Raw Converter Showdown: Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8 and Lightroom 4

With the start of a new year, we thought it would be a good time to explore the current state of raw processing with a head-to-head comparison of the leading cross-platform raw image converters: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, Phase One's Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8. Of course, today's raw converters offer much more than just demosaicing algorithms. Issues such as processing speed, imaging workflow and output options rank right up there with image quality for amateur and professional photographers alike. And as software gets more and more clever about image analysis, the ability to start with a pleasing image at default settings is enticing as well.

So we loaded our test computer with hundreds of raw files from a variety of cameras and put each application through its paces to find out which one offers the best combination of performance, features and of course, image quality.

The minimum hardware requirements of each application are fairly similar, with all three available for both Mac and Windows operating systems. Each application benefits from multi-core processors, plenty of empty hard drive space and lots of available memory. I'd suggest at least 8 gigabytes of RAM on any system, particularly if you like to have multiple programs running at once.

The contenders

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.3
US $149/ €134.07/ £106.48 (discounted upgrade pricing available)

Lightroom 4's modular approach is tailored to a comprehensive capture to output workflow.

Adobe's raw converter and image management software offers tight integration with the company's industry-standard editing software, Photoshop CS. Among the new features in the latest version of Lightroom are geo-tagging, soft-proofing and the ability to create print-ready books. You can read about these and other features in our Lightroom 4 review. For a list of currently supported cameras, visit Adobe's Camera Raw page. Adobe also has Lightroom 4 online training videos available. 

Capture One Pro 7.0.2
US $299/ €229/ £228 (discounted upgrade pricing available)

Capture One Pro 7 introduces image catalog support for expanded management and organization options.

Phase One's raw converter has long been popular with fashion and studio photographers due to its robust support for tethered shooting. New to version 7 is a catalog-based asset management option and live view during tethered shooting for select DSLRs. The latest dot release (7.0.2) introduces support for Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor cameras and you can see how it handles the X-Pro1's raw files in our recent test. For a list of currently compatible cameras, visit Phase One's support page. Phase One provides a video tutorial series for Capture One Pro 7 on their YouTube channel.

DxO Optics Pro 8.1.2
US $299/ €299/ £269 (discounted upgrade pricing available)

DxO Optics Pro 8 is best known for its extensive, automated corrections for lens flaws.

DxO Labs' raw converter is built around the company's well-regarded camera/lens correction modules. Long favored by many users in conjunction with external asset management apps, version 8 introduces selective tonal edits and print capability. You can read about these features in our DxO Optics Pro 8: What's New article. For a list of currently compatible cameras, visit DxO labs' support page. DxO Labs also hosts a library of DxO Optics Pro 8 tutorials on their web site.

In this raw converter showdown we'll compare these three programs in the following categories:

Let's get started with our raw converter showdown and find out which one comes out on top.

Click here to continue reading our Raw Showdown article...

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 415
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steve_hoge
By steve_hoge (Jan 23, 2013)

We can only hope that Aperture 4 includes a RAW converter plugin architecture so we're not stuck with Apple's pathetic tools and their apathetic update cycle. (Yes, some may be satisfied with Apple's RAW support for their particular camera but the breadth of coverage is not very wide nor deep.)

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JakeB
By JakeB (Jan 23, 2013)

I use a Nikon D7000 which is fully supported.
Aperture receives regular updates and I find their "tools" powerful and subtle.

What camera do you use?

1 upvote
RobBobW
By RobBobW (Jan 24, 2013)

Steve, can you be specific as to which cameras are not supported and which tools you find "pathetic"?

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Jan 23, 2013)

Aftershot (formerly Bibble) is "cross platform".

Opens plenty of things that DXO just skips, eg DNGs from the Leica M9.

2 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Jan 23, 2013)

"With the start of a new year, we thought it would be a good time to explore the current state of raw processing with a head-to-head comparison of the leading cross-platform raw image converters"
I see your point but if we included Bibble it would have been hard to justify not including several other applications.

3 upvotes
Ron Poelman
By Ron Poelman (Jan 23, 2013)

+1
No Aftershot in a RAW review ??
Oh, that's right, this is a commercial site.
What a joke.

3 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Jan 23, 2013)

Amadou Diallo:

Why aren't you treating Aftershot as a serious raw converter?
Bibble is the old name--prepurchase by Corel.

And Aftershot has been updated, as recently as Dec 2012.

Including DigiKam would have opened up all sorts of possibilities.

2 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Jan 23, 2013)

arscii:

Not to worry the "current state of raw processing" would include Aftershot, so DPReview can always start next month on such an exploration.

