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RAW processor comparisons
Old 03-08-2008   #1
mani
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RAW processor comparisons

I've downloaded some more demo RAW processors and decided to start a new thread to display the results of the unscientific test I performed on an image that was captured in difficult lighting conditions.

I loaded the image into each of the RAW processors, and did some basic tweaks such as zeroing noise reduction and correcting obvious misinterpretations in white balance. Otherwise, most of the settings were left at their defaults.

The images were exported from each processor with the widest-supported color gamut and 16 bit-color tiff, and then imported and converted to sRGB 8-bit psd files before output to jpeg at 80 quality.

I'll see if I can show some of the images inline - so this may cause the page to load slowly - but I think should be easier to show the results.*

The processors so far: Lightroom, Iridient's Raw Developer, Epson's own Camera RAW, and Silkypix.
I'd love to know how Aperture handles files - unfortunately my home laptop doesn't have the power for it at the moment.

* decided this wasn't such a good idea for people who don't want a massive download - so click on thumbs to see full versions

.

Last edited by mani : 03-08-2008 at 09:42.
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Old 03-08-2008   #2
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Epson RAW:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg epson_color.jpg (57.1 KB, 73 views)
File Type: jpg epson_bw.jpg (36.8 KB, 31 views)
File Type: jpg epson_eye.jpg (47.3 KB, 61 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #3
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Last Epson RAW image:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg epson_tckt.jpg (39.0 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg epson_eye_bw.jpg (35.2 KB, 28 views)

Last edited by mani : 03-08-2008 at 09:37.
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Old 03-08-2008   #4
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Now Lightroom:

(hope I'm not breaching some forum rules with all these uploads?)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg LR_color.jpg (51.0 KB, 54 views)
File Type: jpg LR_bw.jpg (34.2 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg LR_eye.jpg (31.5 KB, 50 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #5
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Last Lightroom images:
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File Type: jpg LR_tckt.jpg (31.5 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg LR_eye_bw.jpg (27.8 KB, 21 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #6
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Iridient RAW Developer:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg raw_dev_color.jpg (51.2 KB, 35 views)
File Type: jpg raw_dev_bw.jpg (35.4 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg raw_dev_eye.jpg (35.9 KB, 36 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #7
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Last RAW Developer images:
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File Type: jpg raw_dev_tckt.jpg (35.1 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg raw_dev_eye_bw.jpg (40.9 KB, 15 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #8
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Finally Silkypix:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg silky_color.jpg (52.9 KB, 36 views)
File Type: jpg silky_bw.jpg (35.6 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg silky_eye.jpg (37.6 KB, 35 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #9
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Remaining Silkypix images:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg silky_tckt.jpg (39.3 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg silky_eye_bw.jpg (32.9 KB, 10 views)
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Old 03-08-2008   #10
charjohncarter
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mani, I did this about a year ago with six processors. All did about the same job. All had different default color processing, so it was just personal taste there. The difference were really in the workflow and the global adjustments that each had. Unfortunately the RAW processors I used didn't have everything each and everything I wanted so now I use one for one type of processing and another or another for other types of processing. Basically, the people that design RAW processors can't please all of the people all of the time.

It seems that you are concerned about image quality. When I did this, I found no difference in image quality (definition). It was funny that I liked one processor quit well for digital image default processing in color. Its final image converted to tiff was just a little dark, but the colors were for me the richest and it seemed (but I could be wrong) that it pulled highlights and shadows out better than the others. So using the default setting I had to lighten just slightly every image.
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Old 03-08-2008   #11
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Hope to expand on this over time - and please note that these represent basic interpretations by the raw processors: RAW Developer and Silkypix are both demos, and I haven't had time to learn their finer points (that goes for Epson's developer also, insofar as I didn't try it before this week).

Most useful imo if you want to compare these tests is to open the same image from each of the processors in it's own window and place them side-by-side on your screen.

This survey arises from my frustration with the amount of detail that Lightroom loses by adding what looks almost like an extra AA filter to the image - even when all noise reduction is set to zero! Take a look at the Iridient RAW dev b&w version of the eye next to the Adobe version to see some of what I mean.
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Old 03-08-2008   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter
... I found no difference in image quality (definition)...
Did you compare Epson Photoraw 1.30 to Silkypix 3.0?
Pics 1 and 2: Silkypix (FF and 100% crop)
Pics 3 and 4: Epson (FF and 100% crop)
Noise reduction and sharpening disabled of course.

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447siweb.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447sicropweb.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447epweb.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447epcropweb.jpg[/IMG]
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Old 03-08-2008   #13
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As RAW has no camera generated image editing. It is done by the RAW converter, and even with stuff turned off it has to do some default processing or you wouldn't get an image. I'll bet with messing around with the sharpening settings you could do just the opposite with those two converters.

If you read reviews on dpreview.com you will see that all cameras in jpeg have different image quality. Some cameras oversharpen (in camera) so they can be judged a having higher quality images than another. While other cameras leave the sharpening in jpeg up to you (to not give you an oversharpened image), and get a undeserved bad review at that site. This is what RAW converters do, too.

