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Shooting RAW - software comparison

In my last two articles I’ve discussed the benefits of shooting in RAW format and some of the techniques I use to get the most out of the information captured by a digital camera sensor.
I also mentioned that not all RAW processing software will give you the same quality results.

Everyone works in different ways so here’s how I judged the four software packages that I’ve tried. I looked at ease of use, speed, flexibility, features and for me the most important thing of all, quality.

This is not an exhaustive or scientific test and you may have a different opinion – it’s just what works for me. I’ve tried Nikon Capture 4 (I use Nikon so don’t know how the other manufacture’s software compares), Adobe Photoshop CS2, Rawshooter Essentials 2006 and Capture One Pro.

Nikon Capture 4
Loaded with features including correction for fisheye lenses, filter plugins from NIk and totally integrated with the camera controls. It also enables you to shoot tethered to your computer. Results are good quality but the software is very clunky to use and oh so slow.

Rawshooter Essentials 2006
Lots of features, easy to use and its FREE. When you deal with RAW files shot at a high ISO there are some questions about the quality. See Gary Wolstenholme’s excellent article which compares the results from the three non camera manufacturer software packages discussed here.

Adobe Photoshop CS2
I found the RAW processing feature the easiest to use of those discussed here. Photoshop’s auto settings feature is pretty good as a starting point and many times you don’t have to do much more to the image. It has not got quite as many features as the other software packages but it is very convenient , straightforward and easy to use.

Capture One Pro/LE
If you’re after professional workflow and superb output quality then this is the software to go for and it is my preferred choice. Capture One pulls out more detail, gives you superb control and delivers a film like quality. Gary’s article covers the features in detail so I’m not going to repeat everything here again. The LE version has the same processing engine as the Pro version and unless you need the extra professional features don’t spend more than you have to as the output quality is the same (and that’s what really counts).

I hope you’ve found this useful and please feel free to email your comments to me or add them below.

All the best,Paul


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