DIGITAL CAMERA RAW CONVERTER COMPARISONS
with Canon 1Ds Mk II, Canon 400D XTi, Canon 50D and Nikon D300 images
Adobe's ACR (Photoshop CS4 & Lightroom), Bibble Pro, BreezeBrowser Pro, Capture One,
Canon's Digital Photo Pro, SilverFast DC Pro / DC VLT and Silkypix Developer Studio
Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Adobe Lightroom 2.2
Adobe Camera RAW (ACR 5.2)
GUI:: The ACR 5 user interface in Photoshop CS4 has 9 tool tabs located on the right hand side of the GUI and about 70 individual editing tools nested under these nine tabs. Some tools are available across the top of the GUI and some other choices and parameters are located across the bottom of the GUI. The image preview is located on the left side of the GUI. The file browser in Photoshop CS4 is part of a multi-function image file browser called 'Bridge'. ACR 5 can be accessed in any of the following ways: from Bridge by file>file open for RAW files or as file>open with camera raw for JPEG and TIFF. From Photoshop use the file>file open command with any supported RAW file.
Lightroom has five tabbed working area modules: Library, Develop, Slide show, Print and Web. Library is the 'DAM' or Digital Asset Management module. Lightroom uses a database to catalog the image collections you select to import into Lightroom. Lightroom has multiple filtering methods and you can search an open collection or selected images by meta data, key words, ratings or several other search criterion. Lightroom will not search your entire Lightroom database. Develop is for image editing, Slide show is for making PDF slide shows, Print is for paper output and Web is for making slide show type web ready presentations.
ACR 5 is seamlessly integrated into Develop module of Lightroom. The toolset and features remain about 95% the same as found in Photoshop CS4. The main tool groups are available in a scrolling menu on the right side of the GUI. You can browse your selected image collection as a film strip at the bottom of the GUI or on a light box in the central portion of the GUI. See the screen captures of Lightroom's GUI below for clarification. 'Before and After' adjustment split screen views are available in the Develop module. The GUI's of Lightroom and ACR in Photoshop CS4 are easy to navigate using the tabbed tool bars and scrolling tool sets that have become popular in the last few years. All adjustments have sliders and numerical inputs are available.
The help documents are available as a PDF document or online with a World Wide Web reach. I have had mixed results with the online approach. If you type a question in Lightroom's help web site, you may be directed to a non-Adobe forum or just about anywhere. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you don't. A PDF help file opens automatically if you do not have an internet connection. If you are connected to the Internet and click on help you are directed to the appropriate Adobe help web site. The best way to get an easily assessable copy of the PDF help file is to download it from the appropriate Adobe help web site.
Some new tools were added to Lightroom2. Improved redeye and crop tools, a spot removal tool, a 'graduated density tool' and an 'adjustment brush'. The last two tools are a little unique. The graduated density tool can be configured to work with one of the following parameters: contrast, brightness, saturation, clarity, sharpness and color, and a 'soften skin' option. The amount of the tool application can be adjusted + or - and if you want to use color, you can select a color from a color patch, including the amount of transparency. Having configured the tool as you want it you just click and drag across the appropriate part of your image. An example of a common use of this type of tool would be to darken a sky a little when you have a composition that has a bright sky and darker foreground. The 'adjustment brush' allows you to paint on your image with any color at any level of transparency. The same set of adjustment parameters are available for this tool that are used in the graduated density tool. This method lets you make your adjustments locally on your image with any brush size.
Tool settings used for one image can be copy/pasted into others. You can also save tool settings as presets. You can include all editing tools or just the ones you choose to save to the preset.
You can open and edit JPEG and TIFF (8 or 16 bit) files using ACR's tools in both CS4 and Lightroom. This gives you the opportunity of using the aforementioned smart tools on these common image files. These tools really speed up post processing workflow for me. In fact, all of the other image editing tools in ACR are just as appropriate for use with JPEG and TIFF as they are for RAW files.
Color management: ICC color management throughout the workflow is available in Lightroom and Photoshop CS4. CS4 and Lightroom use your default monitor profile to render the preview images and thumbnails. ACR/ Lightroom now has selectable camera profiles for many DSLR cameras. Selectable camera profiles can be a huge advantage. If you don't like the color or tonal rendition of your default conversion you have several other camera profiles to try. If none of the profiles produce default images that suit your color and tonal range needs, you can make custom profiles for your own cameras with Adobe's DNG camera profile editor. You will also need Adobe's DNG converter since the profile editor only works with DNG files. There is a nice tutorial on the DNG camera profile editor here. The selected camera profile can also be temporarily edited in the 'camera calibration' tool tab.
