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07-13-2009, 12:48 PM   #1
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New DSLR - Lightweight image processing?

Hi All,
I'm new to the forum, and fairly new to digital photography.
I've recently acquired a K200D (upgrading from my MX). From browsing the forum, I get the impression that the general concensus is that the PPB and PPL software that comes with the camera leaves something to be desired.
Up until now, I've been using Photoshop elements 2.0 for my image processing needs. I'm reasonably familiar with the interface and don't mind using it - it runs reasonably well on my PC.

Having just returned from a trip, I have over 1000 raw images in .PEF format to contend with. I'm considering my options with the software - I'm finding that PPL doesn't run very well on my PC (VERY slow), which is making even simple image manipulation onerous. Since PS elements runs ok, I've considered just using PPL for a straightforward .PEF to TIFF conversion, and then using PS to tweak the TIFF files. But there doesn't seem to be a quick and easy (ie. batch) method for doing a PEF -> TIFF conversion via PPB/PPL. Am I missing something? If I have to open each image individually and save it as a TIFF, it could take a while.

I've seen various recommendations on the forum for other RAW conversion options (rawtherapy, etc.). Apparently, picasa will also handle PEF files, but my concern is that these applications may perform no better than PPL on my PC, or that the image quality will suffer (yeah, yeah, no free lunch). Obviously, one solution that will be suggested is "get a real computer". (perhaps it just needs more RAM)

Short of upgrading my PC , does anyone have any suggestions for a lightweight image processing application? Ideally, it would be great if I could do everything with a single application (picasa?), but I would settle for doing the PEF->TIFF conversion with one application (preferably in batch mode), and then do my image processing with Photoshop elements.

As a tangentially related question, does PPL perform any image correction based on knowledge of the lense used (ie. newer Pentax lenses)? If so, would 3rd party RAW conversion software not be disadvantaged in not having access to Pentax lense data?

I apologize if this has been covered before - I have tried poking around without much success.

Any help/advice would be appreciated.

Cheers

07-13-2009, 01:20 PM   #2
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Seems that converting everything to TIFF *before* processing compeltely defeats the purpose of having shot RAW to begin with. The one and only advantage of RAW is that you get better results when doing your procesisng *before* conversion to another format. If you wait until after, you might as well just have shot JPEG.

So to get the most out of your images while still providing maximum batch capabilities, I would think the bets thing to do would be to skip PPL entirely, do as much processing as you feel like using the RAW processing facility of Elements, and only after finishing with all of the images would you do a batch convert to another format if necessary. Except I have a feeling Element 2.0 doesn't support that kind of workflow. You might consider upgrading that since you're already familair with the interface. But if you're considered it won't run well enough, more RAM can't hurt. RAW processing is both memory and CPU intensive, so it's never going to be screamingly fast.
07-13-2009, 01:51 PM   #3
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One motivation for shooting (and archiving) RAW is that someday, I may have better image processing software, a better computer, and hopefully be more adept at using both. At such a time, I can go back and try to get more out of any particularly worthy images (few though they might be).

In the meantime, I was under the impression that TIFF format retained all (or at least most) of the image information, and was a better choice as an intermediate format (for passing images from one application to another) than JPEG.

Photoshop Elements 2.0 doesn't accept PEF format at all. It isn't even 100% compatible with the 16 bit TIFF output from PPL. I was under the impression that it is a rather expensive upgrade to get a version of Photoshop that will handle PEF format, but that's based on second hand info and I could be wrong on that score. And even if it isn't an expensive upgrade for the software, it may require an expensive upgrade to my hardware to run it.

I guess the options, in order of preference would be:

1) A lightweight, inexpensive/free app that takes PEF and supports modest image manipulation capabilities. Has anyone tried Picasa on PEF files?

2) A lightweight inexpensive/free app that supports fast/easy PEF conversion to TIFF (and I'll use PS elements from there). If there is a way to get PPL to do this in batch mode, great.

