RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

Started Jun 12, 2014 | Discussions
lnikj Regular Member • Posts: 190
RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)
15

I know this has been done many times before, but for anybody who is interested I've recently completed a fairly detailed comparison of 8 RAW converters (Lightroom, Aperture, Capture One Pro, AfterShot Pro, DXO, Irident Developer, PhotoNinja and RAW Photo Processor):

http://www.nomadlens.com/raw-converters-comparison

There's a few OS X one's only there I'm afraid.

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flyfisher99 Regular Member • Posts: 302
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

lnikj wrote:

I know this has been done many times before, but for anybody who is interested I've recently completed a fairly detailed comparison of 8 RAW converters (Lightroom, Aperture, Capture One Pro, AfterShot Pro, DXO, Irident Developer, PhotoNinja and RAW Photo Processor):

http://www.nomadlens.com/raw-converters-comparison

There's a few OS X one's only there I'm afraid.

Great comparison, i just read through it, and i will read through it a few more times. I have been using Lightroom up until now, but your writing made me wanted to try DXO and Capture One for sure.

One question, im using a Sony A7R, and i have some rangefinder glass (some problematic, CV12mm for instance) but Lightroom have this plugin (flat field) that completely fixes my isses, do you know if DXO for instance have a similar plugin?

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ImageAmateur Veteran Member • Posts: 4,964
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

Interesting obviously a lot of effort, well done and thanks for sharing.

Of course, you did come to the right conclusion...     re Capture One Pro 7 (my choice    ), but seriously, C1 is very good for me.

One thing that, obviously you could not put in, is 'subjective' view of which image is preferable in our own eyes.

For me, Capture One has default image depth and character that only Photo Ninja may come close, ACDsee (not here) also comes close, but for me C1  is wonderful.

I also find that since I started using C1 Pro, I have hardly used any plugins (re color etc) during processing.

Only Nik Silver Efex if going to B&W, or Dfine and Sharpener at output stage.

Good work.

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Timur Born
Timur Born Veteran Member • Posts: 4,965
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

Thanks for the comparison and detailed write-up! Some comments I'd like to make so far:

The numbers in the kelvin and tint columns in the table are a little more informative (Raw Photo Processor supplies RGGB values). There is some considerable variation here and in the absence of very careful colour profiling and calibration it is impossible to make any judgement as to whether any of the software is ‘getting it right’.

I don't think you can compare numbers between different converters. Theoretically Kelvin should be Kelvin, but practically it is not. All of these converters use a different range and seem to map the very same gray to different "numbers" within their respective ranges. This means that you can get different numbers with equal visual results and even when you set up a fixed WB on the camera on shooting. So generally I don't trust their numbers at all.

At the outset I think we can lay to bed the notion that any of the RAW converters has a demosaicing algorithm that is notably superior or inferior to the others.

I disagree, albeit in practice the results very much depend on the image subjects. At least for Olympus files (E-M5, E-M1) Lightroom *always* applies what LR calls "BayerGreenSplit" and RawTherapee calls "Green Equilibration". This is *not* done to counter different filter strength of sensels (G1/G2 green filters are the same on these Olympus cams), but to blur away fine detail that results in labyrinth patterns from LR's demosaicing. This may or may not also explain the smaller file-size of the LR results. Both DxO and RT deliver better fine detail out from their demosaicing in these areas, but DxO can create other artifacts (vertical lines where none are present).

Out of the three RT is the only converter that allows full manual control over the amount of BayerGreenSplit/Equilibration being applied. LR can only completely turn it on and off, and even then only by converting the images to DNG files and then editing the respective EXIF field via an external editor.

Vertical bars after demosaicing

Horizontal stripes after demosaicing

Moire is another interesting area when it comes to demosaicing:

Moire vs. detail vs. demosaicing vs. Green equilibration

Of the other three RAW converters, AfterShot Pro is very obviously the weakest. Lightroom also appears very slightly more blurry than the leading five and Aperture’s sharpening algorithm is a little crude and introduces haloes and general crunchiness.

As seen above LR may get a worse (more blurred) start from the get-go, but after that individual sharpening settings make a *lot* of difference not only between different applications, but also between different cameras. The values of LR's sharpening sliders are not absolute values, but relative for each camera (the sharpness slider for Fuji EXR cameras changed dramatically over one patch). For microcontrast I also usually tend to push the Detail slider up towards max, but keep the Sharpening slider below 30, often even below 25 or 20. Each step can make a difference there. And I often find radii below 1.0 rather detrimental to sharpness (Detail is better for getting out small detail compared to a smaller radius).

