Canon Digital Photo Professional
Digital Photo Professional: http://www.photoworkshop.com/canon/dpp/
Until tonight I hadn’t paid much attention to this application as I’d mainly been sulking at the lack of EOS 350D support in iPhoto. I’m still not sure why I looked at it again but it’s actually a very well thought out program with features that are totally complimentary to Photoshop Elements and Adobe Camera Raw which had been my previous point of reference.
I prefer to shoot in RAW mode and Adobe RGB colour space when at all possible: ACR does a good job even on the cheap PSE3 in terms of allowing images to be post-processed to avoid burnout, and over 90% of the images I’ve shot so far have worked fine with ACR3 set to Automatic. I have been a little worried about this though, as I’m at the mercy of what ACR thinks Auto ought to be, and that can change with the version. I can’t be certain that ACR7 would think the same, and there’s no easy way to note the changes applied to the RAW file to generate the starting PSD and to be fair, there is no easy way to record the settings in manual mode either.
This is where DPP really shines: if you can stick the too-short video tutorials (written with so much marketing speak and narrated soooo sloooowly watching them feels like my brain is being scooped out with a spoon) there’s some really good information in there. Any edits carried out do not alter the RAW file: each edit (and yes, this appears to include both cropping (called Trim) and cloning (called Stamp) as well as all the usual colour, contrast and curves tweaks is thrown into a Recipe which is attached to the RAW file and can also be applied in bulk to any other image. A huge plus point for Elements users is that it’s now possible to not only use Curves (a PS CS/CS2 only feature) but to use them in 16-bit colour space and then batch apply them (again, a PS CS/CS2 only feature) and it also appears from the demo that multiple applications of a recipe are handled intelligently and do not multiply the effect.
The Curves palette also has an interesting control system: I’m used to balancing levels with a White, Grey and Black point system in PSE3, but DPP opts for a four edge system, where Black is on the left, White is on the right, and there is no direct Grey equivalent. The bottom and top edges can be pulled in to restrict the depth (and height) of the values, and choosing the four curve “Luminance R, G, B” option in the Preferences and dragging the top edge too far down creates some stunning special effects that are reminiscent of negative Fill Light in Sigma‘s Photo Pro software, although DPP takes the concept of a single custom X3F one step further and allows individual recipes to be saved as standalone files, whilst giving an iconic representation of the current alterations applied to a RAW file in the thumbnail view and attaching those settings to the CR2 file (just as the X3F in SPP).
I’ve yet to try some stock RAW conversion tests to see how well DPP fares against ACR (and dcraw just for completeness) but unless it manages to be very bad I think I’ll stick with DPP for a while, and keep my changes inside the RAW file.
Edit: from comments on an earlier version it looks like PSE3 would still be the best bet for sharpening, and (of course) anything that involves masking or multiple RAW ‘exposures’ to bring back images with a large dynamic range.