I happen to use Olympus DSLRs (E300 and E330, will get E2). However I wonder if this question is a broader one so I am posting here. I've noticed that when I process my raw files in CS2 they almost always seem to be fairly poorly exposed. It depends on the lighting situation, but I generally am in moderately low (natural) light and CS2 tends to require a reduction of about 1.25 to 1.5 EV to get it right. I normally have been using CS2 because it offers more controls than the OEM software shipped with my Olys (Olympus Master). However, the very same raw file when processed in Olympus Master tends to come up fairly well exposed, generally needing an average of 1/4 EV more, not less, exposure. Bright scenes (I was on the Lake Michigan shore today) tilt in the other direction but the same general pattern is found: the CS2 processing requires a much larger change than does the Olympus software. Naturally I check my histograms after I shoot and they generally show a pretty good exposure (and after all I'd reshoot them otherwise). So it seems as if the OEM software is better matched to the peculiarities of the files, at least for Olympus. The same general thing applies to color balance: the "auto" setting in CS2 gives pretty weird results. Maybe the bigger brands like Nikon and Canon don't have this issue, but it's made me think seriously about upgrading my Oly software (to their "Studio" package).
Alex, i have been using the Adobe raw convertor with my e-i and c5050 and PSE 4.0. Seems to work well enough. I normally use raw in tricky/multiple light source situations.
In my instance, with the Minolta RAW conversion software, I find it better than either the Adobe RAW converter or Pixmantic.
But first I should note that ACR does indeed work; I've used it quite a bit. It just doesn't give the same results as Master and it doesn't work as well with respect to EVs and I think color balance as well. Who knows what else.
1) With all the manufacturers using proprietary raw formats, I wonder how compatible their files really are with Adobe's software, or with other third party providers. I wonder if this varies from brand to brand; perhaps some work more closely with Adobe. I also wonder if some of the third party providers have programs that are more compatible.
2) I see mag articles on why one might or might not shoot raw, but actually I don't see why not to shoot in raw all the time. Given that one can shoot raw in burst mode, what's the real advantage of jpg? From my own comparisons I can see that the highest quality jpg files are not quite in the same league when blown up a lot, and raw gives so much more flexibility than the larger tif files. I've been experimenting with the best way to merge images brought up from raw for both highlights and shadows, for example. As it happens the methods I've found that don't require using layers and selections aren't very satisfactory (in my opinion) so it's a bit time consuming and not worth it with every shot. But it simply can't be done (with one image) without raw.
I have done functional testing on raw conversion and you might want to read the two recent articles I wrote based on my test work.
How a particular converter functions is somewhat parallel to how a color management profile defines a color space. Some profiles are simple small files that specify exactly just a few points in the color spectrum and then fill in between those points by interpolation, while some profile files are very large and use hundreds of specific reference points with very much less interpolation. Adobe Camera Raw actually defines very few points specifically in the color space to convert and interpolates what is between those points. This makes Camera Raw work fast and efficiently but not very accurately compared to other converters.
Thanks - very helpful, David. I had actually read the reviews and missed the main point here, because the reviews didn't include the camera manufacturers' sofware and the first review concluded that there's equifinality: different means to the same end. Now I am reading them more carefully.
By the way, based on just a couple of images, I find a lot more noise (of the small white dots variety) in orf files that I process in ACR. I am going back over my few really good orfs and bringing them up in Olympus Master, though I am using Adobe products to further process them.
It seems to me that there's a large industry of book production about Adobe products and I'd have to say that I really question them at this point. Among the various problems I find (besides considerable inconsistency from one book to another, and I do mean on the same software version) there is almost no recognition of the limitations of the software.
At the time Camera Raw was first released in a teleconference with Adobe PS personnel it was made quite clear that the Adobe strategy in making the conversion for each different camera/file support a relatively simple sampling approach was chosen, and the adjustment tools provided within Camera Raw workspace were intended to be able to refine the output to individual user expectations. That is a very different strategy for conversion compared the DxO for instance which is designed to achieve a very precise camera to camera interpretation done automatically by the software that demands little manual adjustment by the user.
Conversion however, really does not involve noise, although noise filtering is included as a supplemental function in most more sophisticated conversion utilities. Shadow noise at higher ISO setting commonly plagues prosumer cameras because they use small area size chips which with a high megapixel count makes the sensor site cell size small compared to larger chips used in Nikon or Canon dSLR's. The small sensor site cell size limits its light gathering sensitivity making it more prone to high ISO noise production.
Conversion software's primary function is really concentrated in color interpretation. Each camera maker, even though often using the same sensor chip as another, defines color somewhat differently in terms of what is recorded. Each camera company has their own color scientists, and each has a somewhat different formula for what they think produces the best color. This creates a considerable challenge to software conversion utility makers to support obtaining a consistency of results that meet photographers' expectations.