About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Why I don’t want to cover On1 Raw 2018.1 (But I will talk about one aspect)

Why I don’t want to cover On1 Raw 2018.1 (But I will talk about one aspect)

On1 have recently released a new version of their photo editing application, On1 raw, bringing the version number to 2018.1. I’ve covered this software in the past and I’ve been quite critical about it. So much so, that I really don’t want to keep being negative about it. The new version has loads of new features, and as I’ve covered lots of different RAW software in the past, I should really cover this too. But I don’t want to, and here’s why:

When I last wrote about it, I got a lot of comments from users which supported my findings, but I also got some hate mail from fans of the software telling me I’m doing it wrong. I was also contacted by representatives from the company, and to be fair to them, they acknowledged many of the issues raised, and I agreed to provide them with whatever I could to help them improve the software. I was actually impressed by this, as I was pretty harsh about it. I don’t think the fixes for Fuji files are in place yet, and they’re still working on them.

I recently wrote a piece about negativity in Photography, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite and write yet another bad review of the software and trash it. As much as I would like to, I can’t write a positive article about it either, as that wouldn’t be true to what I’m seeing. I’m also not going to do what others have done and just reprint the press release

So, I’m not going to write a long in-depth article about it, but I would feel remiss without pointing out one thing about the update that I find kind of crazy. They have changed the way the software decodes raw files that they claim offers sharper results out of the box. It certainly does that all right. I would go so far as to say too sharp. With no normal sharpening applied, RAW files are now strongly sharpened and at 1:1 look weirdly over-sharp in my opinion. Even zoomed out you can see it is over-sharpened. As far as I can see, there is no option to turn this off or reduce it. It kind of reminds me of the way employees in retail stores selling TVs turn the contrast and saturation up to make TVs look good in the showroom. 

On non-Fuji files, this looks a little weird, but not totally unusable. On Fuji X-Trans files, however, in my opinion, this looks ridiculous. It is like using a sharpness level of 40-50 in Lightroom. Before, Fuji Files looked better than Lightroom in terms of detail, apart from some artifacting that showed up on occasion, which was ruining an otherwise decent conversion. Now, in my opinion, it’s much worse than Lightroom. And this is without any additional sharpening. Here are some crops at 1:1 with no other adjustments and no sharpening applied. I literally took a few files at random. (Click on the files to see at the proper resolution)

Having spent hours trying to find out if there was some way to fix this, the one thing I noticed is that it seems to be made much worse by the default lens corrections. Turn this off, and the files aren't nearly as bad. In the previous version, images would go really soft if you turned lens correction on, but this was only in the viewer, and only zoomed out. They seem to be over-compensating for this now, by sharpening the image as part of the lens correction pass, which is kind of like using a sledgehammer to hang up a poster. This isn't just in the viewer, it's baked into the file. 

I don't think it's entirely the lens corrections either, because on non-fuji files, without any lens corrections on, images still appear to be overly sharpened.

Incidentally, one other thing, they still don't have a lens profile for one of Nikon's most popular leses: the 28-300mm. 

Here’s the thing. There may be loads of cool features in On1 Raw, and they may keep adding new tools to bring it closer than ever to Lightroom, but in my opinion, if the fundamentals aren’t there, the rest of it doesn’t matter. They should stop adding new features and just iron out the bugs, and make the image quality the best it can be. The new over sharpened defaults is something that should be optional, but I can see how some people might actually like this. However the crazy over-sharpening because of the lens correction, just seems like another ridiculous bug that should never have been released. Sorry, On1.

Maybe I should have stuck to my instincts and just ignored it, and said nothing, but I keep seeing articles about it on various websites, from people who are just reprinting the PR materials, and I’m guessing in more than a few cases haven’t even opened the software. I just don’t think that’s fair to your readers. I really don’t want to keep bashing the software, and I actually really do want to like it. So please On1, just stop adding new features and fix all the bugs that are there and stop adding new bugs. Make that the goal for 2018.2. 

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