"Declaring the glory of God
through photography of His created world"
copyright 2007 by Joseph LaQuiere
October 27, 2005
Today Pixmantec has released their long awaited Premium version of RawShooter
(RSP). I have downloaded the 15 day trial version and have a few initial thoughts.
There is a lot to like about RawShooter and I have been looking forward to the Premium version since I started using the free RawShooter Essentials (RSE) when it first became available. The programs ability to recover shadow detail and extract fine detail is extraordinary. However I have always had a problem with the color rendering especially in skin tones. I also find a general brownish/green cast to images making some of the colors pasty in appearance. With some work you can get some exceptional results but I would prefer a better more finished rendering of raw images from the start. With the release today of RSP I had hoped many of these color issues would disappear but this does not seem to be the case.
WB PROBLEM WITH 1D MARK II N FILES
There still are some problems, as far as I am concerned, at least when converting files from a Canon 1d Mark II N. This release appears to have a particular problem determining the proper White Balance when the file has a WB tag other than AUTO. I have noticed that files recorded in the camera with a Cloudy setting have a blue cast in RSP. I have not analyzed all of the Canon WB presets to see if it occurs in others. I know that the "Official" recommendation is to leave the camera set to AUTO however the fact that RSP does not render at least the "Cloudy" setting properly forces one to adjust the WB for every photo recorded with this setting. The click WB tool produces less than desirable results most of the time and makes it necessary to do a lot of color tweaking to arrive at the color desired. I did a little checking with Canon 10d files and this "Cloudy" WB problem does not occur with the CRW files. I have not yet had the time to check 1d Mark II files to see if it was specific to the "N" camera.
Since the first release of RSE I find that images apear to have a haze over them that is difficult to eliminate totally even after adjustments. If you are not analyzing detail, sharpness or shadows the color pop and appearance of most other converters, on initial viewing, is better. Perhaps this is a byproduct of being able to extract more detail and dynamic range but I hope not.
Some Thoughts on RawShooter Premium
DID PIXMANTEC DROP THE BALL?
Pixmantec started off with a great marketing strategy in the beginning by distributing, free, a program with lots of nice features, a great interface and some exceptional abilities for RAW conversion. But I think they dropped the ball by letting users that had started to use the program, and liked it, get tired of waiting for the finished version and drift away. Particularly those that had become interested in RSE but were using Capture One (C1) and were waiting for the crop and straighten features in RSE. I know this was true for me. I was using RSE for a while but found that I was taking longer to finish a batch of files because of the color issues and the lack of crop and straighten tools. In processing approximately 4,000 images a month the best results in the shortest amount of time is the most important feature. I waited for a while but I finally decided to go back to C1. Now with the release of RSP I am still having difficulty achieving color that is to my liking without a lot of work. I am not compelled yet to go back to RSP for most of my conversions.
RSP does offer some advantages and still has a fantastic interface. The new cropping and straightening tools are some of the best I have seen and program speed is very good but I had hoped this new release would be a total winner. If they (Pixmantec) can get the color right without extended tweaking RSP would trounce the competition. Instead, it still sits, in a niche, as software for specific goals in conversion and not for use on all images. At the introduction price of $59 many of us will buy it just to ad to our arsenal of specialty tools, at $99 we might start to think twice.
So what do you do? TRY IT OUT! It has a 15 day trial and may work exceptionally well for you and your camera. And to Pixmantec I say, great job on almost everything. Fix the color a little bit and RSP is fantastic in just about every other respect.
Canon DPP software conversion
RawShooter Premium conversion
RSP EXTRACTS MORE DETAIL
Below are 100% crops of the detail in the RSP conversion vs the DPP conversion on the right. If your monitor is of sufficient resolution you should see clearly the fine detail of the bridge railing (the picture is of an open drawbridge) Both images have had similar sharpening applied.
In order to answer some critics questions about the truth of RSP extracting more detail I have redone my tests in this regard and found that I will stick with my original statement that RSP does deliver more detail. It does not mater to me if you want to call it added sharpening, detail extraction, more contrast or whatever, the result is, that RSP produces more visible very fine detail than the other converters tested. I have expanded this test to include Bibble and Breeze Browser along with RSP and DPP these currently are the only converters that support the canon 1d Mark II N. My conclusion is that using reasonable ability and time RSP can be expected to deliver more fine detail than the others. Is it possible that each of these converters may deliver a very similar result with add work and continued experimentation? Yes quite, but that does not change the basic truth of the original statement about RSP. I was not able to produce an image from any of the other converters that revealed this detail in the bridge railing, as plainly, no mater how much sharpening I applied to the test files.
