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Software & Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The DMC-GH2 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). 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 GH2 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. Most options have plenty of presets to allow you to start getting good results without too much fine tuning. once you're comfortable with the options, you can save your own favoured settings as additional presets, to speed up your processing.
The level of control can be a little overwhelming - for instance, in addition to the White Balance tools on the left-hand toolbar, there's also a White Balance Adjustment palette. The two don't appear to interact, which can be confusing. And, once you're really familiar with the software there are some very fine-level controls over functions such as noise reduction and sharpening. It's not the most approachable software but it's very powerful once you understand it.

RAW conversion

As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software and, at the very least, Adobe Camera Raw.

  • SilkyPix - SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE(Default settings)
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 6.4 (Adobe Standard Profile)

Sharpness and Detail

Panasonic is one of the handful of manufacturers that supplies Silkypix as the bundled Raw converter. As is usually the case in such situations, this leads to images with a very different default processing look to those of the JPEG files coming from the camera. With the default sharpening applied (and the software offers some pretty sophisticated control), the Silkypix images are slightly softer than the camera's output. Adobe Camera Raw meanwhile, appears to be better able to differentiate between fine low-contrast detail than either of the other two. It certainly applies more sharpening, which results in a very finely detailed image.

SilkyPix Developer Studio -> TIFF (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
JPEG out of camera, High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
Adobe ACR 6.4 RAW ->JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops

Resolution

It's immediately apparent that not only does the camera's JPEG engine do well in extracting detail from this high-contrast target but it is also suppressing moiré very successfully. Adobe Camera Raw draws an impressive amount of line detail from the files, without generating too much in the way of of false color. Images created by Silkypix, by comparison, aren't quite so detailed and contain obvious moiré.

JPEG from camera Adobe Camera Raw 6.4 (RAW)
 
SilkyPix (RAW)  

Real world advantages

As with most cameras, editing the images in a good Raw editor does more than providing the opportunity to specify the processing parameters at your own leisure, rather than having to set them up correctly in the camera before you take the shot. It also gives access to the considerable processing power of your computer which allows the use of potentially more sophisticated demosaicing, sharpening and noise reduction algorithms. Here we take a look at what can very easily be attained by processing from Raw.

In the first example, the GH2's JPEG engine has delivered slightly indistinct detail in the distance of this shot. There is detail in the image, but it isn't rendered as crisply as we would like. Switching to RAW mode and spending a little time manually sharpening in Adobe Camera RAW pays huge dividends. The difference in sharpness and detail is obvious - by comparison to the adjusted RAW file, the JPEG image looks as if it was taken through a dirty window.

JPEG from Camera
(default sharpening)
ACR 6.4 conversion
(Sharpening 40, radius 0.8)
100% crop 100% crop

Another benefit of being able to dictate the processing after you've shot is the additional control you gain over the type of noise reduction that you can apply. Rather than the five pre-baked options that the camera offers (-2 through to +2 in the case of the GH2), you can tailor the noise reduction to suit the subject and your tastes. Here we've suppressed the worst of the chroma noise but left the luminance noise more or less alone. The resulting image is not completely 'clean' but at a pixel level, we much prefer this sort of fine powdery grain to the blotchy smudges created by the camera's noise reduction system.

As you can see, the GH2's auto white balance hasn't coped too well with the low-intensity tungsten light in this scene, so we also took the opportunity to adjust the white balance of the RAW file to remove the yellowish color cast.

JPEG from Camera
(ISO 5000, AWB, default NR)
ACR 6.4 conversion
(Luminance NR 48, Luminance Detail 26)
100% crop 100% crop

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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