ON1 Photo Raw 2020: a quick first review after processing a batch of raw photos

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PeterjmTim New Member • Posts: 15
ON1 Photo Raw 2020: a quick first review after processing a batch of raw photos
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Hi all,

So I decided to write a mini review of ON1 Photo Raw 2020, which has recently been released. I am a former Lightroom / Photoshop (to a lesser extent) user who has jumped ship and ditched those in favour of Photo Raw when my subscription ended a month or so ago.

About myself: I am quite good with computers (happen to work in computer forensics), but I am by no means a photo editing guru. I nowadays shoot raw, and then work on those files. I try to keep the results realistic, so no fancy arty stuff from me. Usually, I do things like lens correction, straightening If needed, an occasional crop, white balance, and the stuff like exposure, highlights, shadows, saturation, dehaze and so on.

I run ON1 Photo Raw on a Windows machine with an Intel i5 quadcore processor, 16 GB or RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphical card that has 2 GB of video RAM. ON1 Photo Raw and its cache reside on an SSD drive, while the photos themselves are on an old fashioned mechanical hard drive. I used to shoot Nikon, nowadays I am on a Fujifilm X-T3.

The concept of ON1 Photo Raw always appealed to me, especially the fact that it integrates features from both Lightroom and Photoshop, without needing to switch to another application. I also like the fact that in the Raw processing process it is able to use layers, unlike Lightroom. I came close to ditching Lightroom in favour of this a number of times, but there were always some problems. I wanted to use ON1 Photo Raw 2018 and ditch Lightroom, but coming back from a holiday with a beautiful shot that had a problem with highlights due to heaps of light falling in through the window in the room, I notice that was easily corrected in Lightroom but yielded unusable results in ON1. I felt it just wasn’t ready at the time.

I was able to import all my keywords from my Lightroom catalogue but I am no longer sure how I managed that 😊. No sweat there if you use those. Apparently you can also import your edits and ON1, but I haven’t really tried that either.

First, the importing and culling of the pictures. I quite like the fact that ON1 doesn’t require importing them into a catalogue like Lightroom does. The import and renaming options are pretty straightforward and they put your pictures where you want them in the filesystem. The great thing is you can add any folder to the list of “Catalogued folders” in the browse module. I just added my “Pictures” folder there, and it automatically makes previews of all photos in that folder and its subfolders. If you manually add stuff, outside ON1, or move them elsewhere within that folder: no worries, ON1 keeps track. Just make sure that ON1 remains open while it created that catalogue; depending on the number of pics you have that may take a long while. Best leave it on overnight or so.

When culling I use a pretty simple system, putting pictures in an Album I create, then rating them with either an X for rejected pictures, or rate them 2, 3 or 4 stars (haven’t yet taken a picture that I think is worth five 😊). I then ignore those with two stars, and work on those with three or more stars I work on and publish. You can watch two photos side to side to compare them. Do not forget to activate “Auto advance” in the “Photo” menu so you automatically move to the next one when you have rated a photo.

Then to editing. The switch between the browse and edit module is very quick. I started in browse by selecting the album on whose photos I want to work, then add a filter that makes it display only those with at least three stars.

In the edit menu, you have four submenus: develop (for raw development), effects, portrait and local. Effects by default applies to the whole of your photo (although of course you can mask out areas), whereas local takes the opposite approach and you have to tell it first where to apply.

In the edit menu you can chose the profile you want to start with (either the ON1 profiles or profiles that mimic those in your camera). You have a new option to get started now, “AI Match” next to “AI Auto”. The latter is ON1’s guess on what the picture should look like, the former tries to mimic what the picture looked like if you would have reviewed it at the back of your camera. In my experience, “AI Auto” gives me a better starting point. “AI Match” also takes longer to compute, a few seconds, while the other one is almost instantaneous.

The sliders work like you would expect, not unlike Lightroom. However, in my subjective experience, the quality is much better than before. The proof of the pudding was reprocessing the picture I talked about earlier, with the blown out highlights that Lightroom did a good job on. Well, believe it or not, but the result in 2020 is much, much better and at least on par with what I managed in Lightroom. Overall, I am very happy with the results, but I have to add that I am not a pixel peeper at all. Briefly looking at a few Fujifilm raw files, my impression here too is that results are better than before. But I'm not going to start a thread on Fujifilm and X-Trans :-).

Switching between editing pictures is very quick. Occasionally, a message “saving settings” pops up, sometimes for a second, sometimes for a few seconds, but it definitely didn’t bother me at all. It felt very responsive. I didn’t experience a single crash whilst processing a few hundred pictures.

I also briefly went into the effects module, which is not something I often do. I tried a LUT filter and I must say that I really like the result. There’s new modules I find a bit silly, like one that allows you to create a blizzard or a rainstorm on a sunny day, which I won’t use at all since I don’t want to create utterly fake pictures. But there are definitely interesting ones to be found. Maybe I should invest some time in learning them.

What is missing compared to Luminar however, is the ease with which one in Luminar can improve the sky by just applying one slider. I hope something similar might come to ON1 someday.

You also have heaps of presets if you are in to those. There are some good ones available, such as film emulations.

Last thing I tried is exporting to Smugmug. It’s a new feature, and unfortunately it’s the only service they support so far. Unlike in Lightroom, where you can possibly find plugins for the services you use, you are stuck here with just Smugmug. In my experience, it works flawlessly. After I finished editing my pics, I just go to the browse module, select the album I want to upload, apply the filters to select those I want to upload (at least three stars) and then it is as simple as telling the application in what Smugmug album to put them, or create a new one. It can take a while to export (it needs to convert from raw to jpg first, and then upload), but I found my computer could easily be used for other things whilst that was going on (didn’t notice any slouch)

Quite frankly, so far I have been really impressed. In my opinion this product is finally mature. Speedy and stable, nice results, heaps of bells and whistles to satisfy most people’s need. The only criticism I have is the translations. 2020 is the first version to come in several languages. I tried my own language (Dutch), and quite frankly sometimes the translations are either laughable or incomprehensible. Many are good, but the bad ones just stand out and spoil the experience. If ON1 wants to hit international markets, it’ll have to do better than these useless machine translations.

If you want to see for yourself, there is a 30 day trial you can download. I highly recommend to see if it works for you if you are looking for a raw editor.

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