Here at Dear Susan there has been much discussion recently about raw development and editing software. There have been disgruntled mutterings about Apple’s Aperture, Adobe Lightroom and the monthly tax for continued access to your own catalogue, and various of Dear Susan’s contributors have tried some of the lesser known development and editing tools for Apple. I’ve never been an Apple user, but as someone who previously used Adobe Lightroom I certainly have much sympathy for some people’s frustrations and unhappiness.
Finding a raw development and editing tool that’s right for you should probably be a fairly personal choice, as different people like to work in different ways and have different end goals. Often it seems that most users choose Adobe because they are market leader and there is a wealth of “information” available online in the shape of video tutorials and guides.
When I owned a Fuji X system camera I became frustrated with Adobe Lightroom as the output was particularly bad, and even when I paid for a newer version which claimed to give better results with X Trans raw files, they were still mediocre at best and the software was very sluggish. As a result of my frustration I decided to purchase a license for Ichikawa software’s “SilkyPix Studio Developer”. It has now become my primary raw development tool for almost all my photography, and I have never really understood some of the negativity and hubris about its features and user interface.
With Adobe’s recent changes to the Lightroom product and their charging model, together with a number of new entrants to the market with new raw development and editing tools, it seemed like an ideal time to write a review of SilkyPix. The article linked below gives an overview of some its features, how to use it for those more familiar with other software, and some insight into its strengths and weaknesses. It is quite lengthy, so has been broken down into sections to try and make it easier to digest, and I hope others may find it useful and give the software a try – the results can be truly excellent.
Pictures as smooth as silk? A SilkyPix overview from South-East Asia.
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AHA – this is fun!
And before you get indigestion reading it all, I am increasingly finding I need less and less post processing, because I am getting better at “getting it right” in the camera. That smug bit of self appraisal doesn’t help when I turn to post processing my wife’s photos, but I cannot persuade her to ditch her 12-year old Olympus Stylus 720SW, which she absolutely adores and won’t part with. Stuff from that cam takes a lot more effort than the stuff my gear produces!
Adrian, I really haven’t found ANY one system that does everything I want. If you can, with SilkyPix, good luck to you.
I’ve all but given up on Adobe.
I hate their catalogue system, it’s a complete pain in the butt and slows things down terribly. Some of the pros swear by it – so obviously there are two sides to that one. I still use Photoshop for a couple of purposes – finishing off, after I’ve edited elsewhere. And I can’t see myself buying (or needing) anything further from Adobe.
Two programs I DO use are DxO PhotoLab (formerly DxO OpticsPro) and DxO ViewPoint. No home should be without ViewPoint, it’s amazing good at sorting out (a) lens distortion (they can match to practically any lens any of us is likely to be using), (b) horizon lines, (c) verticals and horizontals, and (d) perspectives – both vertical & horizontal. I’ve actually had to curb my use of it, because sometimes a shot looks better with at least SOME convergence in perspectives, and sometimes the true horizontal line actually looks wrong. I will admit that the AUTO applications of those features don’t always work properly and manual has to take control, but once you get the hang of it, that’s no problem.
At a theoretical level, you can correct in DxO PhotoLab (or OpticsPro) and feed the result into LR. But unless you know how to get around this – and I, for one, don’t (yet) – neither of them recognises the changes already made in the other one. Until I solve that one, using both is quite pointless. (Easy enough to spin across from DxO to PS, but not to LR. It’s probably the result of petulance on the part of Adobe, trying to smoke DxO out of the market. I’m told there’s a way around it, but I have to do some more research to find it.)
Capture One Pro is “interesting”. Unfortunately at this stage two things are sticking in my side. One, that I only just paid for it (USD$250) and almost immediately afterwards, they are asking me to pay another USD$120 for an upgrade – that doesn’t seem to offer anything much anyway. And two – on testing several programs for “noise reduction”, Capture One Pro was the least effective – of course that’s not the only thing we need to fix, and it’s a bit unfair to put a black spot on a product on the basis of only one issue, but at the moment that’s all I can say about it. It certainly works, it’s miles easier than LR & PSE (I never bought any of their cloud stuff). But I would not at this stage see myself relying exclusively on COP.
A new one (for me) called Lucid turned up – it’s a bit like a toy – cheap as chips, EXTREMELY quick – can’t see how to reverse edits if you decide you’ve gone too far, but it’d do wonders for a lot of amateurs.
