"Declaring the glory of God
through photography of His created world"
copyright 2007 by Joseph LaQuiere
Bibble 4.5 Raw Conversion Software
THE ART OF SOFTWARE
As a sculpture molds and shapes clay or architects design structures of incredible complexity so do minds of equal skill and art, create, line by line, the life blood of the modern computer. Molding and shaping the code that becomes a master piece of design, innovation and expertise in a craft that we call software development. The results of this effort will be judged by the user and beneficiaries of the programmers craft.
The difference between physical art or architecture, and software, lies in the ability to touch and feel. But though the incredible complexity of software lies hidden, it is a particular software's ability to allow us to easily and efficiently utilize it for our own creative effort that belies the design and engineering that lies within it's miles of coded numbers. In this review we will take a look at Bibble 4.5 Pro RAW file conversion software and I will endeavor to explain why I have come to use and appreciate some of these unseen lines of coded art.
Canon 1D MKII N 100-400mm 1/200sec f/5.6, ISO:200
A LITTLE HISTORY
Raw conversion software has become a necessity for the serious amateur and professional photographer. In the past four years I have experimented with most of the main line programs and have seen them grow and increase in power and quality of output. Since December 2005 I have been using Bibble 4.5 for 95% of my conversions. Bibble Labs was founded in 2000 by Eric Hyman with the goal of creating software to process raw files from Nikon's D1. My first look at Bibble came in late 2003 when I was looking for raw conversion software to process images from my newly acquired Canon 10d. At that time, while I found Bibble's interface intriguing, I ultimately chose to use, the widely accepted standard for raw conversion, Phase One's Capture One. I used Capture One very happily through my camera upgrades until August of 2005 when I started using the Canon 1d Mark II N which I acquired in August before any third party software supported the "N" RAW files. Having to use Canon's own software with its poor interface and limited features had me again looking for a better solution. Bibble was one of the first third party developers to offer support, (in version 4.4) for the new cameras from Canon which included the 1d Mark II N and the 5D. Within days of that release Pixmantec released their first retail version of Raw Shooter. I eagerly began to try both programs and I awaited Phase One's and Adobe's eventual support of the new cameras.
It now has been almost 6 months and support for the new Canon cameras as well as other new cameras on the market including the Nikon D200 has come to all the third party programs. After using and trying software from all the major players I have now settled in with Bibble as my regular routinely used raw converter choosing it over my once favorite Capture One. I had hoped to publish my thoughts about Bibble long before now but because of personal time obligations and the persistence of some bugs in Bibble and several of the competing products I have not taken the time to comment on my use of Bibble till now. Bibble as well as others have released new versions of their software that clears up the bugs particularly with the Canon 1d Mark II N and 5D. My intent is to give you a view point of how I use Bibble and why I have decided to use it as my preferred converter for the vast amount of my work.
ABOUT THE REVIEW
My reviews are not intended to be a complete discussion of every possible feature or flaw in a program or product. My style is often self discovering usually finding the most naturally intuitive products the ones that win my praise. I want to get in quickly and find out what I need to know to use something to benefit me and if it works better for me I will try to tell you why and how I use it. At one time when I was younger I would care to read and discover every possible detail but each day only has so much time to live and do what is important. So achieving the desired image result becomes the main priority. While the ease with which one can accomplish this and the speed to this end dictates the best means.
MY TAKE ON RAW
The question of whether or not to shoot RAW files versus JPEG can continue without end but let me make my own case for RAW. The information in a RAW file consist of the data just as it was recorded by the Image chip and is proprietarily encoded by the camera manufacture. A RAW file is therefore specific for each camera brand and often model. JPEG images are a standardized form of image coding where much of the data can be compressed and eliminated to save space. In as much as JPG is capable of manipulation with software, such as PhotoShop, it has as much ability to be changed as RAW. The difference between them lies in the amount of data the software has to work with and the ability to produce the highest quality analog results. When I say analog I mean that every image is destine for analog output. Images are meant to be seen either on a monitor display or in print. To further clarify my meaning, digital images are only codes and figures that represent values that allow a device to represent the original colors shades etc. Humans are analog; our primary input devices (eyes and ears) perceive color or sound in continuous waves of varying frequency. It is the analog output that is our goal when working with any type of image file. When using a RAW image file it contains all the original information that the device was able to capture when the image was taken. So it makes most sense to use as much of this information as possible before committing the image's digital playback code to specific values. For a camera to create a JPEG image it has to translate the data from the image chip and make decisions on how it will reduce that information into a file that can be saved in what we call a JPEG format. By preserving the original information in the form of a RAW file and making the conversion to another file type outside the camera we have the ability to change or undo the decisions about how that data is interpreted. With any image destine for high quality reproduction or display RAW is the clear choice because there is the potential for better decisions to be made about the conversion. I have seldom seen any image that would not benefit from having started out as a RAW file. This is not say however that for causal snapshots and documentary purposes JPEGs usually, are more than adequate. I should also say that certainly many fine images can start out life as JPEG but RAW allows the most options in post processing.