Don't be shy to use the Masking slider, anything below 5-10 is never wrong, often you can push it even higher to keep noise out (especially in images with lots of sky). This in turn allows to push for more sharpness before noise reduction is applied. If there isn't too much texture in the image it also helps to push the sharpening radius towards 1.5 - 1.7, which then helps reduce sharpening of noise.

One area I may have missed in your article (?) is how all of these converters deal with color noise and especially (color) moire. I am not very much enarmored with the artifacts created by DxO's algorithm for example and some converters allow for more control to distinguish between color noise and moire filtering than others. And then there are filters that affects detail of the image which one didn't think would be affected.

Dead pixel filter = more color moire?

One last feature of LR to remember compared to DxO's lens profiles (lens softness, aka sharpening) is that you can apply radial filters in LR. Compared to DxO's off the rack approach (one setting has to fit all lenses) this comes with the added benefit that you can define the center and boundaries yourself, thus working around the flaws of your very specific lens unit.

Again, thanks for all the work and happy hunting for the right tools for the job!

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Timur Born
Timur Born Veteran Member • Posts: 4,965
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

For the sake of completeness. This is what LR demosaicing looks like without BayerGreenSplit being applied:

These are meant to be vertical (!) bars; one can well imagine why LR prefers to blur away these artifacts. On the other hand Raw Therapee and to a degree DxO demonstrate that neither too strong a labyrinth pattern nor too strong a blurry moire.

How much these tiny detail really matter in practice is up to discussion, of course. These are enlarged crops taken out from one of these test images. Many people may not care for the bars at all.

One of several test images used to determine overall sharpness and whether the used lens was decentered or not.

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Ronald A Yorko Contributing Member • Posts: 577
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)
2

Great work!

I have to say that to my eyes, in all categories, DxO Optics Pro and Photo Ninja produced the best results, with DxO edging out over Photo Ninja.

I know there are many variables in processing the images in various converters, but in your process and settings the above two seem best.

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shaolin95
shaolin95 Senior Member • Posts: 1,889
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

Ronald A Yorko wrote:

Great work!

I have to say that to my eyes, in all categories, DxO Optics Pro and Photo Ninja produced the best results, with DxO edging out over Photo Ninja.

I know there are many variables in processing the images in various converters, but in your process and settings the above two seem best.

I have yet to read it but basically those are my two choices daily. I usually end up with Ninja as it somehow easily gets me more dynamic range than DXO but for higher ISO (noisier images) DXO has no equal. Also, on some random images, Ninja will go a bit crazy on the exposure...like I had a very dark subject against a pretty bright background and it created a strange red halo around the subject that DXO did not show at all.
But usually for me is Ninja first for normal ISO and DXO for anything grainy. Both are fantastic in general anyway.

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billythek Veteran Member • Posts: 5,260
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

I have to say that was a lot of effort on your part.  Thanks for the excellent review.

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Jim B (MSP) Forum Pro • Posts: 10,200
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

billythek wrote:

I have to say that was a lot of effort on your part. Thanks for the excellent review.

+1

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"It's all about the light"

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Ron AKA Veteran Member • Posts: 4,875
Capture One Pro 7 a No Go for Sony RX100

First thank you for doing this comparison. It prompted me to download a trial copy of Capture One Pro 7 and give it a try. One of the first thing I checked was the correction of the inherent lens distortion in my Sony DSC-RX100 RAW files. Sony designed this camera to be very compact, and as a result significant lens distortion correction is an essential part of the camera system. Sony's Image Data Converter software of course makes the correction to RAW files, and does a good job. Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom does an equally good job of correction. However, I was disappointed to find that Capture One Pro 7, while it does attempt correction, it is unacceptable for this camera. At the widest angle setting (10.4 mm), the barrel correction is done well, but they are doing it in part by making a significant crop of the image. So your are in effect losing a good part of your attempt to get a true wide angle shot. At 13 mm a similar crop is made, but the distortion is way over corrected. It is horrible in fact.

So, while I was looking forward to giving this interesting software a trial, it is a total strikeout for my camera. Suspect the Sony RX-100II will be the same. No idea on other cameras. The RX100 and RX100II are both listed as supported cameras, but clearly are not ready for prime time.

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Phil_L Veteran Member • Posts: 3,169
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

Thank you for sharing! Excellent!

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Phil_L

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OP lnikj Regular Member • Posts: 190
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared)

Thank you all for your kind comments.

@flyfisher99 - You can check on the automatic corrections DXO is able to apply here: http://www.dxo.com/intl/photography/dxo-optics-pro/supported-equipment. Its manual tools are pretty powerful though. Give it a try?

