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Today we have several RAW development software for serious photographers with digital cameras. It is puzzling which one is the best to use. So, I decided to compare them at this moment because Adobe released Lightroom beta open wild.
February 19, 2008 RAW Developer Report II relased
Photoshop has an easy to use RAW developer system for almost every RAW file. After Adobe CS2, we can use BRIDGE to brows the graphic files. Then it's easy to select and move the tasks step by step, smoothly. A lens filter will correct common lens distortions such as barrel and pincushion, and fix chromatic aberations and vignetting.
Adobe is going to release the professional RAW handling tool with development. It looks similar to the BRIDGE but more rush usable.
Apple released Aperature and updated to 1.5 for professional photographers. This software is not just RAW viewing as rush, but also shows the page layout when these pictures are printed. I was not sure Aperture provides RAW development even I do not have it yet. However, frined of mine has then he give me the result. So I show it here (updated October 5, 2006 - Thank you Mr.A.Ishida!!). Aperture registers development data as meta and save the original clean, separately. So, for the next step,the person in charge can finish it on meta suggestion but still source RAW in your hand.
DxO is a very different RAW development tool. This software not has browsing mode, but it is possible to read files in the folder all at once. The software comes with data that corresponds to the any makes of the lenses. So you have to select the lens with maker which you have. DXO adjusts data with specific corrections using the optical data. This means you do not have to adjust the lens deficiency like using a lens adjustment filter in Photoshop to correct common lens distortions, such as barrel and pincushion. It fixes chromatic aberrations and vignetting automatically, too. This is such a powerful professional tool to develop the RAW data.
Unlike others, Silkypix develops RAW files very well. Silkypix's smoothness result makes large size usage possible. Silkypix includes the thumbnail rush view.
I don't experience too much software that comes with the cameras. Today more RAW development softwares are available. Camera makers prepare their own software with DSLR, however, I've never had a better result or found any better usage than in the software above.
One of the good example is a moon picture which I've already written about. However, at present, I'm writing about it here because Lightroom beta. So, let's compare the picture in fine detail.
The example shot at the right taken with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mk2 with a TS_E24mm lens. Unfortunately, this lens has no data in DxO. So, the result is a little bit unfair to show here. However, there is no better source to compare as a reference use.
The image on the right has been developed by Silkypix Ver.2 that I use here as an example shot. The data for this is ISO160 1/50sec f3.5.
At basic adjustment, sharpness and soften are barter. Some are not but basically they are. At this test, Photoshop or Lightroom makes sharper image than Silkpix. DxO is just in the middle of them. In my experience, even push the sharpness at Silkypix until same as Photoshop's result, still Photoshop's RAW development results are not fine enough like results by Silkypix. So, when we are talking about Photoshop or Silkypix, I think we can forget about this barter deal.
(Maybe this point is difficult to get to you. When you up the sharpen, deteail been rough as same as push the film ISO at development. When you soften it, detail been smooth. This is basic deal. So I witten it is "barter".)
The results shown below. Sorry, but I do not have Aperture. If you do, please develop this RAW data. I'd like to see the result. Aperture develop the RAW data but keep the pure RAW at the same time. If other software puts in the meta data and it means killing every other software's process especially DXO. DXO did not develop the data correctly which, was developed by a different RAW tool.
I adjust all files almost same except DxO. DxO does adjustment as very different way then difficult to adjust to syncro with other results (but that result is actually just OK). For look the fine details, let we see below...
Now you can see how Adobe's RAW development result are fear than the others. Lightroom looks like little bit better than Photoshop but big difference between Silkypix and Adobe. Apple Aperture shows good result just between Lightroom and Silkypix. Maybe best one to use as photographer's part before pass the file to the editor or graphic desingner. Even you finish the pre-adjustment quickly, still you hold pure RAW and re-develop it after as an art. DxO has Adobe's sharpness but near with Silkypix's smoothness. However, the probelm is, Japanese version Aperture saves original file data with Japanese file name on it. Of course it makes trouble when handling the data with different environment on LAN or passing the file to the people who uses different languages. Apple must change this filename setting as language selectable, if they really wants to hold professional market. Possibly, if DxO has data for TS-E24mm, this result must be different even little bit but better at DxO.
When we think this as dependent on a what type of object you are shoot, we can find any reasons to choice one. If you need fine grain and details, let you use others and not directly been Adobe's software to develop the RAW data. If you need finest, Silkypix is just for you, of course. Only you use Adobe's Photoshop RAW developer when you have to save the time even seconds to get final result. (I think it is very rare case though...) Regarding Aperture, it depends on your work flaw. Aperture is good for the professional photogapers who have to pass the data soon after shoot it. Lightroom targetting same market, looks like. However, now Aperture leads so far. Now "Run Aperture on any Intel-based Mac. Any desktop, including Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro. Or any notebook, including MacBook and MacBook Pro." (from Apple's web site)!! So now you can have the real digital portable darkroom.
I using Silkypix basically and now add the DxO as my option. Switching case by case and not been using Photoshop's RAW developing software. Now we can try to use the Lightroom beta. I could not find any advantage with it, yet but not mean Lightroom is bad software. Because tuning RAW developing interface is understandable and easy to use because interface is same as Photoshop - might be Adobe's Cursing ;). However, after Aperture1.5, I'd like to have Aperture with latest PowerBook (where is the money though...). DxO makes picture perfect. Sometime too perfect then result is not as image what you want (over correcting). Silkypix gives result just what I want.
We use computers as our digital darkroom, today. So, this is absolutely the same as talking about developer chemicals like we used with the D-76, D-96, Ilford or a lot of other for B&W films. Before I tested Silkypix, I couldn't understand why digital data makes so much difference. Now I know there's a lot of difference because of algorythm (and maybe other faults there). If you are a serious photographer, RAW develpment is a very important process so hopefully you can talk about the results more seriously with my examples. Please try to your example shots, too. Some software has free beta or "Free Version" like Silkypix. Hopefully, someday we can have best one so.
Feb. 22, 2006 - updated March. 15, 2007 by Daisuke Tomiyasu