0 upvotes
arscii
By arscii (Jan 23, 2013)

For a supposed review site the house style has become cringingly embarrassing. This evaluation of software is a "showdown" of "contenders". The migration from Docklands to Hollywood is almost complete. Is Scott Kelby now the editor?

2 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Jan 23, 2013)

What can I say, some of us get excited about raw converters ;-)

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
9 upvotes
arscii
By arscii (Jan 23, 2013)

Evidently so, my dear chap, and there is nothing wrong with raw excitement. But please, a little restraint in language.

0 upvotes
joel avery
By joel avery (Jan 23, 2013)

Thanks for the review! It's timely seeing as I was curious about the current special DxO has on their products. I've used Ligthroom since it's beginning and agree with most of your points about the product.

Still wish everyone would work towards team workflows. That's my biggest gripe about Lightroom. It takes some work to get multiple users to work with the same images and same database. If I could have my entire studio simultaneously working on the same Ligthroom database....that's pretty close to post-processing nirvana.

joel*

0 upvotes
raincoat
By raincoat (Jan 24, 2013)

I am a long timer user of DXO. I'm interested in switching and this review confirms I should just move to LR4 or C1. C1 for better skin tones, or LR4 just to stay within 'mainstream'. Hard decisions.

0 upvotes
wakaba
By wakaba (Jan 23, 2013)

Where is ViewNX2? Fast and easy!

Where is Gimp and its raw converter? Not so fast but lots of features.

Crossplatform is not really a selling point since like 10000 B.C

0 upvotes
IrishhAndy
By IrishhAndy (Jan 23, 2013)

It is a strange decision indeed. Is it any wonder the top thread on dpreview is, L'iberalism is a psychological disorder.'

0 upvotes
wakaba
By wakaba (Jan 23, 2013)

L ;-)

0 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Jan 23, 2013)

We could have done a very broad comparison of every raw converter on the market. We decided to take a more detailed look at three of the most popular cross-platform solutions.

3 upvotes
BJN
By BJN (Jan 23, 2013)

A Nikon-only converter doesn't deserve a spot here.

What's the user base of Gimp and the amount of interest it would have for readers?

1 upvote
steve_hoge
By steve_hoge (Jan 23, 2013)

I imagine the reviewers chose cross-platform tools not because of the utility of cross-platform usage (or it's value as a "selling point") but because a review of those tools would be relevant to the widest audience of dpreview readers.

6 upvotes
arscii
By arscii (Jan 23, 2013)

As you rightly observe, Amadou, you could indeed have "done" a comprehensive review of the raw converter market. And had you done so, you might well have produced a robust and respected piece of work of which you could be justly proud.

0 upvotes
wakaba
By wakaba (Jan 23, 2013)

@BJN:
ViewNX2 Nikontool for Nikoncameras doing a great job with Nikonrawfiles and associated Nikoncameras and upload to Nikon Image service? 14bit Software with a userbase of millions? Sometimes 3rd party software is not the answer. Besides that - fast and dependable processing, good archivfunctions. No reason to pay ransom to Adobe.

Gimp works well, has a 12bit limit and thus limited to everday workflow - no superhighresolution files at the moment, soon to be solved. I replaced PS 4 years ago with Gimp on all PC-Workstations. And I dont employ pain in the ass Macacademy PS artdrones.

0 upvotes
ArmandN
By ArmandN (Jan 23, 2013)

I recently reviewed the same 3 programs (http://www.twin-pixels.com/best-photo-raw-converters/) and I came to pretty much the same conclusions.

And I didn't review Aperture either because it wasn't updated; it wouldn't be fair to compare the current gen Lightroom with old-gen Aperture.

Comment edited 29 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
IrishhAndy
By IrishhAndy (Jan 23, 2013)

That seems like a reasoned choice.

0 upvotes
RobBobW
By RobBobW (Jan 24, 2013)

Actually it is a poorly informed choice. Even though the version number has not changes in a while, there have been several updates making changes to functionality. The last update was not that long ago.

1 upvote
MtnBikerCalif
By MtnBikerCalif (Jan 24, 2013)

Aperture is updated regularly. Just because the updates are free and they haven't gone to v4 to charge more money doesn't mean it's not updated. What's old gen about the current Aperture?

1 upvote
swankFoto
By swankFoto (Jan 23, 2013)

Aperture not included, seriously?
What value does this review have without Lightroom's biggest competitor? Aperture wasn't even mentioned in the intro.

5 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Jan 23, 2013)

Aperture isn't a cross-platform piece of software.

