Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Review
Image Data Converter SR Ver 1.1
Sony's proprietary RAW conversion application, Image Data Converter SR (IDC from now onwards) is provided with the DSLR-A100 for the purpose of manipulating and converting RAW files (in the Sony .SR2 or .ARW formats). Since the DSC-R1 IDC has made a jump in version from 1.0 to 1.1. Processing adjustments (such as changes to white balance, digital exposure compensation etc.) are written back into the RAW file after changing, the original camera settings are always available.
The default viewing mode for IDC is File Browser mode, a window of thumbnails from a selected folder, there are three different view modes available; Thumbnails, Details and Report. I found it frustrating that you can't directly navigate folder (directory) structure from the browser, you have to repeatedly click on the 'Browse For Folder' icon. Double click on an image to open it in Edit mode, right-click for an options menu where you can copy and move images between folders, copy processing settings and paste them back onto a group of images.
Below is an example of Details view mode which includes a luminance histogram of the image along with basic exposure information (aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, model). Additionally there's also a listing type report view mode.
Edit / development mode
Open an image into edit / development mode and you are provided with a default view and the floating master palette bar. Click on any button on the palette bar to display a palette window for adjustments to be made (see detail below). Below you can see an example of a typical setup with the histogram, EV adjustment and White Balance palettes displayed, the image at its default view (note how fuzzy and unsharp the overview image, we assume this is because IDC uses the embedded magnification JPEG for a fast preview).
Edit double view
IDC provides a side-by-side 'Double View' feature which provides a synchronized (zoom / position) comparison of the original image and as it appears after the currently selected image processing adjustments have been applied.
There are three information palettes, ten processing adjustment palettes and one for storing image processing settings. You can display or remove a palette by clicking on any button on the master palette. The settings themselves are stored in the .SR2 (RAW) file itself.
Other Edit features
* I'm not sure if it's by design or a bug but the clipped highlights / shadow options only indicate the edges of clipped image areas, this is both odd and confusing in equal measures.
IDC has a very basic provision of settings, essentially only selection of 'registered external programs' and color management options.
As we have mentioned before there are two types of RAW converter, those which are written natively for the platform on which they run (Windows, Intel/AMD for instance) and those which are based around an emulator of the camera's own DSP processor. Most manufacturers supply the later type because it is capable of producing results identical to the cameras JPEG mode (some supply both types).
I'm happy to report that although IDC is the 'emulator type' that Sony appear to have fixed at least the speed of the 'user experience' so that it now feels much snappier and easier to work with. Make a setting adjustment and this adjustment is reflected in the image within a second (on a fast PC), processing of the entire image takes a little longer as indicated by the progress bar at the bottom right of the window. If you scroll around while IDC is still processing it can take a second or two to update the area you have scrolled to. Below are timings made on our test PC (AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800, Windows XP SP2).
Time to update
Time to complete
|Open, view at 'actual size' (100%)||2.8 sec||8.4 sec|
|Contrast to 100||0.9 sec||6.6 sec|
|Adjust EV compensation||0.9 sec||6.6 sec|
|Save RAW as JPEG (high quality)||n/a||1.9 sec|
While IDC provides a good platform for the conversion of A100 RAW images I was disappointed that it hasn't been developed much beyond its first incarnation with the DSC-R1. This version does not include the ability to apply any Dynamic Range Optimization to RAW images or to select the 'DEC' image processing mode both of which are available in-camera. It seems like a quick-fix tool with the final solution waiting around the corner.