Raw and raw conversion

Supplied software

The Sony DSC-RX1 only comes with Play Memories Home, a cataloging and browsing application that replaces the old 'Picture Motion Browser.' It's part of the Play Memories family of software that includes mobile apps and is designed to integrate with Sony's cloud storage and sharing service. The software is included on the camera itself and will offer to install itself if you connect the RX1 to your computer.

And, while there's no Raw conversion software include with the camera, RX1 owners can also download and use Image Data Converter SR from their local Sony website.

  • Image Data Converter 4.2 (Windows / Mac) - A further development of the previously
    seen Image Data Converter, provides advanced raw conversion capabilities, adjustments
    include Creative Style, Sharpness (including overshoot / undershoot tuning), Highlight Color
    Distortion reduction and Noise Reduction.

Image Data Converter allows whole-image adjustment and processing of RX1 Raw files. It allows the standard changes you might expect to make, such as while balance and brightness adjustments, plus some Sony-specific options such as DRO, which can be retrospectively engaged. Its output is similar, though not identical, to the camera's JPEG output, so it can be a handy tool for slightly re-working your favorite few images.

Beyond the standard color and brightness tools, Image Data Converter allows plenty of fine-grained control over both sharpening and noise reduction. There are also finely-tunable peripheral illumination (vignetting) correction controls and on/off distortion and highlight color protection tools.

However, even on a fast PC, we found Image Data Converter can be slow to re-render images, making it hard to fine-tune settings by eye (since there's a significant lag between moving a slider and you being able to see the effect). We'd recommend investing in some good third-party software if you expect to be processing a significant number of RX1 Raw files.

Image Data Lightbox is a fairly sophisticated image browser with basic raw conversion capabilities.
Image Data Converter offers all the usual raw conversion parameters including white balance, tone curve, color and D-Range optimizer. The software offers a Peripheral Illumination feature with more subtlety and control than the in-camera setting but no 'auto' option.

Raw file conversion

As is normal in our reviews we like to compare the supplied raw conversion software, any optional manufacturer raw conversion software and some third party raw converter. As is often the case, the only converters available at the time of writing the review are the manufacturer's software and Adobe Camera Raw. Here we compare these two converters to the camera's JPEG engine to see how each of them pulls detail out of the images.

  • JPEG - Large/Extra Fine, Default settings
  • IDC - Image Data Converter 4.2
  • ACR - Adobe Camera Raw 7.3 (Beta)

Sharpness and Detail

The Image Data Converter version of the image has a fraction more fine detail than the out-of-camera JPEG (note the fine detail above the eyebrow) and without the hints of moire that it produces. Turn down the sharpening a touch and you're likely to get a result close to that of Adobe Camera Raw.

Adobe ACR 7.3 beta raw ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
Sony Image Data Converter ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
JPEG out of camera, Extra Fine (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

Again we can see that Sony's supplied Image Data Converter software isn't extracting quite the same level of fine detail as the RX1's JPEG engine and both raw converters are producing rather more moiré. At its default settings, ACR manages to extract the most detail from the files while minimizing sharpening-induced edge halos. ACR also displays less moiré patterning than Sony's Image Data Converter, but the moiré it is showing is distractingly colorful.

Adobe Camera RAW 7.3 (beta) Sony Image Data Converter
 
JPEG Fine  

Real-world advantages

The RX1's JPEGs are pretty good - the color is pleasant and DRO does a good job of pulling detail out of darker regions of the image but there's still a bit more that can be gleaned if you process from Raw. Although the RX1's default sharpening is greatly improved over older Sony cameras, there's still more detail that can be realized if you customize the sharpening to match the image's subject.

Camera JPEG - ISO 100 RAW + ACR 7.3 (beta) with exposure tweaked, white balance shifted, contrast and sharpness settings adjusted 'to taste'.
100% crops

In this case, sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw has been applied with Amount 40, radius 0.8 and detail set to 15. This gives the in-focus areas a crispness lacking in the JPEG version, without emphasizing noise or introducing any significant artefacting.

Noise reduction

Camera JPEG - ISO 10,000 RAW image processed with Adobe Camera Raw 7.3. Luminance NR = 12, detail 50. Sharpening = 25, radius 0.8, detail 15.
100% crops

Processing from Raw allows you to tune the amount of noise reduction to suit your subject. And, sure enough, you can pull out more fine detail from the image processing in Adobe Camera Raw. However, the context-sensitive noise reduction in the JPEGs means that smooth areas (particularly defocused areas), are rendered more smoothly by the camera - you'd need to consider blending multiple conversions or using different processing software if you wanted to capture the best of both methods.

Raw files for download

Don't just take our word for it - take a look at the RX1's Raw files for yourself, and run them through your own software and preferred conversion settings. Here, we provide you with a selection of raw files of 'real world' scenes, and if you want to take a closer look at the RX1's studio scene shots, you can download original raw files from our compared to (raw) page.