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RAW converters - created equal?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by k4t, Apr 23, 2011.

  1. k4t

    k4t Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Are all RAW converters created equal?

    I'm pretty sure the answer to this is no. But I'm far from having the experience or graphical knowledge to tell a good one from a mediocre one.

    Aside from answering my own question (or contradicting me if I've got it all wrong - which is quite possible) I thought it might be worth having a thread to bring together which RAW converters people recommend. There are a few mentions scattered about but I couldn't find any comprehensive threads on this forum.

    I'm guessing most people just rely on the converter built into the image processing software of their choice: Lightroom, Aperture, CS etc.

    Other free open source options I've come across include Rawtherapee and UFRaw
  2. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    Don't dismiss The Mother Of Free Converters (the page title is misleading, dcraw is really operating system agnostic; if you have a microprocessor, you can run it, even on a toaster) : Decoding raw digital photos in Linux

    And of course digikam (based on libraw, itself a rewrite of dcraw).
  3. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    I was under the impression that all the Adobe products use the same converter?

    Right now I have an older computer and older version of Lightroom, so I'm using Adobe's free DNG Converter to convert RAW to DNG, and then importing the DNG files into Lightroom.
  4. sherlock

    sherlock Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 31, 2011
    They do, in a way — Lightroom uses its own in-built version of Camera RAW, whereas Photoshop uses the shared Camera RAW library (that is upgraded on its own).

    And no, RAW creators are definitely not created equal. Some argue that Canon & Nikon's solutions handle their proprietary RAW files better than LR/Aperture/DXO, but I've never been convinced.
  5. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    Most of the time people confuse the demoicization algorithm and the final color profiling. There are a couple algorithms used, the best being certainly an AHD derivative, but under some conditions, a VNG based can look sharper. Nearly all softwares use in fact AHD, be they generic softwares or camera-vendor specific solutions.

    But the camera vendor has an edge because he knows the exact color profile of the sensor chip after it's been processed by the electronics of the camera. Something 3rd party software authors need to compute from charts and tests, with an error margin (and a human factor).

    For cameras where the official color profile is released by the camera maker or embedded into the RAW (most Pentax, for instance), the difference between the camera maker RAW converter and 3rd party software is almost nil.

    On the other end of the spectrum, secretive camera vendors softwares (Canon, Nikon, Olympus...) make use of physical data not released to the user, and look different from 3rd party. Better or worse is mostly a matter of personal taste.

    • Like Like x 3
  6. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Per my experience, I'd say Mauve pretty much nailed it.

    Until recently, I found that Canon's DPP conversions were sharper and more vibrant than Adobe's. Now, after years of fine tuning, I find them pretty much equal in output. The main dif seems to be the available tools and and UI of the programs (and of course cost). Presently I am using Aperture for my conversions.

  7. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 15, 2010
    I can tell you that Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop Elements is terrible converting RAW files from a G1 and GF1 and contributed to my giving up on RAW altogether. When I batch-converted all my six months of RAW files to jpegs using SilkyPix, before tossing them, they came out great - far better than my painstakingly indiviual conversions using ACR. I concluded that Adobe knew little of what the GF1 and G1 RAWs were about. ACR introduced a weird noise visible in the sky at 100% view that was absolutely not present in the SilkyPix conversions, yet the SilkyPix had all the detail.
  8. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    What version were you using? ACR has changed and improved vastly in the last year or so.

  9. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 15, 2010
    It was Camera Raw update 6.2 for Elements 8
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