RAW Converter Comparison / Challenge

Started Jan 10, 2021 | Discussions thread
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Tim van der Leeuw Contributing Member • Posts: 888
RAW Converter Comparison / Challenge

Setting the Scene

With the New Years celebrations I shot some nice photos of the fireworks and wanted to share some of them.

One of them needed a bit of straightening and perhaps cropping before sharing -- so I opened the RAW file in RAW Power (which uses Apples RAW converter that used to power Aperture).

I always shoot RAW + JPEG so I knew what the file should look like out-of-camera ... and I was unpleasantly surprised with the initial results of RAW conversion.

So I set out to compare different RAW converters in earnest. Most of them I had already toyed around with earlier, but not as serious as now. Now I had a file that could really show some weaknesses...

TL;DR: Affinity, C1, darktable do the best job of the tools I've tried. Exposure X6 loses some detail but does quite a good job still.

Topaz Denoise also does a good job; Topaz Studio 2 (without Denoise or other plugins) does OK but seems unsharp.

RAW Power can be made to look passable with a fair bit of tweaking.

RawTherapee and ACDSee produced output I consider unusable (mind you, with this specific photo and the ones I took immediately before and after. They are OK on other photos I've tried before).

Did not try: Lightroom, Iridient X-Transformer, Luminar, SilkyPix.

I will not purchase either of them for various reasons that have nothing to do with their quality and are probably best discussed in other threads, but I would be very much interested in seeing the results of how these tools handle the particular files I used.

SilkyPix is too darn slow for me.

If you know of any other RAW conversion tools for Fuji files, I'd be very interested to see how they do.

Links to my files, for anyone who wants to try out for themselves what results they can get with any of their favourite tools (I'm particularly interested in seeing the output of Lightroom and Iridient X-Transformer).

Google Drive: RAW / OoC JPEG

Dropbox: RAW / OoC JPEG

(I shared via 2 ways in case one may become unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances)

The Out-of-Camera JPEG!

Straight out of the camera, I can see that the image has a lot of fine detail.

These are the fireworks, straight out of camera JPEG

Screenshots from various RAW conversion tools

To best get an idea of what various RAW conversion tools did with the file, I decided to attach a number of screenshots here, taken from these tools, on 2 different computers (one a Mac, the other Windows).


Here is a screenshot taken from RAWPower (using Apples Aperture engine). Issues:

  • Loss of detail
  • Colour Fringing

I could to some degree resolve these issues by reducing exposure, applying a lot of sharpening.

RAWPower loses detail

Exposure X6

I quite like the results of Exposure X6 but I feel that it loses some fine detail. Good, but not the best. (Overal quite a good tool for working on RAW files btw).

Exposure X6 does well, I think

Topaz Denoise

Topaz Denoise is not a RAW conversion tool, but it does open RAW files to process them. So I gave it a try.

  • Good retention of detail.
  • Changes the colours -- it does that with all my RAW files it seems, even from Canon.
  • While it generates a preview you can see a "rough" rendering  that has a lot of colour fringing, which it resolves very nicely in it's final output.

If it didn't have the colour-cast issues, you could use this as a first step in your workflow: demosaicing, noise-reduction, save as TIFF and move to next tool.

Topaz Denoise output

Moving now to the tools I used on my Windows machine.


Biggest issue: Colour fringing. Also a loss of detail.

First it looked like this:

ACDSee / wish to Unsee

With  some tweaking I got this:

ACDSee / passable

Neither versions is as good to me as the JPEG out of camera.

Next up:

Topaz Studio

Topaz Studio is Topaz's attempt at a RAW conversion tool / image editor. No asset management whatsoever and very limited in its workflow. I don't think I could even save my changes without exporting.

The other Topaz tools can plug in to Topaz Studio.

Anyway, the image seemed very fuzzy when opened in this tool. Which surprised me.

I did not try to add any filters or corrections on the image now.

Topaz Studio


Affinity did quite well in my opinion, retaining detail and good colour, very little to no fringing. It's not the most capable RAW editor, I think their idea is that you first "develop" the RAW files and then use the more extensive tools of the photo editor to complete your work. So it's more of an import-tool to their Photoshop clone.

But it does do a pretty good job of RAW conversion (especially considering what I've seen come out of some other tools!).




At first I didn't try Darktable, since I thought it would give the same results as RawTherapee (implementing the same algorithms). This morning however I decided I should still try it and not dismiss it just for using the same open-source algorithms as RawTherapee, glad I did as it produces much better output.

After applying lens corrections, the output is up there with the best, I think.

It's too bad that personally I've always struggled with usability of darktable and therefore I'm not likely to actually be using it.


CaptureOne 21

CaptureOne produced good results. No complaints. In fact, I found that I got on rather well with C1 21 and might just buy a license today before they raise their prices!

The output looks quite different from the screenshot  of darktable right above, a lot of the smoke visible seems missing from darktable output. I think it's a matter of how they choose their exposure  by default.

CaptureOne 21


I saved this one for the last. It's the first tool I tried after RAWPower disappointed me, and RawTherapee disappointed me even more. What should have been there amongst the best (according to various threads I've read in the past), was the worst: 3-pass Markesteijn demosaicing, in RawTherapee.

I tried all the different demosaicing engines, and found 1-pass (fast) to produce least unacceptable results.

Using 3-pass Markesteijn demosaicing. What the actual freak happened there?

1-pass fast. Looks better, still a lot of colour fringing.

So. There you have it.

My full comparison of RAW conversion tools for Fuji X-Trans cameras.

 Tim van der Leeuw's gear list:Tim van der Leeuw's gear list
Canon EOS M5 Fujifilm X-H1 Fujifilm X-T3 Sigma 2x EX DG Tele Converter Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM +14 more
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