Highlights from the 2006 RAW Survey - Chapter 3

Chapter 3. Preferences about RAW File Conversion and Editing Software

Use of RAW File Conversion and/or Editing Software

Survey respondents were asked how often they used each of eight RAW image conversion or editing software products, and were provided an option to name "other" products not listed in the question. The products listed were "software provided by my camera maker," Adobe Camera RAW," "Capture One," "Bibble," "Silverfast DC Pro," "Pixmantec products," "dcRAW," and "Aperture." Response categories included "all of the time," "most of the time," "some of the time," "rarely," and "never."

  • Over 80% of respondents reported they had "rarely" or "never" used four of the eight listed products;
  • Only four of the eight named products were used at least "some of the time" by at least 10% of survey respondents:
    • Adobe Camera RAW – used by two out of three survey respondents (67%)
    • Software provided by the camera maker – used by over two in five respondents (41%)
    • Pixmantec products – used by one in five respondents (19%)
    • Capture One – used by just over 1 in seven respondents (15%)
  • Only about one in twenty respondents (4% to 6%) indicated they used any of the other four listed products (Bibble, Silverfast, dcRAW, and Aperture) at least "some of the time;"
  • Of all eight listed products, Adobe Camera RAW was the most likely to be used "all of the time" (25%) and "most of the time" (24%);
  • Software "provided by my camera maker" was the next most frequently used product, with 10% indicating they used that type of product "all the time," and 13% indicating "most of the time;"
  • About 4% to 5% of respondents indicated they used either Capture One or Pixmantec products "all of the time," and 5% to 7% indicated they used these products "most of the time;"

Perceptions about Image Quality obtained from RAW Conversion/Editing Software

Respondents were asked two questions to determine which of the eight listed software products they believe "delivers the best image quality," and "provides the best workflow" for their photography.

  • 43% of respondents indicated that Adobe Camera RAW provided the best image quality, while 49% rated it best for their workflow needs;
  • 24% named software from their camera makers as providing the best image quality, but only 14% said this same software provided the best workflow;
  • 14% indicated that Pixmantec RAW Shooter products delivered the best image quality, and 10% reported that it gave them the best workflow;
  • Similarly, 13% indicated that Capture One gave them the best image quality, while 9% rated it best for workflow;
  • Although only 1% of respondents rated Aperture highest for image quality, 12% indicated that it provided the best workflow;

When responses to the two questions are compared:

  • Over one-third of respondents (36%) rated two different products as providing the best image quality and the best workflow for their photography. Less than two-thirds of respondents (64%) rated the same software product as best for each of these two purposes.

The 36% of respondents who named different products as "best" for these two purposes were not evenly divided, and proportionately more respondents appear willing to sacrifice image quality for workflow efficiency.

  • About 26% of those who selected a given product as providing the best image quality named a different product as providing the best workflow;
  • About 10% of those who named a specific type of software as providing the best workflow named a different product as providing the best image quality.

Thus, there are over two and one-half times more respondents who believe they must sacrifice the best image quality in order to obtain the best workflow than believe they must give up the best workflow in order to obtain the best image quality. This comparison reveals that one quarter of all survey respondents believe that they must make a tradeoff between best image quality and best workflow in their own photography.

RAW Conversion/Editing Software Used Most Often

Respondents were also asked which of the eight listed products they used "most often" for their own photography, and allowed to name another product if their preferred software was not listed.

  • 48% of respondents named Adobe Camera RAW as the product used most often - the largest percentage naming any product. This matches closely the percentage who rated Adobe Camera RAW as providing the "best workflow."
  • 22% of respondents indicated they most often used software provided by their camera makers – making this category of software the second most commonly used. This result matches closely the percentage who rated this type of software as delivering the "best image quality."
  • 12% named Pixmantec products as the one they used most often, 8% chose Capture One, only 1% to 2% reported Bibble, Aperture, or dcRAW as most commonly used; 5% of respondents named a long list of "other" products as used "most often," with no specific product named by as much as 1% of respondents.

Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) was most frequently named as the product used "most often" for conversion and/or editing of RAW image files – more than twice as many respondents named ACR (48%) as named software produced by their camera makers (22%). However, that ACR was mentioned by less than half of the respondents further suggests that there is no software solution that a majority of RAW image users identifies as the ideal combination of "best image quality" and "best workflow."

The software RAW image conversion/editing software used "most often" differed across the six types of photographers and image users:

  • Professional photographers and graphics arts professionals were more likely than others to name Adobe Camera RAW as the RAW image conversion/editing software they used "most often." ACR was named by 58% of full time pro photographers, 54% of part time pro photographers, and 61% of graphic arts professionals. In comparison, only 45% of dedicated amateurs, 43% of those using digital imaging in a non-photography profession, and 35% of hobbyist photographers used Adobe Camera RAW "most often" for converting/editing RAW files.

These differences reflect the fact that many professional photographers must place a high priority on an efficient workflow to earn a living. Of the eight listed products, Adobe Camera RAW was named as providing the "best workflow" by the largest percentage of respondents. At the same time, over 40% of professional photographers identified a different product (not ACR) as the conversion/editing software they used "most often."

  • The percentage that "most often" used conversion/editing software from camera makers was generally lower than the percentage using ACR, and also somewhat less variable across the six groups. About 21% of professional photographers and dedicated amateurs indicated they used camera makers’ software most often, compared to 28% of hobbyists, 24% of technical image users, and only 18% of graphic arts professionals. Relatively small percentages of all categories of respondents indicated a preference for the software provided by their camera makers.
  • Professional photographers were also slightly more likely than others to report using Capture One most often (12% full time pros; 9% part time pros).
  • Dedicated amateurs (15%) and hobby photographers (16%) were more likely than others (4% to 11%) to report using Pixmantec RAW Shooter products most often.
Calvin Jones – Wed, 2006/04/26 – 11:17pm