Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)
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Old 02-10-2007   #1
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Default Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

Admittedly I am coming very late to the party. After 60+ years of amateur photography I bought my very first digital camera (D200) three months ago. Initially I experimented with a variety of trial versions of software to convert the raw images. I found none that I liked better than ACR, both from a quality point of view and from ease of incorporating into my workflow. Just this week I discovered Raw Shooter Essentials which, I learn, is about to vanish into the software equivalent of the happy hunting ground (came really late to this party). Too bad; it looked like a promising program with a great user interface and fast processing. I have played around with the beta of Lightroom and, while it is impressive, I think it tries to encompass too much for those who intend to move the image into PS as a final step. Perhaps for many it will replace the need for PS altogether, but I doubt that was Adobe's intent.

But I digress. The real reason for this post is to note an observation and ask for possible explanations. The same raw file opened in ACR and in RSE looked different. That is to be expected for a variety of reasons and did not surprise me. What did surprise me was the substantial difference in the evaluation of the white balance AS SHOT. In one photo ACR reported it as 5000 K. while RSE reported 6800 K. My understanding is that information is contained in the raw file and simply requires interpretation (decoding) by the conversion software. Has anyone noted similar discrepancies between other raw converters and, if so, why should this occur?

Cheers/Mike

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Old 02-10-2007   #2
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

ACR is a poor choice for converting your Nikon NEFs. ACR doesn't read the meta data quite as well as other converters, and therefore has issues getting white balance right, not to mention color. Adobe and Nikon's beef over white balance encryption in NEF files can't be helping their relationship.

In general, the camera manufacturer's RAW converter does the best job of rendering the NEF, but instead of supplying us with a basic NEF converter with the camera, Nikon decided to have their partner nik software (no formal relation) make a competitor to Photoshop Elements and charge $150 for it. The software is decent, but it'll eat your RAM, and the batch features leave something to be desired. Great color, and the WB will be nailed each time.

Personally, with NEF files, I've gotten the best results with Capture One LE from Phase One. The "As Shot" WB setting is usually dead on. Each camera is individually profiled, and the color is pretty close to Nikon Capture NX. The speed of this software and ease of integration into my workflow (along with awesome batching controls) has made it my choice for handling Nikon NEFs. Also, it does a real number on the shadow noise that plagues my D2H.
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Old 02-10-2007   #3
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

Well, I think the answer is somewhat complicated but let me take a start:

Color temperature isn't an absolute: 5000 K flash is something different than 5000 K Cloudy.
It usually refers to the closet point on the standard black body curve. Each RAW conversion maker decided to use a constant curve and ignore the mfgrs(i.e Canon/Nikon etc) preset wb's meaning instead using their own definition of what for instance sunny means.

In making this decision they also have to use the same blackbody curve for the setting 'as shot', this explains why the figures can be different.

They make a design decision such that people have the WB effects that is* similar to what they would expect from the camera or mfgrs own software.* For instance you can for a nikon camera use a sunny setting, a flash setting and even a flourescent settting and by making adjustments have them all be about 5500K yet also have them exhibit different wb properties. Essentially each setting has its own temprature curve. Makers of RAW convertertors mimic this behaviour.

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Old 02-10-2007   #4
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

I'm not to happy with ACR on my Oly files either - the reds are too dark, the greens lean towards yellow and the blues toward cyan. I still use it for 'difficult' low light shots where colour is subjective, but the price they want for the software is a little steep considering the the lack of proper calibration for individual cameras.
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Old 02-10-2007   #5
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

I think Rense said it right. Color Temperature is a nice big scale, but it isn't absolute. It should be. RSE and RSP typically have a higher Kelvin number than others. A good thing, or bad? Depends. Higher is warmer, and for some, it looks better. YMMV.

Also, both of those CAN be doing something automatically to your images. Might not be obvious. Might be buried in a sub-menu somewhere. You have to make sure all the sliders are in default positions. Also, in RSE/RSP there could be values in the Processing Parameters setting located under the first icon in the menu. Probably not if you just got it and haven't experimented.

For certain workflow "designs", ACR is limited. Thus I used RSP for awhile and then slowly transferred to Lightroom, which has bits and pieces of RSP under its hood, since Adobe bought Pixmantec, the makers of RSE/RSP. I think Lightroom is similar in it GUI to RSE/RSP, so it "seems" natural enough to me. I quite like Lightroom now, but you may not want to fork out $199 for it when it is finally released in a few weeks. If you have to fork over money for something, it is worth a look.

There are freebies out there that you can find or read about in other threads here in this board. There are also others to purchase that are mentioned here in this board too. Also, keep in mind that your RSE will not be upgraded no more, but it won't just quit working in a few weeks. So you have time to play the field.
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Old 02-10-2007   #6
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

Thanks everyone for the replies.

Rense-- I understand your explanation. I was under the impression that most, if not all, software had standardized on a single black body curve. Apparently that is not the case.

Mr. P-- The most surprising thing about comparing RSE and ACR was that the images, as shot, did not look very different at all in spite of the fact that the "reported" white balance numbers were so far apart. The processing parameters were all left at their default values of zero.

As I said, when first starting out I experimented with a number of trial versions of raw converters. In terms of ease of use, some were better than others but none seemed to stand out in terms of quality of image. All required some manipulation in order to achieve the corrections I wanted. All I really require from a raw converter is something to get the heavy lifting done on the raw data so that the final touches can be applied in PS. So I settled on ACR since it was most easily integrated into my workflow. If it was good enough for the late great Bruce Fraser, it's good enough for me. I have also played around with the beta of Lightroom and, while I like the GUI and the flexibility, I question if it will provide me with $200 worth of advantages. Still time to experiment and decide.

Thanks again,
Mike
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Old 02-10-2007   #7
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

Maybe there is something in here that you would like to play with?

http://www.photocamel.com/index.php/topic,20109.0.html
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Old 02-10-2007   #8
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

Mike,
Regarding:
Quote:
Originally Posted by blumesan
All I really require from a raw converter is something to get the heavy lifting done on the raw data so that the final touches can be applied in PS.
<snip>
I question if it will provide me with $200 worth of advantages.
you'll find a low cost alternatives in this post
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Old 02-11-2007   #9
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

SanDisk was packaging Phase One's Capture One LE for free with their Extreme III cards; not sure if the promotion's still in effect. If you get the 1 GB card, you'll have both a card and the software for less than the cost of the software.
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Old 02-12-2007   #10
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Default Re: Raw converters & white balance (RSE & ACR)

Have any of you guys played with the new ACR in the Photoshop CS3 Beta? It addresses quite a few of the complaints you're making, so you might want to reevaluate it. I get the impression that large portions were taken from RSP.

For example, you can shift any of the major colours in tint - so you could make your reds more magenta, the yellows a touch more orange, the cyans more blue etc. You can also shift saturation and lightness for each of these colour bands. It has highlight recovery and fill light built in, which works similarly to Photoshop's "shadow / highlight" tool, but seems to be slightly cleaner.

It's really almost an entirely new application. I've only processed a couple of dozen shots with it so far but it's a big, big step up from the previous versions of ACR.

Cheers,

Tim.


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