Raw processing: it's harder than it looks. I was thrilled to see that Adobe has released Adobe Camera Raw 5.6, Lightroom 2.6 Release Candidates that supports 19 new Raw profiles, including for the Canon PowerShot S90. I like using the Bridge/ACR workflow for quick turnaround jobs, and being able to bring the S90 into that flow is terrific news.
Comparison of an S90 raw file processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (left) and ACR 5.6 RC (right). The Bridge preview (middle) shows just how much work the two processors do before you ever move a slider. You can see full size versions on the Digital Story Flickr page. (Click to enlarge).
But Raw processing often includes more than just getting the exposure and color right. In the case of the S90, it also has to correct for distortion and handle other important aspects of making the picture look good. I had already processed Raw files using Canon's own Digital Photo Professional, and the images shaped up nicely. How would the Adobe ACR 5.6 Release Candidate stack up?
As it turns out, quite well. I've included an S90 shot here that was captured at the wide end of the lens (7.5 mm, or about 35mm in standard terms). There was quite a bit of distortion as you can see in the uncorrected version that I previewed in Bridge (middle). But when I opened the picture in ACR 5.6 RC (right), you can see that much of the distortion was corrected. Wow! I expected DPP to do that (left), but was crossing my fingers that ACR was up to the task as well. And it is.
You can see bigger versions of all three images on the Digital Story Flickr page. You'll notice that ACR does interpret the file differently than DPP. I used the "Standard" profile for DPP, and the "Camera Standard" profile in ACR. I tried to add the same amount of sharpening in ACR that DPP automatically adds, but didn't make any other adjustments in either application. I then took a high resolution, 100 percent, screenshot of each of the processed previews.
I like the interpretations by both DPP and ACR. I give the initial processing nod to DPP, but have better tools for adjustment in ACR. Compare either to the preview in Bridge, and you'll see just how excellent they both are.
For my own work, I'll probably use ACR 5.6 or Lightroom 2.6 most of the time for the Canon S90. But for certain images, I won't hesitate to open them up in Digital Photo Professional to see how Canon renders the file. Options are good, and we have two excellent ones here.