Friday, May 21, 2010

The Dark side of Light

Linux and photography are broad churches. They encompass philosophies that meet and diverge in a complicated structure meant to drive you wild. I can get a little wound up. Why do I use Linux? Because using one product for all my photographic needs would not satisfy me. Using any commercial operating system would cost me a fortune in software purchases. With Linux I can try things without any cost and I can alter and adapt, should I wish. I have stated before that I use Geeqie and the Gimp or LightZone, but I am always looking for better.

I like Geeqie for its speed and flexibility, the Gimp for its completeness of features and LightZone for the way it views exposure, using a zone based system. Each is chosen for a reason that I like. None is the perfect answer. I have tried Windows and Mac OS software, I get on better with the Linux options (although LightZone is available on all three). I do sometimes look at what is available. This month I got the urge to look for something that was better. I started to look at a few old products and one I have not tried before.

I tried Rawtherapee again, and found it was much better than I remember. The major fault as a first instance in my workflow is that it is not that quick. Otherwise I was impressed. It has got a place on all my machines as a just in case option, that I will use. I can see that Rawtherapee could be a good option, if it had a little more pace I would use it more. I also tried Rawstudio, but this was not for me and will not be put onto my default desktop build. I did not like the colours I saw on the screen but it was reasonably quick. I am very concious that colour matters and rawstudiuo does not meet my criteria. It is also a little unfair, it is a RAW developer not a photo manager/editor like the other packages I am looking at. Compared to Ufraw it does a good job, but I prefer and use Ufraw for the GIMP.

The biggest improvement that I saw was in digiKam. Being a Gnome Gnutter I find it difficult to admit that KDE has got it just about right with their offerings for photography. I will not switch to digiKam as I run on Gnome and just starting it up appears to take forever. This is not a fault of digiKam or even the KDE project, it is my insistence on running Gnome. It does appear to offer most of what I want from photographic software. I would probably need a few trips into the GIMP for those times when only a full editor is the answer but it looks like those trips would be very few now. I admit that the only problem I have with digiKam is that it looks like KDE. Me being belligerent? Yes, but I only use what I like. If you are a KDE fan or willing to put up with the cramped user interface then it is powerful and can do most things without the need for the GIMP.

I also looked at Darktable. This is a new piece of software to me and I was impressed. It was slow, even slower than rawtherapee. What it did give me was an interface that I could understand and use. One thing that was missing was a simple method of correcting red eye, or at least I did not find it. I noticed the red eye correction problem as I was looking at some party photographs that did exhibit a little red eye. This meant I had to throw things into LightZone/the Gimp for a tweak, and it did not justify the complexity of the Gimp. Another issue is that the user interface is for me a little confused. This is something I could learn to live with but it is not the best. I did work out that to go between lighttable and darkroom modes you had to click on the mode title! Not a normal interface decision and there was no indication that it was acting like a menu option. The big problem for me is the apparent lack of speed. If it were as quick as my favoured Geeqie it would be high up on the contenders list. The speed issues are not major, opening a picture in darkroom mode or importing from a file was the major one. It appears slower than rawtherapee

There are good points. The comparison feature is excellent, as good as I have seen. Getting it working is another example of poor design. It is easy to do but less than intuative. So much so that in the short time I was using the software I kept forgetting and now as I write this I foget what I needed to do. Documentation would go far to correcting this one. Another very small problem was compiling the software. There are packages for Ubuntu and Arch linux, instructions for gentoo (and funtoo) but Fedora and other rpm variants need to use the generic installation instructions. I am not technical, although am capable of typing ./configure, make, make install but this is a hassle.

The version I tested was 0.5 so missing documentation is forgiveable. Inconsistencies in the user interface can also be overlooked at this early stage while the developers push to understand the direction they are heading. Not having a package for fedora is understandable, I would only want to generate one package in the early stages. I can be convinced that the speed issues are minor at an early stage. Very much a work in progress this one. But I will keep my eye on it as I like it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your interesting post.