RAW Photo processing under Linux

If you’re serious about photography and you own a dSLR, you probably shoot all your photos in RAW quality. As RAW contains much more information than a simple jpeg or tiff, you need to process it. And that processing is essential step, so you need a good software for it.

Under Linux you’re somewhat limited, but only in quantity… You might be missing Adobe LightRoom, or CaptureOne, or whatever. – Do not forget you still can run a Windows inside of your Linux with VirtualBox or vmware, if you’re addicted to some of those software.

For RAW photo processing under Linux I have really good experience with Bibble, LightZone, DigiKam, ufraw. Probably there are other software as well. I’ve tried these and I’m more than satisfied, – at least compared to other “non linux” software. While Digikam and ufraw are OSS and free, Bibble and LightZone are commercial software. I own a BibblePro and I’m evaluating LightZone.

Actually for RAW processing LightZone, DigiKam and ufraw are using dcraw. This is okay, as dcraw is really good and (AFAIK) used in other commercial RAW processing software as well.

Now I give you a short introduction on each of these software from my point of view.

ufraw

ufraw is the only “RAW processing only” from these software. It supports color profiles, various interpolation, exposure correction, etc.. It is easy to use. In one word, it does what you would expect.The auto adjust algorithms are useless for me. – You can rarely find useful automation in image processing at all.

I use it occasionally.

LightZone

LightZone is a commercial software, but you can download a trial, which is fully functional.

LightZone is somewhat unique. It uses different approaches for photo processing. I found it useful as a photo editor, but as a RAW processing software, it’s capabilities are somewhat limited. If you open a raw file, two filters are set to post-process the output of dcraw: a raw adjustment and a tone mapper. With these tools you can set exposure, color noise, temperature and tint, and if you unlock the tone curve – which is a zone mapper -, you can tweak that too. The output by default is fairly good. After that point you can tweak the photo with predefined styles and tools.

There are two really neat tools in LightZone: zone mapper and a relight tool. With these tools, and the stacked processing, you can get really great results. – I might get back on this in some other article.

Actually I never use LightZone as a raw processing tool.

(Short note: LightZone does work with jpeg and tiff files greate, but it looks like it does not support PNG.)

DigiKam

DigiKam is one of my favorite programs under Linux, but not for raw processing. It is great for managing, tagging and minor post-processing. I really like the aspect ratio crop tool, the black and white filter, the built in CImg, etc.. It is my photo manager tool and it does a great job, but I never use it for RAW processing.

BibblePro

Bibble is my choice of RAW processing. The output with default settings are usually almost great, and you get a great tools for adjustment. It even has a built-in nose ninja and a perfectly clear support. – Both of those are commercial software.

Bibble is a bit strange at the first glance. But if you take the video tours, you’re back in business. The way it handles photos, the approach is a bit strange. No stacked filters, – you’ll never know the order of filters applied. No layers. The user interface is somewhat old, and inconvenient to use.

The copy/paste of filter settings are great. But no undo/redo. Workflows and batch queues are great…

The new version of Bibble is on the way. I hope they where watching the competition…

Strange. I use Bibble know for about 2 years. I evaluate other RAW processing tools occasionally, but I always get back to Bibble, although I have contradicting feelings about it.

As the bottom line the output speaks for itself. Oh, and it is fast… compared to others.

Conclusion

If you can afford (about 130 USD) you should consider buying Bibble. If you prefer free, stick with ufraw. And of course evaluate, evaluate, …

For post-processing… well on that topic maybe some other time.

Anyone tried other RAW processing softwares? Which would you recommend?

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5 thoughts on “RAW Photo processing under Linux

  1. don’t forget to add kipi-plugins when using digikam, it adds about 30 plugins, some of them are very useful. also, you might want to look at rawtherapee to see if you like it. also, keep in mind you can open a raw file from within digikam by right-clicking and choosing Open With, so you can stay in your management tool and still use whatever raw tool you like.

  2. Jon, Tim thanks for the links and tips!

    I’m about to take a look at Raw Therapee soon, and some other software like RawStudio, F-Spot, etc. to see if they could fit my needs. – I hope I’ll be back with a new review.

    And yes, Tim, you’re wright about KIPI plug-ins. I’ve used to them so much, that I’ve forgot to mention it… but that’s because of the nice integration: feels like a part of DigiKam.

  3. Thanks for your article. I am contemplating a switch to Linux from Mac OS X and am worried about RAW support and photo editing. I like OS X and have enjoyed using Lightroom and Photoshop CS2 but I can’t afford to upgrade on Apple hardware (graduate school!). I have used Bibble in its version 3 days and I am very glad to see they have released in Linux. Thanks again for the reviews.

  4. UFRaw is terrible. Get Raw Therapee, it’s much better. Raw Therapee doesn’t do everything, but when you combine it with gimp you have all the tools you need. The only thing missing compared with photoshop, I think, is the virtual filters you can put on images (like Orage filters, etc) in photoshop. Raw Therapee makes UFRaw look like a toy. It’s free, but it’s not opensource :/

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