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Old Jun 3, 2009, 10:21 AM   #1
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Default Sony RAW Editor A700 Question...

Actually 2 questions...

First, I use the Sony Image Data Converter Version 2 and Picassa.

I use Picasa to download the pictures onto my PC from the card into a directory called RAW Files/200906 raw Files/description of shoot.

Then, I use explored to select the pictures I want to process and open in Image Data Converter and process them as needed.

I save them into a directory called Finished Files/200905 Finished/description of shoot as TIFFs.

Then I can assign them to albums and publish them on Picassa - here are some of my shots - some of the hummingbirds are at ISO 1600 if anyone wants an idea of the noise levels etc. http://picasaweb.google.com/ncjaybee


The questions are:

1. When I take a picture in portrait on the camera, the IDC rotates it for me. But when I open it in Picasa, it's not rotated and it IS a mirror image - so everything is backwards. I think I can turn of the record orientation on the camera, which might help. Has anyone seen this? Any ideas to correct it?

2. I seem to lose most of my EXIF details - is there a way to keep that?

And heck, why not another question...

3. Any suggestions for a better process flow? I have Photoshop (the cheap version) on my Mac if I need to do more with the pictures, but the Mac has a much slower processor and less memory and smaller drive - so it's a little slow to work with. I can see the RAW files in Picasa - should I just save a new raw version? I hope to get Photoshop CSV for the PC at some point, but for now, I'm pretty much saving any funds for a new lens so that's probably at least a year out.

Thanks,

Jerry

Last edited by ncjaybee; Jun 3, 2009 at 1:16 PM. Reason: Fix Question
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Old Jun 3, 2009, 2:02 PM   #2
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I use a Sony A700, and I've never even installed or tried Sony's software for it. ;-)

Picasa can be nice for quickly locating and browsing through photos. But, for things like raw conversion, it's lacking some things. I think it's making use of libraries with code from Dave Coffin's dcraw.c (an open source raw converter), which is pretty good. But, it's missing some of the processing adjustments that you have with a number of other raw converters that use some of Dave's dcraw.c code in their programs (and the more adjustments that you can do at the raw level, the better).

I tend to use solutions that are available for Linux more often now (even though my primary desktop has Vista on it, too). Picasa is available for Linux. But, you've got lots of choices in better raw converters like Bibble Pro (a very good commercial product that's available for Windows, Linux and Mac platforms), Raw Therapee (free), digiKam (free), UFRaw (free, and available as a stand alone application and as a plugin for the GIMP (which is also free). ;-) As for EXIF info, some software can handle storing it when you convert from raw, and some can't (but, you're not likely to retain it using .tiff as an intermediate format after conversion with most software).

As for the rotation issue you're seeing, that's because the there is an image orientation tag that your camera is setting in the EXIF metadata. Your camera knows if you're in portrait orientation or not via a built in sensor (and it also uses the camera position to rotate the displayed menu options on your LCD so you can read them with the camera in portrait orientation).

Some software will rotate an image according to the orientation tag the camera is setting in the image's EXIF metadata, and some software won't. Some software will let you configure some of it's behavior where the orientation tag is concerned (for better compatibility with other software tools).

For example, I'm using a customized remaster of SimplyMEPIS 8.0 (a free Linux distribution) right now as my primary operating system (upgraded to use KDE 4.2 with a Debian Sid base), and digiKam 0.10.0 (a free image management solution) for most everything I do with images from my A700.

digiKam lets me change some of the parameters related to the orientation tag, and how it uses it to display and update an image's thumbnail. See the options for it on this screen capture showing some of the available metadata related settings. With the first two boxes on this screen checked, I can rotate the photo whenever I convert from raw or edit, and it sets the orientation tag to normal (which lets most programs like Picasa display it properly, even if the orientation tag is ignored by them).

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Old Jun 3, 2009, 3:29 PM   #3
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There's really no one right answer. What I'm comfortable with may not be what someone else is comfortable with. You've got a lot of products available that can handle your raw conversion now, and you'll have to experiment with them to find an acceptable work flow with the raw converter and editors you like best. You don't have to stick with Sony's software. ;-)

In a commercial solution, I'd give Bibble Pro a try. You can download a trial version to see how you like it and they have some tutorials on their site that can help you come up with a better workflow using it.