But to answer you question no, Epson and Sliky Pix were not on my list.

Last edited by charjohncarter : 03-08-2008 at 13:30.
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Old 03-08-2008   #14
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Now Capture One 4.0, FF and 100% crop.
Pics look softer than Epson's but show less grain as well so they prove easier to sharpen in PP. Even with sharpening, C1 pics have not the grainy look of Epson's though. I wonder if that grainy look does not explain the film-like rendering of Epson pics somehow.

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447c14web.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447c14cropweb.jpg[/IMG]
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Old 03-08-2008   #15
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It's strange the algorithms these designers choose. But I'm sure they know what their average customer wants. Example, P&S digitals have hotter (more saturated) colors than DSLRs straight out of the camera (jpeg). I guess RAW converters try do get what the customers wants because they figure the customer doesn't want to mess with all those sliders. I know I don't want to.

Of the three LCT has shown I like Capture One, but I'm sure I would get an argument on that.
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Old 03-09-2008   #16
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Hi guys - thanks for the responses and for the Capture One example.

In all these cases it's very hard to try to make some sort of 'objective' judgement of which Raw developer is 'best'. I personally prefer the color rendering of one of them over the others - but obviously the default color render is only a starting-point, if one wants to 'tweak' it.

What I don't like, however, is how much the developers differ in terms of detail rendition.

Most particularly the way that Lightroom posterizes areas of fine detail even with all noise suppression switched off. Why does it do that?

Here's what I mean in a 200% enlarged comparison between the Iridient Raw Developer b&w version of my nephew's eye, and the Lightroom version. (I know that blowing-up images on-screen to 200% is super-pixel-peeping - but I just wanted to make the comparison clear).

The Raw Developer has detail where LR simply has irrecoverable smudge. What the heck has LR done to that fine, film-like detail?

(Incidentally, I should add that LR has imo by far the best and most intuitive interface and usability - so why is it doing this to images?)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg raw_dev_eye_bw_200.jpg (47.2 KB, 53 views)
File Type: jpg LR_eye_bw_200.jpg (34.0 KB, 53 views)

Last edited by mani : 03-09-2008 at 01:29.
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Old 03-09-2008   #17
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Mani, why does it do that? Because all of these converters have a set of adjustment built in. Adobe decided this was best. It's just like your digital camera deciding in camera what a jpeg should look like. I overdid it, but here is a shadow and highlight treatment to the Adobe LR sample.
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File Type: jpg LR_eye_bw_200-a.jpg (106.2 KB, 40 views)
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Old 03-09-2008   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter
Mani, why does it do that? Because all of these converters have a set of adjustment built in. Adobe decided this was best. It's just like your digital camera deciding in camera what a jpeg should look like. I overdid it, but here is a shadow and highlight treatment to the Adobe LR sample.
Thanks for the replies and for the image experiment!
Yep - it's frustrating that they've made that 'baseline' noise-reduction decision for the user, instead of allowing him/her the freedom of choosing for themselves.

Also the major thing that had disappointed me about the R-D1s was that I had the impression the files were on the soft side - but now I realize that Lightroom's files are on the soft side; the camera files are tack-sharp! All those great lenses and megapixels going to waste, imho.
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Old 03-09-2008   #19
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You have to become very skilled with the sharpening tool on your converter. I have all these converters and many editing programs. And it seems the sharpening tools are slightly different on each one. I even think the unmask sharp tool on LightRoom is a little different than on Photoshop. But that is my opinion. You are right the RAW file is sharp, but converted to visual form in most converters it is soft. The further or completed sharpening is up to you.
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Old 03-09-2008   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mani
...now I realize that Lightroom's files are on the soft side; the camera files are tack-sharp! All those great lenses and megapixels going to waste, imho.
Curious indeed as the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in of Photoshop Elements 4.0 is not that soft.
Now i would not say that the camera files are very sharp to be honest.
Compared to Leica's (M8) and some Nikon's (D70, D2H) they are clearly softer.
Matter of AA filter i guess.
Anyway, looks like the Epson converter's and plug-in's files are quite different to others.
Here small crops from the Epson (pic 1) and C1 (pic 2) converters after PP.

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447epmcropcrop.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://*******.com/rv7w/EPSN0447c14cropcrop.jpg[/IMG]
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Old 03-09-2008   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter
You have to become very skilled with the sharpening tool on your converter. I have all these converters and many editing programs. And it seems the sharpening tools are slightly different on each one. I even think the unmask sharp tool on LightRoom is a little different than on Photoshop. But that is my opinion. You are right the RAW file is sharp, but converted to visual form in most converters it is soft. The further or completed sharpening is up to you.

All very true. There's definitely a new learning curve in Lightroom that complements any expertise one might've gained over the years in Photoshop, but I'm still convinced by comparing some of the really fine-grained detail still present in the Iridient RAW file against the Lightroom files, that no amount of highlight/lowlight recovery and sharpening would retrieve that granular structure that Lightroom chooses to discard before the user even has the chance to edit the file.

