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Rawstudio turns 1.0

By Nathan Willis on May 20, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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The free software RAW photo converter Rawstudio released version 1.0 in April, marking the culmination of two years of work. This release carries on the Rawstudio tradition of providing a lightweight, dependable tool for photographers.

Source code tarballs and binaries are available through the project's Web site. As of press time, pre-built packages are up for OpenSUSE and Ubuntu. In addition, Ubuntu users can access the 1.0 release and daily builds through Rawstudio's APT repository.

Three new features constitute the big news in 1.0. The first is the inclusion of a sharpen tool, with which you can manually adjust image sharpness using an unsharp mask technique. It is the same feature you would find in a raster graphics editor, but when you do not have major adjustments to make, having it available here is a time-saver.

The second is the ability to export an image directly into a live editing session in the GIMP, saving you the time it takes to locate and open the file in the other application. GIMP is hardwired as the only option, so for now it's tough luck for fans of other editors.

Third is a file-and-directory browser integrated into the main UI -- previous releases of Rawstudio had only the ability to open individual files from the File menu, and to browse the contents of the current directory by thumbnail. Most other RAW converters include such built-in directory browsing, simply because of the time required to load a directory's worth of RAW image thumbnails into the main workspace.

If you prefer the superficial, Rawstudio now sports a trendier-looking interface -- the color scheme I call "pro graphics dark gray." But if that is not your cup of tea, you can swap out the look in favor of your system-wide GTK+ theme.

We last examined version 0.5.1 of the app in April 2007. The intervening 0.6 and 0.7 releases brought new functionality of their own: demosaicing, a fully-editable curve tool, DNG support, and batch adjustments. The app switched to Cairo for its rendering, and made usability improvements like remembering the state of the tools and UI between sessions.

As always, each release of Rawstudio contains updated camera support derived from dcraw. You can check the compatibility page to see if your gear is supported.

RAW company

Rawstudio is fast and simple when compared to other RAW processing tools on Linux. UFRaw and RawTherapee, for example, have more controls and in some cases more options for the tools, letting you adjust the white balance, demosaicing method, highlight and shadow recovery, and so on.

On the other hand, Rawstudio offers several options that can improve your workflow. You can work on three separate adjustment sets for each image, switching back and forth between them -- far superior for comparing image adjustment options than the old method (scribbling notes on the tool settings, then saving one copy with each and comparing them in the GIMP).

The priority ranking system is a quick way to sort images during an editing session, and in my experience better than using oodles of temporary tags (which in essence overloads a tool meant for tracking file metadata, not editing decisions). Finally, Rawstudio's batch processing system is fast and easy to use.

Numerology

That said, it was surprising to see this release declared 1.0. For one thing, the previous release -- Rawstudio 0.7 -- was the latest in a long series of 0.1-increments, and was released only a few months and a few features ago.

But more importantly, there are still several features missing in this release that you might expect of a 1.0 version -- particularly in light of the competition. There is no metadata support at all (neither read nor write), you can only zoom to 100 percent and "zoom to fit" sizes, and color management is still marked as experimental.

What Rawstudio does, it does very well. It just feels more like a 0.9 than a 1.0. Still, for images that do not demand heavy processing, it is faster and easier to use than its free competition. There are some brilliant UI decisions in Rawstudio (such as the multiple adjustment sets, quick priorities, and the new export-directly-to-the-GIMP feature) that I hope will get picked up by other applications and take hold.

Rawstudio continues to make steady progress, and I'll look forward to seeing more of the same in the next release -- whatever it is numbered.

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Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.218.137.70] on May 21, 2008 11:42 AM
"There is no metadata support at all (neither read nor write)" - Nathan, look at the bottom of histogram. Doesn't it look like Exif info? :)) As for 100%/Zoom to fit, this is a design decision.

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Re: Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.224.115.224] on May 21, 2008 05:59 PM
Rawstudio 1.0 is now probably the best OSS raw program. Afraid I spent good coin on the new Linux release of LightZone just two days before reading this article. Of course LZ has more features but I would have no trouble recommending Rawstudio. The thumbnailing/directory browsing/ranking is great, and the crop/straighten, copy settings function, and batch processing means you can now pretty quickly do a whole shoot worth of photos into a pretty finished state without opening Gimp at all. The UI is quite polished.

Probably the most difficult thing about it for me is the white balance. The 'camera' switch doesn't seem to reflect what I get from the Pentax 10D, and the Warmth/Tint sliders are extremely delicate and have to be moved an infinitesimal amount to fine tune the color balance. The Hue slider has a rather strange and unexpected effect and I'm not really sure what it's intended to do.

It would also be nice if there were some kind of documentation/manual. Couldn't find anything anywhere, which is pretty strange for a 1.0 release. Developers can write thousands of lines of code over the course of years but not a simple 10 page introduction?

