Verdict: 4.8 stars Capture One 23 is a professional Lightroom rival that offers a step up in both image quality and editing tools, and supports a greater variety of professional workflows. The RAW processing is excellent, the editing tools are powerful and the new Cull view, layered Styles and improved Variant handling alone make the upgrade look worth it. Capture One is not cheap, but it’s designed for professional, quality-orientated workflows.
A RAW converter is software that processes RAW files from a camera and converts them into regular image files. Not all RAW converters are the same. The closest analogy is the different developers used to process film. Examples include Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One Pro and DxO PhotoLab.
Verdict: 4.5 stars ON1 Photo RAW 2023 is probably the closest thing there is to a photo editor that does absolutely everything. This version adds AI subject recognition and masking features. ON1 Photo RAW’s scope and ambitions are impressive, though the AI doesn’t always work perfectly and ON1 Photo RAW 2023 can sometimes feel sluggish.
Verdict: 4.5 stars PhotoLab 6 has important improvements over version 5 which make it even better for quality fixated photographers. The PhotoLibrary organizing tools are catching up at last and the new DeepPRIME XD processing is superb. Add in the excellent editing tools and local adjustments, and you have perhaps the best RAW processor of all.
But why would you want both? Surely a RAW file is superior, as it has everything you need and a JPEG version is simply superfluous? Well maybe not, and here are 4 reasons why.
Verdict: 2.5 stars ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8 is the MacOS version of ACDSee’s all-in-one Photo Studio application. From its features, it looks like a strong rival to Lightroom or ON1 Photo RAW, for example, but the reality is very different. It’s both basic and technical at the same time, it’s missing features many might take for granted, and it looks like a Windows program ported on to the Mac, even if it isn’t.
Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw make a great alternative to Lightroom, with all the same editing tools but in a simpler workflow with no tiresome imports, just ‘live’ image browsing and editing.
Verdict: 4.5 stars Lightroom Classic’s latest masking tool updates make it more powerful than ever, though it’s still not fast to use and its interface is quite cluttered and oppressive. And do we still need all these different modules?
RAW files are not quite ‘digital negatives’. They are actually more like the latent images on undeveloped film and need a ‘digital developer’. Choosing the best digital developer (RAW processing software) can make a big difference to your images.
Almost any photographic expert will tell you that you should shoot RAW files not JPEGs, and that RAW files are innately superior. The trouble with this kind of wisdom is that it’s repeated and passed on without question.
Verdict: 4 stars Lightroom is Adobe’s bold vision of a cloud-based photo organizing and editing tool where all your images can be organised, edited and viewed anywhere on any device. For mobile users and content creators it’s a clever and effective proposition, but for regular photographers, while its editing tools continue to impress, its restrictions, the closed nature of its editing ecosystem and its cost remain a major barrier.