There are four key features in Bibble that have been the main reason why I have chosen it as my primary converter.
Before we get to these let me explain a little about the purpose of my output. Image conversion for me usually falls into two categories one is to process large batches of images for electronic display. I create slide shows of my images which I display on a plasma screen as dynamic art. In this way, while viewing in a casual setting, certain pictures will become favorites and this gives me an ideal way to see many more images in a large format displayed setting than if I just made prints. I can then pick the outstanding images to work further with and produce the desired prints.
The second purpose for my conversions are then, to work with just one or several images spending much more time on each to get the best results possible for continued work in PhotoShop and finally printing.
FOUR REASONS FOR USING BIBBLE
First, and most important, is the color and quality output that I can obtain with minimal adjustment. Bibble's "Auto Level" works very well on 90% of all images making only slight further adjustments necessary.
Second, is the quick generation of a full size preview during the image editing mode. This allows me to complete the most important step in the editing process and that is the determination of image focus. One of my biggest complaints with Capture One has been the inability to view a high quality preview at full or maximum screen. It is my opinion, that while viewing an area of the image at 100% may tell you the ultimate focus, the more important factor is to judge the suitability of an image's focus in context of the whole frame. This is why it is very important to see the complete image as large as possible. When viewing a part of an image one may see a section in or out of focus but it is the whole image and where the eye is drawn too that determines if the image will be suitable. Sometimes what one thinks will be the key point of focus, is either not, or is over shadowed by some other area of the image that distracts due to its focus plane. Bibble quickly creates a high quality preview of the image that maximizes the screen.
The third factor is the speed with which Bibble generates JPEGs. Bibble claims the fastest creation of JPGs of any software and it appears to live up to that claim. A real time example of that can be seen on my video.
The fourth but not least is Bibbles easy and excellent recovery tool for shadow and highlight detail. It can often be tricky to balance the adjustment, when recovering highlight detail, and keep the image natural without becoming pasty looking. Bibble handles the recovery of highlights and lightening up of shadows extremely well. Subtleness seems to be the rule of thumb for the lighting effects which helps immensely in obtaining just the look desired.
Bibble has one of the most customizable user interfaces of any of the raw conversion software. Each screen element can be positioned anywhere the user desires. Toolbars, thumbnail panel, image panel, folder panel all can be customized. Toolbars can also be docked into a convenient group of often used tools with less used items hidden. Bibble has four layout views along with toggling the orientation. With all screen elements adjustable any layout you desire can be set. However, while the ability to customize Bibble has great advantages, it also comes at a cost. I have found that maintaining the screen layout can sometimes be frustrating. As a new user getting used to this seemingly random adjustment of screen can lead to a great deal of confusion. When switching views things change positions without apparent reason or rhyme. Once Bibble's logic is understood however, one does appreciate the ability to completely customize the display.
NOISE REMOVAL AND SHARPENING
Bibble's noise removal feature I find a little bit aggressive and while I use it for my electronic display conversions I prefer to use Noiseware, after conversion, on images going to print. Similarly, while handy to have, I only use Bibble's sharpening for images going to plasma display. These are both useful tools to have for quantity output but for critical work I do this post conversion.
CROP AND ROTATE
A cropping tool and a very nice rotate/straighten tool are provided. The rotate tool is unique in that it turns into a circle with a grid pattern making it easy to visualize the horizontal plane. The tool also expands and contracts as you drag it with the mouse. As with many of the tools in Bibble, in addition to the crop and rotate tool, a drop down toolbar is also provided which allows selection of 90° or 180° rotations or any other angular measurement and also allows selecting of preset cropping.
Excellent batch processing is also provided in Bibble through the use of batch queues. Images from the browser view may be selected and added to any batch queues or work queues. I demonstrate this also in my video. Any number of queues may be set up with unique names. Files are not transferred directly to the queues but are simply associated with the queue they have been moved into. Each batch queue can be set up with different settings allowing images to be converted with various sizes or other output parameters. For instance some images can be sent for JPEG conversion of a given size while others may be sent for TIFF conversion and still others may be sent to a batch queue with settings for publishing files to the web. One of the weak points of Bibble is advanced tagging of images or identifying which images have already been processed. This weakness can be compensated for somewhat in creative use of the work and batch queues.
