Hi all

There are quite a few commercial tools for photo editing, some are free of charge, others may cost from tens of $ to several hundreds. I searched for the tool best matching my needs:

1) Ability to read Sony Raw files (.arw format)

2) Improve image quality, specifically for low light high ISO conditions

3) Ability to fix Chromatic  Aberration and Lens distortion

4) Automatic operation with minimal intervention from my side

I started by testing free of charge tools: Google’s Picasa, Microsoft Windows photo live gallery, Irfanview, Sony’s Image data converter SR, GIMP and Paint.net. Unfortunately Sony Raw format is not common and not supported by most of them! The only tool (obviously) that was able to open and load the Raw files was Sony’s Image data converter SR that was supplied with my camera. However this tool meets only the 1st and 2nd requirements in my list, as it doesn’t fix neither CA nor Lens distortion. GIMP and Paint.net may support Sony’s Raw files through conversion tools, but it’s not intuitive.

Next I moved to the low cost tools, and the one to be tested was PTLens, obtained from http://epaperpress.com/ptlens/. This tool enables you to test 10 times before you need to purchase it for $25. It recognized my camera (Sony A55) and my lens (Sony 18-250) and was able to fix automatically the Lens Distortion. It is also possible to correct manually Vignetting, Perspective and CA, and the results look quite good. Software runs quickly and with no bugs. However – it works only on JPEG files, and doesn’t read Sony Raw files 😦

Next level are the more expensive professional tools of Adobe – Photoshop Elements 9, Bible labs 5.5.2 and DxO Optics Pro 6.5.6. All did a very good job in improving image quality, however the only one that met fully all 4 requirements was DxO Optics Pro standard edition ($169), aside of the relatively long time for initial loading of the SW I wasn’t able to find any issue. The SW identified my camera and lens, was able to read raw files and performed a nice “automatic” correction

Interim summary: Recommended SW tools

Sony’s Image data converter SR

Pros:                                                                   Cons:

Free of charge                                                      Doesn’t fix CA and Lens Distortion

Reads Raw files                                                    Doesn’t have automatic mode

PTLens

Pros:                                                                    Cons:

Modest cost of $25                                                Doesn’t read Sony’s Raw files

Automatically fixes Lens Distortion                         Other parameters are manually fixed

Fixes CA, vignetting and perspective

DxO Optics Pro:

Pros:                                                                    Cons:

Works on Raw files                                                Costs $169

Automatically fixes Lens Distortion                         Other parameters are manually fixed

Fixes CA, vignetting and perspective

Improves nicely image quality

I am downloading now Corel’s PaintShop Photo Pro trial version, as it finally supports Sony A55 Raw files, so say tuned to next post…

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