@imageAmateur - I know what you mean about the 'subjective view'. Some of this is down to colour but as I said in section 9, whilst I originally intended to do colour comparisons I couldn't think of any meaningful way to compare them.

@Timur - some fascinating stuff in your replies and you have obviously studied what is going on at a far lower level than me ...

1. I guess that on reflection the white balance variation doesn't surprise me - I guess the RAW converters are just using it as an internal measure to apply relative adjustments to?

2. Perhaps my comments on demosaicing glossed over things too much, but the file I tested is unlikely to show the problems you have uncovered. Of the RAW converters I tested only Photo Ninja had a choice of algorithm and I was unable to discern a difference in the results. Ditto with the moire. I will keep an eye out for that in the future though I don't think I am very likely to encounter these sorts of subjects very often in my photography (which the review was geared towards). I have learnt something from your images though so many thanks for that.

3. Thanks for the tips on the masking slider and sharpening radius, I shall try applying that in my ongoing battle with Lightroom's tools!

4. I didn't really didn't do much analysis of colour noise as it is a relative non-issue in my landscape shots when compared to luminance noise on my Bayer sensors (My Foveon sensored Sigmas have the opposite problem!).

5. Thanks for the note on DXO/Lightroom on radial adjustments. Capture One gives some control over the sharpness and light falloff.

@Ron AKA - I guess people's mileage will vary different cameras. I was a little surprised myself to find no profile in Capture One Pro for my old Nikkor 12-24mm. On your particular issue I wouldn't know what is going on without seeing the files (and probably not even then!). Some lens correction software may correct images and crop the corners/edges and some may correct the image and stretch the details in the corners/edges instead? Just a guess?

Cheers.

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ImageAmateur Veteran Member • Posts: 4,964
Re: RAW Converters Comparison (8 compared) C1 Pricing

lnikj wrote:

I know this has been done many times before, but for anybody who is interested I've recently completed a fairly detailed comparison of 8 RAW converters (Lightroom, Aperture, Capture One Pro, AfterShot Pro, DXO, Irident Developer, PhotoNinja and RAW Photo Processor):

http://www.nomadlens.com/raw-converters-comparison

There's a few OS X one's only there I'm afraid.

Your review correctly stated that Capture One Pro was quite expensive.

For those reading, note that this EXCELLENT software is and has been on 50% discount for about a month. They don't usually have such a large discount nor leave it on so long.

Available for Euro 114 right now.

http://www.phaseone.com/en/Online-Store/Capture-One-Pro-7.aspx

Either they are changing their pricing to compete or it may be a short term discount (maybe preparation for a new release?) but either way, it is available and there is a window of opportunity.

Well worth the trial, if one is looking around.

Regards

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sankos Senior Member • Posts: 2,370
Re: Capture One Pro 7 a No Go for Sony RX100
1

Ron AKA wrote:

First thank you for doing this comparison. It prompted me to download a trial copy of Capture One Pro 7 and give it a try. One of the first thing I checked was the correction of the inherent lens distortion in my Sony DSC-RX100 RAW files. Sony designed this camera to be very compact, and as a result significant lens distortion correction is an essential part of the camera system. Sony's Image Data Converter software of course makes the correction to RAW files, and does a good job. Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom does an equally good job of correction.

ACR and LR basically read the correction for this camera from metadata so that it's identical with the jpeg engine. The downside, however, is that you can't switch if off (thus gaining a larger image) or modify to suit your needs. You can do that with DxO and C1. When it comes to this specific camera DxO 9 is the best when it comes to correcting the lens distortion (with its two volume deformation types of corrections to choose from).

However, I was disappointed to find that Capture One Pro 7, while it does attempt correction, it is unacceptable for this camera. At the widest angle setting (10.4 mm), the barrel correction is done well, but they are doing it in part by making a significant crop of the image. So your are in effect losing a good part of your attempt to get a true wide angle shot.

It's true C1 crops the image but it's initially bigger than what you get from LR / jpeg. Plus, you can use a slider to back off with the correction and in practice you get a wider angle than you do in LR if the image doesn't need so much correction as is baked in by the Adobe approach. Again, DxO uses volume anamorphosis to modify the corners without the need to crop them, so you gain a wider FOV than the 24mm @ the wide-angle setting (with the distortion corrected).

At 13 mm a similar crop is made, but the distortion is way over corrected. It is horrible in fact.

Again, use the slider to back off from the 100% correction.

So, while I was looking forward to giving this interesting software a trial, it is a total strikeout for my camera. Suspect the Sony RX-100II will be the same. No idea on other cameras. The RX100 and RX100II are both listed as supported cameras, but clearly are not ready for prime time.

