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Gear & Apps

ON1 Photo Raw Is Released | Faster, Leaner, Cheaper, But Enough To Tempt You?

By Kishore Sawh on December 19th 2016

Have you been teased enough this year? It has been quite the revelatory and shifting year for gear and software; we’ve had the introduction of Fuji medium format, Hassy went the way of humanizing their medium format presence; Nikon finally followed up the D300s with the remarkable D500, and Canon’s 5D IV was released to a public with tongues out. It was also a year, in my experience, where the palpable discontent with Lightroom by its user base became significant, and likely in no short part to the rising of competition from current software, or at least the promise of it. One such? ON1 Photo RAW, and now it’s ready to be thrust out like a lamb amidst the wolf-like public.

Earlier this year ON1 made some rather bold claims about a new software they were releasing, ON1 RAW, claiming it would be the first ‘all new’ raw processor in a decade. Now, if you’re not one for context or insinuation, you may not see that those words and the initial details shared was ON1’s way of saying that the other post processing programs were built in the early days of digital photography, and have, for the most part, stayed there. Essentially, that the programs were built when files and demands were much smaller and they’ve struggled to keep up. When we objectively look at the current spread of options, it’s hard to argue against that, especially with Lightroom (for all its merits). But now it’s really time to put their money where their mouth is.

ON1 Photo RAW 2017 is tuned for today’s sensors and graphics chips. It opens 50-megapixel images in a fraction of a second on a standard PC or Mac, and performs edits in real-time, without slider lag or frustrating waits for redraw.

That’s a snippet from the press release and those are bold claims, if also exciting ones. They’ve also gone on to say and demonstrate that the program won’t function like LR when it comes to catalogues and libraries, but instead will integrate ON1 Browse, which should allow rapid culling, tagging, and the rest of organizational functions. This would certainly help to explain the touted speed, but it’s not new ground here. Capture One Pro (COP) users are used to files opening in a blink, and ON1 Browse appears to be what Media Pro SE is to COP. Further similarities between it and COP are the prevalence of layers and masks. They’ve really seemed to take a leaf, of a chapter out of COP’s playbook, and frankly, who could begrudge them that?

[RELATED: Is It Time To Switch From Lightroom to Capture One Pro? Here’s Why It Might Be]

But alas it IS different as it appears to be adaptable to a workflow you may already have, since there’s a level of integration that can be had through plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop, and it works Google Nik (sorry, but is that still even relevant?), and Apple Photos. That Adobe integration is interesting and may helps to assuage the transition from Adobe’s titans to this. Given that you can buy the program outright for $100 (soon to be $120) is also sure to get some excited who don’t like the idea of a subscription plan from Adobe, which, by the way, isn’t going anywhere given that Adobe’s just released their year end numbers which saw $5.85 billion come in, a whopping $1 billion, with a capital B over 2015.

But here’s the thing, a jack of all trades is good, but is it enough to get you to switch? To real users the price is less costly than the time it takes to learn something new, generate a new workflow, and maybe find out it wasn’t that great to begin with. Of course it could be, and we intend to find out. Stay tuned.

You can get it here.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. William Carter

    I’ve used OnOne for several years and loved it as a plugin. I bought into the upgrade pre-release for $79 hoping it could live up to my expectations. Unfortunately, it will not be replacing Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in my workflow, and here’s why:
    95% of my work is done on location. I shoot tethered using a Cam Ranger into Lightroom. OnOne Raw currently has no options for tethered shooting, with or without cables. A possible work around would be to shoot into the Cam Ranger app to view the photo’s as I shoot. I prefer to shoot into Lightroom, make any changes needed to the first photo, and auto sync as I shoot. This is very handy when the client has a certain look or style they are going for.
    There’s no need to import photos into a catalogue, and no need to build previews. This is what I believe makes Photo Raw so fast. The downside is a huge concern for me. There is no database or catalogue info to back up in case of disaster! The only option is to edit the preferences to save sidecar info in the same folder as the original file and back this up to another drive. If you work on more than one device as I do, you will definitely need to do this since this is the ONLY way to move between devices. While you do save time getting to work on your photos immediately on the front end; you have no option to export as a catalogue to move to another device.

