LX3 Optimal RAW Processing: High Resolution

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
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fPrime
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LX3 Optimal RAW Processing: High Resolution
May 23, 2013

JC Brown recently asked me to describe the optimized RAW process I used to do a conversion for his FZ50.  It makes more sense if I attempt to explain this using an LX3 RAW file since I have much more experience with that camera.  And rather than start with my process, let’s have some fun and see the result first.  That way those of you who aren’t convinced the image quality advantages are significant needn’t be bored by reading a page and a half worth of technique.

From my perspective when RAW convertors are compared sometimes the only thing really being reviewed is fine detail resolution.  Image quality comparisons should also include how well noise artifacts, fine color detail desaturation, sharpening artifacts, and lens distortion are minimized.  All too often these are compromised in some way yet the effects are not well illustrated.  My examples will seek to show some of these problems in action.

The RAW convertors being compared today are UFRaw v0.19.2 (UFR), Adobe Camera Raw v6.7 (ACR) with PhotoShop v5.5 (PS),  DxO v7.23 (DxO), and Silkypix Pro v5.0 (SPP).  Detail Man was kind enough to provide the DxO conversion and JC Brown provided the SPP conversion, I did the UFR and ACR versions personally.  I also have RawTherapee installed but have found the demosaicing options in RT to be so aggressive that they produce too many artifacts with small sensors like in the LX3.  For larger sensors RT holds a lot of promise, however, and its luminance recovery options in particular beat all of the other RAW convertors I’ve tried to date.

Here is the test image.  It’s a 2010 LX3 RAW file processed by ACR shot at f/4.0 at base ISO of 80 with an incredible amount of fine detail.  It’s been converted to JPEG with XnView at 100% quality with 1x1 sampling.  The UFR, DxO, and SPP are also viewable in my gallery saved in the same way.

ACR v6.7 with noise reduction, contrast, sharpening, lens distortion correction applied in Photoshop v5.5

In classical fashion let’s start with comparing resolution to satisfy those of you concerned first with image detail post demosaicing.  The comparison below is of the balcony fencing of the building on the left viewed at 200%.

Be sure to review these at 100% view.

It’s pretty obvious here that the ACR version reveals the most detail in the fencing followed in order by UFR, DxO, and SPP so we’ll leave it at that and move along to the other image quality criteria.  In the next post I’ll tackle fine color detail preservation and noise.

 fPrime's gear list:fPrime's gear list
Nikon D200 Nikon D700 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM
Casio Exilim EX-V7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
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