January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

A RAW Converter History

Every new technology generates new market niches. In 1998 whenNikonbrought out its first digital SLR — theD1— it introduced the concept of the RAW file; one to which the camera had not pre-applied any colour balance, sharpening or other corrections. This was important because it allowed photographers to derive maximum image quality from these files in post-processing in Photoshop. Nikon, to their discredit, didn’t provide the ability to use these files unless one paid hundreds of dollars extra for an accessory program. (NEF and RAW files can not be read by standard programs such as Photoshop. They need a proprietary converter).

This created a new market niche which was quickly filled by a terrific program calledBibble, which turned out to be much better than the Nikon’s (NEF) converter, and it cost a lot less as well. Such is the free enterprise system.

In 2000 whenCanonbrought out its first DSLR — theD30— they provided theZoomBrowserutility. This was able to translateCanonRAW files to standard TIFF format, and best of all didn’t cost any extra. Unfortunately it turned out to be a limited program that was awkward to use.

To their credit, in 2001Canonreleased anSDK(Software Developers Kit) and soon we had two shareware products for theCanonRAW format;BreezeBrowserandYarc(nowYarcPlus).

This is Not a Test

Though the title reads "YarcPlus Vs. Breezebrowser" this is not a comprehensive test. (A link to a more detailed comparison test is found at the end of this page, as well as links to both product’s web sites). Instead what I will do is simply point out to you the basic features as well as my likes and dislikes in both programs.

Both programs may be downloaded and evaluated without charge, and my suggestion is that if you currently own one and not the other that you download both and give them each a try. They are both relatively inexpensive, and you might even find that you want to have both available since while both are excellent products neither offerseverythingthat one could want in a RAW converter.

Screens & Views

Fig. 1Fig. 2

Using a file converter program is very much about ease of file access and image recognition.BreezeBrowserprovides two "screens"; the first shows a file browser to the left of screen and thumbnails to the right. These thumbnails may be viewed in three different sizes. InFigure #1above we see them at their largest size. InFigure #2you see the second screen, which shows a large view of a chosen frame along with all of the camera’s shooting data and a histogram.

YarcPluson the other hand has a total of 5 viewing screens plus a floating EXIF (camera shooting data) window. These are seen below asFigures 3 — 8. ObviouslyYarcPlusprovides more different ways of viewing thumbnails and enlarged files than doesBreezeBrowser, but frankly I don’t find this to be a huge advantage.

Fig. 3Fig. 4
Fig. 5Fig. 6
Fig. 7Fig. 8

You’ll notice that inFigs 3, 4 and 5,YarcPlushas its RAW conversion settings visible. This is shown in more detail inFigure 9below.Figure 10below showsBreezeBrowser‘s conversion screen, which is only visible when you have clicked on the CONVERT button found on the full-image screen (Figure 2 above).

Fig. 9Fig. 10

These are simply two different approaches to user interface. I can’t honestly say that one is highly preferable to the other. And, when it comes to the things that can be done to the image in processing, both programs provide very similar capabilities.

One thing I do prefer aboutBreezeBrowseris that aright-clickon any thumbnail, or on an enlarged view, produces a comprehensive list of image management and conversion capabilities (Figure 11, below).YarcPlusprovides a much more limited selection, and then only when a thumbnail is right-clicked, not with larger views (Figure 12, below).

Fig. 11Fig. 12

ARF Vs. Combined

There are any number of additional areas in which these programs differ. A day or so with each free download will quickly tell you which one better meets your particular style and workflow. But each program has one specific capability that the other does not (at least as of August, 2002).

YarcPlusfeatures a unique noise reduction capability namedARFArtifactRemovalFilter. In brief ARF is a pair of filters that are used to reduce chroma noise and other noise artifacts inCanondigital images. It can be helpful in some instances, and higher ISO files benefit from it more than ones shot at ISO 100. I see just a small improvement at ISOs under 100 on theD60. A detailed article on ARF by one ofYarcPlus‘s authors can be foundhere.

BreezeBrowser‘s unique strength lies in itsCombinedconversion mode. While most people think that a RAW file is exactly what’s put out by the chip, that isn’t the case. Digital imaging chips do not capture data evenly across the range from lightest to darkest. Therefore a curve is applied by the camera to compensate for this. If you wish though you can extract theLinear RAWfile. There arePhotoshop Actionsavailable on the Net for converting these so-calledLinearfiles to something usable (they are very dark).

Why would you want to do this? Because in "normalizing" the file the in-camera processing compresses or clips (I’m not sure which) some of the highlight information. With careful work it is sometimes possible to extract about a half stop more detail in the highlight areas, and thus sometimes reducing "blown-out" highlights.

BreezeBrowsergoes this one-better by doing a RAW conversion while simultaneously extracting theLinearinformation as well. It then combines these two automatically into a new file and saves it as a TIFF. A real time saver over doing it yourself in Photoshop. Don’t expect miracles though. If the highlights have been heavily overexposed nothing is going to get them back.

Ideally one could wish for theARFcapability ofYarcPlustogether with theCombinedcapability ofBreezeBrowser. Failing this whyat you need is to own both of these utilities and use the best features of each when needed.

A Few Issues

One frustration withYarcPlusis that the setting for assigning a profile to the conversion is buried three levels down inOptions / Preferences / Output Options. If I’m working with a mixture of files shot in both sunny and cloudy conditions it’s a nuisance to have to navigate there to make the change in profile required. It should be part of the main conversion menu.

On the other hadYarcPlushas a terrific capability calledPicture-By-Pictureconversion, where you can tag a number of images for conversion each with different parameters, and all at the same time. A real time saver if you need it when converting a large number of files in batch mode.

As far as user interface goes, it really is a matter if personal preference. I have been usingBreezeBrowserregularly for a couple of years so it seems intuitive to me. Another reviewer findsYarcPlus‘ superior. You’ll need to draw your own conclusions.

It needs to be noted that both of these programs are forWindows PCs. A comprehensive RAW conversion program does not exist for theMacplatform though a program calledGraphics Converterfor theMacwill handleCanon D30RAW files in a basic manner.


A detailed comparison and review of these two programs can be foundhere. You can find out more about both programs and download them at these sites:BreezeBrowserandYarcPlus.

My original review from 2001 ofBreezeBrowseris foundhere.

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Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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