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Raw and Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The DMC-G2 is supplied with a Software CD containing:

  • PHOTOfunStudio Viewer 3.1 HD Edition (Windows) - A photo browser / editor with some basic workflow functionality (also includes a tray icon automatic import tool). While PHOTOfunStudio Viewer was able to view GF1 RAW files it couldn't convert them to JPEG and wasn't able to display all exposure information (i.e. it clearly didn't fully support the GF1). This latest version of the software also offers some HD video editing.
      
  • SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE (Windows / Mac OS X) - SilkyPix is a RAW conversion application developed by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory which is probably better known in Japan. SilkyPix provides a wide range of advanced RAW conversion options including adjustable noise reduction, lens aberration correction and rotation / perspective correction.

As with other Lumix models the G2 ships with a special (fully featured) edition of SILKYPIX, a rather quirky, though surprisingly well-featured, raw development application for Windows and Mac. The (on-screen) manual is very comprehensive, but doesn't really explain the features very well, and first-time users may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options on offer. This isn't helped by the slightly dodgy translations and the plethora of sliders with names that don't really indicate what they actually do. But there is lots here to get stuck into, and the default settings produce perfectly acceptable results.

But after some experimentation and adapting you'll discover that the SILKYPIX can produce far superior results - and can be fine-tuned to produce output that suits your own needs / tastes. In fact there's easily as much tweaking on offer than you get with Adobe Camera Raw, and compared to what you get with most cameras it's hard to complain.

You can save parameter sets (for some reason you put them in the 'cloakroom', but hey ho) once you've found out what works for you, which combined with batch processing and extensive output options (TIFF or JPEG), takes some of the grind out of the business of developing large numbers of raw files.

SILKYPIX has a comprehensive feature set, though the lack of any meaningful documentation (and occasionally incomprehensible menu options) mean it can take a while to really feel comfortable and to find your way around. It's not all hard work; drop down menus allow you to quickly choose presets for basic parameters (exposure, white balance, sharpness, tone, color and so on); a great starting place if you're new to the business of raw conversion.
The Color Mode menu offers presets that mimic different films (apparently 'Memory color 1 and 2' are designed to produce color that more closely matches how you remember the scene. Now that is clever). Dig a little deeper, beyond the presets, and SILKYPIX offers almost limitless tweaking opportunities, certainly enough to satisfy even the most advanced user. In fact you can easily end up spending way too long trying the different sliders.

RAW conversion

As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. In the case of the G2 we used the supplied SilkyPix, Adobe Camera RAW 6.1 and Bibble Pro 5.1. We also tried Graphic Converter, which provides a handy GUI for DCRaw on the Mac platform (these files were converted without sharpening and sharpened / saved to JPEG in Photoshop CS5).

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • SilkyPix - SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 (Default settings)
  • Bibble Pro - Bibble Pro 5.1 (Default settings)
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 6.1 (Adobe Standard Profile)
  • DCRaw - DCRaw (running in Graphic Converter 6.7.2, Mac)

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart produced using a the supplied RAW converter and ACR. Unusually there's quite a difference between the default color output produced by SilkyPix and the in-camera JPEG - in fact with the deeper blues and overall higher saturation it looks a lot more like ACR.

Panasonic DMC-G2 Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardDynamicSmoothNature
NostalgicVibrantB&W StandardB&W Dynamic
B&W Smooth

Sharpness and Detail

There's not a huge difference, but the most detailed image was produced by DCRaw running in Graphic Converter (with a bit of Photoshop sharpening), followed closely by Bibble and ACR (running a near third despite the lower sharpening). By default the supplied software (SilkyPix) produces output that's very close to the camera JPEGs. You can obviously eke a little more detail out of the sensor by shooting raw if you play around with the sharpening settings, but the real benefit is going to be in the flexibility offered by raw files when it comes to color, white balance and noise reduction.

