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I've had the RAW Shooter Essentials converter on my PC for a couple weeks but just got around today (more crap weather here) to trying out the most recent version with R-D1 files.
I have to say I'm really impressed! RSE does at least as good a job as Epson's converter, and depending on the particular photo maybe even better. There is one caveat, though: RSE, like Phase One's Capture One, has its own strange interpretation of color balance. Thus using the white balance eyedropper is important. By default color isn't as punchy as with Epson's converter. But contrast is lower, which IMO is a good thing. RSE's ability to extract detail is perhaps its best feature. It seems there really is more there there with this converter. Like Epson RSE does a bit of sharpening even when this is turned off. Also like Epson this is very effective. Curiously with photos from my Canon 20D I find it excessive & artifacty, but with the R-D1 (and Canon 10D photos) it's spot on. Epson's fine b&w rendering is missing, of course.
RSE is currently a free download. No Mac version unfortunately, at least not yet. For PC users (I'm in both camps myself) I recommend checking it out.
I have not personally used RSE, but it also has a good reputation for noise removal (especially on high iso files from the 20D, which I also use) without degrading the image. Is it as good with high iso R-D1 shots? Not that I find the noise to much of a problem at 1600 on the R-D1 as the "character" is better than on the 20D. Too much banding if you bring up the shadows on my example of this camera.
WOW! Finally a tool comes along that gives you the ability to edit in real time! I'm not sure I like RSE yet, as it takes more tweaking to get the image to look good (the default sharpening is horribly strong USM), but as I'm working with it, it seems to pull out more detail with the images I shot than the Epson RAW converter. Also, it seems to have, like you say, a different color conversion process. I switched mine to the absolute color value setting so I could approximate the colors I need.
If Capture One gets around to implementing R-D1 support, I'll just use that. But this is a great alternative, and I'll be messing with it a bit to see whether I can maximize my workflow on it. I love the easy rotation and sorting, plus the lack of wait times when you move between images. Just like C1 (in fact, too much like it).
One quick tip--if you use ColorMatch RGB or a soft ICM profiling tool and have a ICM profile for your monitor, it appears to show all thumbnails and images as black rectangles. So there must be a bug in its' ICM support. I'm on Windows 2K. Maybe it works on XP better (and I'll test that later tonight).
David, thanks for the find! Hopefully more and more tools will come out with R-D1 support. Also, another quick note--if you use the Adobe DNG format, Breeze Browser Pro 1.1 alpha 2 now shows full-sized preview images of those file formats.
I have RSE's sharpening turned off (uncheck the Apply Sharpening box in the Batch Convert tab). This doesn't really mean "off"...it means you get a minimum amount. I'd prefer having a genuine "off" setting but as is it works quite well.
I haven't tried increasing RSE's noise reduction from the default of zero. Again zero isn't really "off" but does a good job with my Canon cameras of suppressing banding noise. Not an issue with the R-D1. With R-D1 files the zero setting is very gentle, only visible at full res in comparison with Epson-converted files. This is fine with me. The NR smooths continuous tone areas a small amount without visibly affecting resolution or contrast. As a rule I avoid NR unless noise/grain is really obtrusive. I add noise more often than I reduce it. :)
I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been tinkering with RSE for a while now, and it's become my default converter (for the time being anyway). Normally I turn all sharpening and noise reduction off except the color noise, which makes the color splotching from ISO noise considerably less noticable. The rest I can do in Photoshop.
Though I normally save sharpening for Photoshop, RSE's detail enhancement is surprisingly effective and I use it more often than not, although RSE's edge sharpening has a stronger tendency to cause artifacts than Photoshop sharpening does.
My main reason for switching to RSE is that its highlight contrast slider does a much better job of taming the rather hot highlights of Canon's DSLR's than the highlights slider on Adobe's ACR does (which skews overall exposure way too much). Color balancing is a bit funky with RSE, but it "guesses" an AWB setting much better than ACR does, so it saves me quite a bit of dropper-clicking. RSE isn't as robust as C1 just yet, but it's getting there.
With the R-D1 being such a niche product, I was completely stunned to find that RSE worked with the R-D1's ERF files back when I first tried the program out. Yay. :D
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