Serious photographers generally shoot raw files because they offer so much more potential for image creation than JPEGs. The more serious you are about image creation, the more likely you will be to choose a ‘third-party’ raw file converter over the bundled software supplied with your camera. But, which application should you choose?


Serious photographers generally shoot raw files because they offer so much more potential for image creation than JPEGs. The more serious you are about image creation, the more likely you will be to choose a ‘third-party’ raw file converter over the bundled software supplied with your camera. But, which application should you choose?

We decided to compare the performance of the current market leader among professional photographers, PhaseOne’s Capture One Pro with Bibble Labs’ new Bibble Pro Version 4.9.8. For photographers who require more than just raw file conversion, we also looked at Adobe’s recently-released Photoshop Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture 1.5. The last two provide are better classified as professional workflow applications and their image editing facilities are less comprehensive than Capture One or Bibble.

Developed for photographers who shoot thousands of digital images, they can streamline the photographer’s imaging workflow, covering everything from importing and sorting images, through refining shots to printing and displaying them on any digital media. Neither application is a substitute for Adobe Photoshop but both will integrate easily with it.

One benefit these applications have over single-purpose raw file converters is their non-destructive editing facilities, which allow photographers to adjust files without modifying the original image. Adjustments are saved in a separate Library database and applied each time you open images. Consequently all changes are reversible at any time.

Photographers using these applications can create multiple versions of shots without duplicating the original file by simply creating additional editing lists, any of which can be applied to the original image at any time. Adjusted images can also be exported (saved separately) with the edits applied. All four applications let users decide on the file format in which the image is saved and where it will be saved on the user’s computer.

Try Before Buying
Each application we’ve reviewed is available as a trial download from the URLs we’ve indicated and we urge readers considering them to try before buying. As photographers we all have our own ways of doing things and the style of one application may be ideal for one photographer but may not suit another.

Consider the ‘Lite” versions of the software as well as the full-featured ‘Pro’ versions. The difference between the two is often added functionality for multiple workstation set-ups. Since most key operations are the same in each version, it makes little sense to pay extra for functions you won’t use.

Essential Adjustments
All Raw file converters should enable you to adjust the following image parameters prior to converting the image file into editable JPEG or (preferably) TIFF format:

  • Colours. Photographers should be able to select from a range of white balance pre-sets (similar to those provided in cameras), fine-tune colours to eliminate colour casts and adjust colour saturation. Monochrome conversions should also be possible, enabling photographers to produce B&W, Sepia or colour-toned image files from raw originals.
  • Exposure levels. As well as adjusting brightness and contrast globally, photographers should be able to selectively adjust highlight and shadow areas in image files to bring out detail that would otherwise be lost. Shadow and highlight warnings are a useful aid to targeting areas that require adjustment.
  • Sharpness. Although many photographers prefer making sharpness adjustments in editing software, there are times when sharpening (or softening) is better done as part of the conversion process. The same applies to Noise Reduction.
  • Workflow options. Photographers should be able to choose whether to output files as 8-bit JPEGs or 8-bit or 16-bit TIFF files. You should also be able to choose between sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces when files are converted, regardless of the colour space of the original raw shot. Batch processing should also be supported as many professional photographers will have series of shots that require similar (or identical) adjustments when they are converted.
  • Metadata support. Support for IPTC metadata. Users should be able to view and edit image metadata.
  • Automation. Some photographers like applications that automatically recognise when a device with image files is connected to the user’s computer and initiate downloading and cataloguing functions. Others prefer to manage their image files in their own way. You can set up both Aperture and Lightroom to launch when you connect your camera or storage card (the default position) or make launch optional. Capture One and Bibble Pro will offer to import images when you connect a storage device.

What We Looked For
We’ve scored each of the software packages according to the following criteria:

  1. Overall ease-of-use, covering how easy it is to load the application, open and process raw files from several different cameras and save the files in JPEG and TIFF format.
  2. The range of features and functions the application provides, with emphasis on their relevance to serious photographers.
  3. How well the application actually performs with a variety of different subject types.
  4. Overall value for money.

Bibble Pro 4.9.8

Key Features:

· User configurable workflow that includes views and tool panels and user-assignable hot-keys. Works with both single-screen and dual-screen workstations.


