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by Bart Arondson

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I understand that I should upgrade from my basic workflow (mostly Picasa + some Cyberlink PhotoDirector).

edit

The basic of what I'm looking into is a step-up, single stop (if possible!) solution to:

  1. keep my large library organized
  2. enhance my pics (mostly jpg*) with a fair balance of feature vs. easy-of-use
  3. local enhancements

    • I'll be trying to shot more raw as soon as I realize that, with the appropriate tool, the result is worth it over in-camera jpg conversion

I'm quite satisfied with Picasa as a catalogue, definitely not for any photo processing other thank a quick saturation and sharpening bumb, but without local edits it does not work all the time.

I'm looking into the following:

(I do not have a mac so Aperture is not an option)

I'm wondering whether somebody has been able to test them all (or most!) and provide a first-person feedback on which features stand up / are lacking in comparison, plus any additional experience advise in comparing these software. I do know that lightroom is great and that you don't get wrong with that ;-) , and that I could test drive all of them. My experience though is that it takes way more than 30 days to discover the real features AND limitations of this kind of software.

Price is of course an element of the comparison, but only at an equal feature point.

There is more than just the features; for instance I hear color management on Linux is hard - I don't want to launch an off-topic discussion about it, but if there's a very strong agreement on such a point it will be an issue against DarkTable(edit: i investigated and it's actually false).

I understand there might be some subjectiveness into this, please let me know with comments if there's any interest in making the answer a collaborative wiki.

share|improve this question
    
@Francesco thanks for the tags (grazie :) )! –  Stefano May 10 '12 at 12:53
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@instantkamera wrote in the chat: ASP has a free trial, try it. I started using it and got a license for 50 bucks. If you buy it, look around for coupons. I use it in lieu of darktable because, even though I prefer darktable (politically speaking), it's lacking local adjustment ability and raw conversion pales in comparison. –  Stefano May 10 '12 at 12:54
    
@ElendilTheTall suggested in the chat Rawtherapee, and found darktable UI buggy on macosx, and Aftershot "pretty good" –  Stefano May 10 '12 at 12:56
4  
This is quite an extensive comparison to do. It is one of my goals for the summer but it takes weeks to get familiar with such software and their performance. Instead of Rawtherappee I would like at Daminion though if a release versions becomes available. –  Itai May 10 '12 at 15:10
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@Itai thanks for your feedback; about Rawtherapee, I thought so too but ElendilTheTall suggested otherwise, so I added in. I took yesterday night to download it and give it quick try, and indeed it does not look like a one-stop solution, there's no real catalogue. I also got suggested Daminion from one of the founders after this Q., so I'll give it a try. –  Stefano May 11 '12 at 10:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

AfterShotPro 1.0.1 = ASP, Lightroom = LR 4.1 (sorry I don't have personal experience with DarkTable)

  • Speed: ASP way faster. LR - sloooow (on Core i5 3550, 16GB RAM, Win7)
  • Importing: ASP no need to import to do enough tasks with files. LR - mandatory
  • Multi catalog searching: ASP only
  • Non-distructive editing: both.
  • Split Toning: LR only
  • Local editing: The following two are competing. It depends what you preffer:
    • Adjustment brush: LR only
    • Layered editing: ASP only EDIT:(however you can have masks on each layer)
  • Gradients: LR only
  • Straighten: ASP much better (in fact, LR doesn't have but one could fake it)
  • Noise Removal: ASP better (IMHO - it has several ways including Noise Ninja OOTB)
  • Plugins: ASP is better (you can have plugins for the entire image processing pipeline)
  • Lens Correction: LR has slightly more lenses
  • Real Multi monitor support: LR only
  • AutoCorrect: Much better (IMHO) in ASP
  • Survey: Better in LR
  • Map, Book, Web: LR only
  • Red eye removal: LR only
  • Print: Didn't use
  • Keywording:
    • ASP has Shortcut assignment for keywords
    • LR gives you the last 9 keywords used and the entire keyword tree in place to pick from it.
    • EDIT: Both give keyword sets for Outdoor/Wedding/Custom etc. However:
      • LR - only 9 keywords in a set
      • ASP - unlimited
  • (Batch) Export/Save As:
    • ASP allows you to specify full custom processing settings to apply before saving as JPEG/TIFF
    • DNG: LR only
    • Watermarking: LR only
    • Speed: ASP better
    • Export to other targets (email etc.): LR only

...and many many more. :-) Generally speaking, LR is more bloated, slow and more mature. Also, the LR's GUI is much more shiny (ornaments, more animations etc.). ASP (in fact Bibble 5 Pro rebranded) is a "fresh" newcomer which covers some areas in which LR has problems (speed, catalog management, layered editing come in mind).

The best thing for you is to download both trials (ASP is quite small) and see for yourself.

However, IMHO, if you can stick with ASP and covers you in anything what you want, then go with it. Otherwise LR.

