Upgrade Your Camera by Changing RAW Converters

Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420".
Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420″.

This week I feel the urge to highlight something to the readers of this blog. If the image quality from your camera and/or lens is disappointing you, don’t rush to change it. Instead, try a different RAW converter.

I’m seeing more and more that there’s a large variation in image quality produced by different RAW converters. You’re probably thinking there’s nothing surprising there, except it’s not necessarily one converter that comes out better than the others.

The Best RAW Converter Depends on Your Camera

As I investigate this further, what I’m finding is that a RAW converter that excels with one camera can perform poorly with another. And it’s not just the camera that seems to be a factor. Some RAW converters appear to handle some lenses better than others.

This is important. The image quality of some RAW converters with certain camera/lens combinations can fool you into thinking the lens or camera is at fault. Don’t fall into this trap.

A couple of weeks back I demonstrated this using RAW files from a Sony RX10 and RX100. This week I published this video on YouTube. It shows the results from four RAW converters, processing two Fuji X-T2 RAW files.

There are two interesting points to come out of this:

  1. The difference between the best and worst of the four RAW converters tested is significant.
  2. The best RAW converter changed with the RAW file. Although I didn’t highlight it in the video, this difference is down to the lens I used.

So, before you rush out to change that camera or lens that doesn’t quite perform, try using a few different RAW converters. It could save you a lot of money.

Friday Image No.215

I captured this week’s Friday Image in Scotland last week on the famous and Rannoch Moor. I was fortunate enough for my trip to coincide with a light snowfall. Had it been a heavy snowfall I doubt I would have thought I was lucky.

I used the Fuji X-T2 with a Fuji 10-24mm lens handheld. The pool of water you see in the foreground was really very small. It looks a lot larger than it is because I had the lens set to 11mm. To make the foreground loom large, I crouched down low and in close to the pool. I was also careful to avoid distorting the mountain with the super wide lens by keeping the back of the camera vertical. Had I tilted it the image the mountain wouldn’t have looked quite so impressive.

I didn’t use any filters for the capture as the camera could just about cope with the dynamic range of the scene. I processed the converted RAW file using a combination of Nik Color Efex, Nik Viveza and Luminosity Masks created with Lumenzia in Photoshop.

I hope you like the video & image and have a great weekend.

16 thoughts on “Upgrade Your Camera by Changing RAW Converters”

  1. Robin,

    Having already made a decision to move from LR & PS to using C1 Fuji & Affinity Photo instead, I was a bit anxious when I read about & turned on your video comparison of these Fuji RAW convertors (I have the X-T3). I’ve also been using Iridient X Transformer with LR & find it to be an improvement. But I totally concur with your comparative results & thank you for posting this useful study. For me at least, C1 also offers some other features like greater color control that I find persuasive, once I finally manage its fairly steep learning curve & really figure out how to use catalogs. But thanks again,

    Jed

    1. Thank you. I really like Capture One and have used it on and off since the first version. What puts me off is the price but the free Fuji version is excellent and has sufficient features to create a great RAW conversion.

  2. When you need to adjust the image, do you use the raw converter in the package, or use a stand alone converter to ??? format, then adjust the image?

    1. Sorry Dave, I don’t understand the question. I adjusted the same RAW file in each of the RAW converters to produce a 16 bit TIFF. I then opened all the TIFF files in Photoshop and combined them as layers in a single file. Or, is your question something else.

  3. A few months back I tried out quite a few of the alternatives to Lightroom and discovered that many of my RAW files develop better in convertors other than Adobe’s. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found anything that will be a straightforward replacement for the overall functionality of LR but I’m still hoping…

    While comparing these convertors I found that some of my more “problematic” RAWs that I struggled with in LR could be better developed in either the manufacturer’s own RAW s/w (especially Olympus and Canon) or in Affinity Photo. As Robin has also found, I didn’t always find consistent results as to which s/w would do best for a particular camera or file type, It very much seemed to be case-by-case trial to find the best result for a given RAW file.

    So I’m still using LR RAW conversion by default for my Panasonic u4/3 & Canon APS-C cameras but will try converting in other s/w if the results from the Adobe conversion aren’t up to scratch. What I see so far is that:

    Canon’s DPP4 often gives considerably better results on trickier Canon RAW files than Adobe LR does.

    Panasonic’s Silkypix s/w is just horrid to use and since LR seems to do a pretty good job of Panasonic files I’m still happy with LR for my Panasonic RAW development (with occasional forays into Affinity).

    For my Olympus XZ-10 (an old compact) I now either use SOOC JPG or convert RAW using Olympus’ Viewer 3 s/w because the Adobe RAW conversion consistently gives poorer results than the SOOC JPG.

    Confusing times.

    1. Hi Ian, I also used Canon DPP software for exactly the same reason (although I don’t shoot with Canon now). But do watch out for my next video. There’s something a lot of Lightroom users might find interesting and useful to improve image quality.

  4. DxO’s PhotoLab 2 Elite is my go-to RAW processor for Panasonic and Sony RAWs. The PRIME noise reduction is unmatched, and lens corrections & detail extraction were better and easier than with LR or C1 when I did a comparison.

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