On1 RAW – I could just about lump this one with Luminar. They’re both good for some things – I’ve used one or other to pull me out of a pickle with several photos (where Adobe completely failed me), but again I can’t see myself relying exclusively on either of them. Using them perhaps even less than COP – but when they ARE needed, they’re a god send.
ACDsee – actually I need to try this one more – I can see myself warming to this one.
Movavi & Picktorial – sigh – poor things are just sitting there, waiting for me to stop fooling around with other things and try them out. At least once.
DaVinci Resolve – hey folks, this one’s free! – and actually it’s interesting. Only just got it, so not much to say, but I intend giving it a bit of a workout over the next month or so. Intended for video, but useful for stills too.
3D Luts – again, this one looks interesting. MORE than interesting, actually. But the only way you can give it a decent trial is by buying it. And I’m not prepared to chuck another USD$250 on the table, just to try one of these programs – so at this stage, as far as I’m concerned, they can keep it.
For anyone interested in stack shots, when I started doing them I tried both Helicon and Zerene, and chose Zerene. At the time, I had around 5,000 shots to condense into keepers for a jewellery catalogue, and Zerene suited my purposes better for that.
Which leaves SilkyPix. I haven’t yet given it a try, Adrian – you’ve told us before how pleased you are with it, and I should take you up on that and try it, at least. That can’t give me ingrown toe nails or club feet and hey, I might find I like it better than the rest of them.
Firstly, the most important thing for photography is to try and get as much as “right” as possible at the point of capture.
However, digital capture and modern sensors allow a great deal of attitude to deal with mistakes and problems with exposure. Raw development software allows images to be “finessed” post capture, in the same way that some darkroom techniques did with film. Finally, editing software allows a version of reality to ne created that never really existed. I regard all of these steps as an important part of the creative process.
I’ve taken a look at some of the new generation of raw development and editing software that has been released recently (On1 Raw, Luminar, Affinity) and cannot say I am overly impressed – they all seem to have significant performance, functional or image quality issues, and don’t so anything that more established tools such as Corel Paint Shop Pro do, the latter being mostly more fully featured and much less expensive.
I will continue to use the software I prefer until I am not happy with the quality of the results, or the price becomes prohibitive – both issues that count against Adobe in my opinion. I haven’t found a raw development tool that gives me better quality results that SilkyPix (resolution, detail, noise management, general “look and feel” of the results), so I don’t see the need to spend a lot of time and perhaps money looking for alternatives. I agree that the noise management in Capture One really isn’t particularly good – certainly behind rivals.
I think it is a shame that there is so much negativity and prejudice against SilkyPix, in some cases from very influential and well known bloggers, because I actually think the quality of results are excellent, and I have never really understood why some regard it as so “hard to use”. Products like Luminar and Affinity have much worse user interfaces in my opinion, but perhaps as a Windows user there are different expectations of users on Apple and Microsoft platforms?
I hope that my overview of SilkyPix will help others to understand how to use it and perhaps try it out – it’s not perfect, but I really do find the results very worthwhile.
Adrian, within budget constraints (I cannot buy all of them), I am trying a lot of them out. Coming up soon is SilkyPix, but it is better for me to leave it till the new year rather than downloading it at this busy time of the year. And yes, basically I agree with you – on odd occasions Luminar has proven very useful, but I wouldn’t be prepared to use it regularly, and much the same goes for On1 – Lucid is a bit of a joke, really – SilkyPix looks great in your hands and I must try it – Corel gets a lot of praise but I’ve never tried it either.
For all the hoo-ha about them, I can’t say I’m keen to keep using Adobe’s stuff, or overly impressed by Capture One Pro. Still – early days yet in my trials on most of them – watch this space, and also keep abreast of all the comments your posting will bring in.
One tentative conclusion I have – none of my photos are so awful that I need to put a huge amount of effort into post processing them anyway. So to a large extent, the promoters of most of these products are barking at the moon, as far as I’m concerned.
I was seduced into trying some of the new raw development and editing tools, and to be honest the time and effort wasn’t worth the functionality or the quality of the result. Luminar was a total joke on Windows, and had huge issues with stability, performance and functionality – the ability to save your edits and go back to them later is apparently coming in a future update, for example! Affinity claims it is fast but often isn’t, and lacks obvious features. On1 Raw looked promising but in Beta I got problems with image break up that made it look like local adjustments are being made to a kind of jpeg in memory, not to the actual raw data.
