Review DigiKam as a DAM (Digital Asset Manager)

barry13

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I was using XnView MP as a DAM, but its search capabilities are very rudimentary.
After a bit of a search for a new DAM (see https://www.mu-43.com/threads/78892/), I've chosen DigiKam, and have been using version 4.12 on Windows (it also runs on OSX and Linux (KDE)) for a few weeks...

Note I've never really used Lightroom (but I have seen demos of it's capabilities) so this is mostly about my DAM needs and comparing my experience with XnView MP and a few simpler image viewers.

DigiKam is mostly what I expect in a DAM; with great search capabilities, including multiple filters at once (e.g. star rating + color + tags) which XnView simply cannot do.


General:
a. tagging is easier in XnView; you can create tag sets/collections and easily see them in a small area of the screen.
DigiKam only seems to be able to show the tag tree during tagging, which doesn't fit on my screen without scrolling. There is a 'quick access list' which looks like the sets in XnView, but I can't seem to use it while tagging -- I'm really not sure what it's for (maybe it's a work in progress?).
However, DigiKam does allow keyboard shortcuts to be added to individual tags; I will probably start using that.

DigiKam also has GeoTagging features and a globe/map view with zooming, as well as date-based views and timelines.

b. XnView is much faster initially launching, and sometimes a bit faster browsing. That said, browsing through my collection in DigiKam is usually instantaneous.

c. neither has a instant way to get a black & white preview of an image... in Imagine Viewer (a different app) pressing shift-G will do it. In XnView one has to run a batch export; in DigiKam you hit Edit, Post-Processing, and adjust the saturation.

d. DigiKam has a facial-recognition system which can be run... it only can be run across your whole collection (catalog).
It's not very stable (crashes when running it), nor accurate (face recognition never is), but it got a lot of false matches and mixed them in with the previous confirmed matches; I'd prefer it put new matches in a separate queue for review first.
I ended up spending several hours to tag and correct the pictures it identified as having faces; I should have skipped it until they improve the UI.

e. DigiKam allows up to 2 keyboard shortcuts to be assigned to each action... I like this as I can leave the default shortcuts, as well as add my own.
I'm hoping I can even use DigiKam on my HTPC + TV with the Windows MCE remote, mapping shortcuts to the remote -- will have to try it (see shared DB notes at the bottom).

f. Both DigiKam and XnView have a few quirks...
DigiKam: If one makes DigiKam Full-Screen, the only way to return is with a keyboard shortcut (ctrl-shift-F is the default; I've now assigned F11 as well), and the menus do not return unless you press ctrl-m twice.
Moving folders is a little tricky; it seems to be necessary to create the target folder first and then move the contents.

XnView: if you change screen resolution or un-maximize the window, you loose your layout/arrangement of panes. Fortunately, it is possible to save the layout, but you have to turn the main toolbar on in order to restore a layout.

g. Importing... both apps have import capabilities, but I don't use them as I prefer to manually file my images into folders using a file manager.

h. viewing: DigiKam has a Light Table view (ctrl-L) which multiple images can be loaded into, but afaict only 2 can be viewed at a time.
XnView can view up to 4 images on screen at once (shift-C).


Editing:
I normally use RawTherapee and/or GIMP and I do not care if my DAM has an editor or not. Regardless,

DigiKam has a RAW processor and editor. I tried using it, but RAW settings changes are not previewed in real-time (as in RawTherapee) so I wasn't very happy.
You have to press 'Import' after the initial RAW adjustments before you can do 'editing' such as rotation, scaling, and filters.

After importing the editor seems to be able to do much of what RawTherapee can do, but does not seem to have more advanced features such as masking and drawing/painting tools (nor does RT). I really don't know how LR would compare here.

Anyways, pressing WinKey-F4 will open your default app (for RAW or JPEG or whatever files you're looking at) so I hit that to open RT or GIMP.

DigiKam also has a versioning system, where it stores old versions of files. I haven't really tried it as I'm using external editors.

DigiKam has color management, both for viewing and for editing (and printing?). It can be disabled. My system is not calibrated so I'm not really qualified to review this.

DigiKam has a batch queue, but I haven't tried it yet.

XnView editing comments: no image editor. It can however do the following: Rotate, Crop, Resize, and very basic brightness & color adjustments. It also has a batch converter which can do those operations, plus run some filters (borders, art effects, greyscale, etc.). I sometimes use the batch converter to make quick B&W versions of my images for previewing (as there's no other quick way to view in B&W in XnView). Note all RAW operations use the embedded JPEG only.
Pressing F3 will open your default app (for RAW or JPEG or whatever files you're looking at).


Misc:
DigiKam is free and open-source
. It seems to be very actively developed.

