RAW converters and editors

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Rob Gillespie, May 13, 2005.

  1. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    I'm experimenting with my Canon G5 and would like to know what is the best application to use to import RAW images and maniuplate them. The supplied Canon software isn't too great.

    Isn't it easier just to export the unadjusted RAW file into TIFF and then play around with it in Photoshop, or am I missing something fundamental?

    Rob
     
  2. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Ideally, you want a RAW conversion software that allows you all the image processing tools you need. Converting it to TIFF and then using some other image editor to do the rest is not ideal because the TIFF is just one representation of the RAW data and has already locked you into whatever rounding errors, etc. etc. that would be done to yield the TIFF.

    In general practice, you should be fine w/ 16-bit TIFF as long as you do not need to make very substantial adjustments to exposure, color, etc. But you should try to do all those things before getting to the TIFF for best results. What people often do is use batch processing capability of a good converter for most photos and then go back to fine tune the few that really needs it in the conversion stage, eg. blown highlights, exposure corrections, etc. For color correction, some would do batches based on the lighting conditions and apply a single color correction to each different batch that has different lighting -- those people usually love Photoshop CS w/ ACR plug-in and its single-click WB correction for this although other good apps may have similar capabilities.

    There are many apps on the market nowadays for handling RAW, eg. Photoshop CS/CS2 w/ ACR plug-in, PS Elements v3 (also using ACR), Bibble, Breeze Browser (cheapest reputable option -- mainly for Canon), various versions of Phase One Capture One (kinda like PSCS vs PSE), new-to-market Pixmantec Raw Shooter, also-new RawMagick Lite (though still in beta and not sure if it works well for Canon), Nikon has their own Nikon Capture (vs the free Nikon View), etc. Even portable image viewers are starting to offer RAW capabilities nowadays although I'm not sure any of them would be good for actual postprocessing use.

    I'd recommend giving the various software a try w/ their trial licenses to see for yourself -- most of the differences/advantages involve workflow rather than achievable image quality although some are indeed a bit better than others for image quality as well. As a Canon user and new to RAW, you might want to give Breeze Browser a try first. Personally, I don't like the way Adobe's ACR work nor the price gouging they do for upgrades, but if you can get a trial of PSCS2 (despite having an older? version of PS), then that might be worthwhile too. If your version is old enough, an upgrade to PSCS2 might be very worthwhile for you. Since I already have PSCS and am not too crazy about ACR, I have no plans to upgrade so far even though most of the changes in PSCS2 are actually done to ACR itself -- and of course, Adobe does not make those changes available to PSCS users w/out the pricey upgrade. [​IMG]

    For myself, I mainly stick w/ Nikon View for my Nikon D70's RAW files w/ plans to use RAWMagick Lite when I need better -- I already paid for the latter, but have not gotten around to use it yet. As I said, I have PSCS+ACR, but don't like using ACR. I also have an older license of Breeze Browser for my old Canon G3 -- it worked quite well for that (and should be good for the G5 also).

    Google for the names of these apps, and you should find their sites just fine.

    _Man_
     
  3. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Thanks for that.

    I've just tried BreezeBrowser and while it does it's just, the editing functionality is basic at best.

    For now I've converted the file to TIFF and will edit that.

    Something odd though, when loading the TIFF into Photoshop 6, I lose the ability to use Layers. Even after resaving the file back into .psd format, still no layers. Paint Shop Pro will use layers on the TIFF quite happily. Most odd.

    *edit just realised that PS6 can't do layers on 16bit images. Doh!
     
  4. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    There are many things you can't do in 16bit.

    If you've got PS6, PSCS2 would be a good upgrade for you. Lots of added functionality beyond RAW support.

    Upgrades of Photoshop actually aren't too out of line for price. There are many other pro grade software products which charge as much or more for an upgrade, AND they don't let you skip generations.

    I usually lay out the upgrade price for Photoshop for every other version. Pretty decent value if you do it that way, and have the need for the type of tools the software provides.
     
  5. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Mmmm... the words 'value' and Photoshop don't really go together, methinks.

    I'm actually using a work copy temporarily to see if it's worth me moving on from Paint Shop Pro. Although I like some of the things in PS, others leave me reaching for PSP again.

    Since adjustment to 16bit images seems very constrained at best, it makes me wonder if it's worth the bother, to be honest.
     
  6. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Perhaps the words "cheap" and "Photoshop" don't go together... but there are millions of Photographers and artists who find great value in this powerful, established industry standard.

    Photoshop isn't for everyone - its steep learning curve, high price and focus on high end tools which most people can do without gear the full version more toward professionals. However, I would argue that the software is an exceptional value for those who need its power.

    It becomes an even better value if you already own a previous version and can get the latest with an upgrade price, or if you have access to an educational discount.

    -Scott
     
  7. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    As I said, I like many things about PS, especially it's speed. However PSP definitely has the edge in terms of 'damn useful' tools. PS makes you jump through hoops sometimes.

    However, I'm more concerned about this lack of editing ability with 16bit RAW files. I'm sure as hell not going spend big money on PS, only to have to spend at least another £100 just to be able to use those files properly. Insane.
     
  8. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    I went from PSP to PS and never looked back. I can't think of a single thing I can't do in PS that I could in PSP, but the opposite can't be said. Just the HUGE amount of documentation available for PS alone makes it worthwhile IMHO, there is a whole section of my local book stores that is devoted to photography work in PS, you can find plug-ins and actions to do just about everything for little to no cost.

