Sony Raw workflow

I am a new user with basic knowledge of processing. I’ve made several attempts to learn other packages but always run out of time. But I am excited by what Topaz offers… especially DeNoise AI and Studio 2, and it is simple enough that I want to make it into a normal workflow.

My problem is that I want a simple way to revover JPG setting from my RAW files. I am usually happy with my JPG look from my camera, which I take time to create, and I hate trying to reconstruct it. I know I can edit directly from my JPG, but an experiment shows me I can get better results by starting with RAW (for Sony this is ARW) and have the flexibility to apply different adjustments only if I want to. But when I import a raw file, I loose all the corrections that my camera already made. I know these settings are stored in the RAW file itself. Is there any way to recover these adjustments in a Topaz product? I REALLY don’t want to use other software in my workflow… I want this to be something I have time to do on all my photos.

If whatever RAW processor you are using stores adjustments in the original RAW then only that will decide them.

All RAW processors open and interpret the images in their own way.

The option you have is to produce a TIF from your RAW processor and import that into Topaz apps to process.

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All RAW processors open and interpret the images in their own way.

True, but if I open the RAW from my camera in Raw Therapee or Lightroom those programs can read corrections that my camera stored there and do a reasonable job at reproducing something that looks like my JPG. That’s where I want to start from in Topaz. It would be nice to do that directly in Topaz studio rather than use multiple programs. I dream.

I’m not sure what you mean as those applications do nothing except interpret the RAW sensor data and apply their own interpretation as Studio 2 does, your best option is to . Sony certainly does not store more that the regular EXIF in their RAW files and certainly no “corrections” except for a Manufacturer Lens Profile for some lenses.

Personally, even though I don’t use Studio for RAW processing, I don’t see any issues with my Sony ARW images … this is from Studio:

And this is what it would look like processed in the Camera:

If you want to get close to the exact look you would add a Curve and a little more Saturation in Studio like this:

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AiDon, I do appreciate this advice and help, but you seem to have a fundamentally different POV on what is stored in a RAW file than what I was taught. For example, quoting from Gary Friedman’s book (on the A99):

“The raw data file also has some notes in it – it knows, for example, what your white balance was set to, and what the contrast, saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction settings were. Those settings aren’t actually applied to the RAW data, mind you – those notes are there for the benefit of the desktop-computer-based raw conversion software, so when the file is opened and demosaiced, it can apply these settings in a reversible way to your image and you can start tweaking it from there.”

And this information seems to be born out by what I can do in Raw Therapee, but not in Studio 2. Of course RAW also stores lens information which RT or LR can use to correct in a way that Studio 2 probably won’t (but would be nice).

You could try downloading from Sony’s website the program “Imaging Edge Desktop” which is for free. After installing it, from within it, you will be allowed (prompted) to install “Viewer”, “Edit” and “Remote”.

“Edit” (within Imaging Edge Desktop combo) is the program (module) that Sony offers (free) to user’s of their cameras to develop Sony’s Raw files. The Program has all the basic tools to develop a raw file (no layers nor masks though) and it has all the settings available in Sony cameras, including Creative Styles. Instead of the raw being processed in the camera to deliver a jpg file (8 bits per channel), this way you can do the same process as the camera does, but afterwards in your computer, and then export to a 16 bits per channel tiff file. No other program would do exactly the same, they will do their own interpretation of the information captured by the sensor and recorded as data in the raw file. Some might have the means to automatically correct optical distortions of the lenses used with a certain camera when already working with a tiff file (and many of these programs will also allow using Studio 2 as a plugin) and if not, there is PTLens (standalone and plugin not free but not expensive) that can correct optical distortion of lenses when already working with tiff or jpg files (and which is very efficient and has a vast list of profiles) and which you could use in its standalone version before begining to edit your tiff file with Studio 2.

“Edit” (Imaging Edge Desktop) does not correct optical distortion of interchangeable lenses, but it does correct distortions of for example the Rx100 (which is a compact camera that can also shoot Raw).

Once developed your raw file, you could export as 16 bits Tiff and then continue editing with Studio 2 or do as you prefer.

“Remote” allows you to shoot tethered with Sony cameras that have the means to do so. And “Viewer” is the viewer (browser) obviously.

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Thank You - This looks like really valuable advice. I will try it. I discovered DeNoise does a better job with RAW than with JPG – can I assume that a RAW developed into a TIFF will be just as good ? i.e. that DeNoise is not somehow using the original pixels prior to demosaicing?