Bibble's Batch and Queues and Settings Dialogs
WHAT IS MISSING?
One area where I feel Bibble falls short is easy tagging and ranking of images. This can be accomplished to some degree through the use of Bibles work queues. But a faster and simpler numbering or star method would be desirable.
As I mentioned above Bibble does provide a means to save image settings by saving user namable .bib files which contain all Bibles adjustments. However to save and recall these is more cumbersome than I would like. The method Raw Shooter has used allows you to save a number of "Snapshots" for each file. With this method you can quickly flip between different image settings choosing what you like best.
It would be negligent of me not to mention the fact that Bibble has had its share of bugs. However the most recent version 4.5d appears to be running quite well on my windows XP home system. I did have the opportunity to use Bibble for Macintosh, (I believe version 4.5d) and I found the program crashed often in fact I was not able to use it for any processing on the Mac. One interesting thing to note was during my time with the Mac I also tested the new Lightroom program from Adobe and I found the interface of Lightroom To have some strong similarities to Bibble particularly in its toolbar layout.
Currently on my windows machine with version 4.5d Bibble appears to be quite stable and free of noticeable bugs with my 1d Mark II N files.
COMPANY AND SUPPORT
The support and communication with Bibble as a company and on their web forms has been exceptional. During the course of this review I have had several questions which I addressed to Eric, his responses were quick and complete. But this type of response, I have observed, is not limited to the company founder and a reviewer but I have seen the same direct helpful response on the web based forms from both Eric and his design team. I have also noted as quick a response in correcting bugs and problems as seems possible. Many times I have discontinued using a product, I liked in many respects, because of extreme tardiness in taking care of nagging problems. In my experience Bibble has been attentive and concerned about their users problems. My compliments to both Eric and his entire design team for what I observe to be excellent and personal support.
When comparing Bibble to Raw Shooter Premium and Capture One, Bibble produced consistent color output that, allows me to quickly process, images for display on my plasma screen. The distinction between Bibble and Raw Shooter was primarily in Bibble's much better handling of color, contrast and shadow detail. Bibble's default parameters and "Auto Level" feature produced more pleasing images than Raw Shooter unless a great deal of adjustment was applied. While the difference to Capture One was Bibble's ability to display large high quality previews as well as its superior speed in processing. Raw shooter in my opinion has the edge when it comes to recovering the detail from raw files And Capture Ones strength is in its consistent quality and even toned output. When it comes to conversion of one or two files at a time, primarily for printing, there are a number of converters that do a good job including Breeze Browser which I often use for such one time conversions but for large quality conversion tasks Bibble rises to the top.
Bibble provides a fast and effective means for turning lots of RAW files into finished JPGS either for display on monitors or plasma screens as well as files for printing and fine art. The Auto Level works exceptionally well particularly when working through a batch of images where many need little or no adjustment. The extremely customizable interface and extensive options available for most tools is by far more sophisticated and option laden of the RAW converters I have tried. I find Bibble's greatest strength in its ability to handle quickly a large number of files and produce very fine color and contrast with a minimum of adjustment or tweaking. For regular use, easy to use tools, full size preview generation, very fast processing and an excellent shadow recovery tool I am very happy with my choice to use Bibble as my primary RAW converter.
As a companion to this review I have published a video demonstrating how I have set up and use Bibble.
Bibble's interface is user customizable
Sharpening and Noise Dialog
Rotate Tool and Rotate/Crop Dialog
Canon 1D MKII N 100-400mm 1/640sec f/9 ISO:400
Update! February, 26
Within hours of this review I became aware of Bibbles intention to license and integrate Noise Ninja into the Bibble software. Since I was less than happy with Bibbles own noise reduction, and Noise Ninja is so highly respected, as one of the top noise elimination programs, I could only see this as a true winner for Bibble.
Today this new version of Bibble has arrived and it has met and exceeded my expectations. Along with adding Noise Ninja Bibble has also made a significant improvement to the docked toolbar system making it cleaner and easier for novice and advanced users alike.
Update! June, 2006
Bibble has formed another partnership with a new and dramatic image enhancement technology from
Athentech Imaging called Perfectly Clear. This module is supposed to automatically correct the image for appearance giving the viewer a truer to life image. I now have my report on line you can see by clicking here.
Update! October, 2006
See my comments on the latest release of Bibble 4.9