I admit it. I shoot in raw.
I want the ability to really push those pixels to my will, and shooting in JPEG doesn't always allow me to do that. I actually really like the look of Nikon's JPEGs, and when I'm shooting family snapshots, I'll usually just do so as JPEGs. When I shoot for a client, I shoot in raw. Those big ol' .NEF files allow me to fully tweak the images as I want.
For the past few years, I've used Adobe Lightroom for my image processing. While I don't think it produces the absolute best image quality, I can still get through a batch of images quickest using Lightroom. In the past few weeks, however, there's been some new contenders to the raw conversion software battle. They're free to try, so that's just what I did.
I grabbed a landscape photo and a portrait photo and converted them using the different applications. These are all straight from each converter with no tweaks. I've also included the final image I delivered to the clients.
Based mostly on the skin tones, my favorite portrait is probably from Capture One with the Capture NX-D a close second. I don't know what the heck is going on with the Luminar image. Looking at how the software renders the sun in the landscape photo, I prefer the look of the Capture One with the Apple Photos in second place. I like the quality of the images that come out of Capture One, but I find the software slow to use. Not necessarily slow to see changes when I make adjustments, but rather speed at which I can edit a photo and move on to the next one.
While Lightroom doesn't necessarily produce the best images, its speed and features more than make up for it.
The Macphun folks were very interested in my findings here. They requested the original NEF images for testing. A couple of days later, they updated Luminar and totally fixed the issues I was having. It's obvious that Macphun really wants to compete in this space. Here are the updated images: