Raw Developer vs Lightroom round 2

In my last post about the difference in detail rendering between Raw Developer and Lightroom, I gave Lightroom a little too much credit, by sharpening in photoshop instead of Lightroom.

So I wanted to so you an example that more clearly illustrates the problem.

As a quick reminder, Lightroom and Camera Raw in my opinion are too aggressive when suppressing noise in the demosaicing portion of raw conversion.

This image is a 200% enlargement of a file processed in both Lightroom and Raw Developer. It’s meant to show Lightroom’s tendency to bring out “worms”. The default image is Lightroom and if you mouse over the image, you will see the Raw Developer file.

The Lightroom file seems plasticy with large areas of color flattened out creating a cartoony or water-paint look. It screams “digital photo”. The effect can be somewhat suppressed by bringing the detail slider up very high while using very little sharpening, i.e. less than 20. I’ve tried a variety of different configurations, and this was the best I could make this file look while still sharpening it, i.e. the more you sharpen, the worse this effect gets.

The Raw developer image on the other hand, looks like an enlargement of a photo. Tonal transitions are smooth and the image looks very realistic. I should note here that I did very conservative unsharp mask sharpening on this image in order to do as much an apples to apples comparison as possible. As I said in my previous post, Smartsharpen in PS and R-L Deconvolution in Raw Developer produce a much more detailed image.


I think the problem is a combination of things. As I showed in the last post, a RAW file demosaiced by both programs and sharpened only in Photoshop clearly shows that Raw Developer is doing a better job than LR. However, it looks like Lightroom’s sharpening is at least partially to blame for the “worms” look that many files take on when sharpened. I think this is from the adoption of the PhotoKit Sharpener algorithms. They generate great results for most photos, but with fine detail like this, they really seem to fall down.

In Phil Holland’s review of the Canon 5D Mk II, he blames this smearing and water paint effect on the anti-aliasing filter. In his 100% crop of his tree photo, you can see another clear example of the problem. I’d be willing to bet this image was processed by camera raw. If Phil reprocessed in Capture One or Raw Developer, I’m sure he’d see that the anti-aliasing filter isn’t what’s causing the loss of resolution he’s seeing.

Once again, I have to recommend that if you’re shooting fine detail images you owe it to yourself to download the demo of Raw Developer and give it a try. I really wish the lightroom team would adopt the demosaicing approach that Brian has with RD because I love lightroom for everything else.

UPDATE: I’ve seen some comments back and forth on the luminous landscape forums about whether or not Raw Developer is simply sharpening micro-noise and not actually exposing more detail than Lightroom. There is a claim that you can get similar results by simply adding noise in Photoshop. On my 5DMK II, I can tell you for certain that Raw Developer is exposing more actual detail, which Lightroom is smearing out. To show the point, I’m going to give you another example.

Here’s a RAW file from a shoot from late last year.


Open this up in Raw developer and in the SharpNR tab, choose R-L Deconvolution with a radius of .6 and iterations of 30.

If you can make the file look better than that (from a sharpness standpoint) in Lightroom, I’d love to know the settings you’re using.

Michael Reichmann himself has pointed out that he uses capture one (which produces results very close to Raw Developer) to avoid the shortcomings of Lightroom’s RAW handling.

I can see the differences in prints, especially if I’m doing any amount of enlargement. The difference is subtle, but it’s definitely there and definitely visible to the naked eye.

Also, don’t get me started on the lightroom printing bugs. Ugh.

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