If I go for the new Macbook Pro I'll give the Aperture trial a look - otherwise I guess ease of use and existing investment will win over fine detail, and I'll stick with Lightroom. Maybe Adobe might one day fix their algorithms to allow users to control the finest details themselves.
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Old 03-09-2008   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCT
Curious indeed as the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in of Photoshop Elements 4.0 is not that soft.
Now i would not say that the camera files are very sharp to be honest.
Here small crops from the Epson (pic 1) and C1 (pic 2) converters after PP.
Hi LCT - the C1 file there is better to my eyes - but that's a purely subjective judgement naturally.

The AA filter on most digital cameras does soften details in a way that's hard to get used to after film - but I guess at print size the difference is pretty academic.
Frustrating though.
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Old 03-09-2008   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mani
Hi LCT - the C1 file there is better to my eye...
Better per se yes indeed but i wonder if the film-like rendition of Epson files don't come from the grain/noise we can see here.
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Old 03-09-2008   #24
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Yep - I think you may be onto something there LCT - I'll try to get some Epson RAW versions of the images printed this week to compare with the LR versions.

One amazing thing unless I'm totally missing something obvious - I messed around with a few test images in Epson Raw yesterday, and when I re-opened them today none of the settings were saved. It seems like the user has to manually save the settings for each and every image s/he processes! Is this right? Am I missing something?

I don't think I've ever used a Raw developer that doesn't automatically add some kind of 'sidecar' file to keep track of processes attached to the original (but unchanged) image file.
I'm hoping I really did miss something - this doesn't make any sense, at all.
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Old 03-09-2008   #25
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Both PhotoRaw and RawPlug-in retain automatically the previous settings. Don't hit Command-I in PhotoRaw though as it initializes the settings. The latters can be saved as 'Processing Parameters' as well.
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Old 03-10-2008   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCT
Both PhotoRaw and RawPlug-in retain automatically the previous settings. Don't hit Command-I in PhotoRaw though as it initializes the settings. The latters can be saved as 'Processing Parameters' as well.
Ok - strange - I'll take a look again later this week when I have some time. I was very surprised that images I'd processed seemed to take on the settings of the last processed image, instead of their own previous settings.

Thanks again for all the help. Even though the Epson processor isn't the most modern or fastest, I do like the idea of using it to somehow give the camera's images an even more unique and characteristic look - somewhat like choosing PortraNC intead of UltraMax.
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Old 03-13-2008   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LCT
Both PhotoRaw and RawPlug-in retain automatically the previous settings. Don't hit Command-I in PhotoRaw though as it initializes the settings. The latters can be saved as 'Processing Parameters' as well.

Ok - I think maybe I misunderstood the answer the first time around.

What I'm used to happening with RAW processors (such as ACR and Lightroom) is that you can open each individual raw file and change individual settings, and automatically alongside the original file, the raw converter creates another (xml) file that keeps track of your changes and applies them automatically to only that one image whenever you open it again.

What is happening with Epson Raw is that I edit one image, get it looking as I want, and then if I decide to edit another image, instead of reloading THAT image's previous settings, the application just arbitrarily carries over the settings I've just been using for a totally different image.

As far as I can see, I have to save and load the settings for EVERY SINGLE IMAGE manually.

Sorry to be dense - but have I got this right? Because it's the most inefficient workflow I've ever seen, and can hardly believe it's so.

Thanks for any help with this, because I'm actually liking the look of the images from the Epson Raw application, and I'd like to give it a chance.
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Old 03-13-2008   #28
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Don't be sorry, people have written books on this arcane stuff.
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Old 03-14-2008   #29
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hehehe - So true!

But now, I'm still confused, and I'd like anyone who has experience with Epson Photo Raw to step forward and confirm or deny this nasty rumor: do I have to manually save the development parameters each time I edit an image, and then manually load those settings again each and every time I want to edit the image file?

I can see that evolving this workflow may not be the hardest ever task - IF I'm simply not missing something obvious in the Preferences or Settings which takes care of this process without my tedious manual intervention.
I just would like to give the Epson processor a chance, because the images really do have an interesting look compared to the smoother, more generic look I get from Lightroom (which I still think has by far the best usability of all the RAW processors I've tried).
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Old 03-14-2008   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mani
... do I have to manually save the development parameters each time I edit an image, and then manually load those settings again each and every time I want to edit the image file?...
I guess you do but i'm not sure as i've never done otherwise so far sorry. I don't develop my raws more than once generally.
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Old 03-14-2008   #31
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OK, thanks LCT.

I must say, the online 'manual' and application support is really awful with the Epson converter - but the results are really nice!
Rather like the camera itself in fact!

I tend to go back and tweak results a little until I'm actually ready to print - and even then I'd see the processed version as the real 'negative' rather than the purely raw version, so this application behavior is actually rather poor.

Thanks again for the help - I'm gonna sit with the app a little and then print some comparison versions the same way I did with Lightroom. I'll see then if it's worth the extra effort.
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