Raw Power; For Maximum Intensity Get Conversion Software That Works
"All power corrupts but we need the electricity."--Anonymous
Those people who tell me they capture everything in raw format remind me of those photographers who used to shoot "everything on Velvia." Heck, I don't even shoot everything on CompactFlash. My Canon EOS-1D Mark II takes both CompactFlash and Secure Digital cards. Well Bunky, if you're going to shoot raw, you're gonna need conversion software that works, not the lame-o software that's usually bundled with the camera.
dcRAW-X is a $15 shareware batch converter (www.frostyplace.com/dcraw)
that lets Mac OS X users post-process image files shot in raw format. The program
is based on Dave Coffin's (www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin)
Linux tool called dcraw.c and currently supports over 120 digital cameras. Get
this: Images taken with Fuji's SuperCCD cameras are automatically rotated
45Þ. An unregistered copy of dcRAW-X is fully functional, but can only
convert three files at a time.
Since the PSD format output files are linear, your first impression may be that they're too dark and you'll need to make some adjustments in Photoshop or whatever to make the images look "right." An easy way to adjust brightness is to set dcRAW-X's output brightness value to 5.0 or higher and as Emeril once told me, "Season to taste."
For Windows Users Only
RawShooter essentials 2005 (www.pixmantec.com) is free software that supports more than 50 raw formats along with Adobe's Digital Negative standard but not, at this time anyway, Fuji's RAF files (see "In Other Fuji News"). RawShooter essentials' full-screen Slideshow tool lets you identify your best images and assign priorities so you can quickly select a shoot's best photographs and view them separately from the rest, a.k.a. "outs." Final results can be viewed according to priority and processed using the program's built-in image correction tools.
These tools let you alter shooting parameters such as white balance and exposure and offer some cool features such as Detail Extraction, Appearance, and Fill Light. RawShooter essentials 2005 has noise suppression technology that instead of reducing noise in the entire image only attacks the low frequency noise commonly found in the background, allowing you to retain maximum image sharpness and quality. The final workflow step is converting raw files to JPEG or TIFF formats. The batch processor is multi-threaded (see "A Stitch In Time") and will process a queue of images while you apply corrections to others.
RawShooter essentials 2005 is so good that it's a shame Mac OS users can't use it. Perhaps fellow Mac heads will start an e-mail campaign to Pixmantec the way Star Trek fans did to keep "Enterprise" on the air. Hey, it can't hurt.
In Other Fuji News
Shooters of the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro who use the company's RAF (raw) format will be glad to know that there are other alternatives to using the software bundled with the camera. The latest beta version of Adobe's Photoshop CS2 now supports the RAF format, although the conversion process is a bit slower than working with some other cameras' formats.
Noise is introduced into digital images from a variety of factors, including shooting under low-light levels, high ISO, camera sensor quality, and even environmental conditions during capture. Noiseware (www.imagenomic.com) rescues noisy images by recovering the original image with minimal loss in quality and detail. It's available for the Mac OS and Windows as a Photoshop compatible plug-in or stand-alone product. Both use heuristic programming that continuously perfects processing. Every time you process an image Noiseware learns more about your camera or image acquisition device. Noiseware removes high and low ISO noise, film grain from scanned images, JPEG compression artifacts, and moiré patterns. The interface is clean and intuitive and you can get superb results without even reading the help file.