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I use a digital SLR as most other photographers do today and have quickly realised that capturing images using camera-RAW files is the way to go.

Personally I use Adobe Lightroom to handle my photo library, but I know there are other software available like Apple Aperture.

These applications are quite hard to use for a novice, and are quite expensive too. I've often recommended other photographers to switch to camera-raw, but they won't do it because Windows can't handle it natively.
Are there any free or cheaper applications out there that can do simple file handling and adjustments? Preferably so simple that my mom can do it.

I know Nikon offers a codec that allows you to view NEF-files natively inside Windows, but still limits the uses of the file and slows the system down if the file is big.
Does anybody know of a drag-and-drop application that converts camera-raw to JPG on-the-fly? In case I or someone would need to upload an image to the web or use it inside a word-document.

Thanks.

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closed as off topic by random Apr 20 '13 at 3:20

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9 Answers 9

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Considering you mention Apple Aperture, I will assume you mean your question for Mac software, but I'll answer with the programs I've been using previously and currently on Windows for the same.

I have a Canon EOS 20D, if that matters.

Previously I used Capture One by Phase One. It was nice, but was basically just a conversion tool. Until I upgraded to one of the higher licenses, it had a very small queue and was rather cumbersome. It did produce very good quality images however. In lieu of your question about easy to use software, I would not recommend this. It supports both Windows and Mac.

After that I tested Bibble, which also supports both Windows and Mac. It too leans heavily towards conversion only. Personally I liked Bibble a lot more than Capture One. The price was nicer as well, at $159 for the Pro license.

I've also tested Adobe Camera Raw, in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Photoshop Album. Worked rather nice, the conversion process felt a bit clunky to me though.

I believe Picasa supports the RAW files by my Canon camera, but I have never tested it.

Currently I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, which serves me very well. The price wasn't all that bad, but yes, it's slightly more than what you might be used to for "home" edition type software. Then again, camera RAW files are slightly above what I would suggest "home" people do anyway.

If anything, I would suggest to people I know that ask to go with Lightroom. It has the organization tools built in and the conversion tools are both powerful and, compared to others I've tried, relatively easy to use.

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Lightroom is very Canon minded. I suggest going with the excellent Nikon solution, Capture NX2. It gets very high notes on image quality, way beyond Apple/Adobe solutions, on par with DXO and Phase One. –  bert Nov 25 '09 at 8:07
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If you are looking for something simple on the Mac that even your mum can use, then I would say iPhoto is the way to go. Not only is it simple to use, but it is fully integrated into all the iLife applications.

But I ask the question, what is the reason that you are using raw?

As a photographer myself, I only really ever use raw for select images or a photoshoot where I need the extra editing ability that raw gives. Most of the time I shoot in jpeg as it saves space and white balancing time. For someone that has little experience with editing or photography, I don't see much point to shooting in raw.

As for converting on the fly, I rarely have need to do this, but it is quite easy to export your photos in batches within iPhoto.

I am using Aperture (though iPhoto is used for the fun 'happy snaps') as I like how the files are stored and the ease of back ups that the programs give. Plus they have the apple feel that I personally like.

Hope this helps. All the best and happy shooting.

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For Nikon there is one answer: Use Capture NX2. Nikon has very good JPEG output thanks to automatic chromatic aberration correction, vignetting correction and Auto-D-Lighting. With NX2, all these corrections are done on RAW too, and distortion-correction can be added with ease. With all Apple and Adobe programs it takes much more time to get close to base JPEG quality from your Nikon.

For more complex tasks I do the lens and exposure correction in NX2, then I choose edit with Photoshop, the image is transferred as 16-bit TIF for detailed editing.

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Qtpfsgui is simple, free, open source and cross platform.

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I've found that DXO Labs Optics Pro is very good for starters. It has an automatic correction that you can afterwards override and do everything manually. They have a fully functional free trial, but the product will set you back around $170. Give a try like I did and you might end up paying for it.

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Picasa handles the RAW images from my Pentax without any problems, on both windows and linux.

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Picasa does work for RAW images. It's the only program I use regularly. It has an easy interface and simple to use. It doesn't do everything some of the professional software does, but it is a very powerful and simple to use. It's free you can find it here

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But does it have any features specifically for RAW images? Like changing exposure and such? –  Eikern Jul 21 '09 at 20:02
    
Not specifically for RAW. The edits avalible to all formats include color correction, fill light, highlights, Shadows, contrast –  Larry Jul 21 '09 at 22:02
    
FYI: It doesn't currently support the RAW images from the Canon T1i. –  dwj Aug 2 '09 at 21:32
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Apple iPhoto supports RAW files and comes with iLife.

OS X supports RAW files at OS level so third part photo software usually can read RAW files via the Apple APIs.

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Preview.app opens RAW files as well. –  mouviciel Dec 8 '09 at 16:06
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I haven't used it myself, but I have read good things about dcraw from time to time. There is apparently some sort of drag-drop windows frontend, no clue how well it works.

Note: I can't seem to reach the dcraw site right now, don't know if that is temporary or not...

After doing it for a few years, I personally stopped shooting RAW last year. Since I am usually rather thorough while shooting it didn't really give me much apart from larger files requiring more storage.

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