Bibble Pro’s set-up screens allow users to configure the application to meet their individual requirements.

· Non-destructive editing and powerful batch processing facilities.
· Lots of third-party plug-ins (including for Photoshop) that provide added functionality
· Extensive suite of tools for healing, patching, cropping and straightening as well as lens correction and corrections for vignetting and chromatic aberration. Includes Noise Ninja noise reduction.


The user interface provides easy access to a wide range of tools and plug-ins.

· Reads the native file formats from most digital cameras and automatically identifies the camera and lens used for the shot.
· Perfectly Clear One Click image optimisation (auto levels and auto colour tint correction) provides one-click correction of lighting imbalances.
· Raw-optimised printing support.
· Available for Windows, Macintosh and Linux operating systems.


Ease of Use: 8.5
Easy to install and configure, thanks to wizard-based interface. The browser mode lets users work on multiple images without having to open, edit and save each file individually. Excellent HTML instruction manual available for downloading.

Versatility: 9.0
The fastest raw file converter available and one of the quickest to support new cameras. Plenty of useful tools and plug-ins to make file conversions more effective for a wide range of subject types and exposure levels. We enjoyed its configurability and the quirky user interface!

Performance: 8.0
Although some adjustments were a little savage, the raw conversions we made from sample landscape and portrait shots were very good. Noise was very well handled and the Highlight Recovery tool delivered excellent results. The B&W Plug-in, which supports Spot Colour addition, was versatile and effective.


Monochrome conversion facilities include a Spot Colour mode that lets users apply two different colours to a B&W image.

Value: 9.0
At US$129.95 for the Pro version and US$69.95 for the Lite, Bibble 4 represents very good value for money. The Lite version is ideal for photo enthusiasts and only lacks facilities for tethered shooting, IPTC captioning, support for third-party ICC profiles and some high-volume workflow facilities.

Trial downloads are available from

PhaseOne Capture One

Key Features:

  • Customisable user interface with unlimited batch processing and multiple preview modes (including side-by-side comparisons).

Capture One users can call up side-by-side views to compare before and after adjustments are made.

  • Logical workflow structure that includes export in desired file format (TIFF or JPEG). Supports fully colour managed workflow.
  • Full range of adjustment tools, including colour and contrast correction, Levels and Curves, sharpening and noise suppression. Users can save and re-use settings and transfer settings from one image to another.
  • Detailed histogram displays and visual exposure warnings.
  • Easy image magnification for checking focus and exposure levels.

Sections of images can be enlarged to the point where pixel structure is visible.

  • Excellent quick proofing tool can be used for creating low-res/ JPEGs for emails and websites.
  • Pro version supports before and after previews of adjustments, custom colour profiles, cross platform access with same license, IPTC templates and tagging and multiple simultaneous output formats and sizes.
  • Available for Windows and Macintosh operating systems.


Ease of Use: 7.5
Requires some understanding of colour management and exposure correction so may be challenging for newcomers to raw file processing. Relatively slow but easy to batch process a collection of files.


Batch processing is straightforward and effective.

Versatility: 8.0
Initially developed for professional photographers using medium-format camera backs, Capture One provides all the necessary tools and delivers them via an intuitive interface that allows users to convert raw files to TIFF-RGB, TIFF-CMYK or JPEG format on-the-fly. Support for new DSLR cameras is slower to be delivered than for Bibble’s or Adobe’s Raw converters.

Performance: 9.0
One of the best processors for knowledgeable users. Superb sharpening and noise reduction facilities. Excellent monochrome conversions, thanks to a full range of hue and tonal adjustments.


Monochrome conversion controls are extensive and easy to use.

Value: 8.0
Pricey ““ but an excellent choice for photographers who use both DSLRs and medium-format digital backs. When we went to press Phase One was offering Capture One Pro with either iView MediaPro or Nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 for the same price as the stand-alone product ““ US$499. The LE version with iView MediaPro was on sale for US$129 or as a stand-alone product for US$99 and represents good value for money for photographers who don’t require tethered camera control, high-volume processing, batch renaming and image tagging.

