For many photographers, the digital darkroom is predicated round payware or subscription software program from the likes of Adobe, Seize One, DxO or one in every of their many rivals. However when you’re a Sony shooter, there’s an choice which is out there totally freed from cost alongside together with your digital camera buy: Sony Imaging Edge Desktop.*

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop model 3.0’s person interface.

On this article, we’ll check out how Imaging Edge Desktop compares with the 800-pound gorilla within the room, Adobe Digital camera Uncooked, whose algorithms additionally underpin the corporate’s widespread Lightroom Traditional utility. As with earlier articles on this sequence, I am limiting myself solely to nonetheless picture enhancing within the pursuits of retaining issues to a readable size, and will not tackle options like picture administration, tethering or printing.

*Sony does embody a model of Seize One, known as ‘Categorical,’ with digital camera purchases, which we’ll examine in a future article.

The bottom guidelines

This comparability is predicated upon the latest variations of every utility on the time of writing. For Adobe, that is Digital camera Uncooked 13.Zero and Bridge 11.0. For Sony, it is Imaging Edge Desktop 3.0. My pc is a 2018 Dell XPS 15 9570 laptop computer working Home windows 10 model 1909.

To make sure neither Adobe nor Sony had any benefit out of the gate, I’ve aimed to breed, as intently as potential, the look of already-processed photos from our galleries, with none prior data as to the recipes behind them.

Adobe Digital camera Uncooked model 13.0’s person interface.

I’ve chosen photos from the Sony A7 III (ILCE-7M3) to be used on this comparability, as its been obtainable for lengthy sufficient for Adobe to fine-tune its rendering, whereas its price ticket and backbone are broadly just like these of the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z6 utilized in my earlier producer software program comparisons.

Sharpness and noise discount have been left at their default settings to keep away from overcomplicating issues, whereas lens corrections have been enabled for each functions. Photographs processed in ACR have been saved at JPEG high quality 11, simply as utilized in our galleries. For Imaging Edge Desktop, which presents a selection of simply 4 completely different compression ranges, I used the utmost high quality.

The principle variations

After all, essentially the most instantly apparent variations between ACR and Sony’s Imaging Edge are their digital camera assist and price ticket. You already paid for Imaging Edge once you purchased your Sony digital camera, so it is successfully free. Whereas it solely helps Raws shot by the corporate’s personal cameras, you may anticipate full Uncooked assist for each Sony digital camera to be obtainable just about instantly upon launch.

Imaging Edge’s shadow and spotlight sliders do not offer you as a lot latitude as the identical sliders in Adobe Digital camera Uncooked, so shadows can solely be lifted up to now – even with D-Vary Optimizer enabled.
Obtain the total ACR picture right here; the total Imaging Edge picture right here.

In contrast, ACR requires a recurring subscription charge. It helps an unlimited vary of cameras from many producers – together with each single interchangeable-lens or large-sensor Sony digital camera made so far – however that assist can typically take some time to reach after the discharge of recent fashions. It is also typically extra restricted than that in first-party software program, particularly for older fashions.

For instance, whereas Adobe presents ‘digital camera matching’ profiles for most up-to-date Sony cameras, it is not but obtainable for the recently-launched A7C. Nor has it been supplied for any Translucent Mirror mannequin made earlier than 2014, or any Sony DSLR mannequin in any respect.

A clear, trendy interface with good multi-monitor assist

Imaging Edge Desktop presents a twist on a modal interface. The preliminary set up is merely a launcher which in flip installs after which launches separate viewer, editor and tethering apps. These can run individually or concurrently, and might span a number of screens. The editor app cannot browse total folders of photos, however you may open particular person photographs straight from inside and keep out of the viewer app totally, must you select. Internet assist is out there by the menu system, but it surely’s fairly abbreviated.

We have discovered that Imaging Edge makes use of a bit stronger noise discount by default, although in some instances its finer-radius sharpening will tease out the best particulars a bit higher; however ACR has a ‘punchier’ look.
Obtain the total ACR picture right here; the total Imaging Edge picture right here.

