Google+ claims to implement the best RAW conversion, have you tried?

Google+ says, it's attracted a number of RAW format enthusiasts -- thanks to the ability to store full-size photos -- and to make their lives a little better, Google+ is introducing a new RAW-to-JPEG conversion method that offers noticeably better results.

Can you agree with it? Do I need to put my photos on the cloud? Do they mean Picasa or really Google+?


  • 2
    You don't have to use a cloud service just to get a better quality. But if you want to know if it's better, why not test it out yourself? Feb 10 '14 at 11:27
  • @AllanKimmerJensen: Hallo Allan, I'm not asking you to test it. I'm asking if someone have already tested it. I have no account by google+ and I wanted to know if it is worth doing. But thank you for your comment, now I know that I can test it by myself.
    – Rafa
    Feb 10 '14 at 11:46
  • 2
    Anyone marketing a product can claim their product is better. The question remains, Better than what?.
    – Michael C
    Feb 10 '14 at 11:48
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    From the link you've posted it sounds like they are claiming better RAW conversion than their own previous method. I don't think they are claiming that it is better than standalone applications.
    – Matt Grum
    Feb 10 '14 at 12:55
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    Rafa: you're confusing RAW conversion (converting the sensor data into an image format) and JPEG compression (taking uncompressed image data and changing into a compressed form); it's perfectly possible to convert a RAW to (say) an uncompressed TIFF. The artifacts produced by JPEG compression are well-known and understood, because it's a specified algorithm with a limited number of tweakable parameters; Google aren't doing anything magic in that space. Converting from RAW to any image format is a much wider problem, and it's possible (although unlikely) they're doing something new there.
    – Philip Kendall
    Feb 10 '14 at 13:17

Yes, because it is only claiming to be better than what they had before. RAW files are camera specific and they introduced camera specific profiles for 70 cameras. It does not appear they are claiming that they now have the best RAW processing around, but only that it is improved over where their ability to deal with RAW files was before.

RAW files contain the black and white information from each photosite on a camera's sensor. In order to turn it in to an image, the data must be interpreted with knowledge of the sensor. The exact color and light response characteristics of each filter in front of each photosite makes a major difference in how much light it gets.

Previously, Google's RAW converter worked solely off the basic pattern of photosites in order to make a generally correct color interpretation, however with camera specific detail, it is able to better judge how the data should be interpreted, and thus comes up with much more accurate color than it could previously do.

The images listed in the article support this conclusion as you can see that it demonstrates how Google's old RAW converter was generic and resulted in color errors on some RAW formats. The new converter takes in to account the model and produces much better conversions than the old.


As a side note:

I think for RAW pictures in the Sigma raw format (.X3F Files), if you don't have Sigma Proprietary Software, you don't have any alternatives at all than using Google's converter.

Last time I checked, .X3F was not yet supported by Adobe Lightroom 5. So it's quite amazing that Google is able to offer this conversion service. Maybe they've made their own deals with the camera manufacturers.

  • I've read they bought a company named Nik and they're using their technology: dpreview.com/products/nik_software/software
    – Rafa
    Feb 12 '14 at 8:17
  • but there is no stand-alone raw converter product in the Nik suite, or is it? Maybe they had some libraries included, or the acqui-hired Nik developers were given the task to write "cloud based" raw-converters.
    – knb
    Feb 12 '14 at 8:31
  • I don't know, I've never used it. But as they bought the company they may have now a team of developers with the necessary know-how and contacts to build those converters. But this is only a supposition.
    – Rafa
    Feb 12 '14 at 8:33
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    The Picasa team is quite competent as well, I guess. In Google's business strategy for the social media division, it is probably essential to offer photo editing tools to customers. In order to compete with facebook and flickr, photo content management is really important.
    – knb
    Feb 12 '14 at 9:04

I was testing the service yesterday. It is integrated in google+, there is no need for picasa, which is good because I can use it from my Linux machine.

It was able to recognize Jpeg but also my cr2 without problems, even showing a preview. I had no time to play with the settings. The service do an automatic conversion and modifies a little bit the photo.

I had some photos from a nice winter morning and google+ decided to make them a little bit "warmer". I didn't agree with the new settings and I was able to recover the original photo without problems.

I will try to find out how to define my own settings tonight and I will write my experiences here as soon as possible.

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