    For RAW work I'll use either the Adobe plugin or the cheap version of PhaseOne's product, but that product isn't an image editing tool, it's just for manipulating RAW images and then converting them into something that an image editor will be able to recognize (that's true with almost all of them), granted those limited editing features may be all you need, but there is no real power there.

    I'm curious as to what you are finding limiting in a 16-bit image? You should be able to sharpen/blur and do all the regular image adjustments (brightness/contrast/saturation/etc) with a 16 bit image. As to being worth it? Only you can answer that, but the differences can be fairly large between the two.

    Oh yea, if you want to get into PS without spending the big bucks, hop onto E-bay and buy an older version (say 4 or 5 or older), make sure you are getting a full legal copy of the software (you should be able to pick this up for $50-75US), then go buy the upgrade to CS2 ($150US). Still more money than PaintShop, but IMHO I think it's worth the extra cost for the extra power/flexibility.

    Andrew
     
  9. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Well, I mentioned the obvious limitation earlier - no layers! I'm still using PS6 so perhaps that has changed in more recent versions?
     
  10. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I'll point out that Photoshop 6 is now five years old. That is an eternity in digital imaging.

    If you have broadband, go to Adobe's website and download the free 30 day trial of Photoshop CS2. You'll find it has many more features, built in RAW support and more 16 bit editing ability than PS6. Additionally, it has limited 32 bit support.

    I'm not sure what you mean by no layers in Photoshop 6 (if that's what you meant). Photoshop has had layers since v.3.0.

    **EDIT**
    Now I see... you said no layers in PS 6 in 16 bit. You really need to join the millenium in your version of software. CS2 can do this.

    Try CS2. It's truly a world of difference.


    -Scott
     
  11. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Right, fair enough. As I said, it's work copy and my company isn't the sort to spend money [​IMG]

    The problem with buying PS at the moment is that it'd be more than I paid for my G5 camera [​IMG]
     
  12. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    I have CS here and it will allow me to do layers on 16-bit images. IIRC PS7 will also do 16-bit layers as well.

    If you wait a couple of months you'll probably be able to pick up a legal copy of PS7 or CS for a couple hundred dollars.

    Andrew
     
  13. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    OK, I'm just downloading the CS2 trial to check it out.

    Ajay - buying an older version and then the upgrade is the best bet I think. I can get full version 5.0 (seller reckons it's fully legit) for less than £20. The CS2 upgrade retail costs about £135.

    I presume there's no limitations with the upgrade version? Will I be able to buy further upgrades in the future without hassle? Frankly I'm surprised they seem to allow you to upgrade from any previous version, unlike Microsoft who give you one or two versions grace before leaving you defunct.

    I'm quite happy to spend the money knowing I've bought into a good upgrade path.
     
  14. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    There is no mention of a version limit for upgrades on Adobe's website. I once went from version 3 to version 7 in one upgrade.

    Now, if you buy the upgrade from Adobe online, you enter your old serial number right on the order page. You'll know right then and there whether or not you'll authenticate with the old key, before you spend the money. (This will tell you if you bought a known bootleg on your v.5, as it likely wouldn't authenticate if it was)

    -Scott
     
  15. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Scott do you happen to know if you get any manuals with the retail version?
     
  16. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    Here's what Adobe has to say;


    I guess the true test is to try and make sure that you can get an earlier legal version, there's plenty around, but there is also plenty of junk out there as well.

    I did the same thing, but I had a version that I had from work (the company went out of business), but it was an early version (3 or 4 IIRC) and went to v7.

    There are manuals, but they are the typical "manufacture" type manuals and don't get into much details (can't cut into the book sales).
     
  17. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    I have a Canon EOS 10D and Powershot G6, and it's unfortunate the "nice" RAW convertor for the 10D (Canon FileViewerUtility) doesn't work for the G6. The Zoombrowser EX software is pretty crappy for converting RAW images. Actually... it's pretty crappy for everything. [​IMG]
     
  18. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    My only experience so far with CS2 is with the trial version, and in a lab environment where if there are manuals, they are nowhere to be found.

    I'll be upgrading from v. 7 in the next week or two.... so I'll find out soon enough.

    Traditionally, Adobe has included a decent bound manual with the software - but they are better for reference than as a learning tool. I would hope that they continue to provide a printed manual. The built-in help system has traditionally been an HTML version of the printed book.

    For learning, I recommend either the "Bible" series, or Adobe's "Classroom in a Book" - though the latter contains much useful information and teaches "bottom up," in an organized way, it can be a bit frustrating at times... the lessons often tell you step by step what to do, while not telling you why. They rely on keen observation on the reader's part to figure out the "why's." As long as you read carefully, the CIB books are excellent training manuals. They are used in Adobe's official training, and I use them in the college courses I teach in Photoshop. They are more appreciated when used as part of a class, where the instructor can help with the "why."

    The "Bible" series is also well organized. Beware... there are more bad books than good. Many hook you with a few great tips and techniques, getting you to do really cool things quickly, while ignoring the foundations.

    -Scott
     
  19. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Well, I've taken the plunge and ordered the CS2 upgrade along with the £20 'legit' version 5 off eBay.

    Playing around with the trial CS2 last night - holy crap there's some powerful stuff in there. The Vanishing Point feature looks gobsmacking. I've noticed too that the help files are massively improved over PS 6. They are actually 'help' files now rather than just being vague indicators.
     

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