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Saturday, 20 December 2008


"Did you have the sod-buster saga ready and waiting for a comment to justify using it?"

Nope, just wrote it on the spot. Although I had recently been talking to (i.e., lecturing) my son on common tropes and mannerisms in films--in that case the very common device (in everything from "The Outlaw Josey Wales" to "Road to Perdition") of justifying a movie about a homicidal rampage with the setup of the wanton murder of the protagonist's innocent, idyllic family. So it was sort of on my mind, I guess.

Plus, as T.V.'s Craig Ferguson says, made myself laugh and that's half the battle.

Mike J.

I've been trying out RawDeveloper since I upgraded my computer. So far I like it and find it's more or less intuitive and straight-forward to use. Same sort of controls and approach as ACR. Quite fast on my fast Mac. Strictly a raw processor, no additional capabilities. So it's not a complete solution, and of course until you fork over the bucks, you get the charming watermark. And the designer is, I think, justified in doing something along these lines to protect himself from being ripped off.

"… I have just downloaded a trial version of Raw Developer 1.8.2 from Iridient Digital."

So did I today - what a coincidence!
I worked on two pictures, a 5D RAW and a GRD II DNG.

The converter is fast like a race car (on a PB G4), and the results seem very appealing.

But you're right - to compare cameras/lenses you have to work always with the same converter.
And ACR is widely spread and something like a standard in image processing.


I think you'll find that the renderings from Raw Developer are superior to ANYTHING I've seen on all of my cameras, period. Top notch!

It has decent batch processing and it's become my RAW vehicle for pretty much everything except huge numbers of images. Excellent piece of software and puts ACR to shame. I also find that the included sharpening is excellent.

I'm confident that you'll be pleased and that you'll notice the difference immediately. the first time I processed a file with it I smiled the big smile.

On anticipating comments; Did you have the sod-buster saga ready and waiting for a comment to justify using it?
Seems that the vast majority is quite happy with your system, myself included.

An excellent post, Mike and one worthy of some reflection.

I think, due to the nature of reviewing unfortunately, one will always be dealing with the types of responses you're describing here. The marque-fans will always respond this way when one reviewer's observations are not as rosy-colored as they may like.

I ran into a similar situation about a year ago at this time on the Canon Digital Photography forums, where I intimated that the Canon 40D might have the same AF problems that the 1D MkIII had due to sharing a similar (and, IMHO, flawed) AF system design, and was immediately castigated as a "troll", as a pro-Nikon flamer posting mis-information, etc, when I was merely pointing a to a link of a review on Imaging Resource that had documented the AF problems with this camera. The irony was that I had an email from Rob Galbraith completely supporting the Imaging Resource review, not to mention that I probably owned and used on a regular basis more Canon equipment than the majority of them, but nevertheless, I was being figuratively tarred and feathered as an "anti-Canonite" (with appropriate homage to Seinfeld's "anti-dentite" episode).

In one of the motorcycling forums I hang out on, a number of current-generation Honda VFR owners took me to task for relaying FACTS that my Honda dealer provided me about how the current-generation VFR sales plummeted five-fold when their particular model came out. Somehow, they got it twisted around that because the current model didn't sell as well as the previous model, they must be a less of a person for buying it. What the f???

Unfortunately, such is the nature of this line of work. I will mention, however, that pros don't get caught up in all of this. Cameras are tools be used for a completing a job, and as such, they will use whatever tool allows them to best accomplish that job, be it an A900, a 5D MkII, a D700 or a plastic Holga.

Just keep fighting the good fight. Your "real world" reviews mean more than any table of spec sheets or plots of noise performance.

'Twas ever thus. Back in the film days, there were plenty of arguments over what film, developer, temperature, processing time, frequency and style of agitation, print paper, etc., etc. you should use if you were REALLY SERIOUS. It's mostly us guys who get into this minutia, of course. The ladies just roll their eyes and get on with it.

I also tried Lightzone once. It was a pain, due my relatively old (single core!) notebook. Without Lightroom I would have been forced since long to upgrade my hardware. This speaks a lot about Adobe and performance I guess.

With Pentax Photo Lab I (believe to) see a slight advantage on high ISO raw files from the K20D. So what? Use Photo Lab instead of Lightroom, ha!

Finally I think that a camera has to work with Lightroom, period. You know, I am not a friend of monopols, and surely not companies like Adobe in general, and if there would be some open source tool that lets me organize and process my photos as fast and conveniently as Lightroom does, I would jump ship immediately, but this is not the case...


In what way are the AF systems of the 40D and 1DM3 even remotely related, besides both being from Canon?

AFAIK, they share no AF hardware whatsoever.

I use Apple Aperture, so I have to wait a month or two after a camera comes out to see how it will perform.

Only one time did I buy a camera before Apple could process its RAW files -- an E420. I ended up returning the E420 before Apple could process it, but that was mostly because it was just too difficult to hold.