The person interface is admittedly fairly easy and really clear, though it does contain a variety of scrolling. Buttons in Imaging Edge and the person apps launch the opposite apps, and the editor sports activities a single scrollable toolbar whose 14 sections might be rearranged or hidden. Thumbnails of currently-opened photos line the underside of the display screen, however they’re tiny and never terribly helpful even at Full HD decision, and plenty of area is wasted on the filenames. Nor can you progress them to the facet of the display screen, sadly.

Not like most rivals, Imaging Edge would not deal with your Uncooked recordsdata as sacrosanct

Sliders transfer easily, however some management names are a bit unintuitive like “overshoot” / “undershoot” for the sharpness management, or “magnification chromatic aberration correction”, neither of that are defined in assist. There are additionally no computerized controls apart from these for white steadiness, dynamic vary and noise discount.

A dangerous information technique and never one of the best requirements compliance

Sadly, whereas Imaging Edge performs properly with pens and contact screens, it would not assist 4K screens terribly nicely. Many person interface components are too small for snug use, and Home windows’ scaling setting is generally ignored. Imaging Edge additionally would not comply with Home windows keyboard conventions like tabbing between controls, and you may’t customise the keyboard shortcuts in any respect. And there are some occasional bugs; for instance on canceling processing of a quick six-image batch, this system stopped functioning for a number of minutes and needed to be force-closed.

General, I did discover it simpler to get extra nice foliage and sky coloration out of Imaging Edge than Adobe Digital camera Uncooked.
Obtain the total ACR picture right here; the total Imaging Edge picture right here.

That is doubly worrisome as a result of in contrast to most rivals, Imaging Edge would not deal with your Uncooked recordsdata as sacrosanct. As an alternative of utilizing a database to retailer its edits, or placing them in sidecar recordsdata in the identical folder, Sony as a substitute saves them within the headers of the unique uncooked file.

The corporate has already been bitten by this strategy as soon as up to now with a separate utility, PlayMemories Residence, and in 2018 needed to launch a software to right that app’s corruption of Uncooked recordsdata. To keep away from this problem, I like to recommend utilizing Imaging Edge solely with copies of backed-up photos.

Curiously, batch processing shouldn’t be obtainable in Edit mode, even when you have a number of photos open. It is obtainable solely from the Viewer window, and supplies pretty restricted prospects for renaming your output photos. Imaging Edge additionally solely has a selection of 4 compression ranges, and there is a big hole in high quality between the best (~15MB/picture) and second-highest (~5MB/picture) ranges.

Affordable if pedestrian efficiency

In comparison with ACR, Sony Imaging Edge’s efficiency is affordable, but it surely’s not going to gentle any fires. The place ACR takes simply 12 seconds to course of six photos, Imaging Edge takes round 21.5 seconds when saving highest-quality JPEGs. Admittedly, dropping the standard stage one step reduces this to only a hair below 20 seconds, but it surely additionally slashes recordsdata sizes by two-thirds.

You possibly can see right here how far more spotlight element Adobe Digital camera Uncooked is ready to save within the home windows, although the softer general tonality of the Imaging Edge model is not disagreeable.
Obtain the total ACR picture right here; the total Imaging Edge picture right here.

Whereas previews are two-pass, they replace pretty shortly, often inside a second or two of releasing the management. That is nonetheless nowhere close to as fast as Adobe’s near-real time previews, nonetheless. And so they typically do not replace the entire display screen without delay, with a tile or two of the general end result often needing a couple of extra seconds to lastly fill in.

Very comparable controls to ACR, however not all as efficient

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop’s enhancing controls are broadly just like these on supply in Adobe Digital camera Uncooked, together with the spotlight and shadow sliders that many different apps lack. It additionally permits show not simply of clipped highlights and shadows, however out-of-gamut colours. It foregoes ACR’s texture and vibrance controls, however provides a D-Vary Optimizer slider with auto mode.