XnView MP is free for "private or educational use" and 26€ for a (perpetual?) commercial license. It is not open-source, and seems to only have a single developer (maintaining multiple apps) so progress seems slow (to me; I've been using it for 2 years). The version I've been using was released 10 months ago, although I see now that a minor new version was released this week.

I've not yet tried sharing the DigiKam database across multiple computers, but afaict it will handle it if I provide a MySQL server and run DigiKam's built-in DB converter; I'm looking forward to trying that.

Conclusion:
I'm quite happy with DigiKam for managing, tagging, and searching my image catalog. It can also do RAW conversion and basic editing, but I'm already happy with other tools for that.


I'd be happy to answer any questions.

Barry

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kingduct

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I used DigiKam for years under linux and that it was really good. I now use Lightroom due to the RAW processing, but were I ever to switch back to JPEG shooting (and I think about it some, since I really don't enjoy RAW processing much), I'd look into it again, since I liked its file management more.
 

barry13

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Thanks for the review. I had not even realized this was an option on Windows.
Yes, for some reason they say "Be careful as digiKam is not as stable under Windows as under Linux because of some bugs in the underlying KDE SC libraries that digiKam depends on", but it has been very stable for me except when trying to run the face recognition.

Note that they don't seem to release Windows and OSX builds quite as often as they release new source code tarballs, e.g. the latest Windows build is currently 4.12 (August 5th), OSX is 4.13 (Sept 5th), and the current code release is 4.14 (Oct 14th).
Of course, Linux distros vary on how frequently they update their packages; most users don't regularly download and compile the code for something this large.

Barry
 
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barry13

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I forgot to mention another quirk/bug in DigiKam... The tooltips are rendered unreadable on my Win8.1 system - the font color seems to be the same as the background color. Fortunately there are other ways to view the same info, so I turned tooltips off.

Barry
 

Janez

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Thanks for review. Does DigiKam treat RAW and jpgs as one file when you rate and tag images?
 

barry13

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Thanks for review. Does DigiKam treat RAW and jpgs as one file when you rate and tag images?
Hi, Not by default but you can select all files in a folder ('album') and right-click and Group - Group Selected by Time... that will group files with the same timestamp to the second.
If you shoot in burst mode, it will group all images shot in the same second.

You can also group/ungroup images manually.

Reportedly, they are working on automatic grouping by file type, but it's not implemented yet.

FWIW, I normally shoot RAW ONLY nowadays, and I deleted all my old JPEGs (except edits).

Barry
 

onewheeltom

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Are the photos stored individually or as one big blob? A friend at work had some corruption in her photo manager and the database was one giant file that took weeks to download.

--tom
 

tkbslc

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I tried it and it ended up being quite frustrating. Didn't do what I was hoping and then when I went to uninstall it, the uninstall kept failing. After much hacking about, I finally had to to do a rollback to a system restore point prior to install to get rid of it.

It uses a Linux emulator underneath the covers so it can run on Windows.
 

barry13

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Are the photos stored individually or as one big blob? A friend at work had some corruption in her photo manager and the database was one giant file that took weeks to download.
Hi,

The photos are the usual JPEG or ORF files, arranged in folders (directories).
The database consists of 2 SQLite files by default (MySQL is another option); one for tags and metadata, and one for thumbnails. My DB is currently 18MB for data, and 660MB for thumbnails.
The thumbnails DB is disposable, so you'd only need to backup the main DB file.

Note also that metadata can be saved to JPEG files as IPTC tags.

Barry
 

barry13

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@tkbslc, @onewheeltom

It's unfortunate that you had trouble with the uninstaller, but you could have deleted the digikam folder from Program Files instead of doing a roll-back; programs like this don't make a lot of registry changes, and recent versions of Windows don't allow DLLs to be installed in system folders anymore.

DK doesn't use an emulator (and the app is compiled natively to Windows/OSX) but it does use the KDE libraries / environment. All this means to the normal user is that the install will be larger on systems (Windows, possibly OSX) that don't already have KDE installed, as there are more files installed.

Note that Adobe does the same thing; they have a set of libraries for their apps to run on both MacOS/OSX and Windows.

Barry
 

tkbslc

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@tkbslc, @onewheeltom

It's unfortunate that you had trouble with the uninstaller, but you could have deleted the digikam folder from Program Files instead of doing a roll-back; programs like this don't make a lot of registry changes, and recent versions of Windows don't allow DLLs to be installed in system folders anymore.
I'm not comfortable leaving unknown residue and unknown linux stuff on my system for an app I won't use anymore.
 

barry13

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Here's a screenshot of 5.9.0 on Windows 8.1:
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