RAW Converters

Mike Hollingshead

Edit: Too bad I can't fix how I spelled converters on the title :( I can "go advanced" and change it where it says title but umm, that does nothing to the thread title.

I was recently given a free copy of a great RAW converter and thought I'd start a thread on them. I did a search on RAW on here and for whatever reason it wasn't pulling anything up.

What are some of the favorites out there?

I have used only about 4 different ones and the best I'd used was the free version of http://www.pixmantec.com/products/rawshooter_essentials.asp (ooops I called that pixmatrix). It seemed to do about everything I thought I'd need. It's a good free one for those interested.

My photoshop CS has always been screwy with coloring. I can't even get it to look 100% untouched/not processed by setting everything to default. Nothing I do will get the image to the starting point it is on all my other converters. I quickly gave up on the stupid thing. I've heard others having the same problem. Maybe that is better now with CS2.

Anyway, the one I was given is DxO Optics Pro 4 Elite. I'm getting more and more impressed by it. They actually have modules made for different cameras and different lenses to fix their issues. But you have so much manual control on those things that it doesn't seem that important if they have your camera or lens. With this ap you can do about anything to the actual raw file. It's actually making many of my old kit lens shots look pretty darn good at full size(the biggest issue with crap lens is when viewing them at full size). The only thing one would still need to do outside of conversion is the use of masks...but just barely. I also haven't quite gotten the control of contrast down, though it's coming.

The big positives. For one you can correct distortion in the RAW conversion. Any type of distortion...you can correct it. That is their biggest deal I guess. They seem to be kings in that department. Do poles and building tilt inward towards the edges of your frame? Very easy to fix in the conversion. You'll obviously lose a small amount of the bottom and sides of the shot however, as you have to crop it after it's tweaked straight.

You can correct vignetting in the conversion. You can do the local contrast function in the conversion. You can get rid of purple fringing and chromatic aberration. There are some fine noise removal controls..they say a 2 ISO drop...800 to 200.....400 to 100. The color tools are rather extensive. Highlight recovery did more than I thought it would. You can open shadows and preseve that while adjusting a curve for contrast. The sharpening tools have really impressed me. It seems to hold off on the white oversharpening look for much longer than in normal sharpening outside of conversion. I have some kit lens shots with a bunch of purple fringing, extremely soft, and with barrel distortion. I easily fixed all that in the conversion and it did a pretty amazing job. You can also add film looks to things if you want.

I'm going to forget a ton of options since there are so many. I really like how it is setup and runs. It's nice to be able to just click on the image and hold to see the before look, then let go to see the current look. It sounds like they are real big on being able to just use the auto mode. Auto mode seemed to do well for me, but with such high dynamic shots like the sky presents, I'm not sure how much it will be used. And I'd think most would still want to do mask work for lighting after conversion. But I think that is all I'll be doing after conversion now.

The drawback...cpu useage. This thing is a beast(though I might not have the newer v4.1, a free upgrade, which is leaps better by the sounds of it). I can hear the fan kicking on frequently while it is in use. That never has to come on when I'm using PS CS. I guess it is to be expected to some degree since it's able to do so many different functions to the raw file. I have a 3ghz computer with 1 gig of ram and it runs it fine outside of that. The box recommends 2 gigs of ram. Looking online I see for the standard version it only says 1 gig, while elite says 2. Standard looks like it does most things but just doesn't support those high dollar cameras like the 1Ds or 5D etc. Elite supports them. I also see online that version 4.1 is greatly improved in this department...over v4. I'm currently not at home and am not sure if I have v4.1 or just v4, so maybe it's a non-issue. I'll have to check that out.

For example:
- RAW image preview is 2 to 4 times faster than in v4.
- Feedback when adjusting sliders in Preview is more than twice as fast
- Viewing “Before/after” images is more than three times as fast
- Viewing Multiple images in the “Organize” tab is more than twice as fast
Well as it is those are fast enough, so I may have v4.1. If not then it'll just be very fast. The process time is fairly slow and it doesn't mention an increase in that. It's probably 30 seconds an image on my computer. But again, it's doing a ton of functions to the file. It's certainly worth it if it does a great job.

I'll try and post a few 100% crops of before and afters later. If you aren't happy with your lens performance in the distortion and softness department, I'd say it may be a non-issue if using this to convert. The one before and after I have at full size of a brick wall thingy, a truck, and a distorted light pole is pretty impressive. It seems to crank out the detail and sharpen it..as well as fixing that leaning pole. Will post it later.

http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/dxo_optics_pro/product_comparison
 
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Thanks for sharing that, Mike! It looks like it puts BreezeBrowser to shame.

DXO offers a full-function 21-day trial to experiment on your own images. It looks like they've got the 17-40L (and the F1.4 50mm) dialed in for all EOSD bodies. The examples of the "image masters" on their website are quite spectacular. Looking forward to trying it out!
 
I haven't messed with HDR yet. But it looks from the samples like DXOs RAW transforms working with the full 16-bit data seem to pull out some of the same info without needing multiple exposures.
 
I haven't messed with HDR yet. But it looks from the samples like DXOs RAW transforms working with the full 16-bit data seem to pull out some of the same info without needing multiple exposures.