"As for 100%/Zoom to fit, this is a design decision."

If so, it's a bafflingly bad design decision. How is restricting your ability to zoom in on a photo in any way an advantage? While on the subject, why put the hotkey for 100% zoom as the * key, which requires and awkward shift-8 sequence if you don't have a dedicated number keypad.

Finally, I would love to see the inclusion of a truly advanced noise reduction system, such as the plugin for Gimp known as GREYCStoration, included or available as a plugin directly in the raw software. Most raw software has some kind of noise abatement (that's not very good) but I find GREYCstoration to be on a par with Noise Ninja, and extremely important to give the final polish and prevent sharpening from increasing the noise. Noise reduction really needs to be done prior to any sharpening.

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Re: Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Nathan Willis on May 21, 2008 06:45 PM
Doesn't it look like Exif info?


No, it sure doesn't.

Nate

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Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.218.137.70] on May 22, 2008 02:07 PM
@Anonymous [ip: 69.224.115.224]: I briefly discussed it with them before, and the plan is to make 100% magnifying glass. It actually already exists in a from of a patch (and is OpenGL based).

@Nate. So you mean that things like "70mm 1/160s F/2,8 ISO400" are coming from outer space or something? :D Are you maybe just still angry about me critisizing one of your articles? :))))

Alexandre

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Re: Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Nathan Willis on May 22, 2008 06:20 PM
That's what, four out of 30-40-odd Exif tags? Not to mention XMP.... Besides, what you literally asked was do they look like Exif tags, which they don't, buried at the bottom of the histogram and unlabeled. So there was just a trace of sarcasm in that response. I'm not angry in the least, I just want to see my metadata.

Actually, I want to edit it and (far more importantly) search based on it, too, but that's a bigger issue. The free RAW converters are all focusing on conversion and editing, not image collection management -- which is fine, do one thing and do it well, after all -- but the more images we collect, the more we're going to feel the need for good metadata searching. ISO, shutter speed, focal length, and aperture might be the most oft-recorded Exif tags, but they aren't the metadata that people most often consider when trying to find an image -- when was the last time you thought "I need to find a few really good ISO800, f/1.8 shots?" For image management, the content tags are more important. I'd really like to see somebody tackle it.

Nate

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Re(1): Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.165.186.90] on May 23, 2008 05:07 PM
"For image management, the content tags are more important. I'd really like to see somebody tackle it."

Then do not look further than http://www.digikam.org/ XMP, EXIF, RAW conversation (Not so nice than RAWstudio altough), Tags, calenders, geolocation mapping, color management, export to flickr! | Picasa | Web | CD/DVD etc etc.... digiKam has plans to get a DNG (currently not) and all great backup and versioning editing. KDE4 version has multi-album (removable, remote or local) databases etc. KDE3 version hits 0.9.4 on next month and KDE4 0.10.0 version in 4 months. Best photomanagement for Linux.

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Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.218.137.70] on May 23, 2008 01:47 PM
Nate, Rawstudio is not a photos manager :)

What I'm saying is that Rawstudio does support reading and showing Exif tags. That's a fact I'm pointing out.

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Re: Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Nathan Willis on May 27, 2008 05:42 PM
No disrespect to everything that Rawstudio does well (and that's a lot), but it barely touches Exif; the generality of "support[s] reading and showing Exif" doesn't precisely describe what you can and cannot do with it. What I'm pointing out is that "partial support" for a format != support.

I never suggested that Rawstudio *was* a photo manager (as if "being a photo manager" was somehow mutually exclusive with being a RAW converter or even image editor) -- it's clearly not designed to be one, but you can't deny that when people use it, they _must_ use whatever built-in tools it supplies in order to find and edit their RAW files. Right now, that means the thumbnail strip browser + eyeballing alone. I return to my previous comments about the relative value of the various Exif data; in an interactive session, being able to find the image you want to edit quickly requires being able to access the content-based metadata.

I'm glad that Rawstudio can read the aperture and shutter speed of the currently-open file; I hope it expands its support for the metadata standards.

Nate

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Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.218.137.70] on May 27, 2008 04:06 PM
Nate, as pointed out above, Rawstudio is not a photos manager. While some of your comments are correct, the other part of them is based on wrong assumptions.

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Re: Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Nathan Willis on May 27, 2008 05:47 PM
What assumptions?

Nate

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Rawstudio turns 1.0

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.108.191.35] on June 17, 2008 12:35 AM
Not that this is meant to be a rawstudio forum, but I'd agree with most of the comments above. The absolute minimum IMHO for exif support is to at least copy it to the output file if it supports it. It is NEVER acceptable to throw away information by default. I miss the variable zoom from 0.7 ... and I'm on this page because it mentions warmth/tint and I'm having trouble reproducing the camera's jpeg colors... sigh. Still, it's a damn fine tool. -Tom

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