Panasonic LX3 RAW Conversions

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For ultimate image quality for large prints or for severe crops then it is wise to either carefully fine tune your camera for jpegs or just use the RAW files.

Be aware that the LX3 has huge amounts of barrel distortion that are automatically fixed in-camera by the jpeg engine. The RAW files contain those distortions so the RAW converter software needs to be aware and do a similar distortion correction. The special version of Silkypix supplied with the camera does do that distortion correction so you end up with a similar image to the in-camera generated jpeg. The full paid version of Silkypix bought independently also knows about Panasonic and also fixes distortions in the same way.

Some other RAW converter programs will accept LX3 files but do not apply the distortion correction. A few examples of non-correction being Raw Therapee, Picasa3, and FastStone Viewer. There are more but also this situation may change as software writers catch up to what's happening in the cameras.

Another feature is that various RAW converters will allow you to get at various amounts of the edge pixels, here's a few examples of what happens when set to 16:9 aspect ratio. List is in no particular order.

SoftwareSize Output at 16:9Distortion CorrectionNotes
In-Camera jpeg3968 x 2232 = 8,856,576 pixelsYes In all cases in this table the automatic distortion correction is not 100% and some extra fine tuning may be required
Silkypixdefault 3968 x 2232
optional maximum Trim version 4078 x 2294  = 9,354,932 pixels
YesSupplied with camera updates here for Panasonic cameras. Full version US$149 (30 day trial is free) here
Picasa33982 x 2250 pixels = 8,959,500 pixelsNoFree, good simple edit program, suits beginners and more.
FastStone Viewer3982 x 2250 pixels = 8,959,500 pixelsNoFree to use, asks for donations
Raw Therapee3974 x 2242 = 8,909,708 pixelsNoFree to use, asks for donations. Maybe extracts most detail of all.
Adobe Lightroom3968 x 2232 = 8,856,576 pixelsYesUS$299, 30 day free trial
Adobe Camera Raw 6.1untested by me, I think v5.4 was the first to have LX3 RAW support.YesUsed by Adobe Photoshop CS5 US$699 Lightroom 3 US$299 and Elements 8 US$99
Picture Window Pro 53982 x 2250 = 8,959,500 pixelsNoUS$90, 30 day free trial
Helicon Filter3968 x 2232 = 8,856,576 pixelsYesVersion 4.93.2 now FREE, the new V5 will be the paid version
US$20/$75, 30 day free trial.
UFRaw (GIMP)3982 x 2250 = 8,959,500 pixelsNoFree, maybe steep learning curve but good
Qimage Studio3982 x 2250 = 8,959,500 pixelsNoUS$90 specialised printing program, handles all file types.
VueScan3982 x 2250 = 8,959,500 pixelsNoUS$40/$80 Designed for scanners, but handles camera  files
DxO Optics ProNot tested by me yet.
Noted as possibly the best of the RAW converters by others. A separate page coming soon hopefully, to explain the use of DxO and LX3.
YesCost Euro149/299 download. 30 day trial available. (US$145/270 at B&H)
PaintShop Photo Pro X3Early tests show noisy and "dirty" RAW conversions, not recommended for that purpose. Can however retrieve a noticeably bigger image as off-the-edge pixels seem to be fully used.NoCost US$70 but varies with promotions. Version X3 is currently bug ridden but when it works PaintShop Pro is hard to beat for a good general purpose image edit program. A 30 day free trial available, sometimes seems to be extended to 60 days when near completion.
SagelightNot tested yet by me. Only checked for LX3 RAW compatibility.NoCost US$40 with 30 day free trial available.
Bibble 4Didn't input LX3 files when I tried it.
Also Bibble 5 trial version now opens LX3 files but did not apply correction when I tried it.
Capture OneDidn't input LX3 files when I tried it.
People can elect to alter the exif data to make Capture One think it is looking at Leica D-Lux4 files.

Table above in no particular order, I just add things here and there as I try them or find them. All as tested on Windows XP or Vista or Win7 as the mood takes me. No Mac ability in my house so Mac users need to visit the sites to see if a Mac version is available. Facts as found up to August 2010.
Some Mac facts as people report them to me... not tested by me.
Lightroom works fine and corrects for distortion. Cost US$299. 30 day free trial.
Raw Photo Processor good for detail, a bit slow, does not correct for distortion. Asks for donations.
Aperture 3 now works for LX3, corrects for distortion but maybe not for purple fringing so well..
Picasa of course works if needing a simple one. No distortion correction. Free. Also a Linux version exists.
DxO Optics Pro. Does do distortion correction. Cost Euro149/299.

Below is a simple comparison between a few of the above converters as seen via FastStone Viewer 4 way comparison screen. The "fs" added to the filename is for FastStone Viewer conversion, "j" for in-cameras jpeg, "pi" for Picasa3 conversion and "si" for Silkypix conversion but Trimmed out to maximum possible. Note the variations of what can be seen on the left and right side of the image. Also the larger distortion in the big wooden column for "fs" and "pi" versions.

4 way compare

One item that happens in this automatic distortion correction is that the image is distorted at the edges and the edges are clipped off. This may be a problem when trying to get the full 24mm coverage in a scenic situation. If taking architectural type shots where there's always straight lines near edges, then you have no alternative than to use distortion correction to make things look normal. The in-camera jpegs and the Silkypix conversions do still leave a little distortion, so careful work will need further barrel distortion correction in a decent photo edit program.

Here's the right side of the above images at 100% pixel size to show relative clipping and distortion caused by the barrel distortion correction. Note the small picture frame has changed size in the distortion corrected versions on the right, the left two images have no distortion correction.


The above conversions were done with no adjusts whatsoever to image quality and shows that the default Silkypix image quality is closest to the in-camera jpeg. Naturally I prefer to use Silkypix as it has always been easier for me to get nicer results from it.

This page will expand when I try more RAW converters and also to show how easy or hard it is to duplicate or improve on the in-camera jpeg result.

Fair to say though is that the in-camera jpeg is very good indeed as long as Noise Reduction and Sharpness are both set to minus 2 and fixes done in post process to get the desired result.

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