As far as I know the raw file is the image of the camera without any processing after and it would drive the wish to get the basic camera image ad absurdum if there would be applied adjustments to the raw file after: it would simply be no longer a raw file.

In this case I guess it is always the software that reads the raw file that applies changes to the look of the image. This is not related to data from the camera because as said the raw file does not contain any data about a certain look because there was no processing step after. :slight_smile:

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A raw file is not a pixel image, is just data (though a thumbnail of the image as would be developed to jpg according to how the camera was set is embedded in the file). A raw file can’t be modified, all the corrections done to a raw file ought to be exported to an image file, which could be Tiff, DNG, jpg or other format. Most programs which allow to process a raw file keep memory of the manipulations done by adding data to de raw file or creating another file associated with it which is called a “sidecar”. You can go back to the raw file and modify the corrections done at any time. Examples of these are DxO PhotoLab, CaptureOne, Camera Raw, etc… Other programs can process a raw file, but after processing them and opening the image in their edition’s module, they don’t keep track of what has been done. Examples of these would be Serif’s Affinity Photo and Corel’s PaintShop . And there are programs that don’t work with the raw file, they interpret the data and open it as a 16 bits image file and you would be working with this, which is not the best way of doing things (as a lot of information from the raw file might be not taken advantage of).

Most important things to take care of when shooting a photo are the exposure (how the exposure is done accounting for aperture, which together with the focal length of the lens determines the depth of field, speed and ISO which the higher it is the more noise you’ll get), and white balance. The rest of the things that can be set on the camera when shooting for jpg as for example setting values for contrast or saturation or converting to black&white for the resulting image, are the results of processing the data to an image file by software, that can be done by the camera in the camera or can be done later on a computer. Imaging Edge from Sony has the same setting for these, as can be set in the camera, but later on, while processing the raw file on the computer.

Most Raw files are 12 or 14 bits. Most relevant things to work with when processing a raw file are white balance and recovering data (which is there) from the shadows and highlights. All information that is not taken advantage of before developing the raw and exporting to an image file, won’t be there any more.
De-noising is better done while processing the raw file. It is effective if doing it to a tiff file and it is obviously not the same if done to a jpg file.

A Tiff file has 16 bits per channel (RGB channels) which means they have a potential of registering up to 65.536 tones per channel. A jpg file has a potential of registering up to 256 tones per channel. Therefore, a tiff file has much more potential and tolerance for manipulating an image. A jpg file has a shallower colour depth and when fiddling with it while editing the image with the white balance and/or the tonal range, you’ll more likely get or increase things like noise and/or banding.

I have Sony cameras (Alpha A230, A580, a7 and Rx100). I process my raw files with DxO PhotoLab (which automatically corrects optical distortions of lenses), export to Tiff, edit in Affinity Photo (but also have and use now and again Paintshop Pro and ACDsee) and use Topaz programs as plugins (I have lots of them).

But for what I think you want or I interpreted you want, I would suggest you to process your raw files in Sony’s Imaging Edge and export to 16 bits Tiff (not to a 8 bits Tiff file). Then use whichever program that has the ability to correct optical distortion of lenses to do so (in case you have a Sony camera with interchangeable lenses) and after that you can open your tiff file in Studio 2 (always a 16 bits tiff file). After all edits are done, you can safely export to jpg. Just an opinion.

Sorry if I went to far in what wrote. You probably already knew all or most of what I said but I tend to get over enthusiast when expressing myself. And don’t take my word for everything I said, I can be wrong in many of the things I think I know and many are or might be opinionable.

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Thanks Alejandro, this is an amazing post. Yes, I knew the basics of what you said, but you have put things so clearly that will bookmark it; it ought to be a point of reference for others too.

I am working on your suggestions. Sadly “Sony Imaging Edge” has a database only for expensive Sony lenses and does not have corrections for my 3rd party lenses or even my trusty Minolta 100 macro. Raw Therapee recognizes and corrects all my lenses, so maybe I’ll follow your advice but start with RT (Ill look at DxO too).

But your explanation does reinforce to me why it would be NICE to operate within one platform: “De-noising is better done while processing the raw file. It is effective if doing it to a tiff file and it is obviously not the same if done to a jpg file.” – since even when I export to TIFF I am loosing information that the next program could have used.

