Saturday, January 28, 2012

Raw Processors - Comparison

Over the Last 6 months, major players in Camera Raw file processing have all upped the game for processing raw files in one system.  Adobe Light Room 4 Beta (price N/a), Phase One - Capture One 6 Express ($129 US) and Pro ($399 US), and Corel AfterShot 4 (formerly Bibble5) ( 99.95 US or 79.95 US Upgrade) have all been released. I have been working with all 3 and over the next few posts will show you each and compare them side by side in tests that are real life.

I am for the record going to state that I am not associated with any of the above companies and am not being paid to endorse one company over another. I will also state that all of the product tested are the current versions and all products and copyrights are owned by their respective companies.

So where to start:

Lets start with price because of course that is always a determining factor

Light Room 4 from Adobe has no pricing but the current version of Lightroom, Lightroom 3 is $299  US.  This is one of the most expensive of the bunch, but from one of the most repsected companies in Photography

Capture One Express 6 - $129.99 US - Little known product from one of leaders in Professional Photography Phase One. I Expect this to be right up there in the race.

Capture One Pro 6 - $399 US - This is the big brother of Express 6 and is much more robust than the express version but is not being reviewed at this time.


Corel AfterShot 4 Pro - Regular Price 99.99 US /upgrade 79.99 US - Corel makes it's move with the Purchase of Bibble5 and rebranding it into it's After Shot product.

So if we base it strictly on Price Aftershot 4 Pro has a slight advantage in regular Pricing, but with the link at the top of the page it is far ahead of the others.  But that is not all that we use when going out to but a piece of software.  We will get into some of the nitty gritty and do side by sides or have a look at the features and looks that they all have and then set out to find out what sets them apart.
Lets see what they look like when you first open up.
Corel's After Shot Pro

Adobe LightRoom 4 Beta

Capture One Express 6

So If we look at them, they really look very similar.  So it's not obvious what the differences in the products really are.  So how big are the differences, you might be surprised.

Let's look at Adobe Lightroom  4 Beta - First Thing I found is the ability to personalize your version and now it no longer says Lightroom 4 it Says Ron Palmer Photography.  Different but nothing to pick a program over.  Lightroom 4 follows pretty much the same format as Light room 3 in the developing mode you get all the presets on the left and adjustments on the right.

I found the lens corrections to be very good and the program has most lenses available, although I did find that the third non-oem manufacturer was not included Tokina, not sure why but I am sure that the profiles are available, but again nice but not the big seller. It would be nice to have Tokina included. Remember the price is almost 200 more than any of the others.  Time to look at the features.

 This is the bar on the left hand side under the develop section.  This is nice all of your tools are located in one place.

Histogram, basic, Tone Curves, Split Toning, detail (sharpening) lens corrections, effects and Camera Calibration.

We will look at each of these tabs and see what all the hype is about.

But if your already using Lightroom 3 is it worth the upgrade?  We are still out with the jury at this point in the review.  But that may change or maybe give you something to think about, before you shell out money on something you have.

Now one thing when I set lightroom 4 beta up was that it automatically found my PSE9 and assumed this was the program that I wanted to use for detailed adjustments and work on my images.

You can select many different settings in the preferences, including presets as per camera serial number so if you have 2 of the same brand and model you can make presets for each camera, now we are talking a good feature.  I have learned over the years that even over the same brand and model of camera, each one has it's own image personality. Most of the default settings when youare first starting out are good and you may not even need to change any of them.

The Basic Tab in LR4 is slightly differnet all of the adjustments start at 0, and can be adjusted + or - 50.  One thing you will notice if you have catalogues built in LR3 or below, is that there will be an icon that will advise you that the picture is not to the new format and ask if you would like to update the image only or the hwhole Catalogue (this is Recommended).  You can also just import the images and the new version will be aplied automatically.

The new processing does improve the Shadow and highlight recovery, so much so you can adjust a dark area without blowing out another area.  With the sliders the adjustment is much more natural than using an adjustment brush but don't take my word for it try it. Some will miss the Recovery and fill light sliders which is what Shadow and Highlights replaces.  One change some will find confusing although it makes more sense is that blacks now slides to the the left to darken and to the right to lighten, which makes sense as the histogram has always been set up in those directions.

One of the big improvements is the ability of the Adjustments brush to make adjustments to specific areas of the image to adjust WB, NR and Moire removal.
PSE9 or 10 users will like the ability to have curves to adjust specific areas of the image something they didn't have with out LR. You can adjust RGB or each Red, Green, or Blue separately.

LR4 Beta has built in Effects for Vignetting and adding grain right in Raw Processing.  Another thing you will notice is the Camera Calibration section is very explicit and allows you to set for each camera.

Now there are a number of other features in LR4 Beta that will be of interest to many of you.  Book making with various templates and designs hooking up with Blurb for direct printing from LR4 Beta.  Not only for Blurb but also for printing to Adobe PDF as well.  Allowing you to publish your own e-books.

Something alot of professionals will like is soft proofing, which allows you to see only the colours that your printer can see, which then allows you see how the image will appear. It is also great for web publishers who can see exactly how their images will appear.

LR4 also has Saving to DNG which will allow for faster previews, but also those images you are not too worried about can be saved compressed saving much needed space when you are talking thousands of images.

You can also enable Black and white conversion with the click of a check box.  Making work flow much faster and you can see instantly.

Also in LR4 beta is the ability to do video as well and slide shows, some features as it is beta were a little sluggish or had issues with crashing. Unfortunately one of the downfalls of running beta software.  Adobe is continuously updating the LR4 release with all the feedback and when it is available I expect some of these issues will not be present.

One other area I did try and looks to be a lot smoother is the web section of the program, the web section allows you to create flash galleries and html pages for your websites.

I will provide a more complete review once the full Release is out sometimes in March or April this year.

So although it doesn't appear to be a big step up for some it may be just enough to make the jump from LR3, but enough to bypass the Phase One's Capture One Express 6 or Corel's AfterShot 4 Pro.  Check in our next post for Capture One Express 6 and in part 3 of 4 Corel's AfterShot 4 Pro and then our Final post for this comparison, will provide a comparison of features and help you decide which is best for you

PT1 PT2 PT3 PT4 (coming soon)

Until Next time.....

"I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it."  ~Author Unknown

Adobe and LightRoom are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated, Corel and Aftershot are Registered Trademarks of Corel Corporation, Phase One and Capture One are Registered Trademarks of Phase One A/S.

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