Monday, February 06, 2012

Raw Converting

I know that there's a new version of Lightroom on the horizon, but I had it filed away as something to think about at some undefined point in the middle-to-distant future, and paid no more attention to it. Bill's recent experience with the LR4 public beta reminded me that it was something that I needed to pay more attention to.

Seriously – first photo with LR4 beta. Canon S100.
I use Adobe software as the core of my image editing routine. Lightroom handles 95% of it, while special tasks are farmed out to the now-ancient Photoshop CS3. The weekly-updated Vuescan drives the two scanners for the film that I use, and I'll occasionally use Photoacute for focus stacking and super-resolution processing with digital images.

I've been using Lightroom since the third beta – the first feature-complete one – of the grand-daddy program. The beta for Lightroom Four looks great, but I've developed a few decent tricks in soon-to-be-old versons. My favourite was to work with the exposure and brightness controls in opposition to each other: exposure is global, and can cause highlight clipping, but brightness will try very hard not to clip, and only influences the brighter parts of the image. The contrast control works to change the range that the brightness influences. Between those adjustments an amazing range of control could be had, and it was quick and easy to create the results that I wanted.

Lightroom 4: no more brightness control.

And I'm already thinking of LR3 in the past tense.

I'm not overly happy with Adobe. Photoshop CS6 is reported to be the last chance to upgrade at a reduced price, as they're getting rid of their policy that lets people skip generations without penalty. There's nothing in the new versions that I need, but I do miss having support for the raw files from my Panasonic GH1 and Canon S100 in CS3. It's generally a nuisance to remember what I can edit as raw files and what needs to be opened as a tiff, and I miss being able to easily merge multiple photos from those cameras into layers or panoramas. But the new versioning policy stings: I'm starting to feel like I'm not on the good end of this bargain.

Nobody says that I have to upgrade. I can stay with what I'm doing, keep the results I already have, and not need to do anything differently. But what fun is that?

So it's inevitable that I'm going to need to learn new tricks sooner or later. Lightroom Four is almost certainly in my future. But this also seems like a good time to re-evaluate what I want my software to do, and consider the options that weren't out there when I first signed up with Adobe. I'm hearing interesting things about Aperture, and DxO Optics has a reputation as the best choice for photographers who want to squeeze the best from their cameras and lenses. That sounds fascinating – and they all offer free trials.

I may need a new computer soon.


  1. Yes, DxO should be nice, as Capture One from PhaseOne should be as well. Alas, I cannot run any of these, because I'm not willing to really invest into a machine which could be running a virtualized Win7 with enough "muscles" to run these.

    So for me it is Olympus Viewer 2 (in a "tiny" virtualized Win7 with 1.5GB RAM) if I want Olympus colors, Corel's AfterShot Pro (formerly Bibble Pro), which is just like LR, and RawTherapee if I really want or need ultimate (and fine color) control, and the best demosaicing and sharpening algorithms on the planet. Mostly I use OV2 to keep the Oly colors in a conversion to .tif, and continue the rest of the work with RT. Lately I also played around with AP, but I don't have a really good camera profile for that one - I think I always see a magenta cast in that one.

    Time to get a ColorChecker Passport, and to calibrate things myself.

  2. Wolfgang, I love my ColorChecker Passport. Supporting the DNG Profiles that the Xrite software creates is going to be a critical point for any raw converter that I audition.

    I could try to create a profile myself, I suppose, but then I also need to trust my monitor calibration.

    I haven't looked at Capture One yet, but I've heard great things about it. But the 2006 iMac that does all of my heavy lifting might not be so amused by my ambitions.


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