As is normal in our digital SLR reviews I like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. At the time of testing the only third party tool which could read Sony DSC-R1 RAW files was Adobe Camera RAW 3.4 and only here with preliminary support.
JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
IDC - Sony Image Data Converter SR 1.1
IDC SH - Sony Image Data Converter SR 1.1 (our sharpening settings) *
ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 3.4 (Photoshop CS2)
* After using Image Data Converter for a while we preferred the results achieved after adjusting the sharpening settings to the following (Sharpness +20, Overshoot -100, Undershoot -100). These settings reduce the halo artifact effect and leave the image looking cleaner and less 'consumer camera' like.
Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart produced using each RAW converter. Image Data Converter SR delivered a very similar (if not exactly identical) color response to JPEG from the camera, Adobe Camera RAW taking a less vivid, less saturated approach with noticeably different green response.
Sharpness and Detail
Again, while Image Data Converter SR produces a very similar result to the camera it's not exactly identical it's very very similar. Compared to Adobe Camera RAW (pretty much our benchmark conversion engine) Image Data Converter SR does a pretty good job, especially if you use our 'SH' settings as detailed above.
Once more Image Data Converter SR doesn't produce exactly the same result as JPEG, indeed there's noticeably more moire interference artifacting between 2400 and 2600 LPH in the IDC image than the camera JPEG. The 'cleanest' performance as usual comes from Adobe Camera RAW which only exhibits a little artifacting around 2600 LPH and shows no sharpening halos.
JPEG from camera
Image Data Converter SR
Image Data Converter SR SH (see top)
Adobe Camera RAW
Both Image Data Converter SR and Adobe Camera RAW have noise reduction features which can be user controlled. In IDC there is a 'Noise Reduction' slider which even when set to its minimum -100 appears to still apply some noise reduction, at the maximum +100 the image is quite obviously smoothed with detail loss. Adobe Camera RAW provides control of Luminance (LS) and Color noise reduction (CNR).
The test image below was shot at ISO 1600 (1/500 sec, F9), crops are a 100% portion of the same RAW file converted using Image Data Converter SR and Adobe Camera RAW, the top row of crops using the minimum level of noise reduction, the next row the default level of noise reduction, the bottom row the 'best case' (max in the case of IDC).
Image Data Converter SR
Adobe Camera RAW *
IDC, NR -100 (min)
ACR, LS 0, CNR 0 (min)
IDC, NR 0 (default)
ACR, LS 0, CNR 25 (default)
IDC, NR +100 (max)
ACR, LS 50, CNR 50
* Adobe Camera RAW; LS = Luminance Smoothing, CNR = Color Noise Reduction