It's available for Mac, Linux and Windows platforms (which may come in handy since you've got a PC with Windows, and a Mac). Have you got an Intel based Mac?
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Old Jun 3, 2009, 4:05 PM   #4
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Thanks very much for the information!

I do have an Intel based mac, but would prefer to work on a PC since I have a more of those, with more memory processor etc (although the fastest one is running VISTA

Does the digiKam run on VISTA? I didn't see any installer for Windows there, although some documentation said it did, and some said Linux...

What format would you recommend keeping files in once you process them through whatever raw processor I'd use? jpg?

It looks like Bibble Pro has quite a bit of workflow management included as well as noise ninja etc.

Rawtherape has a Windows installer - does it have workflow management?

If I want to try this on a Windows Vista box, what would you recommend as a starting point? Are the other options going to be as solid as Bibble Pro? Or put another way, is Bibble Pro worth the money in comparison to the other options you list?
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Old Jun 3, 2009, 4:58 PM   #5
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digiKam is an image management solution for the KDE desktop, which is popular with many Linux users.

The latest 0.10.0 version of digiKam was designed from the ground up for KDE 4.x, and it's my understanding that because the developers moved to QT4, the environment and applications can be easily ported to more platforms like Windows and OS X.

There is a KDE for Windows project now, and I think you can install digiKam by selecting the digkam-msvc library from within the KDE Installer

I get the impression that the apps may still be a bit "rough around the edges" under Windows. But, I haven't tried to use them under Windows to find out.

My primary desktop is setup is a multi-boot configuration with Windows Vista and more than one linux distribution. I'm actually using a KDE 4.2 user "remaster" of SimplyMEPIS 8.0 with what's known as an "Unstable" base right this minute (Debian Sid/Unstable). Debian moves applications from Unstable to Testing to Stable over time. That way, they can make sure they run OK before moving them to a production/stable environment. But, if you want the latest application versions, you'll probably need to use Sid or Testing versions if you want to use a Debian based Linux distro.

Using a Debian Sid/Unstable base allows me to get the latest applications and libraries, including the KDE 4.2.4 desktop (the standard Mepis 8.0 install uses KDE 3.5.10), and the latest digiKam version which is 0.10.0 (the standard Mepis install only has digiKam 0.9.5 available for it, since KDE 4.x is required for later versions).

You'd have to try the Windows installer to see if digiKam would fly OK on it or not. Or, you could always do like me and use a dual boot configuration with Linux. ;-)

It's pretty easy to setup a PC that way. Let me know if you're interested and I can point you to some links that would help (and most Linux distros can run from a Live CD now, so you can try them to see if you like them before installing them to your hard drive). BTW, Warren (the developer of SimplyMEPIS 8.0) uses a Mac, and he has some tools written to let you easily install it on one in a dual boot configuration with OS X.

As for Bibble, I'd suggest that you download a trial version and see how you like it. It's very fast for raw conversion. Ditto for trying other software choices (for example, Adobe Lightroom is very popular now). In addition to the latest 4.9.x production release of Bibble, you may want to download the latest Bibble Version 5 Preview, too (you'll see a section about it in their forums with download links for betas). If you buy the current 4.9.x version, you'll get a free upgrade to Version 5 when it's released.

I recently downloaded the latest Preview release for Bibble 5 and installed it. But, I haven't gotten around to giving it a spin yet (although I have used Bibble 4.x versions and like it for raw conversion). I'm hearing that the latest Bibble 5 Preview is relatively stable on most PCs now (although some of the new features are still not completed).

Here's the desktop I'm using right this minute (I've got more than one Linux distro installed, and this desktop is the one I've been discussing using with the the latest digiKam 0.10.0). I use the partition it's installed on as a test bed, so that I can try the latest applications for Linux (and I've got a standard Mepis 8.0 partition setup with older versions of KDE and digiKam, too). Note the Bibble 5 entry under my Graphics Applications. I'm going try to test drive it with some A700 .arw files soon.