Output: Lightroom can output to JPEG 8 bit, TIFF and PSD in 8 or 16 bit and DNG. CS4's choice of output file types is too long to list here. Lightroom can export images in sRGB, Adobe RGB and Pro Photo RGB. ACR in CS4 adds Colormatch RGB to the list of output color spaces available. Lightroom allows you to use unique names for individual file conversions. Batch processing and batch renaming are both available. As noted above Lightroom has the capability to output a web (HTML) slide show or a PDF slide show.
Printing: Lightroom has an ICC print output option including a picture packages option with user definable print sizes on whatever paper size you select. Lightroom has a print on paper preview but no soft proofing like Photoshop CS4.
Comments: Most people already know that Photoshop is the industry standard for professional image editing. If you can't get it done in Photoshop, most likely, it can't be done. While Photoshop was designed to be used by professional digital imaging artists, the basic user interface is not difficult to master. Many intermediate to advanced level imaging enthusiasts are taking advantage of Photoshop's power too. With the inclusion of ACR and Bridge (Bridge is Photoshop's file browser) Photoshop has every key element needed by the digital camera photographer.
For some people Lightroom will be all they need. For professional photographers the combination of Lightroom and Photoshop will take care of all of their digital imaging needs. Lightroom is just about unbeatable when it comes to image organizing and producing multiple types of output for weddings, events and other tasks where a lot of photographs are involved. As an example, I had just acquired the first iteration of Lightroom a couple of years ago when my wife needed a slide show of her business trip to Argentina. She is a professional trip planner, yeah, a hard job but somebody's got to do it. I imported her images into Lightroom's 'Library' module. It was easy to remove the unwanted photos from the collection without deleting them from the original folder. I used Lightroom's embedded ACR 'exposure' and 'fill' tools to fix my wife's chronically underexposed indoor shots and ACR's 'recovery' tool to fix the blown highlights. Setting the viewing order of the presentation was as simple as drag and drop in the Lightroom Library's film strip view, just like a time line in video editing. We used the 'slide show' module to make a PDF format slide slow and the 'web' module to make a flash based web presentation. The PDF and web presentations utilize pre-made templates.The whole project took less than 30 minutes. This feat was accomplished with less than 10 minutes of total time previously invested in working with Lightroom.
I have two very minor complaints with Lightroom. The 'color picker' reads out in percentage of R, G and B instead of the more traditional 0-255 color numbers most of us are used to working with. I would like to see a option for displaying either the percentages, which is nice for the new folks who don't understand a 255 level histogram, and traditional color numbers for us old timers. The only other thing I would like to see is more html based web templates. The 'Web' module is heavily stocked with 'flash' based web page templates. A few more frames based or simple html pages would have been nice. The only thing redundant between Photoshop CS and Lightroom is ACR. Both programs can stand alone or be considered to be complimentary to each other. In fact there is some built in integration in Lightroom for further editing in Photoshop.
In the image comparison sections of this article, ACR 5 did extremely well. ACR 5 always produced good color balance and correct exposure with its default RAW image processing parameters.
Lightroom 2.2 has been stable and bug free on my PC platform. Photoshop CS4's initial release had numerous crashes due to monitor driver issues with CS4's open GL drawing option. CS4's first service patch (11.0.1) and a new Nvidia driver released just a few days ahead of the Photoshop patch seem to have fixed my problems with Open GL. I am running XP Pro on a Core Duo at 3 ghz with 4 gigs of system ram and a Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT with 1gb of onboard ram.
Adobe has a history of providing very timely new camera updates for the ACR engine in both Photoshop and LIghtroom. It is Adobe's policy to not add new camera support for older versions
of ACR when a new version of Photoshop is released. So, if you want to use ACR in Photoshop CS3 with the newest model cameras you may have to download Adobe's DNG converter and convert your camera's RAW file to DNG. Adobe does add new camera models to the DNG converter about the same time that they are added to the latest version of ACR. If you want to see a list of ACR 5.2 supported cameras or check for
ARC 5 updates, click here.
Lightroom 2.2 basic GUI
|Basic Tab||Tone Curve Tab||HSL / Color / Grayscale Tab|
|Details Tab||Camera Calibration Tab||Tools Tab|
To print this web page correctly you will need to set your printer's page setup properties to 'landscape' paper orientation
Introduction, comments on RAW and features comparison chart
Bibble Pro overview
BreezeBrowser Pro overview
Canon Digital Photo Pro overview
Capture One Pro overview
Silky Pix Developer Studio overview
SilverFast HDR overview
comparison examples - color renditions
comparison examples - color and tonal range
comparison examples - landscapes
comparison examples - artifacts & sharpening
comparison examples - studio lights with Kelvin white balance
comparison examples - digital noise at ISO 1600
comparison examples - image editing
EXIF and IPTC information
PHOTOGRAPHY AND DIGITAL IMAGING INFORMATION