SilkyPix Developer Studio -> TIFF (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Adobe ACR 6.1 RAW ->JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Bibble Pro 5.1 RAW ->JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
DCRaw (Graphic Converter) ->TIFF (Photoshop USM & Save to JPEG)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
JPEG out of camera, High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

These crops demonstrate that more detail is available from the RAW converters than can be obtained from JPEG. That said, a lot of this detail could be described as 'false' (produced beyond Nyquist), although frankly the majority of the time this is useful as it improves the appearance of 'texture'. The ACR output looks a little softer than the other Raw converters. Again, Graphic Converter and Bibble Pro produce the highest resolution output.

JPEG from camera SilkyPix Developer Studio (RAW)
Adobe Camera RAW 6.1 (RAW) Bibble Pro 5.1 RAW
 
DCRaw (Graphic Converter) (RAW)  

Real world advantages

As with most cameras the advantages to shooting raw with the G2 are mainly concerned with the increased post-processing flexibility and color / white balance / tonality and (to a certain extent) exposure. If you're looking for the absolute maximum detail at a pixel level, however, you'll also want to shoot raw, as the G2's JPEG engine - in common with most Panasonic's we've tested - doesn't really make the most of the sensor's capabilities, and can produce rather smudgy results in low contrast situations. As the quick example below shows you can retain texture (at a pixel level) a lot better if you manually tweak the settings in ACR, bypassing the G2's overaggressive noise reduction and less than optimal demoasicing.

JPEG from Camera
(default sharpening)
ACR 6.2 conversion
(Sharpening 23, radius 0.7, detail 45)
100% crop 100% crop

At higher ISOs (1600 up) the G2's Venus engine tends to obliterate fine detail and can smear colors, even at the lowest setting. Although you're always going to have the noise itself to contend with there's no doubt that shooting raw and using Adobe's latest ACR (6.1 or higher) gives you a lot more control over how you deal with it. It's up to you to decide what balance of noise and detail you're happiest with.

JPEG from Camera (ISO 3200)
(default sharpening)
ACR 6.2 conversion (ISO 3200)
(Sharpening 21, radius 0.7, detail 25, Luminance NR 3 / Detail 50, Color NR 25 / 50)

Even at ISO 800 the G2's JPEG engine (using the default settings) produces unpleasant noise and noise reduction artefacts in shadows, particularly in skin tones. ACR lets you go for a grainy but clean look (or, if you prefer, to obliterate noise altogether).

JPEG from Camera (ISO 800) 100% crop
(default sharpening)
ACR 6.2 conversion (ISO 800) 100% crop
(Luminance NR 6 / 50, Color NR 28 / 50)

RAW headroom (Dynamic Range)

As we saw when reviewing the G1 and GF1, the G2 delivers virtually all its usable dynamic range in JPEG images, and there's little headroom in the highlights if you do get clipping on bright days (or due to exposure errors). There's maybe half a stop of fully usable headroom, but the general rule is that if it looks clipped in the JPEG, it's probably clipped in the raw file too. Taking the exposure compensation further than about -1.0EV tends to produce color errors (or more usually, the lack of any color information at all) in extreme highlights.

You can, of course, use a more gentle curve to reduce the abruptness of the clipping (and Photoshop's recovery slider can help with very contrasty scenes), but if it wasn't captured, you can't get it back. As the examples below show, there's a point beyond which no amount of raw exposure compensation will bring back useful highlight information.

A modest exposure compensation (-1.0EV) has helped this shot (though there are still clipped areas)

Camera JPEG Adobe Camera RAW with -1.0 EV digital comp.
100% Crop 100% crop

But the highlights in the next two examples are too over-exposed to recover, and the clipped areas simply turn grey.

Camera JPEG Adobe Camera RAW with -2.0 EV digital comp.
100% Crop 100% crop
Camera JPEG Adobe Camera RAW with -2.0 EV digital comp.

Shooting raw does give you exposure flexibility, but the lack of dynamic range means that its usefulness will vary from shot to shot, according to how clipped (if at all) the highlights are.

Camera JPEG Adobe Camera RAW with -1.55 EV digital comp.

RAW files for download

Here we provide RAW files, both from the review and the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see whether your experiences match ours.

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