Photo Ninja - Some comments from Jim Christian, the developer.


For the past couple of days I've been having an email conversation with Jim Christian of PictureCode, the developer of Photo Ninja. In the course of that conversation I asked him if he would outline the 'philosophy' (for want of a better word) behind what he has come up with. Certainly for me, as a user of many raw file converters, it seemed something was different (in a good way) with Photo Ninja and that finally I had found a programme that lets me genuinely decide how to process and gives me a quality and a 'look' that I haven't found before in a raw converter and have had to do some serious PP work to achieve. I am a recent convert to Photo Ninja but at this moment in time cannot really imagine using anything else in the future.

I and many others have been seriously impressed by what Photo Ninja has achieved with the Fuji X-Trans sensor raw files, finally 'liberating' them from the over processed 'mush' that has been the result of some more well-known software companies efforts and indeed the unimpressive Fuji / Silkypix software. This, plus my other conversions using Photo Ninja on different cameras from Leicas, through Nikons to m4/3 and 1" sensors, has led me to the conclusion that this is the raw processing software that I've been waiting for ever since I embarked on digital photography raw conversion and I do urge you to try it for yourself.

I've included his comments intact and unedited and personally I find them illuminating and full of interest. I hope you feel the same. I'd like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Jim for taking the time to do this.

'As for our demosaicing technology, I can't really go into detail, but I can try to provide a little perspective.  I am indeed doing some things differently versus what you typically read in the demosaicing literature.  Some of it is in the math, some of it is the result of relentlessly staring at pixels and beating my head against the wall until I get a desired result.  (I've been trying to do more of the former and less of the latter, with varying success.) 

(Frankly, much of the academic literature has to be taken with a big grain of salt.   The algorithms are usually tested on a limited set of synthetic images that are created from images that have already been post-processed.  That is, they don't actually test on RAW files.  Moreover, most fixate on achieving a low signal-to-noise ratio, which I've found to be a poor indicator of image quality.   A few researchers seem to be realizing this (mostly the ones who work more closely with industry practitioners).  But there are a number of algorithms out there that employ sophisticated math and look effective on paper, but don't seem to hold up very well in a more realistic setting.)

One reason you see differences across products is that there is significant mathematical latitude in formulating the solution.   Image processing problems like demosaicing are mathematically severely underdetermined.   That is, in a trivial formulation, there are an infinite number of possible solutions, and most of them look bad.  So, to avoid bad solutions, you have to decide what makes an image look "good" or "correct", and use that to constrain the solution process.   There are many possibilities for achieving this mathematically, so it leads to different results depending on what approach you adopt.


Regarding "conservative" vs. "aggressive" renderings:  I've intentionally tried to make the default renderings a bit vivid and distinctive.   The intent is to achieve pleasing color, not necessarily accurate color.   Also, the "Smart Lighting" exposure mode attempts to compress dynamic range when necessary to preserve highlights without crushing shadows, which also contributes to the "look" of Photo Ninja particularly for high-contrast scenes.    However, these are all just default behaviors, and you can easily choose different defaults.   If you click on the "Defaults..." button at the top of the filter list, you can change the default exposure policy, tone/color preset, etc.   And if you click on the "Preset..." button (also at the top of the filter list) you can save your own global presets (and then select them in the Defaults panel).'     

Finally here is a link to the Picture Code website - http://www.picturecode.com/index.php Here you can download a trial of Photo Ninja and email to ask for a 2 week trial licence. The software is for Mac AND PC and I don't recommend things often, but in this case I would seriously encourage you to give it a try. I'm actually enjoying editing my images using Photo Ninja currently, and for me that really is no greater recommendation!!


N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.


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