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May 07, 2005

Raw Converters

As I wrote at the end of April, I was experimenting with standalone RAW converters for the Nikon NEF files produced by my D70 camera. I finally got around to doing a side-by-side comparison. I took the four flash pictures I posted to Flickr as my test group. I ran each NEF file through each converter, using only the presets which were available from the main controls of each respective converter. The goal here was to see how good a conversion I could get, using minimal effort (no tweaking of temperature, sharpness, color balance, etc. once I'd selected a preset profile). I then dumped each image to a TIFF file.

I just now got through comparing the results, and my ratings look like this:

Dark RoomCapture One Wins
DinnerRaw Developer Wins
Kitchen Backlit OneCapture One Wins (marginally)
Kitchen Backlit TwoCapture One Wins (marginally)

In no case did Adobe Camera Raw win with the presets available. Colors were usually so muted that the image seemed underdeveloped. Capture One suffers from the opposite problem. In two cases, while it won the contest, the images were saturated with color. If I were developing a full image production flow and using this to pipe images into Adobe Photoshop CS, I'd need a non-default profile that toned down the color saturation somewhat so I didn't feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, if I'm looking to imitate Fuji Velvia, I've found my converter.

The images in the link above are from Capture One, the overall winner of the contest. I've no intention of dropping $100 on this tool, as I'm too much of an amateur to justify the additional expense and steps. But if I ever find myself taking tons more photos, or charging folks for my output, I will definitely consider Capture One.

Posted by dpwakefield at May 7, 2005 04:59 PM