RAW converters compared
In the comparisons below the JPEG and RAW images were taken at the same time (using RAW+JPEG mode). The labels beside each sample equate to:
- JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
- PictureProject - Nikon PictureProject 1.6
- Capture - Nikon Capture 4.4
- RawShooter - Pixmantec RawShooter premium 2006 1.0.2 Build 70 Beta [link]
- Adobe Camera RAW - Adobe Camera RAW 3.3 (Photoshop CS2) [link]
- Bibble Pro - Bibble Pro 4.5d [link]
Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart converted using each RAW converter. As we had expected there is no difference in color reproduction between PictureProject and Nikon Capture, this probably due to both using the same processing 'engine' for RAW conversion. There is a subtle difference between JPEG and the two Nikon conversions but it's primarily a tonal difference (no hue change).
|RawShooter||Adobe Camera RAW||Bibble Pro 4.5d|
Sharpness and Detail
In the samples below the image parameter setting for each sample was set as follows:
- JPEG - Normal (default)
- PictureProject - Default (same as camera)
- Nikon Capture - Default (same as camera)
- RawShooter - 'Custom' appearance (default), Sharpness 0 (default)
- Adobe Camera RAW - Sharpness 25 (default), Color Noise Reduction 25 (default)
- Bibble Pro - Camera tone, Sharpening 100 (default)
One thing we have already commented on is the low level of sharpening applied in-camera, although interestingly the same sharpening 'level' appears crisper and reveals more detail from a RAW converted using PictureProject or Nikon Capture. This was quite a surprise when we first discovered it and shows that the camera's procssing algorithms are not exactly matched to those of PictureProject or Nikon Capture. The most detailed, sharpest (default) image was from RawShooter closely followed by Adobe Camera RAW and Bibble Pro.
The crops below were taken from our new version two resolution chart which can measure resolutions up to 4000 LPH (Lines Per Picture height).
You should immediately be able to see a difference between in-camera JPEG and PictureProject / Nikon Capture, both of which extend visible detail around 400 LPH further. That said the absolute resolution limit is perhaps only 200 LPH better. All three third party RAW converters deliver good resolution but in the case of RawShooter and Adobe Camera RAW this also exposes some moire artifacts around 2600 LPH.
|JPEG from camera||PictureProject|
|Adobe Camera RAW||Bibble Pro|
RAW converters performance compared
One thing which became apparent when using these different RAW converters was that they performed very differently and made different requirements of the computer hardware. We devised a simple test to allow us to measure and time the conversion of two RAW images through each converter.
- Start RAW converter
- Open two RAW images and fully displayed (timed)
- Note memory usage with images displayed
- Save image one as JPEG (timed)
- Save image two as 8-bit TIFF (timed)
The computer used for this test had the following specifications: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4800+ (2.4 Ghz), 2.0 GB RAM, Samsung SpinPoint SP2504C 250 GB SATA-II HDD, Windows XP Service Pack 2. All other applications where shutdown to ensure maximum possible memory and CPU cycles. AMD Cool 'n' Quiet disabled.
|Nikon Capture 4.4||RawShooter
|Adobe Camera RAW 3.3||Bibble Pro
|Open RAW files||8.4 sec||5.0 sec *||11.2 sec||4.8 sec *|
|Memory (private bytes)||547 MB||38 MB||173 MB||496 MB|
|Memory (virtual size)||880 MB||148 MB||312 MB||593 MB|
|Save as JPEG||6.0 sec||10.0 sec||2.0 sec||1.3 sec|
|Save as TIFF||6.0 sec||10.0 sec||1.6 sec||3.6 sec|
* For RawShooter and Bibble Pro this is the sum of open procedures
* Saving an image with noise reduction quadrupled the processing time for Nikon Capture
All of the RAW converters here (in combination with a fast processor) managed to save the converted images in ten seconds or less, the top performers were Adobe Camera RAW and Bibble Pro. Again I'm still pretty disappointed by Nikon Capture's memory usage, grabbing a large chunk of RAM to work on just two images. RawShooter was the best in this respect using considerably less than any of the other converters.