Capture One, Lightroom, ON1, Raw Therapee, Darktable – Best RAW viewer?

Back in 2019 I came to the conclusion that the hardware wars are getting so intense & the software “wars” are so dormant that you basically have just a few choices, even now in 2021 -> be a slave at spending money forever for the product that will be supported the longest period of time or try very hard with free software. Actually there is a third solution -> become a developer and help us all :))

What is this article about?

When I wanted to stop paying (because I got too many services and too little salary) I came to the conclusion that free software is not really that great for a hobby usage (non professional, not main activity).

I used Lightroom for many, many years. Then, before COVID, in 2019,I was using mostly Darktable and GIMP for fun but I was working much more than I would like (for a simple task). So I decided to continue to pay a small amount, just so that I can get something close to a tool and not just a piece of software.

Since I tested many programs to make up my mind, I want to share this article to those that have the same questions:

How come none of the RAW editors show the photo as I see it on camera or relatively close. And how come nobody is willing to make a product, at least, as good as Adobe Lightroom?

When I say good, I see it as:

  • Great speed in opening RAW files, on any modern computer/tablet;
  • Great speed and accuracy in viewing RAW files of any cameras;
  • Ease of use for all levels;
  • Integration with technologies (camera/lenses/new software technologies/etc)
  • Close to in-camera view of the RAW files
  • Basic editing very close to the user. and not hidden under menus/tabs/cascade tabs etc.

I shall be reviewing -> Windows 10 (with codec) and Mac OS Big Sur Raw processing in preview, then I shall focus on Raw Therapee, Darktable, On1, Lightroom Classic and Capture One professional (and not express).

In addition, each photo is shown on the native software (viewer) for comparison. Those programs do not offer great tools to edit photos so I won`t be talking about them. Although I wish those programs offered more 2021 basic functions and not just save/export/WB/Exposure.


We start off with a Nikkor lens 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 with Nikon D5500 body.

The images are : top left is reference from Nikon official software

Order is: top left, top right, lower right, lower left.

COLOUR and LIGHT: If Nikon Software was 10 out of 10

DETAILS: If Nikon Software was 10 out of 10 (without filters, effects, enhancements)

SPEED in manipulation (panning, zooming, rotating, cropping, skipping): If Nikon Software was the fastest (and it is actually)

NikonW10MOSDark
table
Raw
Ther
Capt
One
ON1LrC
colour
10
88.579.59.599.5
detail
10
88108101010
speed
very
fast
fastvery
fast
very
slow
slowvery
fast
slow*ok*
ON1 is slow to load a file, but then becomes as fast as Capture One. Lightroom is fast at first but with huge libraries (hundreds of photos) it becomes slow. There are way to go around, but then it behaves just as ON1-> slow in the loading, very fast afterwards.

Next is a photo made on Canon 760D with Sigma Art lens 18-35mm f/1.8

The images are : top left is reference from Canon official software.

Order is: top left, top right, lower right, lower left.

COLOUR and LIGHT: If Canon Software was 10 out of 10

DETAILS: If Canon Software was 10 out of 10 (without filters, effects, enhancements)

SPEED in manipulation (panning, zooming, rotating, cropping, skipping): If Canon Software was the fastest (and it is actually)

Canon W10 MOS Dark
table
Raw
Ther
Capt
One
ON1LrC
colour
10
59799.589
detail
10
88107.5101010
speed
fast
fastvery
fast
very
slow
slowvery
fast
slow* ok*
ON1 is slow to load a file, but then becomes as fast as Capture One. Lightroom is fast at first but with huge libraries (hundreds of photos) it becomes slow. There are way to go around, but then it behaves just as ON1-> slow in the loading, very fast afterwards.

The same subject, on a different weather condition, with Fujifilm X-T20 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6

The images are : top left is reference from Fujifilm X official software.

Order is: top left, top right, lower right, lower left.

COLOUR and LIGHT: If Fujifilm Software was 10 out of 10

DETAILS: If Fujifilm Software was 10 out of 10 (without filters, effects, enhancements)

SPEED in manipulation (panning, zooming, rotating, cropping, skipping): If Fujifilm Software was the fastest (and it is actually, but only the X Raw Studio )

FujifilmW10MOSDark
table
Raw
Ther
Capt
One
ON1LrC
colour
10
697.56.59.58.59.5
detail
10
8.5 8.510810109
speed
very fast
fast very
fast
very
slow
slow very
fast
slow* ok*
ON1 is slow to load a file, but then becomes as fast as Capture One. Lightroom is fast at first but with huge libraries (hundreds of photos) it becomes slow. There are way to go around, but then it behaves just as ON1-> slow in the loading, very fast afterwards.

This next image was a hard one for all apps, especially for MacOS who after more than 1 year cannot read Fujifilm XT-4 files. (viewing my photos can be done only in dedicated software)

Capture One also had huge difficulties in colours and last year it had even bigger problems in showing anything at all for the Fujifilm X-T4 (see article here).

