For some time now, I’ve been using ON1 Photo RAW (now version 2018) which is a RAW development and photo editing software from ON1 Inc. company.
If you read my review of ON1 Effects 10 (which was a precursor of Photo RAW), then you know I really liked that piece of software. However, when ON1 Photo RAW initially appeared I didn’t really like it. Despite it was marketed as fastest and most robust RAW editor, I found it very slow compared to Capture One (and even Lightroom which I find terribly slow). And more importantly, I didn’t like results I were getting from it. But ON1 kept updating their software in the next few months and I recently decided to give a trial a go once again. And this time I decided to purchase a license. Why? Read on to find out.
Introduction & Pricing
ON1 Photo RAW costs $119.99 for a new license or $99.99 for the upgrade from the previous version. There is also ON1 Plus Pro membership (which costs $149.99 per year), which apart from ON1 Photo RAW app includes a number of benefits, like free tutorials, presets, eBooks etc. Also, if you have an active membership all new versions will be free for you.
ON1 Photo RAW basically consists of a few modules, which in the past were separate apps:
- Browse – it’s a library/catalogue,
- Develop – RAW files Editor – you can develop your RAW there and apply some basic adjustments to it, like B&W conversion, adding vignette etc.,
- Effects – this is where you can further edit your photo (by applying various effects and filters) and give it a look you want,
- Layers – you can create composites there from several images,
- Resize – lets you enlarge the image using some clever algorithms and prepare your photo for print.
First thing I noticed is how fast this software is. It generates library previews in a blink of an eye, RAW development is also pretty fast. The only part I find a bit slowish is when exporting a finished image to JPG/TIFF file – there’s still some place for improvement here I think.
New features in ON1 Photo RAW 2018
What really impresses me about ON1 Photo RAW software is how many new features appear every year. ON1 releases a new major version every few months and each of them includes some big additions.
Version 2018 is no different and it added a few significant improvements, namely:
- Virtual copies of the images,
- Improvements to luminosity masking,
- Addition of Colour Range Masks,
- Updated UI,
- Ability to merge photos to panorama,
- Ability to merge photos to HDR.
I found User Interface to be very clean, elegant and intuitive, much easier to use than Lightroom’s UI. It has nice dark skin with light icons and texts.
The preview image is in the centre and on the left, there are presets and brush tools. On the right, there are RAW development and Effects sliders and settings.
Although I still use Lightroom as my main tool to catalogue and browse photos, I must admit I really like the one in ON1 Photo RAW. What I find great about it, is that unlike Lightroom it can generate thumbnail previews very fast (there is an “accurate” option which is much slower but I didn’t need it so far). Other crucial features like rating the photos, picking/rejecting them, advanced filtering are also already present so I might soon be finally switching from Lightroom completely.
ON1 Photo RAW is one of just a few new RAW Development apps that appeared in the last few years so it automatically makes this software interesting. And I must say I really like its processing engine. It has plenty of options (yet most of them are pretty intuitive as they use the similar naming convention as Lightroom) and the images have a very nice look to them – they are natural and pleasant to look at. I still prefer the look from Capture One, which has something filmish about it, but ON1 Photo RAW is pretty impressive too.
There are plenty of options, grouped in several categories like e.g. Tone & Color (which are related to exposure, contrast, white balance and saturation), Details (noise reduction and RAW sharpening), Lens Correction, Black & White conversion, Vignette.
Also, many adjustments can be applied locally to specific parts of the image using masking tools (brush, graduated filter).
Tons of effects
Once you’re done with developing RAW you can go to the next module that is Effects, which is about making your photo look the way you want by applying Effects – various photography filters.
It is where ON1 Photo RAW really shines as there are more than 20 different effects (you can see them in the image on the right), from obvious ones like Black & White, Blur, Photo Filter to more artistic ones like Antique, Sunshine (which is one of my favourite effects by the way), Split Tone or Cross Process.
Each of the effects has plenty of sliders and other options, can be applied selectively (e.g. just to highlights/shadows/midtones or specific colour channel only), can be masked out and you can also choose a blending mode, which changes everything… At first, the number of possibilities might be quite overwhelming but after some time you will start to appreciate the creative freedom this program gives you. If you have a clear vision, you will be definitely able to make it happen inside ON1 Photo RAW. It offers flexibility similar to Photoshop but in much easier to understand and master form.
Good news is that there are dozens of presets to get you started. I started learning the software by modifying existing presets and many of them are really useful.
Apart from numerous effects and RAW development settings, ON1 Photo RAW has plenty of professional tools, e.g. you can make selections based on luminosity masks or colour ranges. There is also a perfect brush that makes it possible to select only areas similar to the ones you clicked. There are also local adjustments or already mentioned blending modes.
What I don’t like
Looking at some features I think many of them are somewhat unfinished or that ON1 Photo RAW still isn’t mature photo editor. For instance, transform tool misses any overlay what makes it fixing distortions particularly difficult (not to mention that transform tool doesn’t offer any automatic correction unlike Lightroom or Capture One). Also, applying lens corrections or cropping the image results in a very blurry preview if viewed at anything else than 100% magnification. Also, I miss automatic chromatic aberration removal as powerful as in Lightroom or in Capture One. These might seem like small things but they are quite irritating and I hope ON1 will fix them – it’s breaking a workflow for me if I need to send the image to another program just to fix distortions.
Also, I found some tools, particularly Perfect Erase and Clone Stamp tool to be very slow compared to the rest of the app.
ON1 Photo RAW is an excellent photo editor and RAW development software. The number of options it offers is really incredible and editing images with it is a real pleasure. Since I’ve started using it, I rarely need to use Photoshop anymore. It’s a program that will work both for amateurs and advanced photographers as it offers endless possibilities of editing the images and includes many professional-oriented tools.
Even though it misses a few features and is sometimes a bit rough around the edges, it already became my RAW editor of choice. I hope ON1 will keep on improving it in the future.
- Wealth of editing tools and effects,
- Very elegant and intuitive User Interface,
- Very nice look of the photos,
- It’s very fast.
- A few rough edges here and there,
- Might be a little overwhelming at first.