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New raw processing pipeline in Lightroom 3 Beta 2

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Note! This article is work in progress and will probably be updated with more observations.

 

Then processing pipeline has been significantly updated in Lightroom 3 Beta 2 compared with the LR 2.6 version I'm normally using.

 

I have seen a few major differences:

  • Much improved high ISO noise reduction
  • Better sharpening
  • Possibly better handling of chromatic aberration
Comparing two raw converters is in no way easy. Raw converters have a lot of different parameters that can be individually tuned for some effect. We would need to find the optimal settings in on raw conversion and than find the optimal setting in the other one. What is optimal varies with content and also how the result is intended to be used.
Many of differences are really only relevant in print. So we need to test different alternatives, take careful notes and make a lot of large prints. I have not done that! My findings are much less limited in scope. I mainly just compare the two pipelines essentially with the same settings.

High ISO noise reduction 6400 ISO on Sony Alpha 900

The Sony Alpha is known to have less than optimal high ISO performance when used with LCR/LR. I essentially regarded everything above 1600 ISO as fairly unusable.
In the example below I used the 2003 PV with maximum noise reduction while the new pipeline (PV 2010) was at quite moderate settings.
The left side image shows the awful "blotchy" behavior of the old pipeline while the new pipeline stays pretty smooth and still reasonably sharp.
Click on image for actual pixels.

 

Another example. This the cockpit of the Enola Gay, now on exhibit at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. The image was shot using a Sony Alpha at 400 ISO and severely underexposed. I have some better exposures using longer shutter times. This image has also been processed by both pipelines.


In the image the left one is with PV 2003 and the right one with PV 2010, settings are similar. Click on the image for actual pixels.

 

Sharpening

Jeff Schewe indicated on LuLa that the new processing pipeline also improved sharpening significantly and attributed most of the work to Eric Chan at Adobe.
For that reason I eagerly checked out the detail dialogue. Sharpening is difficult judge and needs to be analyzed in real prints.
I did look at a decent picture taken under decent conditions using a Minolta 80-200/2.8 APO. This lens has some chromatic aberration in spite of being called "APO". At short focal lengths it is a very good performer.
The image was first developed using Processing Variant 2003, with correction of Chromatic Aberration and what I considered to be optimal sharpening, than a virtual copy was made and converted to PV 2010. Click on the image for actual pixels.

 

A print was made in A4 from each image. The images were cropped so that the full size image would have corresponded to 44x66 cm. Printing was done on an Epson SP3800 at 2880 DPI. Printing was done from Lightroom using the LR print module to scale the ouput to 480 PPI and apply medium sharpening for glossy.

 

The prints were visually compared.

The following observations have been made:

 

The prints are somewhat different. The print processed trough the new pipeline seems to be sharper. The prints can be told apart at different viewing distances. In the picture processed in the 2003 pipeline som red fringing can be seen on the right side of the "ladies" headwear, the new pipeline can handle that better.

 

I have scanned the images at 300 PPI, the scan can be seen below, click on the image for "actual pixels".

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 20:51  

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