This review is made in 2021 april, with latest software, latest updates. Neither cameras are from 2021. Only Fujifilm X- T4 is out on the market since February 2020, but early review units are from 2019.

The images are : top left is reference from Fujifilm X official software.

Order is: top left, top right, lower right, lower left.

COLOUR and LIGHT: If Fujifilm Software was 10 out of 10.

DETAILS: If Fujifilm Software was 10 out of 10 (without filters, effects, enhancements)

SPEED in manipulation (panning, zooming, rotating, cropping, skipping): If Fujifilm Software was the fastest (and it is actually, but only the X Raw Studio )

Fujifilm W10 MOSDark
table
Raw
Ther
Capt
One
ON1LrC
colour
10
70786.599.5
detail
10
8.5 8.5 10 8 10 10 9
speed
very fast
fast very
fast
very
slow
slow very
fast
slow ok*
ON1 is slow to load a file, but then becomes as fast as Capture One. Lightroom is fast at first but with huge libraries (hundreds of photos) it becomes slow. There are way to go around, but then it behaves just as ON1-> slow in the loading, very fast afterwards.

In order to defend the last terrible round for Capture One I tried to find an older picture that has a chruch, with wooden ceiling, but did not find one exactly the same made with Nikon or Canon.

This picture was made with the same Canon 760D with same Sigma Art lens like in the beginning of the article.

The images are : top left is reference from Canon official software.

Order is: top left, top right, lower right, lower left.

COLOUR and LIGHT: If Canon Software was 10 out of 10.

DETAILS: If Canon Software was 10 out of 10 (without filters, effects, enhancements)

CanonW10 MOSDark
table
Raw
Ther
Capt
One
ON1 LrC
colour
10
7.587898.59.5
detail
10
88107101010

For the last example, we shall introduce some humans, photo taken on a Fujifilm X-T4 with 18-50 f/2.8-4

This one might be harder to appreciate the differences but it does help if you could tilt the screen 🙂

The images are : top left is reference from Fujifilm X official software.

Order is: top left, top right, lower right, lower left.

COLOUR and LIGHT: If Fujifilm Software was 10 out of 10.

DETAILS: If Fujifilm Software was 10 out of 10 (without filters, effects, enhancements)

SPEED in manipulation (panning, zooming, rotating, cropping, skipping): If Fujifilm Software was the fastest (and it is actually, but only the X Raw Studio )

FujifilmW10 MOSDark
table
Raw
Ther
Capt
One
ON1LrC
colour
10
7087.599.58.5
detail
10
88107101010

In conclusion:

This test helped me justify paying 60 euros for ON1 (I hope to use it for a few years without needing to make an update…)

At first place with 9,25 points, Lightroom Classic is the best -> it manages to represent RAW files coming from every sensor (tested on Canon 760D, 80D, Nikon D3100, D5500, D7100, Fujifilm X-T20 and X-T4), even a 1 month-old-new-technology-sensor, better than any other program. (it is true I did not test Sony or others but many on Youtube who have Sony cameras, use Lightroom so it must be great). Sure, if I had 150 euro per year, for the rest of my life, I would be a very happy user of Lightroom (like in the past years, post COVID).

The program is fast (if you avoid making libraries) and it is the best for using in couch mode (on a touch Windows Machine).

At a close call, Capture One and ON1 come to share similarities and differences.

Capture One express is free (for Sony, Nikon and Fujifilm), has the same preview of the RAW file, but it does not have some features (especially Loupe and Advanced Colour correction) that might come in handy, especially if Capture One fails to render the RAW file correctly. Also is missing a bunch of Export features.

If you do have a Nikon, Fujifilm, Sony camera, I do suggest giving a try to Capture One Express, before you buy something else or decide to stay with it or other free software. It might serve you good the program.

For me ON1 2021 is my preferred choice. It has a simple interface (similar to Lightroom), with good colour science (I personally like it). I can deactivate the AI stuff so that I get something much closer to the captured photo and reduce the time the computer is thinking. I have a bunch of export features that make pictures pop on print or for screen.

It would be perfect if not for:

  • missing speed
  • missing touch/multi-touch integration
  • the fact that some things are not right where I want them…

The software is still evolving, but very slowly so I will wait on updates for at least 3-4 years, and that is the BEST PART -> one time fee, that is half of Adobe Lightroom. (Capture One is crazy expensive).

Raw Therapee and Darktable -> not my choice for 2021. And I would gladly give/donate 60euros to get the speed + colours of ON1. And if they are already there, then please make an easy way for users who work 4-8 hours per month, hobby level to apply or see their images like that. So many pre-sets so much work…

I say this because we have Photoshop (the real deal) in the browser… for free.

The best software I think would be Adobe Lightroom at 1,99 euro per month…Or bring back the Standalone... Why do I have to pay so many services that I do not need…

MiDe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.