Click on the image for a larger version:


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Old Jun 4, 2009, 9:27 AM   #6
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I find PHOTOSCAPE to be one of the easiest, most intuitive, feature-rich free photo editing software out there for both RAW and JPEG formats. I'd give it a try.
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Old Jun 4, 2009, 10:10 AM   #7
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I tried Photoscape (it runs fine under Wine in Linux), since I've seen in mentioned in the forums a few times lately.

The raw converter appears to be *very* basic (no sliders for any parameters other than being able to change the White Balance from Auto to Camera (as shot); or selecting a half size conversion). It looks like all edits need to be made *after* conversion to jpeg from what I can tell about the way it's handling raw conversion.

My guess is that they are simply running it through the standard dcraw.c matrix using only a couple it's available parameters, without giving you any tools to access the other features (being able to select the demosaic algorithm, noise reduction settings at the raw level, highlight recovery options, etc.). That's basically the same thing you'd get with something like the free Irfanview (no control over other available raw conversion features).

But, the JPEG editor in it looks to be relatively full featured for free software, with lots of interesting options.
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Old Jun 4, 2009, 10:50 AM   #8
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The Sony Image Data Converter isn't that bad. One benefit is that you can turn on or off lots of the same features you can turn off or on on the camera. There are some other tools there too, but nothing to help much with workflow, and doesn't crop, which I can work out other places if I need to, and I can't do much about the rotation issue other than turn it off orientation on the camera, which I might do anyway.

I do like to be able to do as much as possible before I move it to jpg though.
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Old Jun 4, 2009, 11:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC View Post
The raw converter appears to be *very* basic (no sliders for any parameters...
I would not necessarily call it "very basic". It actually has many adjustments. Yes, there are slides all over the place. If you click on the Bright Color button (not the drop down arrow), a panel opens up with all sorts of slides to adjust a whole bunch of stuff. The same applies to other buttons such as Sharpen (if you click on the drop down arrow you get to choose between 1-13 but if you click on the button itself, then you get two slides to adjust the amount of sharpness and the radius). The Backlight button offers a decent list of option (positive and negative %). The Filter button has a large number of very useful options, not just in terms of IQ adjustment such as Noise Reduction, but it also offers a number of cool special effects. Then you have the Auto Level and Auto Contrast buttons, which offer three options (LOW, MIDDLE/DEFAULT - same as if you click on the button itself - and HIGH). You can easily re-size the image as well as crop it choosing from a large list of size options. You can also easily UNDO any adjustments you have made (either one by one or all at once). If you click on the Object tab, you can add balloons, text, etc, etc, etc. The Region tab offers Red eye/mole removal, allows you to apply mosaic to a selected portion of the image (this is useful if you wish not preserve someones identity or mask a brand name). You can rotate, expand, flip, mirror, etc. Then, when you want to save the image, you can choose the name, location and quality. So, is this really BASIC?

Anyway, I still think that this is one of the most powerful and intuitive free s/w editor available. I tried Rawtherapy, Lightzone, the Sony s/w, Oly s/w, Nikon s/w and Panasonic s/w and find Photoscape to be much much better than all these guys. But then again, that's my opinion.
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Old Jun 4, 2009, 11:54 AM   #10
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That's it's jpeg editor.

None of that is available until after the demosaic process. The other controls are not usable until after you finish it's "converting to jpeg" process (you don't get the edit feature until after that).

Before that, you can only change the White Balance from camera to auto and change the output file size to half if desired from what I can see trying it. Those are just the very basic options available to the default dcraw.c code (for example, -w gets you the camera white balance settings while demosaicing).

So, you have no control over the demosaic algorithm used, with no ability to apply rgb multipliers to handle things like exposure, tone curves and white balance at the raw level during the demosaic process (other than using the way the camera had it set, or using it's auto feature). Ditto for features like highlight recovery and noise reduction at the raw level.

It looks like it's probably a neat jpeg editor. But, it appears to be very basic for the raw conversion process (my guess is that it's probably just running it through Dave's dcraw.c code and giving you either auto or camera white balance options).
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