HTH

share|improve this answer
    
thanks @user952 that's extremely detailed and valuable. I will definitely (hopefully reasonably soon) try them both but it really, really help to know what I should be looking for! –  Stefano Jun 7 '12 at 13:17
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@Stefano: Just another thing: By far, for us, mortals (ie. not for enterprise) the best DAM around is IDImager. Very very good organizing and photo management tools. Google for it. However, while it does support editing, it does not support local editing (masks, adj. brushes etc.). If you can live with that and use for this another program (Gimp, Photoshop, Corel PhotoPaint, Corel PaintShopPro etc.) then it is well worth the money. –  John Thomas Jun 7 '12 at 17:25
    
will definitely look IDImager up... I really had never heard of it! –  Stefano Jun 7 '12 at 21:38
    
Many of those missing features in ASP can be obtained via plugins: watermark, gradients, split toning, etc. –  t3mujin Jun 26 '12 at 16:33
    
You need to upgrade to the 32GB of RAM, THEN lightroom is blazing! Jk :) –  dpollitt Sep 12 '12 at 22:46

I have been using Lightroom for a couple of years (both version 3 and 4) and it has some nice features and some quirks.

  • Importing, I can set the categories for all the photos I want to import, and have it "pre-touch up" my photos. This saves a lot of time later.
  • Non-destructive editing, I can always revert back to the original picture.
  • The auto correct feature (especially in version 4) is very nice. I still have to make some minor adjustments afterwards, but more often than not it does a good job. For example if I had something underexposed, it would set the right exposure (better with DNG or RAW files)
  • They are constantly updating it, even minor versions (4.1, 4.2 etc) adds some nice functionality.
  • Publish to your favorite photo hosting site is a snap. I use both flickr and smugmug and it has those plug-ins built in.
  • Using keywords (their version of tags) I can create smart collections to organize my files.

That being said there are a few things I don't like about it.

  • Some features are unneeded, like the album and video editing modules (not my cup of tea)
  • It is really handy to touch up pictures, adjust the exposure, change a color here and there. But if I want to do something like add clouds to a picture, then I have to use another tool like Photoshop.
  • Touching up a picture and organizing pictures are in two separate modules (Develop and Library), can require a lot of clicking back and forth.
share|improve this answer
    
thanks for your feedback on LR! I am quite used to separate Develop and Library for having used Cyberlink PhotoDirector 3. I don't mind too much, usually those two modules correspond to different mindsets. I'm not good enough at photo editing for me to be worth using Photoshop - I would most likely do destructing ending in the artistic sense of the term :) –  Stefano Jun 7 '12 at 13:19
    
In ASP you can save settings as Default RAW and these will be applied to all fresh RAW files, eg.: for my Canon 50D I have RAW noise removal + some S-curve. –  Marcin Gil Oct 8 '12 at 9:22

Apologies in advance for my English - if someone wonders about my writing style, please keep in mind, my native language is German.

I can tell a few things about ASP and Darktable on openSuSE and LR on Windows 7.

  • ASP = Corel Aftershot 1.0.1 (Linux)
  • LR = Lightroom 4 (Windows)
  • DT = Darktable 1.2.1 (Linux, packaged for openSuSE)

There was temporarily a Windows version of Darktable available in the web, which I couldn't find (a friend of mine tested it and said, that it worked stable). The current version 1.2.1 and 1.2.2 is not available for Windows yet. But there are plans for a native build in the future.

My photos are coming from two cameras, the A77 and the RX100MKII. My PC is a Core-i7 950 with 16GB RAM and 3 SSD's, a NVidia 590GTX running openSuSE 12.3. (Windows 7 SP1 is running in a VMWare Image with 8GB RAM. I use it for LR and iTunes. Waiting for the day, when I don't need it anymore. But for now Linux and Apple are not really 100% compatible).

What I have discovered so far using the 3 tools:

  • ASP is at least double as fast as LR, especially Zooming in using the Mouse Wheel is smooth with my 24 MP pictures. LR is much slower regarding nearly all features/aspects. DT is fast with the intial load of pictures but when zooming in, it first shows the zoomed frame with rough pixel, then the details come afterwards - that's a little bit anoying (an considering my exquipment not state of the art). Also applying filters is slower with DT (it is for free, what do You expect).
  • ASP has good controls and in my opinion a self-explanatory workspace. LR is a little more complex, but has also more features than the competition. DT has a tidy workspace with the most convincing workflow.
  • ASP has Noise Ninja onboard and I always need to use it (so You can bind it to Your RAW defaults - a feature, which I could not find in LR or DT). The filter applies instantly - no lag visible. In ASP the RAW Noise setting (below the Noise Ninja checkbox) has no visible effect with my Sony RAW pictures - maybe someone here has an idea, why that is. Noise Reduction with DT is horrible - the Results of LR and ASP are way better - if this is important for You, DT might be the wrong tool. What I can say from the results, is that the builtin Sony JPEG Engine does a better job than DT. ASP and LR instead will give You a much improved JPEG encoding. But for most people the internal camera engine will be sufficient. With todays SLR/SLT systems You really need to zoom in to find the "problem" zones in Your pictures.
  • the controls and buttons of ASP are responsive and exact. Lightroom has a lot more of them, but the desk is clean, so the layout is sufficient and the workflow is good. The DT development team should improve the sliders, because sometimes I need to repeat the slide to reach the intended setting (which You may miss easily. They use very tiny triangles for the sliders. Looks good, behaves bad).
  • LR is really good in all ways of picture optimization in comparison to ASP. Darktable's features are only rudimentary. This is important, if You often change things like colors, saturation, lights and more. I You don't, ASP and DT should offer enough for Your workflow. LR is also excellent in optimizing the dynamic range without losing details.

