Changing My Mind Again


GX1 infrared converted camera with 14-45mm lens. Conversion to Monochrome in Silver Efex Pro with RAW conversion in PhotoNinja.
GX1 infrared converted camera with 14-45mm lens. Conversion to Monochrome in Silver Efex Pro with RAW conversion in PhotoNinja.

I have written in the past about two things that I would like to give an update on. The first is the software I use to perform Infrared RAW file conversion. The other is my impressions of Photo Ninja. As you will see in a moment the two are now linked.

When I first ha my Panasonic GX1 camera converted to shoot Infrared I had thought that I would be able to shoot images in RAW format and process them in Lightroom or Photoshop. I had read that there was a problem in doing this with Canon and Nikon RAW files as Adobe software rendered the image as shades of red with no other colour present. This prevents you from converting the image using “false colour” (do a search on Google for colour Infrared to see some examples). It also seemed to limit the quality of the image conversions as most of the image data was coming from just the red channel.

I wasn’t however worried by this problem as no one was reporting an issue with Panasonic conversions from Infrared RAW files. Unfortunately I can confirm it is a problem and also conclude that there can’t be many people using infrared converted Panasonic M43 cameras. If you want to know what I am talking about, here is an example of the above image in Lightroom 4.

GX1 Infrared RAW file in Lightroom 4
GX1 Infrared RAW file in Lightroom 4

My initial solution to this issue was to use the SilkyPix software that ships with Panasonic cameras that shoot RAW. This gave good results in managing image colour and allowed me to set a true white point so that images didn’t appear red. Once I had upgraded this (I took advantage of a very cheap special offer) the image quality was OK if not a little too smooth for my liking.

More recently I had some very promising infrared images but felt that none of my RAW converters were doing justice to the levels of detail present. I decided to try out the PhotoNinja software again and the results have convinced me to purchase the full version of the software. Yes it’s expensive but the results are visibly better. This is not just with Infrared images but colour also. Take a look at the comparisons below.

Lightroom conversion at 100% with plenty of sharpening adjustment
Lightroom conversion at 100% with plenty of sharpening adjustment
SilkyPix conversion with some sharpening
Silky Pix conversion with some sharpening
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening

These are conversions from Lightroom, Silky Pix and PhotoNinja, all taken from the same RAW file. I should caveat this a little in that I know exactly what I am doing with Lightroom but am pretty much a novice in using SilkyPix and PhotoNinja. It’s therefore likely that better results can be achieved with both of these. It’s the same story in colour also with the PhotoNinja conversions producing more detail, especially if you sharpen them further post conversion.

Lightroom conversion at 100% with sharpening
Lightroom conversion at 100% with sharpening
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening.
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening.

Wondering why there is no SilkyPix comparison? Well it kept crashing when trying to open the files. I suspect there is a compatibility problem with Windows 8 but I need to do a little more digging. You might also notice the much better colour rendering from the PhotoNinja software which is far closer to the scene as this image was shot about 20 minutes before sunset in direct light.

So, if you are looking for a RAW converter to give the highest level of quality (and don’t mind the price) I would certainly take a look at PhotoNinja.

5 thoughts on “Changing My Mind Again

  1. Hi. I’m about to get an 830nm infrared converted GX1 from Ehab Eassa in the US. This version will only allow black and white and I use Lightroom Silver Efex Pro2 for PP. My question is – do you have any problem white balancing (to green) and are there any hotspot issues with the GX1 and any of its lenses? Thanks.

    1. 830nm is quite an extreme conversion (mine is 720nm) so I would be interested to see some of your results. My camera came with two white balance settings programmed in as part of the conversion and they are both pretty good. I can however improve on both by selecting a new white balance point when doing my RAW convertion. Lightroom will give you problems with the GX1 RAW files as it will convert everything to red tones even if you try to manually force a white balance. Converters that work well are SilkyPix that comes with the camera, PhotoNinja (expensive but brilliant) and RAW Therapie (free). You will of course only need these for false colour conversions which I don’t think are possible with the 830nm conversion.

      In terms of lenses I have the Panasonic 14-45, Panasonic 45-200, Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, 9-18 Olympus and all appear fine. I have had issues however with UV filters which have had some starnge effects on the image and in one case caused an internal reflection that looked very much like a hot spot. I have now switched to using clear glass protectors.

      Hope this helps.

  2. “Lightroom will give you problems with the GX1 RAW files as it will convert everything to red tones even if you try to manually force a white balance.”

    I use Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop (not Lightroom) to convert IR photos, and it’s actually pretty simple to get rid of the red cast: all you have to do is create your own profile using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor, and then apply it in ACR. This article explains the process:

    http://stevencastle.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/processing-infrared-shots-in-adobe-camera-raw/

    1. Thanks Marcos, I hadn’t tried ACR. I did try a lot of things with Lightroom including a custom DNG profile but I never got the results I wanted. Photo Ninja, SilkyPix and RAW Therapee all produced good results quite easily. I am not predominantly using PhotoNinja. Thanks for passing on the article. Hopefully others reading this page will also find it useful.

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