I am about to bight the bullet and buy the Topaz suite (Black Friday deal) but it hurts to spend that much money and still require $100 upgrades (which are like $130 in Canada). I really hope that Topaz continues to develop Studio 2 to the point where it is a one-stop shop: when other Topaz tools are seamlessly built-in (not kludgy plugins - e.g. bizarre artefacts when you apply Crop+Mask+filter), batch processing is supported, brand-specific RAW data are interpreted, and open camera/lens database is accessed !

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I can comment on the programs that I have and use. In case you might be interested as you said you were going to look into DxO.

Studio 2 (which I have) I don’t use because my computer (graphic card) can’t cope with it. A pity, but I am not planning to buy a new computer for the time being. I have Studio Classic though, and lots of the legacy Topaz plugins and two of the new ones which I use as plugins (they work in Affinity Photo, PaintShop (either 32 or 64 bits) and ACDSee Ultimate, which I also have).

DxO Photo Lab is great and very powerful for processing raw. It is awesome for correcting optical distortion of lenses and sharpness for lenses that lose it when reaching the corners of an image and to correct chromatic aberrations. But it is expensive. Its standard de-noising is good and its Prime de-noise feature is excellent, but to get this one you need to have the Elite version (which is even more expensive).

Capture One is good but the list of profiles for lenses corrections it has, is kind of limited. No Minolta lenses for example. There is a free version for Sony cameras (Capture One Express for Sony) which can deal with the basics.

Affinity Photo is not expensive for what it is (quite professional for editing tiff or jpg). Its Develop Persona (where you can process raw files) has a vast list of profiles for lens corrections (which seem to work fine). Its module for developing raw works fine but has limited tools (not an HSL tool for example), but allows working with masks and gradients for some adjustments. The Edit Persona (where you can work with tiff or jpg image files) allows working with Topaz’ plugins.

PaintShop Pro (from Corel) has a very limited module to process raw files (too basic and no masks). It has a vast list of profiles for lenses corrections but some simply don’t work (they don’t apply the needed or expected correction). Nice program though to edit Tiff or jpg. It allows working with Topaz plugins.

ACDSee Ultimate is more expensive than the previous two. It has a nice module to process Raw which allows working with masks and gradients. The HSL tool (Color EQ as they call it) is great but not so the Light EQ tool in my opinion (it affects the saturation of colours as well, as if you were operating with a Tone Curve in RGB mode, but with sliders). It has a vast list of profiles for lenses corrections that work, but although most work fine, it overdid it a bit for a Tokina 11-16mm lens that I have (whilst Affinity Photo, DxO Photo Lab and even Capture One (which has the profile for this lens but which you have to set as if it were a Nikon camera, which uses a Sony sensor)) did a fine job.

PTLens has a vast list of profiles for lenses corrections, but not for raw files, it only works with Tiff of jpg files.

Raw Therapy, the one you have and are using, I don’t know. It is good for what I have read. I have tried it, but many many years ago, so I suppose it has been improving and getting better overtime.

Just in case some users may not notice, the DXO PRIME is outdated, it is still there in the software but it have no reason to use it, because they have redesign a new DeepPRIME, based on AI deep learning, which give massive improvement over the old PRIME NR and the new DeepPRIME support processing by GPU.

I am a Sony DSLR / SLT user since 2008, and I process all my High ISO RAW file in PL.
In the Color Rendering tab, you can select Sony camera to reproduce nice color from Sony.
2020-11-27_001250

Here is another post comparing between Denoise AI vs DeepPRIME AI.

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As expected, my search for a simple workflow now has me obsessed with testing new software.

Here is a discovery that may interest Sony full frame SLT shooters:

I have been using my crop lenses with my Sony A99V (full frame) – the results are often better than on my A77V - I guess 12 million full-frame pixels sometimes beat 24 million smaller pixels. Anyway, here’s the interesting part when it comes to geometry corrections in RAW:

Sony Image Edge - recognizes and adjusts crop lenses on full frame body, but refuses to recognize or correct most 3rd party lenses (thanks a lot, Sony)

DxO PL deals with many 3rd party lensed that Sony doesn’t, but cannot be used to adjust a crop frame lens on full frame body.

Raw Therapee does both - but only if you trick it for the crop-lens/full-frame combination: Tell it your camera is a crop frame (A77) when it is actually a full frame (A99) and geometric corrections look good.

So its looking like RT saved to TIFF may and finished in Topaz may become my default workflow.