    Using Lightroom, I can make any number of changes to one photo, and sync those changes with others for a fast workflow. Photo Raw also has a sync option, BUT it only syncs select changes, and you don’t get to choose.
    Metadata can’t be shared with other programs. If you use Photo Raw to cull and flag your photos, and then move to Lightroom, you now have a problem.

    I have a huge inventory of plug ins that don’t currently work with Photo Raw like Topaz and Particle Shop. It does work with Nik, but I’ve learned to use OnOne to replace Nik since Google isn’t doing anything to support this. Honestly, I can get the same look from OnOne Photo 10 and no longer need Nik- which is a good thing. It’s only a matter of time before Nik no longer functions without future support.

    For the Lightroom and casual to light Photoshop user, OnOne Photo Raw could easily replace Adobe and is quick to learn. The low price without a subscription is attractive at first, but beware! OnOne is cheaper than Adobe, but no different. You get free upgrades to the current version, but when a new version comes out (which happens almost every year), you will have to pay for this upgrade unless you’re paying the extra fee’s to be a “Plus” user. Sound familiar? So long as you subscribe to Plus, you get the free upgrade.
    While there are a lot of negatives here, I do believe they’ve made some great improvements for the right user. The heavy photoshop user will not be happy with this as an all in one solution. OnOne’s “layers” simply can’t replace the massive and all powerful Photoshop set of tools. I plan to keep Photo Raw, but will continue using it as a fantastic plugin.

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  2. Colin Woods

    I am watching this and MacPhun’s new Luminar with interest. I like On1 v9 suite and use it a lot. For RAW conversion though, it has to go head to head with DxO Optics. I am not professional so speed is a minor issue for me, but if On1 or MacPhun can squeeze DxO quality RAW conversion into an all-in-one package, I’ll be on board.

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  3. Scott Walter

    I think their speed claims are pretty spot on. We have to wait until late spring to make ON1 a total replacement for what you are using today. As this first release is missing some key features. However they have a public road map so you can see what we will be getting over the next several months.

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  4. Lenzy Ruffin

    I really hope the new version lives up to the hype. If it delivers what they promise, I’ll happily stop using LR. I’ve been using On1 since version 7 or 8 and they’ve been promoting it as a LR alternative for quite a while, when really it wasn’t up to the task. And this whole “rewritten from the ground up” stuff they’re saying sounds familiar, too. I think that’s the same thing they said when version 10 came out. How many times can you start over from scratch?

    I just hope they can back up their considerable promises with Photo RAW. I would love to be able to move my workflow over to On1 exclusively, but that’s not been feasible thus far. Version 10 and prior sometimes behave like a set of apps that were cobbled together through acquisitions rather than developed by a single company. Basic, commonly-used tools are only available in certain modules when they should be universally available anywhere in the suite. A crop tool that doesn’t allow you to reset the crop, so you better make sure you don’t want to ever change it later. Lots of little stuff like this that isn’t really little when you’re trying to get some work done.

    If they’ve finally put together a version of their software where all the modules are truly integrated and all the tools work intuitively (not interested in learning the quirks of cropping the On1 way, just make it work intuitively like it does in LR), AND it delivers all the new stuff they’ve promised, they will have created an alternative to LR that can’t be ignored. But delivering all of those things is a very tall order and I honestly don’t see it happening all in this version. I hope it does, but I’m not counting on it.

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  5. Thomas Starlit

    I am a current user of Capture One Pro and hugely happy about it. Especially the RAW conversion is brilliant. For more advanced retouching I use Affinity Photo which I am also hugely happy about. However…. The thought of being able to combine two separate products into one is appealing. It would enable a more fluent workflow, everything in one place, and hopefully those gigantic layered TIFFs would be a thing of the past. However, my main concern is that of losing the RAW conversion quality of Capture One Pro which in my opinion is unparalleled. Maybe time to try out that trial version of On1 RAW…

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