February 2017 - Digital Group - Browsing Raw Images

Meeting Notes March 2009 to 2018.
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February 2017 - Digital Group - Browsing Raw Images

Post by spb » Sat Feb 04, 2017 11:23 am

Adobe have finally ceased support for Creative Suite (CS) programs such as the Photoshop CS6 that I have been using for several years. I needed raw support for my new Olympus camera so I have finally stumped up the £99.99 for an annual subscription for Creative Cloud (Photoshop CC and Lightroom). This was a little cheaper via Amazon, and APS gained few pennies commission. That was good timing as the price is going up in March 2017. If you are thinking of doing the same, the current price is still available as I write. Perpetual licences for Lightroom and Photoshop Elements continue to be available if you don’t want to pay for a subscription.

We’ve all seen documents carried by officials outside Number 10 Downing Street which have been read by modern high-resolution cameras. Now a fingerprint has been successfully cloned from a photography from 3 metres distance and used to fool a fingerprint reader. Best keep your gloves on.

Kodak plan to re-launch Ektachrome positive slide film this year, but contrary to rumours, not Kodachrome which was notoriously difficult to process. This colour film renaissance is being compared to the revival of vinyl albums. I won’t be joining either movement which are led by nostalgia rather than cold logic.

I have been pleased with my new Olympus OM-D M10 II, although the reduction to 16 Mpx is a bit of a shock. However, it continues to be a steep learning curve to set up the camera in the way that I want it. Everything is customisable but the downside is that many things need to be customised. In particular, inadvertent use of the touch screen is proving to be an issue – especially with focus points and my nose. I will report back on this in the near future.

Thanks to member Alan Sturges for pointing me in the direction of Robin Whalley who has a couple of excellent sites; The Lightweight Photographer and Lenscraft. He is a prolific blogger and creator of tutorials and online books. His particular interest is landscape photography especially via compact system cameras, Lightroom, Photoshop, and plug-ins such as NIK and Topaz software.

The need to weed 750 jpgs and 750 matching raws from a recent trip caused me grief. My preferred image browser is FastStone (£Free Win) and this does everything I need (and more) except that loading previews, especially raw previews, is painfully slow at several seconds each. Looking for an alternative I tried Lightroom, FastPictureViewer, FastRawViewer, XnView and others but none had the feature set or interface that I enjoy with FastStone and many were as slow. Then I noticed the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack ($9.99 Win). I downloaded the free trial and suddenly FastStone was previewing everything at lightning speed! Furthermore other applications such as Windows Explorer and XYPlorer were now also thumbnailing everything. I was so pleased that I made a voluntary donation to the author of FastStone.

This gave rise to another think about raw image advantages and disadvantages. Jpg’s straight out of the camera are clean, finished, compact, processed images that can be viewed on anything, anywhere. Raw image files are large, unprocessed, unpolished data from the sensor that can’t be viewed by 99% of programs.

The viewers listed above are some of the few that can actually preview a raw image file. However the raw preview in nearly all of those programs is actually a jpg processed by the camera and packed inside the raw file for use by viewers and also on the screen at the back of the camera, so you are not actually looking at the raw at all.

It is sometimes possible to view the raw image itself. I took an image with my OM10 and the camera set to monochrome style and jpg+raw. This creates a processed mono jpg and an unprocessed colour raw. FastStone previewed the jpg and the raw identically as a mono image. However when I displayed the full-screen raw preview and pressed the A (for Actual) key, the colour raw was displayed after a few seconds. Lightroom apparently does not use the encapsulated jpg in raw files but takes considerable time (depending upon the size of preview required) to generate a preview from the raw data. Nevertheless, as with FaStstone this preview is generic and uncontrollable.These viewers do not have the bank of sliders and controls that a proper raw converter such as Adobe Camera Raw (or the software that came with your camera) has.

The benefit of a raw file is that there is more latitude for exposure, colour and other adjustments without loss of quality but achieving this potential benefit requires time and skill. The jpg usually looks far sharper and superior to a poorly executed raw conversion. When initially weeding new images for ‘keepers’, remember that raw previews are only an indication of composition and focus point. Don’t be disheartened about general softness or lack of contrast and clarity – that will come from the raw conversion process – if you know what you are doing.

FastRawViewer ($14.99 Win/Mac) claims to be a revolutionary approach to weeding raw images by offering a very quick but more accurate preview based on a better conversion. It looks promising and I will report back on this in the future.

FastStone remains my image viewer of choice and it continues to improve. A recent update allows two instances onscreen at once so that images can be dragged and dropped more easily between folders. I am also trying out FastStone MaxView ($20 Win) as my Windows default photo viewer application (eg for opening image attachments in emails). I’ll report back on this too.

My original objective was to find a program that could handle jpg+raw images pairs as a single entity but so far this has failed, although the now discontinued Aperture (Mac) apparently implemented this well.

Cheers, Steve

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