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Raw and Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The DMC-G3 is supplied with a Software CD containing:

  • PHOTOfunStudio 6.2 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.
      
  • Super LoiLoScope (Windows) - A video editing and sharing application that allows you to make basic corrections, add effects and upload videos to YouTube. You can also output HD video to web-compatible formats.
      
  • 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 G3 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.

Highlight recovery/ color accuracy

Continuing in the tradition of Panasonic's G-series cameras, the G3's metering system works very hard to retain highlight detail. In daily use, over a wide range of scene contrast, we have experienced relatively few overexposed images with the G3. In cases where significant clipping did occur with in-camera JPEGs, there was often very little highlight detail to be recovered even from Raw files. Having said that, in many instances the sensor will have captured information in at least one of the RGB channels that allows recovery of some highlight information that will have been irrevocably lost if shot only in JPEG.

In the examples below, we examine two separate Raw file captures. The first image was shot at a 'correct' exposure. The second image was purposefully overexposed by 1.33EV. This produced significant highlight clipping in the blue channel. Looking at this second sample, it is evident that color information has been lost in the sky area. We then processed this overexposed Raw file in ACR, making a negative Exposure adjustment in order to match the brightness of the correctly exposed image.

Note that because of the difference between the color rendering of Adobe's Camera Raw plugin compared to the G3's JPEG engine, we have opted not to show a JPEG image here (the different colors make intelligent comparison impossible).

Scene at correct exposure 100% crop
Scene overexposed by 1.33EV 100% crop
Overexposed scene with an ACR Exposure adjustment of -1.33 100% crop

While this adjustment yields scene brightness that is visually identical, it is clear when comparing the 100% crops that accurate color in the sky cannot be recovered from the overexposed image. There is not enough usable information in the Raw file to accommodate 1 1/3 stops of overexposure. We were, however, able to retrieve color-accurate highlights from a Raw file that was overexposed by just 1 stop. This is consistent with our previous experience that has shown you can expect to recover up to 1EV of additional highlight detail but without any guarantee of color accuracy.

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 (Default settings)
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 6.5 beta (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 lower-contrast detail than either of the other two, yielding a natural-looking image with adequate sharpening that does not introduce noticeable edge artifacts.

JPEG out of camera, High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 160 studio scene 100% crop
SilkyPix Developer Studio -> TIFF (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 160 studio scene 100% crops
Adobe ACR 6.5 beta RAW ->JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 160 studio scene 100% crops

Resolution

The camera's JPEG engine applies the most aggressive sharpening, which results in higher edge contrast. The downside to this amount of sharpening of course, is that it leads to halos along the numerals and horizontal bars. The JPEG does, however, suppresses moiré which is visible in both of the raw conversions at the bottom left of the chart. ACR and SilkyPix share more in common than not, with ACR showing slightly less moiré and, to our eyes, somewhat finer separation of detail in the line pairs.

JPEG from camera Adobe Camera Raw 6.5 (RAW)
 
SilkyPix (RAW)  

Real world advantages

Raw files provide many advantages over in-camera JPEGs when it comes to image editing. Raw converters offer the possibility of non-destructive editing, meaning you can undo your changes and revert back to the original file at any time, with no image quality loss. In addition, you can leverage the processing power of your desktop or laptop, making significant edits at your leisure, as opposed to setting pre-exposure parameters via your camera's rear screen. Here we take a look at what can very easily be attained by processing from Raw.

In many instances, the chief benefit of shooting Raw is simply avoiding the camera's JPEG processing. In this first example, we see the camera's attempt to deal with fine image detail at an ISO of 1600. Putting aside issues of white balance and color control, its eminently clear that a lot of noise suppression is being applied by the camera, which reduces fine detail. By contrast, the Raw file allows you begin editing with much more usable data. Simply by making fairly conservative sharpening adjustments, along with a small degree of Color Noise reduction (+20) and a CA correction of +8 along the red/cyan axis, we get an image with well-resolved fine details.

JPEG from Camera
(default sharpening)
ACR 6.5 beta conversion
(Sharpening Amount 35, Radius 0.7, Detail 30)
100% crop 100% crop

Even at a low ISO, where the camera can produce clean, noise-free images, there are benefits to be had by processing a Raw file. This image was shot at an ISO of 160. Here the camera's auto WB produced a relatively cool image and overall contrast was a bit flat. A manual WB adjustment in ACR followed by a slight boost to Exposure and Blacks values, renders a warmer color balance, more pleasing skin tone and greater contrast.

The camera's default sharpening settings are fairly conservative with low-contrast smooth areas such as skin, which is certainly preferable to an overly aggressive treatment. Yet with a quick adjustment in ACR's Detail tab its possible to render fine detail more effectively without introducing visible artifacts.

JPEG from Camera
(Auto WB, default sharpening)
ACR 6.5 beta conversion
(Manual WB, Exposure +20, Blacks 10
Sharpening Amount 64, Radius .6, Detail 36)
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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