OK, we left the subject of RAW workflow with a quite complicated process and the idea that there should be an easier way to convert from RAW (JPEG) files into high-quality TIFF files than using half a dozen steps.
What is required?
Basically we need a program that combines an image viewer and a RAW developer. Ideally the program would:
- have a thumnail view of the images for sorting (that loads quickly)
- be quick and reactive – I don’t want to wait 20 seconds each time I modify the curves.
- be color managed.
- allow for in-depth RAW processing of an image (white balance, curves, rotate, crop and so on).
- allow to copy and paste processing settings from one image to the other (or allow to define standard profiles – I don’t want to redefine all the settings on each image of a serie).
- deliver high quality 16 bits / channel TIFF output from RAW conversion.
- allow batch processing – when all my corrections are done, I send my pictures for processing and have a cup of coffee. I retrieve my TIFF files afterwards.
- … while keeping a simple user interface.
Now compromises will be needed here: being feature complete while keeping a simple and responsive user interface is not so easy, especially when dealing with RAW files that need a lot of processing work only to become “viewable files”; let alone do image processing on them.
The pitfalls to avoid are:
- a behemoth software that has everything (with a kitchen sink) but is slow and gobbles up your system resources
- sacrifice too many features in order to keep a quick and simple program
So once again, balance is the key…
Our first candidate: RawStudio
Although there are a few more advanced solutions available for Linux, let’s start with pure Open Source solutions. Enters RawStudio (web), which is at its 0.6 release – so the software is not feature complete yet. In fact it is missing one thing that keeps it from a day-to-day usage: high quality demosaicing algorithm for final ouput.
So far, RawStudio offers only a quick algorithm that does fine for image viewing and defining settings, but the algorithm used doesn’t ouput a very high quality image file and the file is only 50% of the “normal pixel size” that you would get from Ufraw.
However, someone else on the development mailing posted a desired roadmap with (and as priority number one) a better demosaicing algorithm. Let’s see what developers do with it. Since the motto of Open Source is “Release early and release often”, we may as well have a look at this version and see what RawStudio has to offer.
RawStudio: image processing settings
So that is what you get on opening:
So we find a thumbnail view on top, a tool bar on the right and quite a bit of room for the image (that screams “too magenta”).
The toolbar allows to define the current settings:
You have the classics: white balance (warmth/tint), curves, exposure… It misses an unsharp mask and a denoising filter, but that’s on the roadmap. It allows to define a crop ratio. The photo menu offers a straighten tool, where you pick a line that you want horizontal and the image is rotated accordingly. Any modification is instant in the preview (including rotation) – reactivity is excellent.
There are A B and C tool tabs, which allow to define standard profiles to chose from when editing images.
In the edit menu, you find a copy and paste settings which allows you to copy (indeed) settings from one pictures and presents you with the following dialog on paste:
So you have a lot of flexibility in moving your settings around from one picture to the next one.
RawStudio: image batch
Another area where RawStudio shows lots of potential is batch management. Clicking on the batch menu item allows you to send the current photo for queue processing. You can even give it a processing priority (1-3), which moves the picture in the according thumbnails view. By the way, you can also “flag a picture for deletion” (the picture moves to the D tab) and later on “delete flagged pictures”. Since delete is a common command (at least for my pictures) it is good to have a clever way to do it.
On the tools, you have the batch views that shows you which images are enqueued for processing and with which profile; you chose your file quality, filename template and ouput directory:
Clicking on start (at the bottom, so not on this screenshot), well, starts the processing.
One more thing
RawStudio also offers a nice “split” view to compare your image original and corrected version:
Since our eye works with contrast, having comparison is the way to go (here: too green and too magenta :-/). That coupled with a zoom feature move from an overview to a detail makes it a nice addition to RawStudio features set.
While I hadn’t had a very good impression of a previous version of RawStudio, I like a lot of what I see here:
- brilliant responsiveness
- batch tool in very good shape
- flexibility of settings reuse (either by copy / paste or by defining profiles)
- color management (in the preference menu, still experimental)
Unfortunately, I was also bitten by a couple of bugs:
- unable to load from or save to TIFF files (had to use either PNG or JPEG, not quite high quality output)
- thumbails appearing only partially
Also lacking are:
- high quality demosaicing aglorithm
- a couple of features (unsharp mask, denoising…)
All in all, I liked so much what I saw with RawStudio that I would like to start using it straight away. Unfortunately, it’s not possible due to missing features and bugs. But I am holding my breath for the next version (and regularly compiling from CVS ). I like open source software…