Q and A: Raw capture mode is confusing. Can you help?

Question

I need some advice about using RAW capture mode. I have just started shooting in RAW mode but after some research on the Internet, I still have some questions about RAW. Why won’t Photoshop CS3 or Elements 7 open and convert the RAW files from my EOS T1i? Also, when using the Canon DPP software, should I save the photos to an 8-bit Tif or a 16-bit Tif. L.V.

Answer

The software that’s bundled with any DSLR certainly supports the unique RAW format produced by that camera. However, versions of Photoshop that are older than CS4 – such as CS3 – do not support the newer cameras’ formats.

That’s because Adobe ceased supporting the older versions. Both Elements 6 and 7 do support the RAW files produced by most of the recent cameras, including the T1i. Anyone who cannot open a RAW file with Elements 6 or 7 will need to download and install the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in version 5.5. See Adobe for the download and for installation instructions. (Photoshop CS4 owners should note that they may also need version 5.5 or later.)

All versions of Photoshop Elements - since version 6 - can support all of the latest DSLRs' RAW formats. Of course, with newer cameras, that may require installing the latest version of the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in.  ©2009 Peter K. Burian
All versions of Photoshop Elements - since version 6 - can support all of the latest DSLRs' RAW formats. Of course, with newer cameras, that may require installing the latest version of the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in. ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The default with any RAW converter is 8-bit per channel color depth when converting to the TIFF format from a RAW file. Most converter programs also allow you to select 16-bit TIFF. (more…)

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A First Glance at Lightroom 3.0 (Beta 1) Image Processing

Shot converted with LR2
Shot converted with LR2. Compare with the shot below, but bring both up-full size to see the differences I describe in the article.

A couple days ago, Adobe released Lightroom 3.0 Beta 1, which introduces a variety of new features, but also introduces a new RAW processing engine. While many of these features are fairly simple to appreciate, the changes to the RAW processing engine are just as exciting, and worth a look as well.

I will intentionally avoid talking about performance differences. While I haven’t noticed particular performance differences between LR2 and LR3B1, I haven’t looked and wouldn’t consider any such comparison valid until it was made on a “release version vs. release version” basis, the performance of beta versions often differ from that of release versions for a variety of reasons that I won’t belabor here.

But if history is any guide, we can start looking at image quality, particularly with promised improvements to noise reduction and sharpening. Be careful not to read too much into these results, Adobe has intentionally turned off luminance noise reduction in LR3B1. Since it’s off by default in LR2, that shouldn’t impair our comparisons too much, but it is something to keep in mind.

To compare the two, I looked at differences in the results of the raw processing engines on a few ISO 3200 images of a camera bracket from my Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III.  I’ve included a pair of 100% crops of raw conversions from the same file for your comparison. These samples are illustrative of the sorts of changes I’ve seen in the handful of other files I’ve examined so far. Both samples were converted entirely “as shot” with default settings for each version of Lightroom. (more…)

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Adobe’s Beta “DNG Profiles” for Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw

Before and After applying the "Camera Landscape" profile for the Canon 1Ds Mark III
Before and After applying the "Camera Landscape" profile for the Canon 1Ds Mark III

Many photographers, myself included, are deeply attracted to the idea of getting great digital darkroom results from a single program. That idea is still a bit of a dream, the capabilities of the various programs out there vary far too greatly. Even when looking at the specific issue of raw camera file conversion, Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom will, by default, produce very different results than in-camera JPEGs or raw images converted by the manufacturer’s software, such as Nikon Capture NX or Canon’s Digital Photo Professional. While Lightroom, and it’s brother Adobe Camera Raw, offer nearly unmatched flexibility in raw conversion, Adobe’s conversions have been tailored towards producing (by default) a different consistent “look” across different camera bodies and different camera manufacturers. While an excellent goal, many photographers prefer the “secret sauce” looks provided by those manufacturers, and wish they could easily create those looks within a more general and more flexible program such as Lightroom.

To directly address this need, late last year Adobe Labs released a second beta of their  DNG profiles for Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.  (Despite the name, if you wish to use these new profiles you do not need to use the DNG (Adobe’s Digital NeGative) format yourself.  (You will need at least a few DNG images if you with to use Adobe Labs’ associated DNG Profile editor, though, more on that later.)  These profiles attempt to match many of the facets of the “look” of a photograph to the look of that image as if it were processed by the camera or the manufacturer’s camera software. (more…)

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