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12-27-2017, 12:16 PM   #1
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RAW files. What should I use to develop them RawTherapee, Darktable or ......?


A couple of months ago I bought a secondhand K-5 and I'm now experimenting with shooting in RAW (DNG files).

But what is the best (preferably free) program to develop them?

I've tried out the Digital Camera Utility, which seems to work ok, then I tried out RawTherapee which looks better (and more complicated!) and I've just downloaded a copy of Darktable. There's a lot to learn so I'd rather pick one early on and learn it well.

What do Pentaxians prefer?



12-27-2017, 12:59 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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You are very wise to try and settle on a good development program and stick with it rather than jumping to the 'program of the month'. The amount of time invested in learning a program FAR exceeds any monetary expense.

What are your goals? What are you looking to achieve? How many images are you expecting to process? How many images do you have in your archive? What do you plan on doing with them? It might seem like I am prying but those are questions you should be asking yourself before settling on a program. A simple free program should be fine for a few images a month or week. But if you plan on doing a lot of volume, perhaps sell images or print them then a more sophisticated program might be in order.

Not that long ago I would have said just bite the bullet, buy Lightroom and be done with fooling around with wanna-be software. Unfortunately with the current subscription only model and cloud focused development I can no longer recommend Lightroom to anyone unless they are handling (and selling) a significant number of images.

So I no longer have any recommendation except to carefully think about what you want to achieve. Really learning how to use a program well takes months of study and learning, not something to lightly toss off and move on.

Others will be along shortly with lots of good suggestions I am sure.
12-27-2017, 01:13 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
You are very wise to try and settle on a good development program and stick with it rather than jumping to the 'program of the month'.
Really learning how to use a program well takes months of study and learning, not something to lightly toss off and move on.
I agree!

DCU is very good.
I experimented long with Adobe and it is very difficult to come up with better results with it, if at all.
12-27-2017, 01:14 PM   #4
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I think its a great question.. and I am kind of struggling with not asking this before learning a post processing software. Here is my story...
I got my hands early on Pentax DCU worked like a charm but was cumbersome on a volume of images.. so I switched to the Photodirector (got it free at that time on a rebate) and then learned it pretty quickly as it was quiet intuitive and fast. But then I thought may be I should use light room for the work that I sell and then jump shipped again to LR version that apparently does not support K-1 (PEF). So I had resistance but then I started using DNG and now struggling with LR interface quiet a bit. Apart from cloudified offering LR is a little clumsy to use. Also I found out eventually that I could do everything in PhotoDirector that I could do in LightRoom (Per my daily needs) so I keep using PD often despite having LR. LR is also slower than PD. Now I do not know about the JPEG rendering engine intricacies between the 2, so someone needs to shed some light on that. I think standalone versions of LR are still being offered although they will cease to exist soon if not sooner.
I have been meaning to use RawTherapee but looks like I have stuff that I still need to learn in LR before switching to another software and for all you know LR is the last piece of software I may need to learn given its popularity and the community support it has. So yes.. wait to hear from a few folks here before you make your choice and deep dive into it. The chance are you will end up using more the software you learn first (whether it is good or bad).

Last edited by shardulm; 12-27-2017 at 01:23 PM.
12-27-2017, 01:44 PM - 1 Like   #5
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FastStone Image Viewer, Screen Capture, Photo Resizer ...

As easy to learn as it gets.
12-27-2017, 01:46 PM   #6
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I used Rawtherapee for years. It's a very good option, freeware and a powerful tool. I've also installed and used darktable (very very good, some tools are smarter than in Rawtherapee). Finally get Lightroom that offers (multiple) brushes and compatibility with third party tools (NIck collection in primis). It all depends on your aims: If you need basic tools Rawtherapee/Darktable are more than adequate and consistent tools; if you need something more Lightroom has more advanced tools (at a cost).I've also tried CaptureOne , despite being powerful I didn't find all the tools Lightroom offers.
I find the HDR processing in Lightroom very very consistent (better than Photomatix, IMHO) with natural results . The same for the panorama tool in Lightroom (but also ICE would do the job done, for free).
Final consideration: you'll need some Learning curve in any of this software ,if you want repetitive results.
12-27-2017, 01:52 PM - 1 Like   #7

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I use Faststone for viewing and minor editing, Darktable for in depth editing, Noiseware free for noise removal and Gimp for spacific edits.

12-27-2017, 02:51 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by jonthechippy Quote

A couple of months ago I bought a secondhand K-5 and I'm now experimenting with shooting in RAW (DNG files).

But what is the best (preferably free) program to develop them?

If you use Linux, try darktable. Absolutely wonderful software with very active development. Version 2.4 just released a few days ago.
If you use Windoze, a version of darktable is being developed but I'm not sure if it has progressed beyond beta stage yet...but better still migrate to Linux

12-27-2017, 03:05 PM   #9
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I purchased affinity photo ,it s cheap and very useful, it s easy to use. You can check it out there are many youtube videos about it.
12-27-2017, 03:14 PM - 3 Likes   #10
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Know what you need out of your program before making a decision

G’Day Jon, welcome to the forums.

