Is Camera Raw better than Lightroom

Perfect image processing: 10 RAW converters in comparison

RAW software put to the test | If you want to optimally post-process your images, you cannot avoid the RAW format and the appropriate software. Despite ever better camera technology for really excellent photos, there is no getting around the “digital darkroom”. We show you ten current RAW editors in comparison and present the pros and cons of the respective programs.

RAW converter put to the test

Where does the manual processing end, when is the motif alienated and how far should and can you go with photo processing?

These questions always give rise to extensive discussions. We find: Anything that is enjoyable is allowed and ultimately as a photographer you are also an artist and do not have to submit to any convention. In any case, a RAW converter is the right tool on the computer to post-process your own images.

It is up to you whether you limit yourself to slight adjustments or use the full available potential. As diverse as the various demands of each photographer, the candidates present themselves as different in a direct comparison.

The fact is: Despite the sometimes completely different approaches to photo correction, you get quite similar, really good results with almost all programs.

This is also due to the fact that most programs have been on the market for years. The youngest member of the RAW converter is Skylum Luminar. Looking back on our last test a year ago, the programs have clearly improved in terms of functionality and innovation.

DxO relies on a new type of color wheel, for example, Luminar replaces any sky with a click of the mouse and creates surreal effects thanks to augmented reality. With the two free tools RawTherapee and Darktable Optimizations can also be seen in terms of functionality and, in particular, operation.

Smartphone? Problem with HEIC

The current smartphones are real photo machines and even die-hard professionals use the practical devices on the go. The photo quality is amazing. Here we already have that best cell phone cameras 2020 reported.

Unfortunately only support in the test Luminar, PhotoRAW and Lightroom the advanced HEIC format, for all other programs you have to downconvert to JPEG.

The loss of quality is bearable, but it is a pity that you are limited from 16-bit color depth to eight-bit color depth. As the only candidate in the test, Lightroom offers a connection to iOS and Android devices - this works seamlessly and is a real added value for mobile photographers.

Linked to this, however, is that the photo library is in the cloud and Lightroom is only available as a subscription. Speaking of subscription - no other manufacturer in the test only paid for the software on a monthly basis, at least as an alternative to the classic purchase model.

The perfect picture almost everywhere

As you read our comparison test, you will find that no candidate has any real weaknesses. That the two Free programs "only" with good in the test is exclusively that complexity owed, which can overwhelm even advanced users.

And ultimately, as with the camera purchase, it depends on the operation - and this is where the biggest differences are. Since you can test every software for free, our recommendation is: Try out your two or three favorites thoroughly, you will be able to decide after a short time which RAW software will accompany you in the future.

Adobe Lightroom CC 2020

ManufacturerAdobe
websitewww.adobe.de
System requirementWindows / macOS / iOS
Price (RRP) Lightroom CC subscription12 euros / month
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • intuitive operation
  • Sophisticated correction tools
  • Seamless smartphone app connection
  • Perspective correction

Cons

  • Repair brush
  • Only available with a subscription
  • Cloud compulsion for the photo library
  • Without batch processing

All in all, Lightroom provides “all-round care” for photographers. Starting with the photo library being stored in the cloud and thus also accessible via smartphone or tablet.

The editing options themselves come closer to the still available, but unfortunately rather neglected "Classic" version. To fine-tune local colors, the right tool was built in with Hue. Not a reinvention, but practical.

But you still miss the batch processing and more flexible preview functions. Practical: deleted photos can be restored for up to 60 days. All in all, Lightroom CC is powerful and even the automatic correction delivers extremely good results.

► This takes you directly to Adobe Lightroom CC 2020

Affinity Photo 1.8

ManufacturerSerif
websitewww.affinity.com
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)54 euros
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Easy handling
  • speed
  • Post-processing tools
  • Excellent HDR editing

Cons

  • RAW correction can be expanded
  • Tool division in RAW editor and photo processing
  • No photo browser

The cheapest RAW photo processing in the test has achieved a high level of awareness in the photo community and is repeatedly traded as an alternative to the "usual suspects". The fact is, the software does a lot of things right and clearly focuses on the "photo craftsman" - automatic or artificial intelligence is largely dispensed with.

