Image Processing Reference
Camera Raw versus Other Converters
With so many options available for RAW image conversion, why should you consider
Adobe Camera Raw? After all, your camera probably came with conversion software.
That software could be as basic as Nikon's PictureProject or Viewer, which offer basic
correction to white balance and exposure, or as full-featured as Canon's Digital Photo
Pro, which gives you full access to everything that you might want to do with a RAW
file prior to conversion.
Note: I don't include the full-featured Nikon Capture in this list because it is a separate purchase—an
error on Nikon's part, in my mind.
In my experience, camera companies are much better at designing cameras than
they are at designing software—and when you use most of their tools, it shows. “Good
user interface” and “performance” are not terms usually associated with the provided
There are also numerous other tools available to handle processing tasks—and
some of them are quite good indeed, rivaling Adobe Camera Raw for functionality and
quality. In particular, Capture One from Phase One ( www.phaseone.com ) and Bibble
from Bibble Labs ( www.bibblelabs.com ) are both very powerful converters that operate
on both Macintosh and Windows systems and provide the user with a wealth of RAW
conversion options. These are all extra cost options though, and many may not be will-
ing, or able, to justify them.
The one thing that none of these options provides is a tight integration with
Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Adobe has invested considerable time and effort
into making ACR one of the premier converters available, and it shows. The advan-
tages to ACR are apparent from the start if you are a Photoshop (Figure 2.1) or
Elements user (Figure 2.2). The dialog and controls are laid out in a consistent and
familiar way to keep the learning curve to a minimum.
Camera Raw also has another advantage that shouldn't be overlooked or under-
estimated: if you change camera brands at some point (and many of us do), there are
no new programs to learn. If ACR supports the RAW files produced by your camera, it
will look and work the same, regardless of camera type. As someone who has gone
from one manufacturer to another, I find that I spend my time perfecting images and
not learning new software; therefore, this converter “sameness” is both comforting and
If you're just starting out with image editing and have chosen Photoshop
Elements, or you work in an environment with both Elements and Photoshop, the
RAW converter you've learned will still be there with the same interface and controls
(along with a handful of new and useful advanced tools) if or when you move up to