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Switching to RAW Developer

Following earlier posts about this, today I managed to find time to evaluate Iridient RAW Developer 1.5.1 against CaptureOne Pro 3.7.4, for Olympus E-1 RAWs. The results are clear: RAW Developer is extracting more detail and more neutral colour than CaptureOne. As a long time CaptureOne user, I'm a bit shocked...

in Olympus E-System , Sunday, June 18, 2006

Following earlier posts about this, today I managed to find time to evaluate Iridient RAW Developer 1.5.1 against CaptureOne Pro 3.7.4, for Olympus E-1 RAWs. The results are clear: RAW Developer is extracting more detail and more neutral colour than CaptureOne. As a long time CaptureOne user, I'm a bit shocked... There are plenty of RAW developers (lower case) out there, but a strong motive for my moving to Iridient RAW Developer (let's call it IRD from now on) is that it has no pretence to be a workflow tool. It doesn't even try to read images from newly inserted cards, thank heavens. Therefore I can use efficiently in tandem with iView MediaPro, which is exactly what I want. To be fair, Adobe Camera RAW could also be used in this way, as can Olympus Studio. CaptureOne cannot, easily, because of its sessions concept, and obviously do-everything solutions like Aperture and Lightroom cannot. Concentrating on RAW development alone has allowed Iridient to focus effort on delivering what must be the most extensive range of adjustment tools in any program of this type. It is complex, and it does take a bit of getting used to moving from CaptureOne (for example there are 4 different sharpening methods, of which 3 are pretty esoteric). You can do an enormous amount of fiddling, but, fortunately, you don't have to - the default settings are pretty good. Although the workflow issue is important, image quality is still a prime factor. From what I've seen so far it seems that IRD has little to fear here. I settled on a test image which has detail at various scales, and also has a sample of the dreaded, Tetris-inducing bright red in it. IRDtest_full.jpg

The full image

IRDtest_C1.jpg

100% crop, processed in C1Pro v3.7.4

IRDtest_IRD.jpg

100% crop, processed in IRD v1.5.1

Looking at these two crops, the first thing that has to be said is that the IRD version is basically "out of the box", although I did decide to use the R-L deconvolution at low settings, as this seems to to restore sharpness lost in the demosaicing processing / anti-aliasing filter. In C1Pro, finally I turned sharpening off, because even using the very low settings I had settled on as "capture sharpen" defaults, it seemed over-sharpened. I also turned "pattern suppression" on, but I was really surprised to see the infamous "tetris effect" in various places, and not just in red. It isn't clearly visible in the JPEG here, but one area is outlined in green. As for reds, well C1Pro for whatever reason did not tetrisise (new verb - you saw it here first!) them, but it certainly over-saturates at default settings. Here I am using -20 on the saturation scale, which is quite drastic - and it still looks wrong compared to IRD. To my eyes, IRD brings out more detail, including highlight detail, and delivers a more natural colour. The R-L deconvolution sharpening lends itself very well to different levels of output sharpening. The IRD versions shows a little low level tetrisisation in the reds, but it doesn't show up in prints. I've been considering switching to RAW Developer for some time. Now that I've finally found a few hours to evaluate it, I've decided to do so. It's a great piece of software at a very fair price. I'm not saying that CaptureOne is no good. I've been using it happily for 2 years. But I doubt that PhaseOne see much point in improving Olympus RAW performance for the tiny user base which all indications show they have. I think they are more likely to focus on the higher end DSLRs and their own medium format backs in future. CaptureOne can still sometimes be a very obscure program, and the session concept is too limited to provide a full image management solution, whilst getting in the way of programs like iView. It saved me from being stuck with Olympus Studio, but for now, it is probably going to be put out to pasture...