Trial downloads are available from

Apple Aperture 1.5

Key Features:

  • Flexible and easily customisable full professional workflow management tool that includes image cataloguing and project management. File handling structure is relatively inflexible.

The Loupe makes it easy to inspect parts of the image for focusing and unwanted defects.

  • Efficient browsing and editing of raw files. Multiple image comparisons and multiple folder/project viewing. Image rating and versatile searching facilties, including date and keyword searching and album searches. Stacks provide easy organisation and access for similar images.

The browser provides access to image metadata and supports functions such as cropping.

  • Tight integration with iLife ’06 and iWork ’06 application suites ““ but not with Photoshop.
  • Instant access to image metadata. Automatic generation of XMP metadata when exporting master files. Pre-filled metadata templates.
  • New colour adjustment and edge sharpening tools.
  • Automatic back-up facilities via the Vault facilities and easy export of projects to DVD
  • Requires Macintosh OS X v10.4.8 or later operating system.


Ease of Use: 8.0
Like most Apple software, Aperture is easy to use and has some excellent automated functions. Plenty of information provided for new users. However, even with a large display, some tool identifiers and icons can be difficult to read.

Versatility: 8.5
All the adjustments photographers require can be found, most of them within one or two clicks. Although fine-tuning facilities are rather small on the screen, most adjustments can be made with relatively high precision.

Performance: 8.5
On a MacBook Pro 2.1 computer with a 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB of RAM, Aperture was quick to use and delivered excellent results with both landscape and portrait shots. Most of the adjustments we tried worked well and produced minimal posterisation, noise or artefacts. Monochrome conversions were excellent, thanks to the wide range of adjustments provided.


Monochrome conversions are easy and effective and it’s easy to ‘migrate’ converted images to Folders or editing applications.

Value: 8.0
At US$299 (AU$449 with free shipping from Apple Store) Aperture 1.5 is the same price as Lightroom if you buy from the US but cheaper if you buy in Australia. A good choice for photographers who use other Apple applications and require all the functions provided. Requires a high-power computer and large monitor display.

Trial downloads are available from

Photoshop Lightroom

Key Features:

  • Designed with input from photographers to provide a full professional workflow solution that includes image management, adjustment and presentation tools.
  • Task-orientated modules are ideal for photographers who prefer a logical workflow.

Many aspects of the Lightroom interface will be familiar to Photoshop users.

  • Version 1.1 adds flexible image management system for multi-computer workflows plus improved noise reduction and sharpening controls.
  • Robust support for more than 150 camera raw formats plus the ability to work with JPEG, TIFF and DNG image files.
  • Tight integration with Photoshop and printers.

Tight integration with printers enables photographers to print image files directly.


Photographers can use Lightroom to create web galleries for their images.

  • Built-in metadata browser plus extensive tagging, rating, labelling and searching facilities.
  • Wide range of viewing options.

Viewing options include side-by-side comparisons of adjusted image files.


Ease of Use: 8.5
Straightforward to use but takes a second or two to upload each file. Regular Photoshop users will find many familiar functions and it’s easy to make fine adjustments with the sliders and curve controls. Excellent, easy-to-use slideshow and Web exporting functions with attractive page templates. Monochrome conversion is easy.

Versatility: 8.5
Provides all the adjustments photographers require, including the ‘Vibrance’ setting from RawShooter Essentials. Allows you to apply the same adjustments to JPEG files as you do to raw files. Infrequently-used functions can be collapsed to maximise the usable workspace. Users can save converted images as JPEG, TIFF. Quick to support raw files from recently-released cameras.

Performance: 8.5
We obtained great results with both portraits and landscape shots and superb monochrome conversions. Sharpening and noise reduction controls produced similar results to those in Adobe Camera Raw.


Monochrome images are easily produced in Lightroom, thanks to a full range of hue and tonal controls.

Value: 8.0
Lightroom’s Australian RRP (AU$505) is more expensive than Aperture but if you buy from Adobe’s US online store, the price of both applications is the same ($299). Pricey ““ but good value for professional photographers who will use the workflow functionality and Photoshop integration. Will also suit proficient Photoshop users who require more than editing and file conversion facilities.

Trial downloads are available from