJones in recommending the current Bibble 5 preview version. It runs sufficiently stable for me and is the by far fastest option. For me, the UI is also nicely intuitive. The one thing missing currently is a good "local contrast/ clarify" tool.  It will come sooner or later, either as a native tool or as a plugin.  One advantage of bibble is that the plugins can actually work on the RAW conversion pipeline, not like the plugin substitutes in Aperture or Lightroom which work on the already converted images only (doing the same as a photoshop plugin then).  

RawHide provides excellent image quality but is way too idiosyncratic for me regarding its user interface. PSP is a great image editor but horrible as a RAW converter.  Picasa does convert RAW files but you cannot influence the conversion which makes it only an emergency solution.  Helicon Filter again is a great image editor, the quality of the RAW conversions is very good but they are slow and the workflow for multiple RAW conversions is difficult.  

RawTherapee is pretty great throughout.  Give it some more time to get used to the handling.

CWuestefeld

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2009, 10:57:09 AM »
I'm taking it as a given that there's no affordable way that I can get the entire workflow -- from import through RAW conversion, full-fledged editing, organization and management, and archiving -- in a single tool. I've already got PSP for editing, and (with reservations) ACDSee Pro for organization and management. So the features that a RAW converter overlaps with these functions are really just wasted on me.

What is most important to me in the RAW converter is the tool's ability to map color and exposure to a finished product. I think this is where the benefit of RAW over JPG or TIFF is realized: everything else I can do well in my editor. There's always a tradeoff here between accuracy and subjective appearance; I'd like to balance, with a preference toward the subjective.

To the extent that it can do so well, I'd also like good treatment of white balance, noise reduction, and contrast.

And since I'm insisting on good results from the defaults, it should be possible for me to invoke the tool from the command line, saying "process everything in directory X", as an automated part of my workflow.

JavaJones

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2009, 02:20:28 PM »
Honestly I think RawTherapee produces some of the best results. It's fitting it into the rest of your workflow that may be a challenge. Not sure if it can be automated. There are other tools based on dcRAW that can though. Not sure if you've seen this quality comparison page (a bit outdated now, but still interesting): http://www.rawtherapee.com/RAW_Compare/

The other thing to consider is that ideally you would do *all* work, all post work, on the full-range RAW file, not on an 8 bit/channel version. If you're saving out to say 16 bit TIFF and you can potentially maintain some of the benefits, but I'm not sure how well PSP does with >8 bit color spaces.

Because of all that I'm really hoping to find something that does it all, or most of "it". Bibble seems promising as it has potentially good organizational tools, along with a good RAW engine, and some editing tools (e.g. it'll have Clone in the final version).

- Oshyan

Lutz_

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2009, 09:53:47 PM »
And since I'm insisting on good results from the defaults, it should be possible for me to invoke the tool from the command line, saying "process everything in directory X", as an automated part of my workflow.

Bibble can be invoked from image organizers like imatch and idimager via macros to automatically process images and return them to the organizers.  But I guess these organizers are a bit more advanced than Acdsee.

paulobrabo

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2009, 08:51:56 AM »
"The other thing to consider is that ideally you would do *all* work, all post work, on the full-range RAW file"

Precisely.

CWuestefeld, I'm doubting any product will give you the one-click results you are expecting. The real power of RAW is in manual tweaking.The "process everything in directory X" will seldom work, unless all photos were taken using the same exposure, light conditions and camera settings -- and that's rarely the case.

If you want to do most of your editing in PSP, RawTherapee is more than enough to convert your batches to tiff. But it can be used to do so much more.
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CWuestefeld

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2009, 11:21:48 AM »
The real power of RAW is in manual tweaking

No argument. I'm trying to get *everything* into a normal workflow. For those things that merit it, I can go back to the RAW processor and tweak. But if I can get most stuff good enough, I'll be satisfied.

JavaJones

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2009, 01:40:00 PM »
So the question then becomes why not shoot in RAW+JPG? The JPG is usually processed "good enough" in itself by the camera. Little further tweaking needed. And if you do need to do major tweaking, the RAW is available.

- Oshyan

jamiemac2005

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2009, 08:19:37 AM »
I see no mention of UFRaw in this thread, i used to use UFRaw all the time to work with my Raw photos. I love it, freeware, easy to use, simple... etc.

CWuestefeld

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2009, 10:01:03 AM »
why not shoot in RAW+JPG? The JPG is usually processed "good enough" in itself by the camera.
That's a darned good question. The JPG my camera spits out is certainly good enough.

The only downside I can think of is that it slows down the camera when it has to save two files per shot. But that's the exception, and I could do those as RAW only when it occurs.

JavaJones

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2009, 02:35:32 PM »
Depending on your camera, it might not even slow down that much. My A700 doesn't particularly (with a fast media card), it just further limits the number of sequential burst shots, but not so much the speed of the burst.

- Oshyan

JavaJones

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2009, 05:18:10 PM »
I've just had a play with RawTherapee and I'm afraid it's just too slow and lacking in UI feedback for me. Maybe I just don't know the interface enough yet, but I found it hard to determine when it was working on something I'd just changed, vs. already done and just sitting there, except when I found something unresponsive until it was done. I also couldn't find the demosaicing options it's so famous for, and while I'm sure they're somewhere, and maybe even staring me right in the face, next to the Bibble UI it doesn't impress unfortunately. Quality is still important, and that's where it seems to have an edge, but I will have to see with the Lightroom 3 beta and Bibble 5 previews how the comparison ends up.

- Oshyan

OldElmerFudd

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2009, 01:00:15 AM »
Bibble Pro has been stuck at V.4.9 since September of '06. I used it when I first got it, but it's kind of fallen out of my workflow since. Helicon is shareware, but it reverts to a limited freeware version after the 30-day trial period ends. I still have a fairly recent paid version on one of my machines.
I use Capture One 5 Pro, Lightroom 2, with  Photoshop CS2. Just took advantage of a 30% discount offer to upgrade DxO Optics from V.5 to V.6. Capture One and DxO are terrific when you're processing hundreds of images at a time, but definitely not cheap. In my case, they've paid for themselves in terms of time over and over.

I've never used RawTherapee or RAWHide, however I'm inclined to agree with JavaJones about Picasa. From what I've seen, it looks OK for working with a few images.
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JavaJones

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Re: Looking for recommendations of RAW photo processor
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2009, 04:27:41 PM »
Bibble 5 test versions are available for free testing right now and looking good. Bibble 5 has been in dev a looong time, but at least we now know it's not vaporware. :D

- Oshyan