Missing the Obvious

Old Church Ruin in Infrared
Old Church Ruin in Infrared

I am always on the hunt for new ways to do things that can improve my photography. You only need to achieve a few small quality improvements and it can quickly add up to dramatic improvements in your work. One area that I had been exploring was RAW converters and some of you might have seen an earlier post I made about Photo Ninja which looked very promising but was quite expensive. My decision was therefore to stick with Lightroom which performs well.

More recently with my new found passion for Infrared photography, I have identified that Lightroom isn’t good for processing RAW files from my converted GX1. The quick explanation of this is that Lightroom can’t set a white point for the infrared image and you end up with an image which is red. This then prevents you from using a technique called channel swapping to produce false colour but it also appears to detract from the quality of the final image when working in black and white. My search was on then for a RAW converter to use with my infrared images.

I returned initially to Photo Ninja which did a good job and allowed me to set a correct white balance. Unfortunately the cost put me off although I did come close to making a purchase and probably would have if it wasn’t for RAW Therapee.  This is a free RAW converter which performs well and has some nice features such as allowing me to do a channel swap during the RAW conversion. The only problem is that it’s tricky to use.

I moved on to search for another free RAW converter “Bibble” which it seems has been purchased by Corel and is now sold as Corel Aftershot. This works well enough and is good price. I just had a niggling feeling that I shouldn’t make a purchase just yet.

After a lot of searching and experimentation I remembered that Panasonic Cameras capable of shooting RAW images are packaged with a special version of the SilkyPix RAW converter. This is version 3 of the SilkyPix Developer Studio that has been limited to only working with Panasonic cameras. Whilst it won’t convert my Canon and Sony files it will process my GX1 and LX5 images fine.

After initial experimentation with the latest version I found the images to be super quality, containing lots of detail, appearing nice and sharp, with good colour and being free from noise. They are in my opinion better than those from Lightroom (both traditional and infrared images). Here is a section of the image above at 100% (click the image to zoom in).

100% sample from infrared GX1 file
100% sample from infrared GX1 file

The real decision maker for me is when I received an email the day after offering an upgrade to version 5 developer Studio (still limited to Panasonic cameras) for JPY3800 (about £24). Decision made!

I am now therefore using SilkyPix for my infrared RAW conversions and am extremely pleased with the results.

4 thoughts on “Missing the Obvious

  1. Can I ask which level of Lightroom did you use? The reason that I ask is that the latest release version 4 has a vastly improved RAW converter which contains 4 new sliders, two of which are Black & White. Also as of yesterday Amazon have dropped the price of LR4 to under £70 & an upgrade to LR4 to under £55.
    Hope this helps.

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the comment. I am on Lightroom 4.3 but this isn’t a version limitation. It’s a known problem with Adobe Camera RAW and the way it decodes RAW files from some cameras (perhaps all cameras). I know that Nikon and Canon infrared users also have this issue. I am going to do a post shortly to explain this in a little more detail as its occured to me some people have probably never seen this or an Infrared RAW image.

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