DPP, Lightroom and Photo Ninja, samples

Started Mar 29, 2013 | Discussions thread
David Franklin Senior Member • Posts: 1,110
Re: My Take on DPP, ACR and PN

I am a long time user of DPP and Lightroom/ACR (more ACR, although they are practically the same) and am very adept at using both. I purchased Photo Ninja about four weeks ago and have just started trying it out on a real job recently.

I haven't yet learned all that I could about how to use PN to its best capability as yet, but I have a few observations so far to report.

As others have already mentioned, the program's highlight recovery is flat-out amazing, clearly better than anything else I have tried. It's not just that it is automatically applied; it is that it is apparently better and more effective. In fact, it is so good that I suspect the program is "cheating" a little; here's what I mean: I suspect that what it is doing is trying to detect th slightest hint of color information in washed out highlights and then adding that color back, according to some very good algorthym, somewhat like an intelligent version of Photoshop's Hue/Saturation-Colorize command. I could be very wrong here, but the difference between PN and everything else is otherwise mystifying to me. However, whatever else they do, the highlight recovery works, looks "correct" and actually eliminates the need for HDR in a few cases that I've found. The shadow control is also quite good when you get it right, as it seems to preserve the color better than other solutions. However, it seems a litlle harder than other programs to actually bring up quarter tones to exactly where you want them without also using the illumination (exposure) slider as well.

As far as sharpening is concerned, the tools seem OK, but certainly not superior to the other converters, as far as I can tell.

As to color control, I find the interface a little bit confusing and limiting, but I have not spent enough time with it to make that a fair and final conclusion. It's not that I don't necessarily think the conrol is available; it's just that I may not yet have been able to come up with a strategy to use PN to have the kind of very fine-grained color control I would like to exercise. Of course I can make those kind of adjustments later, in PS CS6, using things like Selective Color, but Lightroom/ACR does have pretty unabiguous color controls that seem to cover this more easily, if not better.

Overall, the PN controls are good, but not great, and perhaps seem a little counter-intuitive to those, like me, who are used to the Adobe interface conventions. As to DPP, I find that the interface controls of DPP allow a little easier and faster control of the output parameters, but DPP lacks some of the power and finesse of PN - the ability of extending control as far and in as great a detail as one can in PN. The outputted files from the two programs are a mixed bag. DPP gets color, detail and exposure range of well-exposed files very well and without much effort, but with difficult images, it just can't cope with image problems like under and overexposure as well as PN, especially considering the nearly automatic default results from PN.

The tools for viewing and browsing are much better in DPP and Lightroom, but PN is at least acceptable in this regard. I can't really judge how PN handles batch processing yet, as I just downloaded ver.1.5, which introduces the feature to PN, but I imagine it may not be quite as good as the other two - yet.

As to demosaicing in general, I find PN to be very good, with above average detail potential, but even in best/slow mode, although extremely fast on my computer, the program tends to make the choice to add a little more aliasing to the image in the trade-off between detail and aliasing. There is no free lunch here if you're subject has a lot of straight lines at various angles in it, rather than organic shapes.

Finally, PN does seem to render my raw 5D3 files amazingly well out-of-the-box, by using what seem to be very, very sophisticated algorthyms to guess at the photographers intent, and to produce a very good looking file despite what would be very problematic in other programs, especially with regard to overexposed highlights. Of course, sometimes the intial color cast is a little off, and hard to correct away, but it still is doing a quite amazing trick. As to some other manual controls, viewing options and image parameters, other programs, like DPP and Lightroom are now a little easier for me to fully utilize and understand; they also may, like Lightroom/ACR, have somewhat "finer grained" control of color as well.

I look forward to learning more about the program and getting to learn to use its existing controls a little better. Meanwhile, I will continue to bring many of my "diificult" exposures to the program to let it do its "magic."



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