Raw conversion software comparison

Raw conversion software comparison

Raw Convertors for Raw image conversion

I have been using a new camera for a while now for some of my street photography based social documentary work and I have recently become discouraged with the results that I have been getting out of my usual Raw convertor.  I have been using Capture One Pro 9 which does not have a native Raw profile for the camera but as Leica use DNG it will open the files straight from the camera. Part of my raw convertor problem is that I think that Capture One Pro10 will be updated soon, as the pattern has been that Phase One has updated Capture One Pro around December for the past two years and I am not prepared to in Late November take the risk of buying the new version, to only have to buy it again in a few weeks time. So, I decided to experiment with different raw convertors. I have come to the conclusion that a photographer needs to think of Raw convertors like developers in analogue. When photographers used black and white film we were used to using different developers to make the film behave in different ways. If we wanted low grain we might use one developer but if we wanted to push the film to higher ISO’s another. I am tempted to say that maybe we should also think of our raw convertors in a similar fashion. Only problem with that is because Raw convertors now have also become our library programs for cataloguing images it becomes harder to use multiple convertors.

I have been using Capture One Pro for about 2 to 3 years, prior to that I was using Lightroom as it was easy and it was dominant in the photo industry, this was because as a lecturer, I needed to learn how to use it, if I was going to teach it properly. Since I moved to Capture One Pro I have found I like its ability to recover highlights and dig into shadows better than Lightroom, I have learnt how to easily meta tag my images, and manage my library. Now the idea of using another raw convertor up ends that as I have got to the point where I am thinking that maybe it might be easier if my library was different to my raw processor. I do like the idea of process recipes that is also a feature of Capture One Pro, something that is lacking in Lightroom. The reason I am referring to these two programs as they are the ones that I am most familiar with.

The Raw Conversion programs I have been trying out are:

Adobe Lightroom 6 (which I already own) This is going to go to a subscription only model soon, so when I need to buy a new camera that is no longer supported by this release of Lightroom. The thing is this comes with the monthly CC plan for Photoshop, so you are already paying for it if you are paying for Photoshop, It has been problematic as it has been running slow on a lot of peoples computers (mine included) with large libraries. Lightroom will cost £9-98 per month but that also includes Photoshop, which I object to when I can pay if I live in America $9.99 for the same thing. This is one of the reasons I am not happy about Adobe this sort of pricing is not fair as we get support mostly online and I do not see how it costs them more to do business in this country to America.(rant on pricing over).

** A side note on image libraries, I keep all of my images for each calendar year in one Library so that I can find and work on one year at a time, but as I have gone back to full time photography the number of images I make each year has increased, so far this year I have over 27,000 last year I made just under 20,000 images. I found that with Lightroom the more images in your library the slower it got. which is why I moved to images libraries for each year and if I am doing a job that might generate a few images then I will make a specific one for that particular job.

Luminar 2018 I have been impressed with it colours and simplicity of operation, I am yet to see how the library functionality will work, at £64-00 this program is affordable

Iridient Developer v3.2 I really like the control interface on this raw convertor, I would love to see more training (actually) some on this program. As their is very little online that explains how it works. I like the colour rendering and the ability to dig into shadows and pull out highlights with Iridient Developer, at the moment I am considering using this program to convert my images but at £82.39 it is not cheap.

Capture One Pro 9 (the one that started this), I have liked the library part of Capture One pro and have used it to import and catalog all my image for the past three years, primarily because it gave me great colours out of the Sony a7RMKII cameras that I have been using. I much preferred the ability to reach into the highlights and recover detail and dig into the shadows and get out information which I felt this was far better at doing than Adobe Lightroom 6 on the Sony sensors.

Capture One Pro 10 This is the one I like, but for a problem in the colours between my pervious version and the new version, I do not know what it has done to my library but the saturation is different between the versions 9 and 10, Another reason to wait. I like the sharpness that I get with this version and the colour is normally very good for my files on of this software. If you are new to Capture one Pro it will cost €279-00 +vat ($299-00 US dollars) So it is in the premium pricing end of the spectrum, if you are upgrading it is about £99-00 per upgrade, which is why I do not want to buy until I know that I  will not be buying another version in two weeks time.

** update: And guess what I was right Capture One Pro 11 was announced on the 30th of November 2017, one year after the previous version.

OnOne Photo RAW 2018  I like this program even though it feels different to the others, it will cost you $99-00 for a perpetual licence.

and I also experimented with AccuRaw which I like but for the lack of strong highlight and shadow recovery, so I am not going to include that here, Its colour reproduction I really liked. If you do not need strong Highlight or Shadow recovery then I would highly recommend AccuRaw It also costs around £84-00

I was going to include screen shots of the resulting images but decided that this is something you need to try yourselves as each of us sees differently and the images that I like are not going to be ones you like. For now I am reserving judgement as I need to experiment more, I have another 12 days on one of the trials to see what I think of the software then I will make a decision. I still like Capture One Pro but the colours (saturation) for me are off on the new version, I really like the solidity of Lightroom, it just works, and I like the results from Irident Developer but I want more info on how the product works as their is not a lot on this raw converter online. I am still not sure of both the Luminar and OnOne Photo Raw yet so more experiments on both of these.


The image below was chosen because it has an area that blows out in the highlights and an area that I have pulled out in the shadows where the guys are, Lightroom did the worst at this area, I would have to mask it and manually make it lighter, if I was to use Lightroom. Capture One Pro 10 messed up the saturation, Capture One Pro 9 is soft in the details on skin and hair. Luminar 2018, was not as sharp in the fine details but I admit I need to experiment with its sharpening tools to see what it will really do so I am going to reserve my judgement on it for now, I did like how the software worked and I liked its colour rendering.

Click on an image above to see it larger.

So In summary, I am thinking about what to do and each option will cost. I also to throw a spanner in the works and thinking am considering using Photo Mechanic as my library program, as I have experimented a little with it and heard good things about it. At this stage, I am waiting for Phase One to update Capture One Pro to version 11 and I am thinking about adding Iridient Developer, for when I want something different from my raw images, so that I can have both options for my raw files, I also have the option of use Lightroom 6 for a while longer, as it is on my computer and supports all my current cameras.

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