RAW processing (1): RawStudio

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:

rawstudio1.jpg

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:

rawstudio2.jpg

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:

rawstudio3.jpg

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:

rawstudio4.jpg

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:

rawstudio5.jpg

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.

Conclusion

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…

13 Responses to RAW processing (1): RawStudio

  1. Guilherme says:

    Hi jcornuz,
    I just discovered your blog. I am very happy founding a photographer that uses both linux AND pentax. It was fun reading about your workflow and this article about Raw helped me a lot.
    I subscribed your post (feed) to keep track poof the news.
    Keep on the great work.
    Thanks.
    gjofili

  2. jcornuz says:

    Hi Guilherme,

    Good to read from you. RawStudio is my best bet for RAW processing software on Linux (make sure you hunt for a version 0.7).

    Some nice pics on your flickr, too.

    Take care,

    Joel

  3. Xavier says:

    Hi Joel!
    I eventually setup my wifi access yesterday night. So tonight I’ll try to install this RawStudio. Do you know in which repository I could find it?

  4. jcornuz says:

    Salut Xavier!

    Congrats – once wifi is working on Linux, all the rest is a piece of cake (almost). RawStudio is available in Universe, the standard *buntu repositories. However, this will be version 0.6.1.

    My take is:
    1) install version 0.6 so you have the dependencies satisfied
    2) grab a version 0.7 from http://www.getdeb.net/search.php?keywords=rawstudio
    3) just double clicking on the deb file should fire gdebi which will allow you to install after asking you if you really want to overcome the standard version.

    Let me know if you have any trouble.

    Take care,

    Joel

  5. Xavier says:

    Hi Joel,

    So far, I’ve installed a version 0.6, but I got an error with libpango when I tried to install the version 0.7 from getdeb.net . I’ll retry later. Hopefully a fixed package will be available soon.
    Anyway, I’m gonna try the version 0.6

    Thanks for your help

    Xavier

  6. jcornuz says:

    Xavier,

    Remember that version 0.6 doesn’t has the full size demosaicing algorithm – your TIFF / JPEG images are only half size, which is not very useful. I’ll have a look into the getdeb.net package to see if I can reproduce the Pango issue…

    Take care,

    Joel

  7. Xavier says:

    Hi Joel,

    Indeed, I’ll wait until a fixed package is released.

    Thanks

    Xavier

  8. jcornuz says:

    Xavier,

    Send me the details of your problem by private email. I tried the getdeb.net version without problem the other day.

    Take care,

    Joel

  9. Janne says:

    FYI, if the saved PNG is 16 bit (which the format supports) then you are losing no quality whatsoever compared to TIFF, and gain better compression, support for metadata and better overall compatibility (TIFF isn’t a fully specified standard).

    Given the choice you should use 16bit PNG over TIFF.

  10. Jon says:

    Thanks Joel.

    I have been looking for good raw processors for Ubuntu. Here is another article experimenting with raw processors on Linux that I found quite helpful. I think between your article and his I have found what I need.

    http://www.ubuntuproductivity.com/journal/ubuntu/07/2008/ubuntu-photo-manager-experiment/

    By the way, I just installed Raw Studio on Ubuntu 8.04 and it appears that Raw Studio 1.0 is in the default repositories. I found it via the simple Applications -> Add/Remove tool.

    Thanks again!

  11. nadavkav says:

    check out enabling RAW in home grade cameras
    (i used it for my Canon 640A)
    http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

    updating the firmware with those addons upgrades the
    camera’s features and abilities to handle RAW picture capturing
    🙂

  12. Mark says:

    Rawstudio is the most intuitive of the photo apps I have tried. I love it’s workflow but ALL of my images need to have contrast and saturation bumped up else the image is flat looking. this forces me to duplicate these changes on EVERY image.
    Is there a setting that I am missing? My current settings are RawStudio 1.0 in Ubuntu 8.04. I have tried Preferneces…Colour…Experimental on and off. On gives slightly better results.
    The resulting images all appear flatter than the original NEF or associated JPGs when viewed and output through RawStudio.
    ‘Tis a pity because I love the way it is designed.

  13. Martin Nilsson says:

    Mark,

    with JPEG’s etc the camera’s image processor increases saturation and contrast before writing the JPEG file. With raw (in Canon’s case *.crw) this is not done (look at it as if the image processor in the camera is replaced by your computers and its software, RawStudio in this case).

    It is very likely that yuo will want to add saturation and contrast to almost every image (which is why a settings copy feature is essential…).

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