Paint Shop Pro can be purchased at very reasonable cost, and may be bundled with After Shot, their version of Lightroom/Capture One. PSP is my preferred tool for editing, as it does what I need at a very reasonable cost.
Capture One has mediocre noise reduction tools, and without input and output sharpening controls I’m left unsure what the sharpening sliders are supposed to be used for, and C1’s education materials give no help at all on the subject. Otherwise, the image quality is nice, but I hate the import and export dialogues and it’s very expensive unless you only want the Sony version.
It’s funny that I made a post in another forum with a link to this article, and the only reply was a fairly typical “hate” comment about SilkyPix. I understand it doesn’t look quite as slick as Lightroom or C1, but for me the quality of the results make it worthwhile – for anyone who wants a raw development tool (not an editor) and cares about output quality, I think it is worth trying, and I hope my guide will help new users understand how to use it and get the best from it.
The power of marketing, PR and social media – dysfunctional Luminar is almost universally hyped and praised, yet SilkyPix never gets any love at all.
Looking forward to your reaching some sort of conclusion and recommendation for PP software. I’m currently working with PS 5 which I own. It opens and processes the RAW files from my Nikon D800E and does an acceptable job of editing my bird pictures fairly quickly to the point where I can finish up in PS and save to my own folder.
But, when my new D850 arrives I will not be able to open the RAW files in PS5 and I’ll have to make a quick decision on my next processing program: whether to rent PS Whatever or whether to buy an altogether different processing program.
I hope someone comes up with a starting place soon. I hate learning curves.
I think Capture One is the nearest equivalent to Lightroom.
The last time I saw Photoshop, the raw development tool was quite basic, and most of the editing was done post development (i.e. not on the raw data). I suspect that many users don’t need much of the editing functionality of Photoshop, and therefore Corel Paint Shop Pro offers a much more affordable editing tool.
You could use Adobe Bridge to convert your new raw files to the DNG format and then work on them in your “old” Photoshop, or you could use any other raw development tool to create a tif or jpeg that you could then edit in Photoshop.
Photoshop is really an editor and graphics package with a basic raw development dialogue at the start of the process, whereas Capture One or SilkyPix and raw development studios with only basic editing features.
It’s really down to you to know what you think you want and how much you are happy to pay.
and almost immediately afterwards,
I’ve been luckier on this: I bought it withing 30 days of the 11 upgrade, so I got it without paying anything…
We are all different and it is good there are different RAW developers to choose from. I sit with Adobe, Affinity, ACDSee and Capture One.
As database (“catalogue”) I use both Adobe LR and C1. However ACDSeee Viewer is the best of them in terms of speed, multiformat, image display quality and add keywords etc. To me, my photos are also the story of my life and a database to see and re-live is essential.
Looking at Silkypix RAW developer it may have image quality capability but also, for me, a real showstopper: Lousy support for ICC profiles and no (print) proofing function. The print is my product and being able to simulate printer and paper characteristics BEFORE print is essential. It saves time, papeer feedingr, ink – and not least frustration! The four RAW developer I play around witjh all have proofing.
Many complain a lot about LR/PS performance, functionality and subscription. The subscription is cheap! Take a look at what Phase One charges per month for just a RAW developer it is mcuh more expensive. After all PS, while “dinosaurish”, is still also the most developed and intelligent pixel editor available. Affinity is neat in many ways, but commands are a bit like what PS was 5-10 years ago.
In C1 I particulary like the possibility to work with just the Luminosity in Curves and Clarity. The separate way to work with colors only are equally great!
The setups I investigate are:
a) ACDSee viewer and files opened in C1 or LR. From there to PS and Helicon
b) ACDSee viewer feeding C1 and Affinity. From C1 to Affinity pixel edit or Helicon
Then we have the hardware – never discussed anywhere but essential. It develops by side of software in the same speed and for performance they need to be in sync. Systems need to be updated, and cleaned up. Delete any rubbish software and regularily run maintenance programs. Then even LR/PS will run quick and problem free!
Which RAW developer is best? The one you like and can do what you want it to do!
