Monday, February 26, 2007

Carl Weese on ACR 3.7 and K10D DNG Raw files

I think the Pentax K10D, especially in combination with Adobe Lightroom 1.0 or Adobe Bridge & Photoshop, has finally come into its own for many photographers thanks to ACR's update to version 3.7. It looks like the end-to-end developing to printing solutions with Adobe software are finally ready for the K10D.

There are photographers who avoid using Adobe products, but you've got to admit that the Adobe apps are an industry standard with the professional art and design community, which is why I'm glad Pentax added DNG support inside the camera in the first place. The only problem has been that until now, Adobe wasn't ready for the K10D. My own developing and archiving system has relied on Adobe Bridge and developing photos using Adobe Camera Raw, but it didn't support the K10D until last week. (I'll be shifting over to Lightroom once I get a new Mac Pro that's got the recommended horsepower, because it's taxing the Powerbook G4 and G5 tower I'm using now.) At the moment I'm very happy with ACR 3.7 and the Photoshop CS3 Beta. Which is why I'm always glad to hear from photographer Carl Weese on how his K10D is behaving in a similar software environment. And from what I've heard, it seems like Carl finally feels he's getting the results he originally anticipated from the combination of the K10D's own DNG files (made to Adobe's standard) and the ACR 3.7 update.

Late last year, Carl was one of the first to notice that that Adobe Camera Raw was doing an odd thing to DNG Raw files coming out of the K10D. He was taking some very nice pictures on jaunts near his home in New England (this was in the first few weeks of owning his new camera). For the most part it looked as if ACR 3.6 was developing images properly from DNGs, but it was also reporting a white balance temperature number about 1800 degrees higher than it should have been. The skewed number didn't effect image quality, the pictures still looked fine, so it seemed, but the calculation glitch indicated that K10D support in ACR was incumbent upon more than just the DNG format and it hinted the image quality wasn't what it could be, either.

At the time, I had a brief correspondence with Carl and we looked at how ACR 3.6 was treating the DNG files. Although it could open a Pentax DNG file well enough (the K10D writes uncompressed Raw DNG files, 16MB each), I guessed that the most recent ACR 3.6 was still missing instructions on how to handle some of the camera specific metadata the new K10D was adding into DNG files. Specific proprietary info is often added by the camera manufacturer into specialized metadata fields of the Raw files for individual camera models and ACR file handling typically needs to be calibrated for this with specific updates, but we were all hoping that maybe Adobe had accommodated the DNG file specifics of the K10D already, before Pentax shipped it's new camera. I mean, we hoped Adobe was aware that Pentax had adopted the DNG format and they were giving us a leg up. But ACR wasn't yet updated on how to make sense of the new metadata, so Carl decided to wait patiently to see if the next update to ACR would have the fix.

So, last week on the 18th, out comes ACR 3.7. It coincided with the official launch of Adobe Lightroom, but it's also available for users of Adobe Photoshop CS2 (and the CS3 Beta), and Adobe Elements 5. It was noted that ACR 3.7 would now support the Nikon D40 and the Pentax K10D.

Carl thusly gave it a shot with his K10D files, and, Lo and Behold, the updated ACR now read the K10D's DNG files without any hitches in the WB readings (mind you, the files he had previously opened in ACR 3.6 were wonky at first, because their sidecar files had been written with the +1800 data, so he needed to batch apply the new WB settings).

Carl has been very good about writing all the travails of his K10D experience, and this weekend he sent the T.O.P. a write-up on the pleasing fix, which he considers might have made an improvement to color quality as well. I recommend you read his post if you haven't yet. And at his blog, his Berkeley, California pictures are possibly the result of the new workflow and I dare say a bit more color nuanced than his earlier K10D shots.

Now, the .PEF files from the K10D are compressed a wee bit, which is to say that ideally you'd want to save as DNG files in your camera instead if you have the disk space (see the comments for an explanation). You can use Pentax Photo Lab 3 to convert to uncompressed DNG files, or even 16-bit TIFFs when you archive your digital negatives, but now you can do it too in ACR 3.7 and the image quality is pretty outstanding.

Links: T.O.P. There's DNG and then there's DNG by Carl Weese, ACR 3.7 Update, Carl's Working Pictures blog

2 comments:

Julian Seidenberg said...

As far as I know the .PEF file format uses lossless compression (unlike something like JPG which throws away some detail to achieve a smaller file size). So, what advantage would there be in shooting in the much larger DNG format?

OK-1K said...

Yes, the PEF is a lossless compression to 10MB, while the DNG is uncompressed at 16MB, so you can get more pictures on a card with PEF. But if you have the room and you use an Adobe workflow, you'll have a slightly more "future proof" archive with uncompressed DNG format (an open standard).

First, if you archive everything in DNG, you don't have to worry about misplacing the XMP sidecar files. Both Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom create XMP data for your PEFs, but it can be embedded in Tiffs, Jpgs, or DNGs. And while compressed DNG is nice, it's an extra time step of converting to only save 6MB of space, and my understanding of PPL is that it can't read compressed DNG files anyway (only uncompressed), so it's not a perfect archive format to use with both Adobe and Pentax Photo Lab.

Having said that, PEFs are perfectly fine, especially if you spend more time with other non-Adobe apps.

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