3) As a short-term stop-gap, use PPB or PPL to batch convert the PEF to JPEG and then do processing on the JPEG files.
07-13-2009, 03:49 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by arkav Quote
I was under the impression that it is a rather expensive upgrade to get a version of Photoshop that will handle PEF format, but that's based on second hand info and I could be wrong on that score. And even if it isn't an expensive upgrade for the software, it may require an expensive upgrade to my hardware to run it.
Just to address one small item, the current version of PSE is Ver 7 and is $76 USD shipped from Newegg (sorry, I have no idea what you have to pay in the great white north) and handles current PEF and DNG formats. I dont think an upgrade from 2 to 7 exists. I would need to know a whole lot more about your computer to help decide if it supports 7 as well as 2. It has some batch processing capabilities as I have used them but cannot answer if it suits your need without research.


Last edited by imtheguy; 07-13-2009 at 11:04 PM.
07-13-2009, 09:52 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by arkav Quote
In the meantime, I was under the impression that TIFF format retained all (or at least most) of the image information, and was a better choice as an intermediate format (for passing images from one application to another) than JPEG.
It's better than JPEG in that it doesn't use lossy compression, and if you use 16-bit TIFF, you can get similar dynamic range. But white balance has been "cooked" into the data, so you're still pretty hosed if you want to do much color correction. And if you do use 16-bit TIFF, the files are pretty big - processing them is likely to be worse on your computer's resources than processing a RAW file. If you use 8-bit TIFF, you really aren't gaining anything in IQ over JPEG, but if you use 16-bit TIFF, you're making the computer work harder than simply processing the RAW files.

QuoteQuote:
I was under the impression that it is a rather expensive upgrade to get a version of Photoshop that will handle PEF format
As far as I know, the current version of Elements generally runs around $100 and should work fine.
07-14-2009, 04:09 AM   #6
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It might be nice to upgrade elements to version 7, but you will need a faster computer for it. I think I would seriously start saving for that. As Marc mentioned, RAM is cheap and can help when dealing with photo files.

I use elements 7, but I wouldn't recommend it on your computer. I think that GIMP and Picasa both offer some RAW editing. The other option, would be to shoot in DNG. I am sure elements 2 can edit that (although the files are huge).
07-14-2009, 04:31 AM   #7
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Are there any comprehensive and comparitive reveiws of the various RAW editting and conversion software?

How bad is the Pentax Photo Lab V3???
07-14-2009, 06:22 AM   #8
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Thanks for the help Marc/Lee/Rondec.

I tried exporting a DNG file from PPL, but PSE 2.0 won't recognize it.
I tried renaming the file with a ".raw" extention, but PSE then asks you to describe the
raw format when you try to open it. With a 16bit TIFF, PSE 2.0 complains about unknown
colour depth, and (presumably) converts it to 8bit TIFF.

As I get more familiar with PPL, it seems that I can get it to run reasonably well after all.
If I shut down other apps and add some memory, it might be OK. I still like some of the features of PSE for quick fixes (eg. auto contrast/levels), but that may just reflect
familiarity. I realize that I can probably do similar things in PPL, but I find that I get "sucked in" when I use it, and start spending way too much time fiddling with each shot (especially if I start playing with the tone curve).

07-14-2009, 09:04 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sew-Classic Quote
Are there any comprehensive and comparitive reveiws of the various RAW editting and conversion software?
You'd think there would be, but I haven't really seen one. Comparisons of individual aspects of a small handful (like comparing color only between two of them, or sharpness between three of them, or noise reduction between another handful). Not that I could tell you where to find any of these comparisons. In any case, they are kind of irrelevant - so much about using a RAW convert is subjective and has more to do with the experience of using it than the the results per se. A really good review might at least give a sense of which you might find the msot pleasant to use, but again, I don't know of anything like that.

