Which Raw Processor?

Comparison of four free raw file processors: RawTherapee, Darktable, Lightzone and Photivo

With the exception of Darktable, which is not yet available for Windows, all of the applications are available for Windows, Mac and Linux. All are free and open source downloads.

I am looking for a raw file processor that will allow me to develop raw images to produce files ready for projection (at 1400 x 1050 pixels) and files at full resolution for further development, as necessary, to make high quality prints. I don’t expect to print directly from the raw processing application though this might be an advantage.

I have used both RawTherapee and Darktable for over a year and have recently tried Lightzone and Photivo so I will restrict my comments to these four.

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8 thoughts on “Which Raw Processor?”

  1. When I wrote the article I did not compare noise reduction capabilities of the four raw processors as this was not a major concern. I do not use high ISO very often.
    Linked article is interesting – I just compared Darktable’s profiled noise reduction with the noise reduction achieved by RawTherapee on the L channel (of L,a,b), on an image at ISO 640 from my Pentax K5-IIs, admittedly not a very demanding test. The results were equally good. Perhaps at much higher ISO profiled noise reduction would win.
    Comparing RT with DT – I’m still sitting on the fence.

  2. I found this very useful in narrowing down candidates and as a result tried RawTherapee, which otherwise I probably wouldn’t and does seem at least adequate. But you do seem to have missed an important feature of Darktable I just discovered, one which has persuaded me to try it instead even though I’m fairly comfortable with RawTherapee now. That’s camera profile based noise reduction:


    You take a calibration photo for each ISO for your sensor and then DT uses this to optimizes it’s NR settings. Judging from the sample images, the results are *very* impressive. NR is the main area that RT hasn’t impressed me, so I’m going to look hard at this over the next few days.

    Btw: you might want to try Krita if you’re not Gimp fan! You could also consider the Cinepaint branch of Gimp if it’s the 8 bit colour depth maths that bothers you.

  3. Lens correction profiles in RawTherapee: I have since discovered that I was applying the wrong profile. My lens is the older 17-70mm (not HSM) for which a profile is apparently not available.

  4. Thanks. A very useful and detailed comparison. Lens corrections are one of the main reasons I’m wanting to upgrade from my current ‘mickey-mouse’ editing programs, so I will be trying Rawtherapee.

  5. Thanks for the comment – I had missed the grad filter in RawTherapee. I must check that I downloaded the right file and try the lens correction profiles again.

  6. A very useful comparison, thank you! I’m using Darktable and generally happy about it, but I was interested to read about the other applications. I agree with your comment that DT can be overwhelming and takes some time to get used to. I think the online manual is very helpful though. Two remarks:
    – Darktable supports local edits (via masks) since the latest version 1.4!
    – Agree about the lack of manual lens correction. It turned out my Sony NEX lens is supported in the latest version of lensfun (the underlying library, see http://wilson.bronger.org/lensfun_coverage.html for supported lenses) and managed to include it by replacing an XML file in /usr/share/lensfun.


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