Version 4.0 Update (and some goings-on with RAW functionality in Sagelight)

I just put up a small update.   It involves a couple fixes and an update on the RAW loading, described below.

Fixes:

  1. The Tooltips were not displaying on Windows XP (any non-Vista or Non-Windows 7 version).
  2. Some RAW files were getting a message, “An Unknown Error Occurred.“.  This was an issue caused by a bug in retrieving the EXIF info from the RAW file.
  3. The Contrast Options Menu (in the Kayak/PQE mode) would keep disappearing before you could make a selection.

A Raw Update and Addition

Reluctantly, I added a post-sharpen to the RAW image when it is loaded.  I’ve spoken out against doing this before (I think sharpening should be done last, not first), but there are a few things causing it to make sense.

Also, as Sagelight becomes more powerful, I want to make sure that power is easily accessible where possible, as adding functions and elements can really make a program harder to use if it isn’t put in the right places.  Adding sharpening where it makes a visible and tangible difference for general editing, but with the option to control it or turn if off, I’m finding is a good happy-medium.  So, something I ended up doing fairly reluctantly at first turned out to be something I ended up appreciating.

Reasons to Leave the Sharpening on:

  1. The sharpen applied is very light, 1-pixel radius with a strength of .75. It’s minimal, so it’s not intended to be “the sharpening” for the image.
  2. It sharpens only on the C*I*E L (luminance) channel, avoiding color noise.
  3. It avoids edges — it’s not edge-sharpening, per se, as much as it is a graduated sharpen, not touching smooth areas and then getting stronger as in areas that have more definition.  You can also turn off the smooth-area avoidance and turn it into a general sharpen.
  4. Cameras are taking much higher resolution pictures.  It’s a lot more like film now.  A few years ago, with 8 Megapixel or below, you really wouldn’t want to pre-sharpen.  But, with the newer cameras, the RAW images — defintion-wise — are starting to look like film negatives, where you aren’t getting high-definition on a 1:1 pixel level.  So, a small amount of pre-sharpening starts to make sense visually and also from a practical level, since it doesn’t really hurt the image like it did on lower-resolution images.
  5. It’s also making more sense now because of the Definition Sliders in the Power Box.  After doing some testing, I found that doing just a small amount of sharpening doesn’t affect editing very much and it helps the Definition layers really bring out the.. well.. definition.., in the image (if you’re not familiar with these sliders, the basic premise is otherwise known as “focus” or “clarity” in some other editors)
  6. I think that RAW editing really needs to be a two-step process, and this helps keep it into one editing session.  The main example is that when you get a JPEG image from your camera, you still want to make it look nicer, add color, sometimes sharpen, etc. — it turns out this is basically the second edit to it, since the camera has already edited it for you.  So, RAW is really the same way, and adding that little bit of sharpening that, by itself, is really not that much of a change, really does help the image look much better with fewer steps (mostly because when you use the definition sliders, it adds onto the definition on a non-linear fashion, i.e. it has more of an impact than you’d think)
  7. You can turn the sharpening off.  You can turn it off in the general settings or use Load RAW image with options to specify what you want.
  8. Realistically, though, it is just easier to work with. This is because sharpening an image first makes it more crisp and vibrant throughout the editing process, where it seems a little dull when it needs sharpening.
  9. You can turn it on as an afterthought. If you like your work in the Quick Edit or Kayak/PQE mode, but realize you might want to try it without sharpening, you can simply save the current settings, reload the file without sharpening, and then reload the settings.  So, you don’t really lose anything.
  10. You can probably tell I worked hard to convince myself about all of this — which I have!

Reasons not to sharpen, even lightly (i.e. turn off the setting and sharpen last)

  1. Some cameras have a lot of sharp, edgy color noise — or, sometimes, luminance noise.
  2. From a purist standpoint, it’s better to sharpen last.  Sharpening can cause noise, even when the L channel is the only part sharpened.   It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things.  Sharpening first can bring out this noise later in the process as you add color or otherwise tone your image.  Like I said, it’s really from the purist standpoint.

Anyway, the latest install version can be found at http://www.sagelighteditor.com/Sagelight4.0.0.exe, which can be loaded if you already have it installed (it just replaces the current files); or if you have it installed already and just want to load the main .exe file, it’s at http://www.sagelighteditor.com/SagelightExe4.0.0b.exe (They’re both almost exactly the same size at 17.5 Megs — because the .exe is compressed in the intsaller).

Let me know what you think about the sharpening issue.  Again, keep in mind that I purposely did it very lightly in order to keep it from causing noise and to let it work with the Definition Sliders.

Rob

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12 thoughts on “Version 4.0 Update (and some goings-on with RAW functionality in Sagelight)

  1. I have not had a chance to spend enough time with version 4 yet. I think I will do the following experiment on some images of mine that I have been obsessing over the last few months.

    1) No raw sharpen – run my re-focus utility (focus magic) – finish in sagelight, save settings.

    2) Raw sharpen – run focus magic – finish in sagelight, restore settings, bump down detail slider if necessary. It seems from what Rob has said that raw sharpening enhances the detail slide, so if I restore the detail from a setting that worked on a non-raw sharpened image I should have to futz with the detail slider.

    • Hi, Wayne.

      I’ll be curious about the results. I added a very slight sharpen to the RAW image as opposed to something heavier, mainly meant to keep from hurting the data early on, but also give a nice visual presentation to it (since most RAW images start off in life a little blurry), and to strike a balance to help the Definition Sliders and other functions in Sagelight — for example, if you want to use the Unsharp Mask on it later, it won’t get edgy and noisy like it would if I had used a more aggressive setting.

      On the other hand, you might be interested in trying it with the “Avoid Smooth” area off. It has a more distinct sharpen, which I like for the most part, but thought was bringing out too much of the low-level noise in the smoother areas, especially on RAW images where you get either the faint maze-like impression or otherwise strange artifacting. Rob

  2. Hi Rob
    Just dropping a note to say that everything is working great for me on my windows 7 computer:) wish there was a mac version as I prefer the mac os.:) Regardless, I love all of the features of your software and the masking is super duper!! Can’t wait for some kind of internal file browser to show up in the app. Great work!!
    J

    • Hi, Jeremy. Thanks alot. The RAW browser will be in the next update. I’m looking forward to that — one of those things you avoid and avoid, but when you finally get them in you’re so glad you did it. ha. Rob

    • Definition basically is local contrast. In my tests, with the default settings, it gives about the same response as Lightroom’s “Clarity”, except that I added the radius slider and the extra layer.

      Compared to the Unsharp Mask, the Definition function is a very guarded, clipped function. The basic premise is the same, where you’re blurring the image with a Gaussian Blur and then adding the difference onto the image — that’s the basic formula with the Unsharp Mask, where the radius is the Gaussian Blur Radius and the strength is some f(x) forming a multiplier on the difference between the original image and the gaussian blur (on each channel, R,G,B; L,A,B; or H,S,L depending on the mode).

      The Definition (aka Local Contrast) is clipping the edges so to control halos and to keep more in the middle areas to perform the “local contrast” without turning into an edge sharpener. Also, the local contrast typically uses a higher radius with a much lower strength. You can use the Unsharp Mask function (in the general menu) to get the same sort-of local-contrast look, but without the clipping, the edges will become very prominent.

      I hope that explains things a little (?).

      Rob

  3. I am a beginner at this but I can not begin to tell you how much I like V4.0. With Vibrance and a gentle touch of Fill Light I can save many outdoor photos and make them more realistic and accurate.

    Thank you for all the work you have put into this.

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