18 upvotes
skinnymakespretty
By skinnymakespretty (Jan 23, 2013)

hah!, R. Butler is correct! @swankFoto sorry.

0 upvotes
asw66
By asw66 (Jan 23, 2013)

Aperture seems to have been deliberately excluded because it's not cross-platform. But it still should have rated a mention.

FWIW, I'm an Aperture user myself, but tried out Capture One about a week ago. C1's default rendering was more high key, which is generally more flattering for portraits. No obvious differences in clarity though. But I like Aperture's retouching tools much better.

4 upvotes
swankFoto
By swankFoto (Jan 23, 2013)

RButler stated a fact. What that fact has to do with excluding Aperture I have no idea. Most pros are on Mac so this "showdown" is pretty worthless to a large segment of this site's intended audience.

2 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Jan 23, 2013)

As stated in the very first sentence, our aim was to compare cross-platform raw converters. For a piece as involved as this one, we have to prioritize software which any of our readers (apologies to Linux users) can actually use.

16 upvotes
IrishhAndy
By IrishhAndy (Jan 23, 2013)

Are you saying you don'ty cater for macusers richard? If so that is a jolly poor show. Some might think youare taking the microsoft dollar.

1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Jan 23, 2013)

No, and nothing I said implies it.

We've covered software that works on BOTH the most popular platforms. We're not excluding either group.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
9 upvotes
Photomonkey
By Photomonkey (Jan 23, 2013)

Many would take exception the statement that "Most pros are on Mac".

10 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Jan 23, 2013)

R Butler+Amadou Diallo+asw66:

Of course Aftershot(Bibble) works on Mac, Windows and Linux, and it's often better than DXO; it opens Leica M9 DNGs, unlike DXO, Samsung raws too.

The free, if a bit glitchy and odd to use, Digikam will also run on three platforms I believe.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
Allan Crowson
By Allan Crowson (Jan 23, 2013)

The fact that Aperture was not included because you apparently are awaiting an update has some plausibility. However, "cross platform" as the reason for not including Aperture won't cut it, especially since your test machine was a Mac! Indeed, you also left out AfterShot Pro (née Bibble Pro) from Corel, which is one of the most cross-platform commercial applications out there, as it runs on Mac/Windows/ AND Linux! I am not only interested in hearing about the market leaders. I also want to hear about what is viable, period.

3 upvotes
Mark B UK
By Mark B UK (Jan 23, 2013)

I found this an interesting review, but share the viewpoint that it would have been nice to have seen Aperture included, since it's the obvious rival to Lightroom. While I accept that Aperture isn't cross-platform, the test was carried out on a Mac, probably the system of choice for most photographers, and even those currently using PCs would surely like to know whether Apple offers a RAW-processing product that warrants switching allegiances.

2 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Jan 23, 2013)

> Aperture isn't a cross-platform piece of software.
How about the free Raw Therapee?

2 upvotes
Shirozina
By Shirozina (Jan 23, 2013)

If you want to do heavy tonal compression on an image ( bring out detail in highlights and shadows) and still have the image looking natural and not 'HDR'ed' then LR is way better than C1 or DXO - it's not even close.

0 upvotes
iforum
By iforum (Jan 23, 2013)

All the chatter about default is off the mark, it all smacks of simplistic jpeg processing and may as well be compared to in camera processing. A more accurate assessment can be made by processing marginal difficult images.

All this is a promotion of mediocrity, try extending yourself

1 upvote
flashalan
By flashalan (Jan 24, 2013)

Great article thanks for the effort put into it.

1 upvote
ken henke
By ken henke (Jan 24, 2013)

This would have been the ultimate review if it had included Aperture. Remember, many of us are not in bed with Microsoft or Adobe.

2 upvotes
whiteheat
By whiteheat (Jan 24, 2013)

Great article, good effort in getting a comparison across 3 popular PP products. Despite some of the criticism that alternative products X, Y and Z etc, were not included, the review gave a good detailed overview about each product's capabilities especially in comparison to the others being reviewed.

Yes, it would have been nice to have some kind of comparison tool that listed and compared features between all these PP products available on the market today. However, we talking software products, not cameras which have the hard stats nicely listed out for a side by side comparison. We want to know about the quality of these products, not so much their metrics or hard stats.

The review dealt mainly with a lot of visual concepts, nebulous renderings and subjective outputs, so all in all only a very few products could be compared against one another at the same time. How would an article of this scope and magnitude comparing all similar software PP products been possible?

1 upvote
Total comments: 415
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