Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Linux and Photography - a rare combo...

After years of using Windows and subsequently being many times on the verge of losing my photos due to viruses, system crashes, overburdening the system with Windows' power hungry resources, I have been contemplating moving to Linux. I have a little experience with Linux, I was impressed, but most of the applications I needed were not (or so I thought) for Linux. But I could live with incompatibilities as long as my photographic collections were safe and intact. Linux based systems have stronger security features and fewer viruses (this may be aided by the fact that there aren't many viruses written for Linux), very rarely crash and when something goes wrong it is more likely than not, that it was due to user error. It also uses way much less memory than Windows for thee same or three other tasks at the same time. The operating system and its applications are open source and free. To the unexperienced user, the notion of free full software may seem dubious and full of compromises, but this is certainly not the case.

So, I decided for a gradual move into Linux and for that, I decided to try Linux with it's own version of Photoshop...GIMP with UFRAW plugin.
I have to say I was pleasantly impressed. GIMP may not be as polished interface wise as Photoshop, but all the tools you need are there, one just needs to get used to the interface while the UFRAW plugin for camera RAW files offers all the control a photographer will ever really need. The only minus is that it seems that it does not perform denoising on the RAWs (perhaps it is a plus as it really shows as your camera performs), I still have the feeling that UFRAW outputs somewhat noisier files. Having said that, I have converted Sigma X3F files with UFRAW with very good results. Here are some examples:

.X3F, UFRAW converted with no exposure correction

.X3F, UFRAW converted with 1.69(approx) exposure correction

Despite the second example showing some noise which resulted from the exposure correction, the results are perfectly usable at full resolution.
For me this is a big thumbs up and a step closer that transition from Windows to Linux ( which will allow me to do more with much less usage of system memory and CPU).

Until next time,