Friday, 23 May 2014

DCRAW 9.21 for OS X Mavericks: using LightZone

The list of applications that are using dcraw is impressive, you have plenty of choices anywhere from  free basic programs to pretty costly well-known commercial products. As a Fuji x-trans user my favourite free product is LightZone (you need to register to access the download area). The latest version 4.1.0~beta9 now includes dcraw 9.21 and improved tone curve for XT-1 raw files.

What is LightZone? Obviously it is more than just a graphical front-end to dcraw. The quote from LZ website: "LightZone is professional-level digital darkroom software for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, that includes RAW processing and editing. Rather than using layers in the way that other photo editors do, LightZone lets the user build up a stack of tools which can be rearranged, readjusted, turned off and on, and removed  from the stack.  It's a completely non-destructive editor, where any of the tools can be re-adjusted or modified later — even in a different editing session. A tool stack can even be copied to a batch of photos at one time. LightZone always operates in a 16-bit linear colour space with the wide gamut of ProPhoto RGB"

I tested LightZone using very basic editing technique.

I really like the interface. It is simple and well organized with two modes: Browse and Edit.  While in Browse mode I made two changes in Preferences:

un-checked Auto Save

and changed colour profile to ProPhoto RGB

you can also hide/unhide Folders and Info tabs to browse files in a full screen mode.

In Edit mode you have Styles (presets) / History on the left and Tools/Info on the right. In my example I decided to leave Raw Adjustments tool at its default settings. Then I added Hue / Saturation tool and bumped up Vibrance /Saturation a bit.

You can always compare adjusted image to the original by clicking and holding the Orig button at the top. You can also add the same tool several times (you'll see Hue/Saturation 1...2..etc) to the stack, re-arrange tools or delete them from the stack. Reminded me Perfect Effects 8
My next step was to sharpen up the image. I chose High-Pass Filter from Styles:

Immediately Sharpen tool showed up on the right side. Very clean results, now I am wondering if they using Richardson-Lucy Deconvolution algorithm for this.
To improve the image contrast I applied Soft Wow 2 filter

which added two more tools (another Sharpen and Relight) on the right side. I can further adjust the image by increasing or decreasing sliders on each tool and then save my favourite set of tools/values as my own style

Now I can save the final image

Here is before and after:

I've just scratched the surface of LZ capabilities with this very basic example where I used only global adjustments. You can also apply selective adjustments using regions and Zonemapper/Zonefider.

I suggest to check tutorial (screenshots) if you would like to use these options more seriously than I did.

Overall I am very pleased with LightZone 4.1.0~beta9. It is stable, works with all main operating systems, fairly fast and gives you tones of creative options. And it does support tricky Fuji x-trans raw files really well.

Thanks for dropping by,


  1. Glad you found us and liked LightZone so far. Sometime this summer I'd like to have a part of our "About" section include links to pages just like this one---please let me know if that's OK with you. Thanks for featuring us here.

    1. Hello texandrews,
      I really like LightZone, feel free to reference the page. Beta9 seems very stable. I tried it with Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Sony and Panasonic raw files and it works like a charm. Keep up the good work!

  2. A nice program with real good xt1 support! The only thing I miss is full support of Apple Retina display (full resolution image preview instead of only 1920x1280).

  3. Hello!

    Youg blog ist very interesting.

    I just want to mention that I use Lightzone for years now, (also when it was a commercial soft), and could'nt live without some of his features, especially color selection for any tool.

    I'm a lazy one, but I hope to post one day howto's of my own usage of that soft.
    Serge, frenchie oldie... :-)


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