My conlusion:

  • If You are using Linux as Your primary OS, then Corel Aftershot could be the right RAW developer for Your environment. But the future of ASP is uncertain. I loved the update strategy of Bibble, but with Corel on the steering wheel nobody knows where the journey will end. But I hope, that it will survive and even evolve - especially for the Linux platform.
  • If You are a Windows Lover, then Lightroom is probably the right thing. It does cost a lot more than ASP, but'll You get a slightly better JPEG engine, some really good picture enhancement/optimization features, which no competitor has and there are a lot of really great plugins out there, which can make Your life much easier (onOne for example has a great Suite which You can purchase and the software works as a plugin or standalone). Please keep in mind, that most good plugins for LR are not for free!
  • Darktable is a very very! young project and has gone a long way in this short time of development (I find it remarkable for an OpenSource project). And it is getting better every day. The workflow is compelling, the noise reduction engine is just inmature, yet. A big plus is the amount of free plugins : http://darktable.org/redmine/projects/users/wiki/Plug-ins_Wiki_Pages. You should find there everything You'll need. And also this is developing. The biggest disadvantage for me is the lack of a "professional" noise reduction tool like "Noise Ninja" - I just hope that someday the integrated one will come near to the results of NN.

So it is up to You and Your expectations, which tool will fit best for Your needs. If You don't want to spend money, DT ist the best thing - if You're running Linux. If You would give 60 bucks, then Corel Aftershot is the best solution (especially because of the Noise Ninja). And if You like a lot of features and You have either Windows oder MacOSX, then Lightroom ist a good solution for Your environment. Apple's Aperture is not really that good anymore - a lot of Mac-Users changed to LR. Maybe because of that it is not topic in this comparison ;-))

Hope, my analysis is helpful.

Opensource the Planet :-}

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what a great first answer! –  Paul Cezanne Aug 30 '13 at 11:19
    
+1, very helpful and deep in detail comparison and explanation. –  danijelc Dec 30 '13 at 19:38

If Corel's Paint ShopPro is an indicator, I wouldn't touch any of their software unless I was desperate and it came free... (have it at university and it is horribly slow - pretty much useless for RAW editing, but on JPEGs you might live with it.)

Lightroom 4 is very nice - but the performance is bad... I bought a new computer to edit RAW files on it, because while my laptop with CS4 (and CameraRAW 5.7) was fine, Lightroom 4 was torture... (4.1 was a bit better, but still not good). Again, for JPEGs you won't be that affected, but it is worth mentioning.

I think a part of your decision should be long term planning: If you want to stick with photography, then Lightroom is possibly the way to go because it is the most widely used, has lots of support and the price for Lightroom 4 is fair in relation to other photo editors. (Lightroom 3 and earlier was just overpriced - unless you bought it once for 10 years of use or so...) Having said that, I would be careful on depending on a catalogue - I can tell you I don't use the Lightroom catalogue and tell it to write .xmp files. You move a photo outside of Lightroom to another folder and Lightroom removes it from the catalogue... if it is a folder that is still watched by Lightroom I think it will recognize it as a new photo. XMP sidecar files stay with the image and will work in Lightroom (including earlier and later versions) as well as Photoshop.

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AfterShot and PaintShop have nothing in common - AS was bought by Corel recently, and it's an entirely different codebase, so any performance experiences you have from PS can't be applied to AS. In fact, AS is probably the fastest RAW processor around. –  Tim Pietzcker Nov 22 '12 at 13:09
    
Note that when people talk about PaintShopPro being slow, they are probably talking about Mac. PSP and CorelDraw are very fast on Windows. But I have noticed when I watch tutuorials that if the tutorial is on a Mac it is painfully slow compared to what I am used to. on an aging Windows machine. But I will probably not go past current versions, because I will soon be UbuntuStudio for everything now that 13.04 is out and seems stable with my older machine, which originally came with Vista. –  Pete May 8 '13 at 3:12
    
I have Corel Paint Shop Pro X3 on my university computer and it is unusable for RAW files... - large files should be kept away from too. That is on Win7 64bit... –  DetlevCM May 9 '13 at 10:55

I have been using Darktable and Aftershot. I cannot comment on Lightroom since it doesn't run in my Operating System.

I prefer Darktable, it has lot of plugins and features and allows for a quality of pictures.

PS: You could also check photivo: it is a good solution, too.

share|improve this answer
    
hi welcome to the site. Could you expand on your answer? what is your OS (I have some guess, but it could be useful when searching). Are you using Darktable and aftershot together or alternatively? How do they relate to the workflow as asked by the OP? This way your answer will be a valuable piece of knowledge for the community. –  Francesco Sep 17 '12 at 4:08

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