Report Analyses 4 Camera RAW Conversion Applications

IT Enquirer has just released the results of an in-depth report comparing some of the most important functionality in 4 Camera RAW applications –Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Phase One’s Capture One Pro, and DxO Labs DxO Optics Pro– focusing in particular on productivity, efficiency, and image quality. The 24-page report focuses on a RAW workflow and measures the time taken for identical tasks to be performed in each application, and makes an assessment of the qualitative differences between the 4 applications.

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In desktop publishing as well as web and other publishing environments, images play a crucial role. And most images are not drawn or painted, but they are photographed. Photograph or image management software therefore is at the core of any publishing workflow, be it DTP or other. Prior to Apple’s release of Aperture 1.0, dedicated photo management applications were rare. Instead, photographers relied on Digital Asset Management software which not only handles photographs, but also any other digital content file format. Or they used applications such as Capture One, which is strong at RAW conversion and tethered image recording.

This report discusses four professional-grade RAW management applications: Aperture, Lightroom, Capture One Pro, and DxO Optics Pro. Of those four, DxO Optics Pro has no file management functionality. It has been added to this report nevertheless, because it is unique in its approach to image conversion, and has features that set it apart on a quality-level.

We discuss these applications in the light of a cross-media publishing workflow. Such publishing workflows are commonplace nowadays and involve a lot of different skills coming together to publish an information piece or a piece of art. As RAW is the digital equivalent of what a film negative used to be in analogue days, a RAW conversion tool is a very important utility to ensure high output quality.


This report measures the time some of the actions in these programs take, but it also tries to give an assessment of the quality of results for different actions.
Based on our measurements and the export and output quality obtained from the different programs, we advise the combination of Adobe Lightroom 1.1 and DxO Optics Pro 4.5.

Our advice is based on DxO Optics Pro being superior in the area of corrections based on camera data and RAW conversion quality. The Lightroom-to-DxO plug-in that has been released integrates Dxo Optics Pro with Lightroom in such a way that users can call Dxo Optics Pro from within Lightroom or save a processed file to a Lightroom catalogue from within DxO Optics Pro.

If only one application is to be considered, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom in general is on par with Aperture. It is the best performer of the four tested applications, and it has the advantage of being available on both Windows and Mac OS X.
It also delivers a well balanced feature set and it performs among the best in terms of corrections and colour adjustments. Together with its support for RAW import from an impressive number of cameras, this makes Lightroom a very fine all-round Camera RAW application.

We found Aperture to be the best for cataloguing images. Although Aperture is sometimes slower than competing products, its flexibility is better than the others. It also offers very powerful asset management and its colour adjustment engine is well thought out. Aperture also has an intuitive and well-designed interface. However, we were disappointed by the lack of support for the RAW format from less high-end cameras.

Capture One Pro is a good choice if working with Phase One digital backs and when tethered shooting is considered. It does have a very powerful colour adjustment help application, but its interface is outdated and some of the features force a photographer into a workflow that is the most efficient according to Phase One.

By Erik Vlietinck

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