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RAW Conversion Software
Shooting in Camera RAW is the best format for capturing all the image detail. RAW images include all image data that the camera sensor records without automatic editing. Most professional photographers shoot only in Camera RAW to retain the maximum image information and manually edit the images using RAW converter software.
Many different applications can convert RAW images from camera specific applications like Nikon’s Capture software that only converts the image to Adobe Photoshop that converts and has advanced editing options. Depending on the need, skill level, and budget there is a RAW converter application to suit everyone’s need.
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Rating System Explained
The RAW converter software are rated in this comparison according to how many editing options they offer. A 3 star and 5 star product may be equal in quality, but not in advanced editing options. All the RAW conversion software applications tested were quality applications that will convert RAW images and are produced by companies with a history of serving the photographic community.
The rating system is used to help the reader find the application with the most and least options at a glance.
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Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) ConverterRating
Adobe Digital Negative Converter is designed to open and convert RAW images into Digital Negatives (DNG) only. Adobe is working towards standardization for the DNG format. Many RAW files generated by cameras cannot be read by all applications and this creates a problem for archiving images for the future. The DNG format is publicly available archival format that is supported by most camera manufacturers. Adobe DNG Converter opens most camera manufacturers RAW files and has the capability to convert these files into the DNG format.
- Cost - Free
- Imaging Capability - None
- Reliability - Adobe is one of the leaders in photographic imaging and has produced a reliable quality product since digital cameras came on the market.
- Supported Format - Yes
- Ease of Use - Adobe DNG is extremely easy to use. There are few features to confuse the user; all the options are on one window.
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Adobe Photoshop CS3 & CS4Rating
Photoshop CS3 & CS4 were the first versions to support the RAW format.
- Cost - $699 for the full version and $199 for the upgrade.
- Imaging Capability - Full imaging capabilities including seamless integration with other Adobe products. Photoshop is the industry standard for digital photo imaging. Photoshop is a powerful editing application that has the standard editing features, special effects features, an array of enhancing controls, adjustment panels and dynamic editing features.
- Reliability - Adobe is known for their reliability in imaging products.
- Supported Format - Yes
- Ease of Use - Photoshop is intuitive in the layouts and tools, but there is a learning curve with most of the advanced features. Photoshop is easy to use for the basic editing functions, but the more complex color adjustments and image manipulations take time and skill to use.
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Digital Imaging RAW Converter Applications Compared There are many RAW converter applications available on the market. They all convert RAW files, but the imaging and editing capabilities are vastly different. Here is a simple comparison between various different RAW converter applications that range in price and features.
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Bibble 5 ProRating
Bibble Labs started in 2000 to develop software to convert RAW from the Nikon D1 series of cameras. Bibble also licenses RAW Image Processing integrated into other products such as Extensis, JASC/Corel and Kodak. They cater to the professional photographer and have consistently upgraded and created new applications tailored to the professional user.
- Cost - $199.95
- Imaging Capability - Designed for imaged editing, organization, metadata tools and digital asset management. Bibble has many lightening fast editing functions that allow a photographer to scan, edit and organize large groups of images fast. The editing tools include both basic photographic tools and advanced imaging adjustments. They have included curves and layers with all the other tools, which makes Bibble a step ahead of Lightroom or Aperture. Bibble is not as powerful as Photoshop, but has included many of the same powerful editing tools that are most used by photographers.
- Reliability - They stand behind all their products and offer a full open trial version for download.
- Ease of Use - Bibble is not easy to use. There is a learning curve even with the simplest of functions. They designed the features for functionality and value to the professional photographer. This would not be a good first choice for an amateur photographer. To learn more about this software, please read Bibble 5 Pro Review.
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Nikon Capture NXRating
Nikon's Capture software was originally designed to convert the RAW files from the Nikon DSLR camera line into JPEGs and TIFFs. Nikon has since added editing features to their conversion software.
- Cost - $120
- Imaging Capability - Nikon has added some imaging tools and adjustment panels. Capture NX2 can only work with one image at a time. There the basic color correction and exposure controls as well as a few added tools like spot removal, but overall the editing is basic.
- Reliability - Overall the product seems to deliver accurate color. Nikon supports and stands behind their products.
- Ease of Use - There is a small learning curve learning where everything is, but overall it is easy to use.
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- Cost - $399 for the full version and $99 for the upgrade.
- Imaging Capability - Digital imaging capabilities including the basic color, exposure and editing features. There are some extras that other image editors don't have such as a skin smoother and focus mask. Capture One has true image, which most other similar editors lack. It does not have some of the more advanced tools that for manipulation that Photoshop has so some enhancements are limited and need to be made in an external application.
- Reliability - The product is stable and backed by company that has been producing editing systems since the early days of DSLRs.
- Ease of Use - Capture one is easy to use and similar in look and function to Lightroom. It is easy to jump right in and use, though reading the directions is necessary for more complicated editing. To learn more, read Bright Hub's review of Capture One.