I used C1 Express for a long time and wanted to upgrade to the Pro version when I got the RX100 but for some strange reason the trial messed up my colour profiles on my system and it had a strange magenta cast for this camera so ultimately I gave up on it and went the dual route: LR5+DxO9 (the combined cost in my country equalled C1 at the time). Other than that I actually preferred C1 Pro 7 to a lot of other converters for the RX100.

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Thomas Niemann Veteran Member • Posts: 4,448
A suggestion
2

It would be nice if we could reproduce your findings. To do this we'll need access to the original Raw files. How about adding a link to the files in your writeup. Since they are large you can always post them in the cloud. Dropbox comes to mind.

OP lnikj Regular Member • Posts: 190
Re: A suggestion

Thomas Niemann wrote:

It would be nice if we could reproduce your findings. To do this we'll need access to the original Raw files. How about adding a link to the files in your writeup. Since they are large you can always post them in the cloud. Dropbox comes to mind.

I've PMed Thomas with a location for these. If anybody else wants them please PM me.

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Thomas Niemann Veteran Member • Posts: 4,448
High ISO Comparison
2

Thank you for messaging me a link to the original Raw files. I was especially interested in Section 4, High ISO. Here is your take for Lightroom:

My results:

I used Process 2012 under Photoshop CC that uses the same engine as LR 5.4. All parameters matched yours except for Fill Light and Brightness since these are now implemented via Exposure and Shadows.

Fill Light 80 --> Shadows +100
Brightness 70 --> Exposure +2.0

For convenience here is a link to my xmp file.

shaolin95
shaolin95 Senior Member • Posts: 1,889
Re: High ISO Comparison

So after reading the whole thing, I am surprised at the problems you experienced with DXO and Ninja really.

Yes, DXO can be very slow when doing Prime but the results are fantastic, better than anything else really. On my camera it usually defaults to 40 and I just look for a specific spot I care about to preview if I feel I need to.

As for Ninja, when it comes to bringing up details from overblown areas, it is second to none really..and overall is my preferred converter  except for high ISO images.
I am glad you mentioned the "trick" Ninja uses in areas where the detail is gone because I was seeing this before and was very confused about it. Now it makes sense and as you mentioned, some times it works good, others is not so smart to recover those. 
Great  job overall.
Thanks!

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OP lnikj Regular Member • Posts: 190
Re: High ISO Comparison

Thomas Niemann wrote:

Thank you for messaging me a link to the original Raw files. I was especially interested in Section 4, High ISO. Here is your take for Lightroom:

My results:

I used Process 2012 under Photoshop CC that uses the same engine as LR 5.4. All parameters matched yours except for Fill Light and Brightness since these are now implemented via Exposure and Shadows.

Fill Light 80 --> Shadows +100
Brightness 70 --> Exposure +2.0

For convenience here is a link to my xmp file.

Thanks for that. My mistake I think. The 2012 process does indeed produce similar results.

In a couple of weeks when the dust has settled I hope to follow up with another article as I am sure there will be several things like this so I will mention this then.

On that note, one developer has come back to me and offered to have a go with my files so that should be interesting too.

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OP lnikj Regular Member • Posts: 190
Re: High ISO Comparison

shaolin95 wrote:

So after reading the whole thing, I am surprised at the problems you experienced with DXO and Ninja really.

Not sure to which problems you refer? I think I was pretty complimentary to both, no?

I was at pains throughout to emphasise that everything was very subjective, that it was my preferences, and that the differences were marginal at best. I hope that came across OK.

Yes, DXO can be very slow when doing Prime but the results are fantastic, better than anything else really. On my camera it usually defaults to 40 and I just look for a specific spot I care about to preview if I feel I need to.

I agree the results are very good, and when you accept the defaults it is OK. In the review though I was at pains never to accept the defaults and when you want to test several areas of the image at 40, at 20, at 25, at 27 etc it all gets very slow and tedious waiting for refreshes.

As for Ninja, when it comes to bringing up details from overblown areas, it is second to none really..and overall is my preferred converter except for high ISO images.

I am glad you mentioned the "trick" Ninja uses in areas where the detail is gone because I was seeing this before and was very confused about it. Now it makes sense and as you mentioned, some times it works good, others is not so smart to recover those.

I should maybe mention that there is another control in the Color Correction tool, the 'Color Recovery' slider that also affects the recovered areas. Because of Photo Ninja's modal interface it’s a bit of a pain that it is in a different tool to the exposure/detail tool though.

Great job overall.
Thanks!

Cheers

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