I redid the tests with all sharpening turned off in each converter and added only a very slight amount of simple sharpening to each file. I have included a larger portion of the image and each result can be view by clicking here. The page is large in order to keep the images reasonable size so please be patient for it to download. Keep in mind that most of the artifacting you may see is due to jpg compression and monitor capabilities and does not show up in the original conversion.
SKIN TONE IS A PROBLEM
The portrait shots below were both adjusted to produce the best image possible from the respective converters. Equal sharpening was applied in Photoshop. RSP still has the same problem with skin tones that RSE did. In these small images it may be hard to see but the RSP conversion (left image) has a blotchy look with a rusty haze over the skin. I have tried many different adjustments during conversion but this basic characteristic remains. You will also notice however there is more detail in the hair of the RSP conversion.
November 17 2005
Pixmantec has released a bug fix version of RSP that fixes many of the problems of the first release including the White Balance problem with the Canon 5D and 1D Mark II N cameras. They also have released profiles from Magne for Canon and Nikon cameras. The interesting thing is that they have marketed these new profiles, (which are simply a color chart for the program to use for a specific camera), as the "Color Engine". The program update is free but the "Color Engine" will be $59 with $10 off till the 1st of December. Serious marketing hype? I think so! So on to, how do they work?
The Emperor's new "Color Engine"
I must admit that I was a sucker for the new "Color Engine" I fully expected to download this new fantastic color tool that would allow me to tweak RSP and get the color results that I have been waiting for. But alas I was just standing in the crowd admiring the "Emperors New Clothes" (I mean color engine) till a young lad said "What's this! These are just a few color profiles!" Now with my hopes dashed I have come back to reality.
Seriously, Pixmantec really has a marketing genius on staff. But let's get down to what these new profiles do, and have they cured the color problems that I and others have complained about since the beginning in RawShooter. I must qualify my remarks by saying that since each profile is built for the specific camera in question what I have seen with the Mark II N may not be the case with any of the other profiles. Since the Canon 1D Mark II N is my main body I did not do any tests with any of the other cameras covered in the new "Color Engine". So these comments relate to the 1D Mark II N only. You may very well see more significant changes with other cameras.
In using the new profile I have not seen any significant difference in color rendering and it certainly does not clear up my main complaint about a haze and a rusty cast with RSP's color. In the case of the 1D Mark II N, the new profile is only marginally different and perhaps not even better than the included one. I still find that I have to do too much work in RSP to get my images to be bright with a feeling of depth.
I am beginning to think that what gives RSP the extraordinary ability to recover detail and shadow information is also it's Achilles Heel. In testing the new profile I was again amazed at RSP's ability to reveal extraordinary detail in shading and veining on a rose petal. RSP does not seem to easily over saturate certain color channels thereby rendering a smooth transition of tones. This very ability is perhaps why there is a consistent quality, that I call a haze, about RSP images that I find undesirable.
I will let you conclude about the profile on your own. Below is an image that was left at the RSP defaults with only the profile changed. In fairness there may be more noticeable changes in images with more color. But generally the change is not dramatic.
Roll your mouse over the picture to see the Internal profile vs the ETC profile
RSP 1D Mark II N Mange's ETC-V100 profile
RSP 1D Mark II N internal profile
Roll your mouse over the text below to see a Bibble vs an adjusted RSP conversion
Bear in mind that the examples between Bibble and RSP are subject to a tremendous amount of adjustment and variation and are a poor indicator of the overall output of either converter.
What is my conclusion about RSP?
First let me say that you can get RSP to deliver similar results to Bibble or other converters by adjusting the default tone curves, saturation etc, as can be seen in the above comparison. However I find that RSP takes more time to achieve the results I want in color and contrast. Also I have not been able to get what I am looking for in nice skin tones with RSP. Of course this is all a matter of personal opinion but indeed this has been my goal to give a personal report of what I find. For regular use converting many images I currently have chosen to use Bibble.
On a positive note RSP, often delivers extraordinary detail that is hard to achieve with other converters and has a simple but powerful interface. I, in particular, like the ability to save snapshots of different settings for each image.
Here is a Bibble conversion that required NO tweaking and this is what the image should look like!
With adjustments you can get much better results with RSP