Adobe

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Adobe Lightroom

Adobe’s stand-alone raw app gives you all the granular photo-hacking horsepower of ACR, plus even more sophisticated photographic adjustments tools and a powerful database tool for managing your collection. And like any good raw app, Lightroom is a nondestructive editor, saving changes to metadata settings, rather than changing the pixels themselves, as Photoshop does.

If you’re only familiar with image editors like Photoshop, Lightroom takes some adjustment. For one thing, there’s no “save” function; if you want to save to another format, like a JPEG or TIFF file, you’ll need to use export. The version we tested, 2.6, is fully 64-bit and robustly supports dual displays.

Version 2 of Lightroom is more tightly integrated with Photoshop, but we recommend that you do as much work in Lightroom as possible. All Lightroom edits are nondestructive, but once you load an image into Photoshop, it’s loaded as a 16-bit-per-pixel TIFF file. Any edits in Photoshop are baked into the pixels, and when you save and exit, the TIFF file shows up in Lightroom with the Photoshop changes. The original raw file is still present, but doesn’t have any of the changes made in Photoshop itself.

Continue reading this review after the jump.

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Adobe Camera Raw

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) isn’t a stand-alone app, but rather an add-on built into Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Despite its add-on status, ACR offers a rich set of features for tweaking raw files. You can easily adjust exposure, make lens corrections, fix white balance, and do some basic image editing. When you click “done,” Camera Raw creates an XMP file (also known as a “sidecar file”) that reflects the changes you made nondestructively; the actual raw file hasn’t been altered. However, once loaded into Photoshop, any changes made are destructive, and you can’t save the file as a raw file—not even a DNG-variant raw file.

While ACR offers settings for both luminance and color-noise reduction, their overall impact can be hard to discern. ACR’s noise reduction certainly isn’t in the same class as Bibble’s Noise Ninja. And since ACR is itself an add-on, it doesn’t have its own set of aftermarket filters. Indeed, at its heart, ACR is really just a one-dimensional app for modifying the specific properties intrinsic to raw files. It’s got some limited image-editing tools—like crop and straighten—but its real strength lies in easily adjusting basic photographic attributes, like exposure and white balance. Its feature set is limited.

Continue reading this review after the jump.