ON1 Photo RAW: a new assault to the Lightroom fortress

The first all-new RAW processor and non destructive photo editor to be released in more than a decade will launch this Fall. The ON1 Photo RAW represents a new option for those that are looking for alternatives to Lightroom CC.

ON1 Photo RAW

Since Adobe opted for the subscription mode, many users have looked for alternatives. Serif presented one with their Affinity Photo for Mac and soon available for Windows, now ON1, that already offers ON1 Photo, announces ON1 Photo RAW.

ON1  Photo RAW is built, according to ON1, with modern code optimized for today’s super-megapixel cameras and high-performance computer graphics systems, Photo RAW will be the world’s fastest, most flexible, and easiest-to-use RAW processor and photo editor on the market when it is released this Fall, says ON1.

The documentation available about the program reminds us that the current class of RAW-based photo editors all have their heritage from the early days of digital photography, when most digital cameras had less than 10 megapixels, and computer processing power was a fraction of that found in modern PCs. Lightroom, which sometimes seems to follow an erratic development pattern, is a good example, as it still keeps much of the logic of the initial version.

When used with today’s popular 42- and 50-megapixel cameras, existing programs can often take seconds to render small portions of a RAW image and perform adjustments. Several years in the making, Photo RAW, with its modern RAW processing engine, is tuned for today’s sensors and graphics chips. It will open 50-megapixel images in a fraction of a second on a standard PC or Mac, and perform edits in real-time, without slider lag or frustrating waits for redraw. You’ll have to contribute, though, with a machine powerful enough for the program to run.

If you’ve ever tried ON1 Photo 10, you’ll have a taste of what the company means. In fact, ON1 Photo RAW will build on what ON1 Photo 10 offers and take you further. Developed over the last several years, ON1 Photo RAW is built around ON1 Browse, the company’s lightning-fast photo browser, and will not require photographers to import and catalog their photos. That’s one key aspect that many users appreciate.

I’ve stopped using Lightroom – because that’s the program we’re talking about – a couple of years ago, exactly because of the need to import everything into the program.  I used the program since early Beta days, and wrote about it’s revolutionary approach on two of my books, but as years passed I grew tired of some of its aspects and finally stopped using it. I did it not so much for me, but because when I talk to people they always complain about how confusing Import is and also how they lose track of their files while using Lightroom. I am aware most of the problems are due to the way people move their folders around, but as there is no way around, I started telling people to look for alternatives, as I did.

Years ago, when people had their files all in a computer drive and maybe on an external drive, it was easier to deal with Lightroom, but these days, when we’re told to go mobile and have files in multiple places, from the Cloud to a tablet and computer, the way Lightroom works demands some rules… that most people tend to forget. So, to prevent disaster, it is better to use a DAM program that deals with the exact place where files are all the time. Like Adobe Bridge, for example. That’s what I use, together with ACR.

Now, programs like ON1 Photo 10, offer an alternative, through their Browse module. It’s that same efficiency that ON1 Photo RAW will offer. No need to go through the painful and time-consuming process of importing and cataloging required before editing can begin. What I find amusing regarding this aspect is to see, on the video about the feature, Matt Kloskowski discusss the advantages of ON1 Photo RAW. He says that “most of the popular RAW photo editors make photographers import and catalog their photos first, and bounce between multiple apps for editing and work within closed systems. But with ON1 Photo RAW, we’ll finally get a lighting fast photo browser, and a killer RAW processor without the painful import process. Wait until you see the new non-destructive ON1 Effects, something I’ve been wanting for years. I am personally involved with the development of ON1 Photo RAW and super excited with our progress. I hope everyone will get involved in our discussions leading up the the release, so please join me on the blog.”

It amuses me to see that I am not alone. Matt Kloskowski has a long history with Lightroom, has been, one could say, an “evangelist” for the program, but for sometime now he has written about his concerns with the Import feature of Lightroom and how it needs to change. Well, it seems Matt Kloskowski has changed – as Lightroom doesn’t –  because he is deeply involved with the project of ON1.

ON1 Photo RAW

As ON1 Browse is an integral part of Photo RAW, the program will offer quick and easy ways to tag, rate, make color and tone adjustments, or add effects to photos. Without catalogs, professionals will be able to make adjustments to photos and fellow colleagues can access and edit where they left off. This combination of a fast photo browser with instantaneous RAW processing will deliver a fluid, streamlined workflow to process any amount of photos all at once. Select one or 101 photos, make a few develop adjustments and all of the photos update automatically in real time. That’s, what ON1 promises to deliver.

It should be noted that ON1 Photo RAW will continue to work seamlessly as a plug-in for Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Corel; a standalone host app for Google Nik Collection and other photo editors, as usual for ON1 programs, so photographers with established workflows can continue using what they’re familiar with, but still try the functions of ON1 Photo RAW. But the company stresses that On1 Photo RAW, as ON1 Photo 10 now, will work as a standalone product. It will include built-in layers, brushes, and advanced masking tools, making it a full RAW processor and complete photo editor in a single app. And, unlike any other photo app, Photo RAW will work the way you want, and where you want.

It’s a rather seductive idea, I must say. ON1 says that common file formats—including JPEG, TIF, PSD, PSB, PND, and DNG—will be supported and will benefit from the speed and performance of the app, and that the program will include support for over 800 cameras.  If ON1 keeps the promise and updates the number of cameras supported, I might simply buy in. At the moment and until May 6, ON1 has a special offer, with a price of $89.99 that will give you a version of ON1 Photo 10.5 right now, to play with, and the ON1 Photo RAW when it comes out.

ON1 Photo RAW’s instruction-based, non-destructive workflow will also, says ON1,  surpass today’s RAW processors in other key ways. In addition to customary re-editable adjustments such as exposure, contrast, color, shadows and highlights, Photo RAW will also offer non-destructive effects and portrait retouching, something not present in any photo editor on the market. The complex filters found in ON1 Effects and ON1 Portrait—including Lens Blur, Skin Retouching, Dynamic Contrast, HDR Look and many more—are all available in Photo RAW’s non-destructive workflow. The controls found throughout ON1 Photo RAW will also respond in real-time by leveraging modern video cards, using the latest versions of OpenGL and OpenCL.

ON1 Photo RAW will be available this fall. ON 1 indicates that you can pre-order ON1 Photo RAW today by becoming an ON1 Plus Pro Member at $149.99/yr. Plus Pro members receive a perpetual license for all ON1 apps (not a subscription) and will be the first to receive the app once it becomes available. Owners of previous versions of ON1 Photo will have the option to upgrade to ON1 Photo RAW. The upgrade price will be determined at a later date. There will be special pricing for Photo 10 purchasers. Customers will be notified over the course of the next several months providing their upgrade information.

ON1 Photo RAW will be available, for Mac and Windows, next Fall, at which time we will probably have Affinity Photo software version for Windows. I am curious to see how the market reacts, and also if Lightroom wakes from the relative lethargy it seems to have adopted, and changes.  We all could gain from that.

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…