This question can draw out some opinions, hopefully though, all will be useful. Can I suggest you consider some of the points raised by Jatrax? A program that develops RAW files is one thing, but as the range of options today has completely changed it is best to reflect on more than just the ability to process a raw file.

I have no experience with the free RAW editors, I have used the GIMP a fair bit in the past though and if that’s anything to go by you may not need to pay for a program at all. However RAW programs can do more than just edit a RAW file so I’ll list some points to consider during your search:

File management. If you don’t have many photos this tends not to be a problem, but in 5 years time you could have thousands of images and you’ll need to find them. Some RAW programs like Lightroom have a file management tool set some don't. Note though that there are also cataloguing programs if you choose a RAW editor with limited/nil file management tools. Maybe something free exists here too.

Basic editing tools. This is the bread and butter component of a program that enables management of white balance, dynamic range, cropping, noise etc. All programs will have this ability but the more complete program will have many more tools to work with. If you prefer minimal processing this is going to be the most important part of the program and I'd recommend one that allows local adjustments if possible.

More flexible/advanced editing tool. With the recent crop of new/updated programs that work on RAW files there are a lot of different options that can value add to a basic RAW editor. This is where you can get the most out of a file due to masking, layering and assorted other tools some of which would require a Lightroom user to jump into Photoshop. If you consider programs other than free this is what you’re really paying for and will be the features emphasised on their respective websites.

Export/Print functions. What do you intend to do with your RAW files once you’ve completed post processing them? Print to canvas or paper? Upload to the internet only? Different programs will achieve this to different levels, for example some will allow you to upload to a personal webpage, Dropbox, Flickr etc from within the program. Others may be limited when it comes to preparing a file for print whilst some have a ‘soft copy’ tool that allows you to view how the image will print before pressing the print button. And this is where you will find some programs create ‘nicer looking’ files than others and this is one of the discussion points that could garner differing opinions. The most important opinion is yours so if you think a program might be right for you and it requires money look for a free trial period. This will let you determine if you're happy with how it handles your images before throwing coins at it.

I’ll end there before I write a novel, but these categories roughly cover the elements in the more complete programs whereas others may require another program or two to attain the same number of tools. Knowing what you want beyond the basics will help you make the right decision. And that’s important with so many good programs and supporters aplenty for each. It’s also important for when you go to each program’s webpage as they tend to be flashy advertorials of how wonderful their program is.

I use a program that I changed to from Lightroom called On1 Photo RAW. It does all that I need for a RAW converter and it’s improving with each new update. You pay for it of course, but you can pay for it once, get the updates for that version until they release their new version (usually at the end of the year). They also have videos showing how to use the RAW converter and a 'Plus program' that goes more in-depth on the software and photography techniques, critiques etc.

There’s no such thing as a perfect program, some have tools that others don’t and this is where it is important to know what you want out of your program. You can pay for one that probably does all you’ll likely need or opt for something simpler but may need to add to it later. The good thing is there’s never been more choice for RAW file processors so there’s a program out there to suit your needs for sure.

12-27-2017, 03:57 PM   #11
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IMO you get what you pay for in RAW processors. I've been using Lightroom for several years, but when Luminar delivers Lightroom library compatibility & DAM (promised for 2018) I'll probably dump it.
12-27-2017, 04:27 PM   #12
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I think it depends on frequency & volume of pictures. I also have to pick one among RT and DT. Probably I am going with DT. Starting screen of DT has few controls some what like google search page, and I like that. DT is very responsive of my machine. My laptop is just above average (i7 quad 32ram no-ssd).

Options in DT are not that intuitive. I know this is subjective. For example 'resize' image option and white balance color picker. I tackle these by making my own help doc with screen shots and clips. I enjoyed reading DTs documentation, it is must read. I used DT for a month on Win7. Recently I moved to Ubuntu, and DT is native to Linux. DT has plugins for Enfuse. DT uses some kind of db for caching that should help it scale.
12-27-2017, 04:30 PM   #13
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I use Capture One. It's not free but I think its worth every penny if you can fit it into your budget.
12-27-2017, 05:25 PM   #14

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Darktable has more features and is better suited for handling large collections of images.

Rawtherapee uses your folder structure and has no image managing features but some very good (seriously nerdy) raw development tools such as pixelshift and various color adjustment options.

If you use pixelshift pick RT and manage your metadata via other software.
12-27-2017, 05:25 PM   #15

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QuoteOriginally posted by tduell Quote
If you use Linux, try darktable. Absolutely wonderful software with very active development. Version 2.4 just released a few days ago.
If you use Windoze, a version of darktable is being developed but I'm not sure if it has progressed beyond beta stage yet...but better still migrate to Linux

Actually darktable 2.4 was just released on windows as an official port. I've tested it on windows 10 and it works just as nicely as it does on ubuntu 17.10. install | darktable
And it looks like there's a mac port too, but I've never tried it.

Darktable and rawtherapee are both great. Personally, I prefer darktable.

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