Just like on a photo browser, in other words, images to be edited are loaded “classically”. Common correction tools are available in the RAW editor that deliver good results. As a pro, however, you would want a little more leeway.

Anyway, retouching is better done in the so-called photo persona, which provides extensive post-processing functions for full-blown image processing. Overall, a successful complete package.

► This takes you directly to Affinity Photo 1.8

Exposure Software Exposure X5

ManufacturerExposure software
websiteexposure.software
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)approx. 110 euros
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Operating concept
  • 3D color masking
  • Try it out area
  • Can also be run as a Photoshop plug-in
  • Creative guidelines

Cons

  • Cumbersome adding of folders
  • No retouching tool

The makers of the Eye-Candy plug-in series are behind Exposure Software and therefore Exposure can alternatively also be operated in Photoshop.

The RAW processing has no weaknesses and offers extensive customization options. The new 3D color mask is ideal for applying corrections only to a selected color area. The try-out area is extremely practical - you can drag and drop specifications into a copy of your image and compare them directly without having to change the original.

Speaking of specifications - there are countless of them in Exposure, from retro effects to atmospheric black and white. Unfortunately, adding existing photo folders is a bit cumbersome.

► Here you can go directly to Exposure X5

DxO PhotoLab 3.3

ManufacturerDxO
websitewww.dxo.com
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)129 euros (essentials) | 199 euros (elite)
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Optical automatic corrections
  • Noise removal function
  • Retouching tool for image errors
  • Color adjustment via ColorWheel
  • Local corrections

Cons

  • Color selection without pipette function
  • Division into essentials and elite versions

As in the past, the software's RAW correction is based on hardware data from lenses and cameras. Known image errors or distortions are corrected directly when loading. The editing options in PhotoLab are enormous; a color wheel has been integrated into the HSL palette for exact color adjustment.

The idea is not new, but thanks to the successful implementation, individual color areas in the image can be adjusted very precisely, without any masking. A pipette for direct color selection in the image would also be desirable. Working with the retouch tool is fun, the noise removal function is excellent.

It's a shame that a large part of the innovative functions are reserved for the Elite version.

► This takes you directly to DxO PhotoLab 3.3

ON1 Photo RAW 2020.5

ManufacturerON1 software
websitewww.on1.com
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)65 euros (purchase license) | 6 euros / month (subscription)
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Fast photo management
  • User guidance
  • Effect filters & styles
  • HEIC support
  • Partial editing via image masks

Cons

  • Retouching tools
  • Text tool not as layers
  • Distribution of corrections and effects

The photo management and the editing area of ​​Photo RAW 2020 are really tidy. We like the enormous speed when creating a preview. All common corrections can be carried out in RAW processing. If desired, these can also be partially transferred to the motif by means of masking.

Many manual corrections can also be found in the filter area - in addition to creative effects such as sunshine or HDR look, tonal value correction or sharpening are also accommodated. The retouching tool to remove dust, sensors or other unwanted objects was not really convincing.

On the other hand, Photo RAW proves to be flexible in terms of file formats, can handle HEIC from smartphones and impresses with its speed and options when exporting data.

► Here you can go directly to Photo RAW 2020.5

Phase One Capture One Pro 20

ManufacturerPhase One
websitewww.captureone.com
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)from 149 euros (purchase) | 11 euros / month (subscription)
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Tidy user interface
  • Batch processing and automatisms
  • Camera control and hot folder
  • Manufacturer-dependent, inexpensive purchase license
  • Photo workflow
  • Photo counter for import and export

Cons

  • Training period necessary
  • Retouching tool

The photo editing leaves nothing to be desired and offers correction options down to the last detail. A completely redesigned HDR tool is included. We like that, despite the professionalism, there is an auto-correction available for every correction tool.

The photo workflow, from the recording control of the camera to automatic hot folders and batch exports, is sophisticated and makes work on the photo set a lot easier.