Per, SilkyPix does support ICC profiles, but only for display purposes (with Windows, it will use the default screen colour profile, but can be configured to use a different one if required). Default input and output colour space can be set to Adobe RGB or sRGB (I believe the latter will pick up an sRGB icc profile configured within Windows). You are right it has no printer proofing however – something that doesn’t bother me as I don’t print at home but use professional print services, so as long as what I see on my screen is correct in my file, then it’s the printers job to translate that for their printer. I guess one could use alternative software to proof the final stage before printing at home if required?
Adrian, you can go to “alternative software for proofing – but how nice and smooth is that?) From what you write I am not sure about the correlation between screen and how the file looks. The process from screen to final print is, in my experience, difficult. One needs to test to find the best process and it is difficult to advice others. Guess your print service has a good way to handle your files to your satisfaction and the end that is what counts. I always print from Qimage a 16 bit tif in Pro photo RBG. My Epson 3880 uses Epson Cold Press Bright paper and I use its paper profiles. Qimage has a plug-in for LR that a)converts to tif, b) opens image(s) in Qimage. Qimage prints better than direct from LR,PS or C1. So already from my short version you see it is rather complicated. Another important issue is finding the paper that best suits your needs. A lot to choose between there… (Really like your photos and writings!))
I’m afraid I got lost by your first sentence.
Using an icc profile for my screen (in theory) allows me to ensure that what I see is an accurate representation of the image as I am editing it in SilkyPix.
When saved, you can choose to use an AdobeRGB or sRGB profile – of course, this will convert what you have created during editing to (in theory) the nearest approximation of that using either Adobe or sRGB colour gamuts.
Most print services I know / use only accept 8-bit sRGB files, so attempting to create output with a wider colour gamut is pointless as they will not be accepted, or the printed results will look distinctly “wrong”.
I don’t print at home as most print shops have better printers that ones I can afford, and can print onto photo paper, which I prefer. Most of my printed images are printed into photo books using services like Blurb or Fujifilm; I tend to use another photo finisher for photographic prints. From what I understand, the colours in an image need to be adjusted / corrected for the printers colour profile, and I would assume that a good photo finisher will do that as part of their printing process?
I’m not suggesting that your approach isn’t important for you, and you are correct that SP has no printer proofing option – it’s just something that has never appeared to be an issue for me (or at least, isn’t something I’ve been concerned about). Capture One and other tools have more features in this area, but in other ways I have been disappointed with their output quality, performance or stability. C1 is probably my “second favourite” development tool, but I find the need to import things into it’s catalogue in order to work on them tedious and restrictive, and the export dialogue in the “pro” version is almost unfathomable. Adobe products are for me mediocre at best, and some of the new entrants to the market seem to bring up the rear with their offerings. I’m intrigued that you say Affinity allows colour proofing as I couldn’t even find an option to use a screen colour profile in the Windows version!
I am afraid I will never use the process you do. Being an old guy who learned the wet darkroom from my mother – a professional photographer I a) ENJOY the process!, b) have a very sharp eye for what’s good and not.
My hardware calibrated screen shows more than Adobe RGB, almost Pro Photo RGB. My printer is similar.
I have outsourced printing for “very large” prints. In those cases I downloaded relevant profile from the supplier, then used “proofing” in LR. Very good results.
Conclusion: Silky Pix may be good for screen presentation – but bad for print as you cannot utilize the image’s full potential on printed media.
Silkypix does in fact support soft proofing, as shown in the image in the Exposure section of the overview. Checking “Soft proofing” in the “Display warning” dialog brings up the “Color management” dialog which allows you to specify the working space, printer profile, and matching method (intent). In order to choose a working space other than sRGB or adobeRGB, you need to slect “Specify in `development settings`”. In Settings/”File output settings”, under “Output color space”, select “Convert to designated color space” in the top drop-down, and below that select your desired color space. I’ve been using Wide Gamut RGB.
Thanks very much for your comments, that’s really useful, and something I didn’t know (I don’t print, so really want the image to displayed accurately for my screen). I will certainly investigate the proofing features.
Thanks for the tip, and I hope you found the article interesting and/or helpful.
Indeed I enjoyed the article and am going through it now to understand more about how to use Silkypix, which I like and use as my raw converter. There’s obviously a ton written on Photoshop, but not that much on Silkypix, so it’s great that you took the time to write about it. I’m at a stage of learning where I can do the basics, but reading about how other people do things is enlightening.
If you can decipher / understand the English of the SilkyPix online user manual (a HTML file that’s part of the installation accessed through the help menu), it’s actually very good at explaining what controls and settings do and how to use them.