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revisiting RAW

Yet more options….

in Apple Aperture , Monday, October 31, 2011

Prompted by a series of posts by Mitch Alland, I decided it might be interesting to take another look at a RAW processor I’d not seriously considered in the past, Raw Photo Processor, or RPP.  RPP is not your usual run of the mill RAW processor.  It concerns itself only with the initial steps of translating the RAW file into a finished photo, and, unlike others (the author claims - I’m not 100% convinced), recalculates from the raw data for each applied edit.  It works a bit differently from a user interface perspective too, foregoing sliders for direct numeric input, and in most cases refreshing the preview only on demand. However, it isn’t as hard to use as it seems on first glimpse.

Mitch Alland reports that “it’s been a revelation because RPP does a much better job in raw development than Aperture: it simply produces better resolution and better color”. So it seems worth taking it for a spin.

Here’s a comparison of a file output from Aperture at default settings (above) and from RPP, with a contrast curve applied in Photoshop, below:

Snapz Pro XSnap001

As you can see, the white balance is significantly different. I’m not sure which is “right”. The RPP version is very neutral, but I couldn’t say for sure if the Aperture (actually, in camera) version is capturing an accurate cast. RPP white balance works well on Auto, or Custom, but In Camera is a bit strange.

As for detail, well, yes, I’d say that RPP visibly delivers a touch more, but it’s not going to be noticeable to the average audience.

RPP also delivers more image. On this Olympus E-P2 shot, Aperture outputs a 4032 by 2034 pixel image -which is to Olympus’s specifications. RPP recovers more, providing 4090 by 3078. I believe the “extra” pixels have something to do with calibration, but apparently they do contain usable image data.

The big difference between basic RPP and basic Aperture processing, disregarding white balance, is Aperture’s Boost slider. Basically, RPP delivers a file with Boost set to 0. According to Apple, Boost applies a camera-specific contrast curve directly after RAW demosaicing. It is actually remarkable what a difference it makes - this, effectively, is the “look” or magic sauce of a RAW converter. Of course it’s a subjective judgement as to whether this is a good thing or not.  RPP gives you the best shot it can at providing you with the basic ingredients, and it’s then up to you to make the most of these in subsequent post-processing, be it in Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom, or whatever.

It’s difficult to make a quick judgment on the real-world merits of RPP, but using it gives you a clearer idea of what’s really going on behind the smoke and mirrors, and potentially it might just give you a quality edge.  In any case it’s a useful tool to have. And it’s free - although donations are appreciated.

Posted in category "Apple Aperture" on Monday, October 31, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Older Comments

from Project Hyakumeizan on Thu, November 03, 2011 - 8:00

Mmm, interesting - should I mess with this stuff, or simply stay set in my jpeg ways ...?

from david mantripp on Thu, November 03, 2011 - 11:03

Um. Dunno. Personally I have two issues with JPEG: first, it’s quite a lot of work to get a good in-camera JPEG setting, even if my choice of digital camera has the reputation of offering the best JPEG output on the market.  And second, if 5 years down the line my tastes change, I can’t do much about it.  Having said that, of course if 5 years I shot Velvia but afterwards wanted an Astia look, well, I was out of luck.  It is said that shooting JPEG is very much like shooting slide film.  It’s all very subjective…

from project Hyakumeizan on Fri, November 04, 2011 - 9:14

Thanks for that - I guess I don’t know what I’m missing - maybe I’ll keep it that way. Still, I think I’ll continue eating sashimi in RAW mode - tastes better that way….

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