What is really troubling is that companies like Panasonic are starting to incorporate lens correction into their in-camera JPEG and in their computer based RAW converters. Then I have to wonder -- how big a difference will there be when that is (if ever) processed by Aperture? Will I be able to disable the correction? Adjust it? To me, Panasonic is cheating here -- failing to create a decent lens and relying on software to fake it. It should be slammed it its reviews for doing so, in my opinion.

I'm reminded of the fact that the trumpet I played during school could produce beautiful music as long as it didn't have to tackle really high notes and the tempo didn't get out of hand. I guess the 5D solution would have been to give up Jazz for Baroque pieces.

*Laughing* at the monitor here! Thanks, Mike!

Didn't want to lower the tone of the blog too much - but I couldn't help smiling at some of the comments :-)

1. Are you guys using single malt when processing RAW files, or is plain old distilled ok?

2. Should I manufacture my own *chemistry* or will over the counter do just fine?

3. Do you find constant agitation beneficial?

4. What type of enlarger should I use - is youporn really best?

5. Is the modern moist paper really better or will it chap?


I remember these debates from the old film days! Just made me smile. What goes around comes around and all that :-)

Mike, keep doing what you've been doing. As for everyone else --Enough of the my dog is bigger than your dog. Use what works best for you.

Back in the "good old days" there were camera and reviews, film reviews and processing comparisons. These days it appears all three components now have to be handled in the single review - not an easy task!

processing everything w/ one raw converter is like taking pictures of everything w/ 18-250 turismo-zoom.

True enough, I never got past D-76 and Dektol.
Although Accufine was an awful temptation....

I think "everyone" makes too big a deal out of shooting "RAW."
I still use JPEGs. If I switched to RAW I'd have to buy a new computer, and learn all kinds of new computer stuff that I don't really want to know about.
After shooting Kodachrome I, II, and 25 for 40+ years, and printing on everyting from Printon to Dye Transfer to Cibachrome, I have yet to come across a situation which really requires RAW (instead of just the occasional bracketing).

What a wonderful post. It's very refreshing to read a review and know what equipment the reviewer use and how he uses it. It makes a huge difference to the weight of the review compared to a generic review of the web site.

Keep up the good work!

Hi Mike,

I'm currently using an M8 and GR Digital, and my interest in DSLRs right now doesn't extend beyond simple materialism, but posts referring to your three-way review keep popping up in my RSS feed, so I took a few minutes to try and bring myself up to speed on this whole debacle.

First, I think you're absolutely right when it comes to discussing the plus and minuses of a camera (or any sort of product for that matter) from one's personal perspective. It allows an article (in this case) to express the expertise (or oftentimes lack thereof) and opinions of the writer.

A friend of mine who reviews video games once told me that it's important to definitively express your opinion in a manner that people on forums can either agree or disagree with. He didn't say why, but I assumed it was because it allowed people to confidently know what they're agreeing or disagreeing with.

When I was shopping around for my first DSLR a few years ago, sites like DPR were of absolutely no help. I actually bought my D70s based on the recommendation of a friend and Ken Rockwell's review of the camera. I recall the gist of his review praising Nikon's ergonomics, peppered with a now-STFU-and-go-take-pictures attitude.

I think Ken is a bit of a loudmouth, but at the end of the day, the review was helpful because he expressed what he honestly felt about the camera, and if I was in the market for one of the three DSLRs you reviewed, your article would definitely be an asset, as the M8 pro-con reviews were.

Wilhelm --

I don't do this much, but being able to process the same raw image for two different exposures and combine the results is very useful for things like taking pictures of people under the colonnade of a train station; I can get detail in both the bright and dark areas. Not of interest if you don't want to tackle learning a raw converter, but not a situation bracketing will work for. (Not unless the people are holding very, very still, anyway. :)

I think the great thing about raw converters is that software is basically pretty cheap; no vats of chemicals, no dedicated space, no merciless physical process with no undo key are almost side benefits compared to the amount of breadth and selectivity that can be built into the converter capabilities.

This probably makes me undisciplined in some photographically important ways (I am quite sure that if I was shooting film I'd have to care a lot more about getting exposure precisely correct than I do with digital), but it also gets the time and effort cost of the hobby way down, which I think is a good thing.

I'm sad that you felt the need to respond to someone's assertions that "conversion program X works best with camera A". Isn't it incumbent upon the one making the assertion to demonstrate the validity of the assertion?

I hear these types of arguments all the time on various review sites but no one seems to pony up and demonstrate in a conclusive manner the critical nature of selecting a particular conversion program. I have little doubt that one conversion program can be better than another in terms of enhancing some quality of the image, but is it enough to see in a real application of the image? For professionals, would a client be able to see the difference? Is it a "real" difference or is it possible that knowing the software better would allow one to get equal results from all programs?

Ironically, I do feel the need for multiple conversion programs and see the "value" for my own use. But this is because a) I am not a professional and can't work the settings in any one program sufficiently to get the look and feel that I want for differing situations...and b) I'm lazy.

