Friday, May 05, 2006

Pentax Raw Converter Round-up

Over the next few weeks, OK1000 is going to take a look at RAW converters people are using with their Pentax *ist digitals. In other words, the most popular choices that are compatible with Pentax's RAW format.

In a nutshell, a RAW format is a lossless way to accurately preserve your camera's sensor work when you take a picture, allowing you to digitally develop it later to your own liking. The .PEF file is Pentax's unique RAW file format, which like JPG includes metadata about how the picture was taken, but it also carries the sensor's complete data so that adjustments to exposure, color and sharpening can be made afterwards using information that would be lost in a JPG rendering.

Quite a few Pentax *ist digital users are fond of the Pentax Photo Laboratory and Browser software (now at version 2.1, with new lens data as of March '06) that comes with their cameras for good reasons. For one, it works without much difficulty to set-up. As you'd expect, it runs on most the popular operating systems current in the last 6 years for both Mac (OS 9 and OS X) and Windows (ME, and XP). The results, especially when converting to TIFF files, are excellent for sharpening and reducing noise (from a fast ISO) to deliver crisp looking prints. Moreover, the color results are similar to the JPEG rendering in-camera, which can set your expectations when looking at your final results.

However, there are more than a few alternative RAW converters available to try out, many of them support most, if not all, the Pentax *ist digital models. The options available between the different converters include varying methods of color control, ways to apply sharpening, to adjust tonality, apply fixes and effects, and deliver different file formats for archiving, printing, and sharing on the web. On top of that, some of them can be used to replace the Pentax Photo Laboratory Browser for sorting and browsing your saved .PEF, TIFF and JPEG files, or any other picture files on your computer.

Starting soon, I'll be giving a brief rundown of the software listed below. But keep in mind that it's a highly subjective appraisal and it will avoid making direct comparisons as to their quality. Instead, I'll be using informal data for features and a straw poll for current popularity to help you discover something that might work well enough for you. So without further ado, here's the roundup's index list:

--- The Top 5 Most Popular ---

1. Adobe Camera Raw, Mac+PC
3. Bibble, Mac+PC
4. RawShooter Essentials and Premium, PC only
5. Apple Aperture, Mac only, *ist D and DL only (more here on adding DS)

--- Promising (Runners Up) ---

Lightroom Beta, Mac+PC
Capture One LE and Pro, Mac+PC
Apple iPhoto, Mac Only, but no Raw support for *ist DS (more here).
Vuescan, Mac+PC
Picasa, PC only
ACDSee, PC only
Silver Fast, Mac+PC
UF Raw, Mac+PC
Raw Magick, PC only

--- Others (Honorable Mention) ---

Breeze Browser Pro, PC
DCRaw, Mac+PC
Thumbs Plus Pro, Mac+PC
Raw Developer, Mac only
SharpRaw PC only
Studio Line PC only
Graphic Converter, Mac+PC
Helicon Filter, PC only
DP Magic, PC only

--- Notable Omissions ---

LightZone, Mac Only, but no RAW support for *ist digitals.
Qimage, PC Only, but no RAW support for *ist digitals.
Photo Mechanic Mac+PC, but no RAW support for *ist digitals

If you want any of the omitted to support the Pentax DSLR RAW format (.PEF), particularly Photo Mechanic, write an email to their tech support and request the feature. If enough potential users ask, it might get added. Fingers crossed!

(Updated July 29th with Lightroom Beta for PC update)


Anonymous said...

Small correction,

Bibble is Mac+PC + Linux.


OK-1K said...

Good point. I decided at the last minute to not state whether Linux was an option for any of the software, although it is in some cases, just because I haven't any way to try the app in Linux for myself and verify compatibility.

If I revise the list in the future, I'll try to state that or list the Linux options. I may update this list pretty soon just to mention it.

Roman said...

DCRaw is an open source linux software, ported elsewhere.

Epson RIP said...

Very interesting. I have alot to study before I really understand it all. I need to take more photos. My epson is getting the workout it should

Anonymous said...

and what about nama5 RAW Processor? It seems that it supports all Pentax models.

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