Capture One was so far more interesting for professionals with a purchase price of around 350 euros. With special editions for 149 euros, which are then limited to RAW processing, depending on the manufacturer, on Sony, Fuji or Nikon, the professional tool is also affordable for ambitious private users.

► This takes you directly to Capture One Pro 20

Silkypix Developer Studio 10 Pro

ManufacturerSilkypix & Franzis
websitewww.franzis.de
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)180 euros
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Fast photo browser
  • Free pallet and window arrangement
  • Photo editing possible without a browser
  • Print function
  • Focus stacking and multiple exposure

Cons

  • Operating concept takes getting used to
  • High price
  • Comparison view

Silkypix 10 is starting with its usual idiosyncratic operation, but the division of areas via tabs now provides a better overview. It is very good that each control element can be freely arranged and placed freely floating and a second screen is supported.

After some training in the RAW area and the realization that a click on the symbols in the palette calls up further settings, you will achieve very good results. The noise removal function works excellently and with version 10 also offers a detail preservation function.

The new composition of up to six images enables focus stacking, HDR (called “lighten composition” here) and movement effects at the click of a mouse.

► This takes you directly to Silkypix Developer Studio 10 Pro

Skylum Luminar 4.3

ManufacturerSkylum
websitewww.skylum.com
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)89 euros
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • service
  • Sky replacement & AI effects
  • Portrait correction
  • Layer functionality
  • Retouch function
  • Single image processing without a photo browser

Cons

  • No auto-masking
  • High computing power required

Luminar currently has major updates every six months - most recently announced the manufacturer Luminar AI, the program should appear in 2020.

Compared to the previous version 3, Luminar 4 can convince above all with a new user interface. The tool for replacing skies and correcting portraits is a real innovation and in very few cases manual reworking of the masking is required.

The RAW photo processing itself allows all manual and known corrections, but the integrated automatics usually do such a good job with the slider that gradation curves etc. are not required. Practical: the retouching tool also works almost fully automatically. However, the entire artificial intelligence is at the expense of resources, i.e. without a fast computer, preview and export become a test of patience.

► This takes you directly to Luminar 4

Free RAW converter

Darktable 3

ManufacturerDarktable
websitewww.darktable.org
System requirementWindows / macOS
Price (RRP)free
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Fast photo browser
  • Correction options
  • Image masking by color
  • Flexible tool combination
  • Direct camera control (tethering)

Cons

  • Complex user interface / tools
  • Training period necessary
  • Preview function

When the program starts, Darktable presents itself just like its commercial competitors. The clear photo browser works quickly and even large RAW images end up in the editor quickly. At first glance, this offers few correction options; you first have to load many functions into your favorites palette using "additional modules".

There are countless tools for image optimization that go into great detail. It's a shame that there is no autocorrection; that would be particularly helpful for beginners. Even professionals have to reckon with training time in Darktable; the options for the masking function alone cover a complete pallet length.

Overall, however, you can achieve very good correction results with the software if you get involved with the operating concept. Beginners shouldn't have access to this.

► This takes you directly to Darktable 3

RawTherapee 5.8

ManufacturerRawTherapee
websitewww.rawtherapee.com
System requirementWindows / macOS / Linux
Price (RRP)free
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Pros & Cons

Per

  • Comprehensive correction functions
  • LAB correction
  • Functionality
  • Fast photo browser

Cons

  • Long training period required
  • Automatic corrections
  • A bit confusing
  • Idiosyncratic preview function

RawTherapee has long outgrown the "outsider status" and comes up with a chic user interface that is tough. The correction possibilities are infinite and, unfortunately, can often only be applied with specialist knowledge or trial and error.

At least there are auto-corrections, but RawTherapee gives the best results manually. What other manufacturers summarize in a slider can be precisely adjusted here and individual function sets can be put together. Batch processing and photo management? Also included.

It's fun to go on a voyage of discovery in the software: cropping specifications for biometric passport photos, LAB color space, corrections for X-Trans sensors - the developers' attention to detail is limitless.

► This takes you directly to RawTherapee 5.8

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