For my camera, I use the manufacturer supplied software for "people" photos because it has a preset that produces the "look" that I like in human skin color/tone. I use a third party solution for most landscape/object photography because it has an easy slider interface that allows me to get something pleasing with minimum of effort.

Jeez, another Panasonic is cheating comment. Because they made an f/2.0 24mm lens/camera system (yes including software) at a reasonable cost THAT TAKES BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHS. Isn't that the complete antithesis of the point that Mike has been trying to make.

People who crib about ACR/Lightroom not being good either have crappy lighting or crappy lenses. So they keep moving from one raw converter to another, trying to eek out that last 0.x% of picture quality, in stead of improving their technique or their gear. I know it 'cause I was there once :-)

Meanwhile I think that Panasonic did it right, but they (and ACR) should provide a checkbox to disable lens correction.

"I think "everyone" makes too big a deal out of shooting "RAW.""

Me, I think "everyone" uses too-big letters for the word "raw". It's just a word, folks. The three letters stand for the shapes you make with your mouth, not for other words. Raw data, just like raw meat and raw eggs, means uncooked data, straight from the source.

(With apologies to all those whose best language is not English.)


this torrent of comments about your assessment of the holy trinity (A900, 5D2, D700) is just hilarious!

You're spot on regarding use of Photoshop + ACR. That's what you should use because it's what you're comfortable using, just like me.

I have an A900 and use the infamous ACR to process its images and heck, I like what I get.

ACR at this point is probably not the best converter out there for any camera, but it's something that many people (you and me -- we have two examples already) use almost exclusively, because workflow is king.

Finally, great job on your assessments, I think they're awesomely spot-on and pretty much mirror my findings.

Oh, and before I forget, that's a cool 5D2 shot! :-)

-- thiago

Please do not get too carried away with citing Adobes products as some imaginary benchmark or the best digital solution, or we may find camera manufacturers, (may they strive to be fiercely independent) becoming platforms for Adobe. (A personal hurray for Nikons Capture NX -the robbing sods- boo for selling their U-point technology, what were they thinking ?) Don't get me wrong, I have no axe to grind except for the furvent desire not too see homogenity (right spelling ?) of 'solutions' and platforms and design. It doesn't bode well for us all to be clicking away to Adobes tune (I tell you, you may not be so effusive if paying European prices for their excellent products). So support the alternatives, play around with your 'crappy lenses' (unbelievable) and converter combinations and don't let any p***k tell you you're wasting your time.

Reminds me of when I did color prints working at a pro lab, we had a big Pako processor so everything was processed the same, all the changes had to be done on the printer, I carried the same procedure home to my B&W printing, always developed the prints the same and did all the magic on the enlarger.

Worked for me and I was very happy with the results.

A friend was the complete opposite he would change the exposure, change the development times, got good prints, although it usually took him more paper, we stopped working in the darkroom together because we drove each other nuts.

Some people liked the look of Velvia, others liked the look of Kodachrome. Some prefer Portra 160NC others Fuji 160S. Every RAW converter has its own visual flavor. Why wouldn't a photographer prefer one over the other? ACR is really good for many cameras, not so good for others. Compared to, say, Capture One, the look between converted files can be as different as 160NC vs, 160S or Velvia vs. Kodachrome. The underlying profiles are completely different.

What I'm most disappointed in is Mike not reviewing the ergonomics and controls of the cameras. Everybody and their dogs are reviewing these cameras for the same IQ, Noise and feature counts. I REALLY respect Mike's opinion about usability issues (which he did dwell on in regards to high-ISO--no argument there). One of these three cameras I found EXTREMELY difficult to use because of some basic grip and control locations. Only one of the three cameras did I feel have that "decisive moment" design intent. Which of the cameras did you really WANT to shoot?

Mike, your opinions on the intangibles matter. I've learned through the years that our preferences are actually pretty close when it comes to the intangible qualities between cameras. I too, found the KM D7D to be a "photographer's camera", and I still use the OM system for all my film needs.

Maybe the intangibles really no longer matter as the buying public has shifted beyond usability issues and are 100% focused on the tangibles. If this is the case, then the only review of importance is the one from DPREVIEW where the image quality between models is quantified, measured, sliced and diced for all to see. I honestly don't see you competing with DPREVIEW in this matter.

So Mike, tell us what you REALLY think about these cameras. :)

My old pc was already struggling to run Lightroom and CS3. It's now capitulated under the strain of trying to process the files from my 1ds mark lll, prompting me to buy a more powerful pc. Who says digital is cheaper?

You're spot on about using a camera/software in the way that you do. I will admit that the purchase of my new camera my very well be overkill. But I'm not about to go in to a studio etc. I'm going to make it fit me, I'm not going to have the tail wagging the dog.

Funny thing, just today I wanted to develop some RAW in my office, where I don't have Lightroom (my developer of choice). I've downloaded RawTherapee and SilkyPix, but after a while I just gave up. I couldn't get decent outputs, simply because I didn't know how to use the software. I think mastering a RAW converter is about 30% of the whole picture making nowadays.

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