(news & commentary)
My friend Iliah Borg and his team have updated their long-in-development FastRawViewer program (introductory price of US$14.99 until January 31st, 2015). This Windows and Macintosh program is a bit unique, and yes, a little geeky, compared to other options you have for doing review of images. It’s that unique, geeky bit that makes it a useful tool, though. The major changes from the last version I saw are trying to create a bit more conformity of UI between the Adobe products and this one, i.e., slotting it into the Adobe workflow a little better.
The ability to evaluate exposure and sharpness from the raw file data is what I find to be the highlight of FastRawViewer. Often as I’m sorting images, the thing that I’m really looking at to separate the good ones from the bad is where the exposure and focus is. Yes, FastRawViewer is a fast raw viewing program (thus the name), but besides the usual ability to rate and sort your images, it’s really the evaluation tools in the program that stand out. Iliah and his group of friends such as Alex Tutubalin have long been involved with a number of raw tools (e.g. Raw Photo Processor, RawDigger, LibRaw, etc.), so it’s not surprisingly that we get unique raw tools in this product, too.
Such as, you say?
Well, here’s a recent image with the underexposure evaluation turned on.
The histogram is derived from real raw data, and the colored bits are telling me about where I have exposure less than five stops down from mid-tone. I’m going to be a bit worried about pulling detail from those areas if I need to, though many of the Sony sensors these days can generally can do so. As you might guess, you can also set overexposure evaluation, though that won’t produce anything on this image, because it’s not overexposed in any way.
How sharp is the image and where is the sharpness? Let’s try this FRV tool:
Yes, there’s reasonable acuity on the cub’s eyes, but the highest acuity is actually slightly forward of that by a bit. That’s good, because while you can’t see it in these small screen capture examples, he’s carrying a small stick in his mouth that looks a bit like he’s smoking a cigar. Okay, I know you want to see that, so:
FastRawViewer isn’t perfect (it’s still a 1.0 version of a product, after all), and unfortunately it’s yet another cog in the ever-widening workflow chain (ingest, examine raw data, convert, edit, annotate, output, etc.), but I still think it’s a useful tool to have in the software kit. The tweaks to help Adobe workflow users are nice, but I think there’s more to be done there.
FastRawViewer is especially useful for someone trying to make that step from JPEG shooting to getting full mastery over their raw shooting, where Lightroom sometimes doesn’t give you the answers you’re seeking. Remember, those in-camera histograms lie to you, as do Adobe's, and it’s often difficult to tell exactly where you missed focus and by how much. It’s incredibly difficult to do that on a per channel basis with existing tools.
I’m hoping this software catches on enough that we see some additional components, performance, and workflow tuning being added on to it over time, making it even more useful.
Try out the free 30-day trial. Be sure to use the on-line manual, too, otherwise some of the meekness might go a bit over your head the first time you pull up the program. The manual does a very good job of explaining why you’re using those exposure and focus tools and how to evaluate what they show you.
Disclosure: Iliah provided me with a free, unsolicited activation code for the product with no strings attached.