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LightZone 3.3 beta offers pro photo manipulation for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on January 16, 2008 06:30 PM
I've used LightZone since 2.4 on Linux and it quickly became my favorite RAW photo tool. It seems pretty obvious to me that a digital SLR with RAW is the only way to shoot photos for serious/pro photographers these days, and so having the best possible RAW tool is pretty important. It's probably one of the few pieces of software I would actually pay for these days.

First there's the Zone tool, which is a vastly more intuitive contrast adjustment tool than either Levels or Curves -type tools. Relight is a quick fix and it's okay for a lot of typical snapshots where, for instance, the background is bright and the subject or foreground is left a bit dark. But to really do it right and fine tune it, the Zone tool is the way to go, and when you get used to it, it's probably the faster way to get optimum results.

But my favorite function of Lightzone is the Regions tool, which allows you to select with borders very precise regions for each tool to effect. This is like lassoing regions or other masking procedures in Photoshop, such as drawing editable paths around regions and converting these to selection areas. AFAIK this is the only RAW tool that can do this, and it's much better to do this in RAW where you can keep adjusting the affected region's outlines as well as the associated image adjustments and suffer no image degradation, because it's all taking place over the unmodified RAW file. To me this eliminates much of the need to ever open a photo in Gimp or PS. No more creating duplicate layers and experimenting on those etc. You simply work as much as is needed on the file until it's perfected, then output an extremely If later you decide it's not quite right, you simply go back to the LZ file and make some small adjustmenst and output a new pristine TIFF or JPEG.

My criticisms of LZ is that their Linux support is long sort-of promised and still hasn't materialized. They need to shoot or get off the pot, as it were. Beta 3.3 is so unstable at this point as to be nearly unusable on my Ubuntu 7.10 install. The program is indeed a bit faster now but still pretty slow. I do have to wonder about the guts of the program a little, as it is written in Java, which probably means it will never be super fast and responsive. I have yet to see any really great robust heavy duty program written in Java, which I think of as more suited to smaller utilities. There are literally hundreds of major FOSS programs that manage a native port to all the major platforms and I wonder why they didn't use GTK or QT etc.

It's still a great program and I would hope for Lightcrafts to release this at a reduced price on Linux and set up tools for the Linux community to maintain a volunteer support forum. We Linux people are very good at helping ourselves, we do it for everything else! I believe this could work well and take a lot of the support onus off of the company, so long as they pay attention and squash the bugs adequately.


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