Why I didn’t name Editors in the RAW Editor Article

Hi, everyone.

I’ve received quite a few comments about not naming the names of the editors in the article, entitled “Some Raw Truth About Raw Editors” (link) that warned about how many editors damage your RAW image data before you see it.

I thought I’d share why I didn’t do that.  Here is a reply I wrote on dpreview.com (http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1006&message=35124141)

“I’m very suspicious of anyone who is has a product and makes these kinds of comparisons of competing ones w.o. giving the names of those he’s comparing.

How do we know that he didn’t ‘cherry-pick’ the ones to compare knowing that these particular ones didn’t give what he considers good results?
There’s so much of this on TV – caveat emptor.”

I’m the author of Sagelight, and I couldn’t agree more about “caveat emptor”.

I didn’t name the editors for a few reasons.

Professional courtesy. It’s just bad form to name names. These editors weren’t picked by me — they were referenced by Sagelight users who noted the differences between Sagelight and other editors they used, and sent me examples of Sagelight vs. other editor’s images (and were wondering about the cause).

It’s not good to name names, I believe, because, first of all, I tested only some of the editors out of the all of decent ones out there, and the ones I used in the article were representative of my general findings. In the article, for example, I note that I didn’t test Adobe for various but conscious reasons. So, to single out just a few specific editors just wouldn’t be fair.

Plus, I’m just one guy behind Sagelight, so there’s going to be a host of things you could pick and choose about Sagelight that could be better. With my limited time, I try to concentrate on the important ones. But, depending on one’s point of view, one could attack any single editor very easily for the things it doesn’t do compared to another. I’d rather look more at what specific editors do that people like, as more often than not, people use more than one editor due to the things they like about each. I name names in those situations, such as my liking for Faststone and wide respect for Raw Therapee — both great free alternatives to retail programs.

It just wouldn’t be a nice atmosphere to start personally attacking specific editors. I’ve released the names of the editors in the article to people who have asked me privately, and others have verified this as a general issue among editors. Not to say that you can’t overcome this with some editors where this is more the default (I haven’t seen this, but don’t discount the possibility), but I’m referring to either default or basic behavior that destroys image data, as opposed to just obscuring it.

I have mixed emotions about it, because I have received a lot of flak for not releasing the names, but I hope people understand that I mean it as a general commentary about RAW. In fact, just recently realizing all of this, I can’t say Sagelight is guilt-free. The default mode is not highlight recovery (for specific reasons), but it has made me realize I need to revamp the interface to make sure this isn’t happening by default and to give users a warning or some sort of notification when the highlights and shadows are being cut off in favor of a better visual enhancement.

I hope that clears up that issue. As I noted in my article, it wasn’t meant as a “Sagelight = better” thing at all, and mentioned that the article was for Sagelight users as well as users of other editors — i.e. things to look for in whatever editor you use. It’s almost a shame I have the conflict of interested, because I think it’s an important topic, at least the idea of understanding that this happens a lot in editors (whether recoverable or not), and that the actual range vs. presented range may be quite different.

I know that a lot of users here in this forum are very knowledgeable about this subject. I was getting a lot of questions on the subject from Sagelight users, so I thought it was worth writing about, especially since it’s tends to be a misleading issue unless you’re very much plugged into RAW editing.


I just thought I’d share it.  I can see why it would seem like I didn’t name them for my own gain, but I hope it’s understood I didn’t do so more out of fairness.


2 thoughts on “Why I didn’t name Editors in the RAW Editor Article

  1. Hi Rob,

    I do not believe you should worry about this If you are expressing your opinion on such matters as the author of an image editor you are in “trouble” one way or the other. No matter if you name the competing products or not, things can me misinterpreted easily.

    RAW editors can be incredibly complex (I guess I should better not explain this to the author of one; hmmmh?). Nevertheless, because of this complexity it is certainly difficult to make valid comparisons of the output. Did you try to address these variables?

    If there would be a way to standardize such comparisons somehow (likely not?) a bigger and independent test would certainly be great.

  2. I agree with Luc, you’ve taken the step of showing results from multiple “A, B, C” programs, so there is already info there and people guessing and making assumptions about which software, or doing their own tests. In other words, “the damage” (if any) is done. The *more* info you can provide the better off it will be for A: the users, who will be both better informed, and better able to contribute to the discussion if e.g. there is a setting you can use to improve the output of a program B: the developers of other software, who can improve their product if necessary and C: you yourself, since you won’t appear to be intentionally cherry picking bad apps to compare to or anything else that might be questionable in your methods.

    To more specifically address each of your points:

    First, yes you did only test a few apps. So you’ve already “singled out just a few editors”, which is “unfair” (as you put it). Personally I don’t think it’s unfair at all because many of the other editors are quite expensive and I wouldn’t expect you to purchase and test them all for us. But what telling us which apps you did test does is allows others to contribute their own results to the test, thus broadening it and making it a more useful and relevant comparison for all.

    Second, of course there are things you could pick out that are bad about Sagelight. That’s true of any editor. I’m not sure why this should mean that bad points of any software should not be pointed out with the names of the software made clear. I grant there is a potential “conflict of interest” since you are a developer, but if all you’re doing is legitimate tests, which is true, and you provide information so other people can duplicate it (that last point seems key), then it should be no problem to name names.

    Finally, I don’t think you’re “attacking” these other programs at all. You’re *testing* them and publishing your results. I think that’s a very legitimate thing to do, even as a competing software author.

    You also say “I hope people understand that I mean it as a general commentary about RAW”, but I’m not sure how it could really be a general commentary about RAW alone. Certainly that is the basic topic, but really what it’s more about is *RAW conversion*. A commentary *about* RAW would be more like “RAW format does not have enough standards” or “All RAW files are not 16 bit” and then illustrating with a test to show it. In that case you might be coming up against “naming names” of camera manufacturers who might have less-than-ideal RAW formatting. Instead what you’re talking about is the conversion and editing of RAW, and that is very much a software-specific thing, which makes it important to provide the names for reference.

    Anyway, the bottom line I think is that you can easily argue that not releasing the names is just as “unfair” as releasing them, if not more so. I respect your personal conviction, and especially your integrity on this, but I think it’s worth reconsidering this, at least in the future.

    In the meantime for my part I hope to be able to build a general image comparison and community contribution system that will help with these kinds of software and feature comparisons.

    – Oshyan

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