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Don’t touch my RAW files!

detail of raw image

I am looking for a RAW converter. I am quite happy with Adobe Lightroom, but unfortunately, unlike Photoshop, I can’t get it to work in wine, the tool that enables applications written for Windows to run on Linux.

Even if Photoshop’s RAW converter shares the same DNA, a RAW converter is more useful to me when integrated into the image browser upstream in my workflow, not in the image editor downstream. Therefore, I am looking for an image browser in combination with a RAW converter.

Canon’s DPP works well in Linux, but it would lock me in to a camera vendor. Moreover it lacks the ability to correct chromatic aberration. On the good side, it has a feature that Adobe lacks: true linear conversion.

One major show stopper for me is a RAW converter that writes into the original RAW files! At least DPP is kind enough to ask every time for permission first. Some photo management software does this without asking permission – it assumes it was given when the (default!) preferences were set.

dpp write dialog

Writing to RAW files is a recipe for disaster. RAW files should be treated as if they were read-only. They are unique and precious. Writing to them is off-limit on my system. Any software that can’t respect this basic principle is slated for deletion.

Adobe Lightroom keeps the meta data in its own database. That’s OK, but what if the database corrupts, or if I want to drop in a replacement photo management tool? A database locks me into a format – even if it is an open and well documented format like the one of digiKam.

Better than a database are tiny separate files, XMP sidecars. Adobe Lightroom offers the option (which in my opinion should be the default) to store the metadata in XMP sidecars. And being XML, they can be expanded and translated easily when additional software enters the picture. Embed metadata in derivative work if you wish, but don’t touch my original RAW files. Ever!

converted and processed