Basic Raw Conversion 2017

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
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designdog Senior Member • Posts: 1,102
Basic Raw Conversion 2017

As the year ends, I suppose many photographers, like me, are taking another look at their raw processing tools and workflow. Fairly normal at this time of year, as we begin cataloging, storing, and backing up the year’s shoots - but certainly mitigated this year with Adobe’s recent Lightroom strategy and the plethora of new and updated raw processing applications available. I admit to falling into this frenzy, in which confusion I find myself asking questions I thought I had answered years ago.

In my mind I would like to separate the process into four elements:

  • cataloging/file management
  • raw conversion
  • pixel editing
  • output.

For this posting let's concentrate on the middle two.

To me, raw conversion is the conversion of a camera’s raw file into a pixel based file, be it jpeg, tiff, or psd. We start with raw files because they grant us the greatest amount of flexibility and control in dealing with the image the camera has captured.

Now - here is where my head starts to hurt. Where does the line between a raw file and a pixel file form? Correspondingly, where is it best to do certain edits, such as tone, sharpening, curves, etc?

Three examples to illustrate my quandary:

  1. Open an NEF (Nikon raw file) in Bridge to bring up ACR, and perform all the edits you can there, which I assume are edits on raw files. Open the image into Photoshop, and I assume you are now making edits on a pixel basis, not on a raw file.
  2. In Lightroom make some edits on a Nikon raw file, then select transfer to DXO PhotoLab. In this case none of the Lightroom edits are preserved, and you are looking at a genuine raw file in DXO to edit again.
  3. As above, except chose Edit Photo With in Lightroom, and select, say, Luminar. At this point you can save out to a tiff file, and be taken to Luminar to perform pixel edits.

While all of this is great, etc. it seems to me that the recent focus is on pixel based bells and whistles, and not the fundamental converting of camera raw files. In fact, I don’t see any significant improvements in this process for the past several years. With all of the advancements in sensor technology, etc. it seems that there is a disconnect here.

Am I wrong about this? Let me know then, what is the best pure raw processor available in 2017? Separate the pixel based tweeks and geegaws from the “art” of raw conversion. What software is out there that is going to make your Nikon (or whatever) raw file look the best, incorporating the basic tools that measurably improve a raw file - before moving on to pixel enhancements?

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