Yeah I have always been able to get close enough for my liking. HDR will still smoke it when it comes to noise free shadow detail and completely unblown out high lights. But you can go quite a ways with just the one file if you want.
 
Thanks for the info, Mike. Looks like this app could save a bit of time and effort on post processing. I've only used the processor that comes with the Canon Digital Photo Professional software and Rawshooter. The Canon software seems rather limited, and I haven't been entirely satisfied. How much does the DxO Optics Pro 4 Elite cost usually? I'll have to do a search.
 
I just downloaded the trials to Bibble Labs pro and Capture One Pro and am testing them out. So far they seem good, and somewhat complicated.
 
I have tried almost every RAW converter out there, from ACR to Silkypix, and everything in between. I (for now) use two for different purposes.

For everyday event shooting, I I used to use Bibble, but I have been using the Lightroom beta. Some people hate it, I happen to like it. The Highlight Recovery tool and the Fill Light tool are great tools, and I like the color tweaking ability. The workflow is great for batch processing. ACR 4.0 within Photoshop CS3 is basically the same engine as Lightroom, but without the interface. I only hope the retail version takes a cue from Rawshooter and Rawshooter's ability to categorize pix into groups 1, 2, or 3. Rawshooter was bought out by Adobe; basically all the nice features of Rawshooter (fill light and vibrance) have been rolled into ACR. I loved the Rawshooter software. It was fast and clean, but now it is gone.

For fine art (landscapes and seascapes), low volume projects, and tethered studio work I use Capture One Pro. From Capture One Pro, the file goes to Photoshop for touching up, but Capture One produces fantastic colors:I can see a noticeable difference between it and other converters IMHO. I only use Capture One to produce a clean Tiff, and do almost no editing with it (the editing gets done in photoshop). Capture One Pro is really not worth the price, unless you are really nitpicky, which I tend to be sometimes, or if you have very demanding clients, which I tend to have sometimes as well.

I liked Bibble as well, but for some reason I stopped using it when Lightroom came out. I was intrigued by the Perfectly Clear software, but grew out of that quickly, as it seemed to produce halos around high contrast borders. I just opened Bibble Pro for the first time in a long time after starting to write this, and I must say, it really is nice software. I really recommend it. But I don't think I will use it again, as Lightroom seems to do better with colors for batches, ease for batch output, and not to mention I like the database features. Capture One is head and shoulders above both for those files that require perfection.


Silkypix also produces great files, but the interface was clunky to me. Every other software out there has the main panel for editing on the right, and Silkypix, in typically Japanese grammar like fashion of doing things opposite, put it on the left. You might want to try it out many people claim it produces the most "film like" conversions of any of the current RAW converter out there.

Have fun trying all of them out. The good thing is that all of the products out there are good products these days, and you really can't go wrong in choosing any of them. I would simply choose the one that feels most comfortable and go with it.

Have a great day!
 
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http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/image_masters/gerry_kopelow

Just going through a few of them and found this guy's show a good change, mostly highlight and shadow work. It's too bad they don't show more 100% crops as that is where the biggest gain seems to be imo.

Looking at the image in specific its rather clear that they are doing a whole lot more than just pulling the raw file through their tool instead of say Photoshop.

And afterall this makes sense because there is only so much data there to use, a lot of the other tools tend to apply other settings to the image to clean it up while importing it but in photoshop you tend to get more control and as such its not done automatically.
 
I've decided to just stick with the free download program of RawShooter Essentials. It does all I need and it's not near the cpu hog of DxO. I could have photoshop open, RawShooter, adobe premiere pro and my web software/site all open and use less cpu than DxO lol. That's a pretty big drawback to have something being such a hog like that(and I have a 3 ghz computer with a gig of ram...it's just ridiculous to constantly pull it down that hard while working on an 8mp raw file). The other things it offers can be done in photoshop anyway(like fixing barrel distortion). The other thing is, I've always done most of the work after raw conversion, as one can use new adjustment layers and masks...that you can't during conversion. In the end, I'm happy with just a 16 bit TIFF that's had nothing done to it in conversion. To bad they don't let you use new layers and masks in conversion. Some images it's pretty hard to get by without those.
 
Edit: Too bad I can't fix how I spelled converters on the title :( I can "go advanced" and change it where it says title but umm, that does nothing to the thread title.

I was recently given a free copy of a great RAW converter and thought I'd start a thread on them. I did a search on RAW on here and for whatever reason it wasn't pulling anything up.

What are some of the favorites out there?

I have used only about 4 different ones and the best I'd used was the free version of http://www.pixmantec.com/products/rawshooter_essentials.asp (ooops I called that pixmatrix). It seemed to do about everything I thought I'd need. It's a good free one for those interested.

My photoshop CS has always been screwy with coloring. I can't even get it to look 100% untouched/not processed by setting everything to default. Nothing I do will get the image to the starting point it is on all my other converters. I quickly gave up on the stupid thing. I've heard others having the same problem. Maybe that is better now with CS2.
http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/dxo_optics_pro/product_comparison

Thanks...interesting thread. I have had issues with saving images in CS2. I might try this program. Sounds good.
 
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