Sunday, June 24, 2007

Camera Raw 4.1 versus Flexcolor

Hasselblad camera users are familiar with the image processing software "Flexcolor" that comes with the Hasselblad Digital backs. This is a very powerful software with many important features for pro photographers who shoot untethered or tethered to a computer. It also has a good feature that allows the native Hasselblad raw files to  be saved as DNG files. For my style of work, which involves processing batches of images from landscape photography shoots, I find that Adobe Camera Raw 4.1 (ACR) works best. I convert my raw image files to DNG files (I archive the original 3F file). Once the images are in DNG format I open them in the Adobe Bridge program to view and sort. The new Adobe Bridge has a very useful feature that allows you to magnify a portion of a series of images in order to quickly compare sharpness, etc. Opening an image or series of images from Bridge brings up the Camera Raw dialog. I will not go in to the many features of ACR 4.1 here, but there are plenty of online resources about this that are easy to find with a google search. The tools I find really important in the latest version of ACR are fill light, recovery, clarity, sharpening, noise reduction, grayscale conversions, and the ability to re-open a tiff or jpg in Camera raw. I use this re-opening feature to sharpen images in ACR for final printing, since I think the ACR sharpening is better than the PS CS3 sharpening. I prefer to sharpen images as the last step of image processing in preparation for printing. I do not find anything wrong with the Flexcolor software from Hasselblad - I have just found that for my particular needs, which are different from a studio photographer, ACR / PS3 offer the easiest way for me to achieve optimum image quality from my H3D files. The Flexcolor software is constantly being upgraded by Hasselblad and tailored to the hardware of the H3D and their other digital cameras. It is conceivable that in the future there will be major benefits to processing all raw files in Flexcolor, such as improved focus and distortion correction. Anyone with an H3D or other Hasselblad digital camera should continue to monitor updates of Flexcolor and do comparisons by developing the same raw file in both ACR and Flexcolor to see what produces the best results.