D-Vary Optimizer does a fairly good job of lifting shadows, however the spotlight and shadow sliders are nowhere close to as efficient as their Adobe equivalents, and the spotlight slider particularly did not appear able to recovering a lot element in any respect from blown highlights, even when ACR might achieve this with ease. I discovered one of the best outcomes with tougher photos tended to ship me to the curves software, whereas Adobe might get the outcomes with no need to fiddle with curves.

Sony’s noise discount is fairly extra heavy-handed

By default, Imaging Edge makes use of larger ranges of noise discount than Digital camera Uncooked, and Adobe produces crisper outcomes out of the field. With that mentioned, you possible will not discover the distinction except you are pixel peeping or making giant prints, the place Adobe’s NR has a finer-grained look.

Noise discount ranges in each apps might be dialed again from that default. Imaging Edge additionally presents an “off” setting, however Sony’s app nonetheless applies extra noise discount than Adobe’s, even when that is used. Setting NR to off positively applies much less noise discount than merely zeroing out the sliders in handbook mode, although, particularly in the case of chroma noise.

I discovered ACR to do a greater job with pores and skin tones. Imaging Edge tended a bit in direction of the magenta, however in flip delivered extra convincing skies and foliage than ACR. After all, you may enhance coloration in both app by fidgeting with the sliders, however ACR has an auto mode to get you within the ballpark, whereas Imaging Edge requires you make corrections manually.

One other instance the place Adobe Digital camera Uncooked is ready to reap the benefits of remaining spotlight data higher than Imaging Edge.
Obtain the total ACR picture right here; the total Imaging Edge picture right here.

Closing ideas

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop seems and feels extra trendy than a few of its rivals from different digital camera producers, however I nonetheless discovered Adobe Digital camera Uncooked extra nice to make use of. And Adobe additionally wins by way of efficiency, though Sony actually would not path on this respect as badly as a few of its rivals.

By way of picture high quality, issues have been fairly nearer, nonetheless. Imaging Edge is able to delivering good outcomes with most photos, though Adobe clearly nonetheless has an edge in the case of recovering blown highlights and blocked-up shadows. And Sony’s spotlight slider, particularly, proved fairly much less efficient than I would hoped.

However when you’re attempting to slash your funds to a minimal, Imaging Edge Desktop delivers fairly first rate picture high quality for many photographs, and does so with affordable efficiency and flexibility. There’s positively cash to be saved by switching away from a month-to-month subscription, particularly when you have a tendency to stay with simply the fundamental tweaks and do not typically make main edits to your images.

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop

Professionals Cons
  • Accessible free with a Sony digital camera
  • Wonderful assist for Sony’s cameras from launch day
  • Good foliage and sky coloration with minimal effort
  • Tames noise nicely
  • Good lens corrections
  • D-Vary Optimizer makes it simple to elevate shadows
  • Solely helps Sony cameras
  • Does not deal with Uncooked recordsdata as sacrosanct
  • UI requires numerous scrolling
  • Does not comply with Home windows requirements
  • Does not assist 4K screens nicely
  • Minimal assist documentation obtainable
  • Spotlight / shadow sliders aren’t very efficient
  • Pores and skin tones have a tendency in direction of magenta
  • Denoising robs some nice element even when switched “off”

Adobe Digital camera Uncooked

Professionals Cons
  • Clear, clear and trendy interface
  • Helps an unlimited vary of cameras from many manufacturers
  • Nice efficiency
  • Permits fine-grained changes with correct real-time preview
  • Nice picture high quality
  • Extracts extra nice element than Imaging Edge with minimal fuss
  • Does an excellent job with highlights/shadows
  • Recurring subscription charge with no perpetual license choice
  • Digital camera assist can take some time to reach for extra obscure options and even pretty massive ones like digital camera matching profiles
  • One-click auto management produces overly contrasty, saturated outcomes
  • Tends to depart extra noise in photos by default
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