QuoteQuote:
How bad is the Pentax Photo Lab V3???
Results-wise, it's great. Ease-of-use wise, it's as bad as it gets. There is a basic distinction in the RAW world. There are programs that let you work with your original RAW files at all times woth your adjustments to that point always visible, automatically remembering everything you do, never forcing you to convert to another format just to see your changes, allowing you to copy settings from file to file, go back and tweak things further, run a batch job to convert images with their current settings intact, etc - and then there are relatively stone-age programs like PPL that force you into a one-file-at-a-time, convert to another format before moving on to the next model. This is the sort of thing that made people think shooting RAW was harder than JPEG for so many years, rather than making it easier than JPEG as modern software does. Kind of like how people thought of computers in general as "hard" back in the 70's when everything was command-line based, but modern graphical user interfaces are such that even my great aunt Vi has figured out how to send email.
07-14-2009, 09:10 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by arkav Quote
I realize that I can probably do similar things in PPL, but I find that I get "sucked in" when I use it, and start spending way too much time fiddling with each shot (especially if I start playing with the tone curve).
That's one of the problem inherent in its use model, and nicely illustrates something about what I just wrote above. With PPL, you basically have to get each image perfect and then convert before moving on to the next. With more modern software, you can you tweak a little and then move on without worrying if you got it perfect the first time because you can always go back if you like and tweak more. You can also tweak one image then copy its settings to a bunch of similar images, tweak some of them further if necessary, all without ever stopping to save or convert anything. Then at the end you can run a batch conversion to take your currently-tweaked images and batch convert as many or as few of them as you might need for web use or whatever other reason you might need a JPEG for. That's why I'd be looking into some more RAW and more modern software like the current version of PSE (which I assume supports that kind of workflow).
07-14-2009, 09:17 AM   #11
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arkav

one work around would be to go to the Adobe site and download the standalone DNG converter. IIRC it is a free program and doesn't have an lot of memory or processing requirements. It's not fast, but will certainly be able to convert your PEF's to DNG's which I'm fairly certain PSE 2.0 can read (PSE 3.0 certainly can as up to very recently I was still using it).

If you think that PSE 7 will run on your rig, it is worth the upgrade, but you can also try earlier Elements iterations. PSE 5.0 is not as processor intensive and I think you can still find it around. Even PSE 3.0 is a pretty big step up from 2.0

NaCl(your best bet is still the free DNG converter)H2O
07-14-2009, 10:36 AM   #12
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Thanks for the tip, oddly enough, I just found that Camera Raw + DNG converter pluggin is a free download. I'll give it a shot to see if it is compatible with PSE 2.0.

As I mentioned, a DNG exported from PPB (which can be done on a batch basis) is not recognized by PSE 2.0. I'm assuming that the same would apply to a DNG generated by the Adobe converter.
07-14-2009, 10:40 AM   #13
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Thanks again Marc.

At least it's gratifying to know that it isn't just me who finds PPL painful. I'm reading Ron Bigelow's articles on Raw workflow to get an idea of what I should be doing, and then I'll see what I can coax my system into doing.
07-14-2009, 11:35 AM   #14
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I think the difference may be the s/w doing the converting. You might check with the Adobe site to find out which version of the DNG converter is compatible with PSE 2.0. Might be worth a try, the worst case is you will be out some time.

NaCl(hard to beat free s/w)H2O
07-14-2009, 11:59 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
You'd think there would be, but I haven't really seen one. Comparisons of individual aspects of a small handful (like comparing color only between two of them, or sharpness between three of them, or noise reduction between another handful). Not that I could tell you where to find any of these comparisons. In any case, they are kind of irrelevant - so much about using a RAW convert is subjective and has more to do with the experience of using it than the the results per se. A really good review might at least give a sense of which you might find the msot pleasant to use, but again, I don't know of anything like that....

Thanks for the info Marc. I was searching high and low for information like this and couldn't find it. Now I know why.

Last edited by Sew-Classic; 07-14-2009 at 02:48 PM.
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