LaserSoft's SilverFast DCPro processing control
interface is essentially the same as the SilverFast Ai
scanner version. It provides a large, high quality, real-time
interactive preview and efficiently accessible tools to
adjust every aspect of a photograph's characteristics.
When editing photo files,
Photoshop is the first application that comes to mind. When it comes
to scanning software, LaserSoft's SilverFast has acquired a similar
association. However, most who are familiar with SilverFast, due to
the many scanners that come with the software, are not aware LaserSoft
also has had years of experience using the same basic set of color correction
and adjustment tools for use with digital camera capture. Now, that
combined scanner and digital camera expertise has been applied to raw
digital camera file acquisition and processing with the new LaserSoft
The power and capabilities of the software to yield exceptional
image quality from raw files was revealed by images made
under challenging conditions, all taken in a fiber glass
commercial greenhouse. Daylight filtered through fiber
glass has properties that yield a skewed and complex color
cast that is only partially corrected by a white balance
adjustment. All of the images required a color cast removal
adjustment that varied considerably from one image to
the next in the set. The result was SilverFast DCPro provided
brilliant accuracy. I was astounded, particularly in comparison
to a similar set of images made a year before in the same
greenhouse on Kodak Supra 100 color negative film.
Photos © 2003, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
This new iteration of SilverFast
functions just about the same as the LaserSoft driver for scanners, with
some additions. One new feature is VLT (Virtual Light Table), a browser-like
separate screen that generates thumbnails for raw image files in a folder
or on a storage device connected to your computer. In addition to providing
thumbnails from raw camera files for easy visual identification, another
pane supports the creation of albums containing thumbnails of selected
images (by simply dragging and dropping). There's also direct support
for printing pages of thumbnails.
Along with this image management capability comes ease of use. The main
DCPro processing screen can be directly activated to process a particular
raw image file by double-clicking on a thumbnail in VLT. There's
also a new window with an interactive slider for adjustment of Exposure
and White Balance.
A Familiar Interface
Those familiar with SilverFast will recognize all of the auto-adjustment
options (which can be customized and saved for future use) and manual
tools to adjust and optimize the gamut (Histogram), the tonal adjustments,
color balance, and selective color adjustment controls. To round out the
package, an included camera version IT-8 reference chart can be used to
create a custom color management profile for your digital camera. It should
be noted, however, that the usefulness of camera profiling is limited
to situations like studio portrait and product photography that involves
a consistent lighting source. In short, SilverFast DCPro correctly assumes
a raw camera file content is essentially the same as the raw data generated
by a scanner.
The raw camera files I used with SilverFast DCPro were from a number of
different shooting sessions over the last few months, and were made most
recently with a Canon EOS 10D, and previously a Canon EOS D60, as well
as an Olympus E-20N. Some of these files have been converted and processed
by other software, including the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in, to result in
color corrected TIFF files I used for comparison.
Although the SilverFast DCPro
I installed is the first release version, LaserSoft had not as yet received
all of the data from Canon for the EOS 10D, so the conversion process
of a few of the EOS 10D files I worked with did not produce results comparable
to the majority of shots taken with the camera. As I completed my work
for this report I learned the needed resources were received from Canon
by LaserSoft for the EOS 10D and a revised version with the upgrade would
be available in a couple of weeks, long before this report would be published.
And as new cameras are introduced, support for them will also be added
and made accessible by download from the LaserSoft website.
Similar To Film Scan
The actual experience of processing the camera files was like that of
processing film scans. Although digital cameras today are quite sophisticated
and autoexposure control places the image information quite consistently
within the sensor's gamut, the subject's brightness range
seldom fills the gamut exactly, and often not even closely. This necessitates
expanding the image information to fill the gamut, and usually the midpoint
also requires adjustment to affect a desirable overall brightness.
Frequently, some curve adjustment is also needed in shadows or a reduction
of brightness in highlights is required to bring out detail. I also found
that although the camera's auto white balance does get the image
color temperature in the ballpark it frequently is too warm or cool. This
makes the SilverFast White Balance adjustment slider a valuable tool.
Working with DCPro I was initially surprised to find that many of the
image files I processed had a color cast. By moving the color cast slider
control in the Histogram dialog from 0 percent to sometimes close to 100
percent, colors in the image would change from dull or muddy to bright
as the cast was removed.
VLT screen provides a set of automatically generated thumbnails
of raw camera files in a folder or on an attached drive.
This makes selection and organization, as well as subsequent
processing, just a double-click away. It is also a well-designed
utility to create albums of processed camera files for future
search and reference, as well as printed thumbnail pages.
The browser-like access to both raw and processed files
also provides easy, readable access to Exif raw camera file
White Balance Factors
In actuality, white balance only affects one dimension of the spectrum
on a line between blue and a warm red. Light on a subject can be more
complex and is also affected by illumination reflected from the subject's
surroundings as well as elements in the atmosphere, like dust, smoke,
and definitely smog in urban areas. Unlike film, digital camera sensors
have sensitivity characteristics that do not match human vision, which
can be compensated using the selective color adjustment tool in SilverFast.
I found this a particular advantage with a number of flower images I had
made, particularly with flowers that have hues and tints ranging from
cool magentas and lavender to deep, cold purple. These flower colors often
fluoresce and look brighter to the eye than captured by film or a digital
Although the three cameras I used to make the files I processed with SilverFast
DCPro each produced what I consider very good image qualities when processed
by other means, I found SilverFast allowed me to bring out much more of
what I expected and wanted to see in the final image. This also extended
to adding just the right amount of sharpening with SilverFast's
very controllable, highly magnified, side by side thumbnail unsharp mask
control window. In each case, once all of the adjustments were finalized
and I clicked the Process button, the image as opened in Photoshop at
full resolution seldom required even one tweak of further adjustment.
Evaluation And Recommendation
For anyone who has used LaserSoft's SilverFast Ai with a scanner
and has learned how to use it with skill through experience, that knowledge
is directly applicable to SilverFast DCPro. This alone provides a powerful
rationale for choosing it as your digital camera access and raw file processing
software. For others with established photographic experience, LaserSoft's
SilverFast is the most photography friendly set of software tools you
can use. It is quite comprehensive in the breadth and depth of its editing
capabilities. From my so far limited experience with SilverFast DCPro,
I expect it will become my software of choice for processing raw digital
camera files. It is available at a special introductory price of $299.
For more information visit Lasersoft's website at: www.silverfast.com.