Take a Look at the Future of Photo Editing with the Insanely Fast ON1 Photo RAW

on1 photo raw develop
Updated September 27, 2016: ON1 recently published a new video that offers a first look at the full Photo RAW software package. The video emphasizes the speed of the software and shows how users will browse and edit photos.

One of Photo RAW’s key design choices was to avoid the traditional catalog or library approach to file management, allowing users to browse photos from any location without a lengthy import process. ON1 had claimed Photo RAW would still include features inherent to catalog-based image processors, however, such as filters and smart albums, which this video now demonstrates in action.

While the video shows off the standard assortment of adjustments, of particular interest is the new content-aware retouching tool, which removed a person from a photograph and instantly filled in the background. This can be done directly in Photo RAW’s Develop module, without having to load a plugin or external application, and, like the standard adjustments, it is completely nondestructive.

While ON1 Photo Plus Pro members will receive Photo RAW as part of their membership, standalone pricing was also announced. New users will be able to purchase Photo RAW for $110, while those upgrading from ON1 Photo 10 will get it for $80. Availability is still listed as fall 2016.

About 10 miles south of Portland, Oregon, in a building shared with Coca-Cola, the 25-person team at ON1 Software is hard at work on their biggest project yet. It’s called ON1 Photo RAW, and not only is it a complete rewrite of their existing technology, it’s the first new RAW image processor in many years.

ON1 has been making photo editing and enhancing tools since 2005, but its software has primarily been in the form of plugins for other popular applications. I had the opportunity to meet with ON1’s Patrick Smith, director of marketing, and Dan Harlacher, director of product management, to learn more about the software and the new direction they’re taking the company.

ON1-Photo-RAW-Harlacher-and-Smith-1
Dan Harlacher, left, and Patrick Smith of ON1 Software. Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

ON1’s key focus with Photo RAW is speed, which was made immediately clear in a demonstration of the new software engine running in a developer test bed. The engine loaded a 42-megapixel RAW image from a Sony A7R II in less than a quarter-of-a-second. Harlacher then demonstrated several real-time effects, from basic exposure adjustments to advanced lens blur simulations. The image preview updated instantly every time he moved a slider, regardless of how many adjustments had already been applied to the photo. While a video of a similar demonstration was released a while ago, seeing it in person made it much more real.

The most impressive thing, though? All of this was running on a measly 13-inch MacBook Air hooked up to a projector via Apple AirPlay. Photo RAW has been retooled from the ground up to do as much work as possible on the computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU), so if all of these effects can render in real-time on a computer that makes do with Intel integrated graphics, I can only imagine what’s possible on a real workstation with a discrete GPU.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about a RAW processor without making comparisons to a certain other RAW processor that some people may have heard of: Adobe Lightroom. It would seem to be a tricky situation for ON1, whose existing products can run as plugins within Lightroom.

“We didn’t set out to build a Lightroom killer,” Harlacher said. “There were certain things our customers were asking for that we simply couldn’t give them within Lightroom’s SDK.”

A big component of that is nondestructive editing. Everything done within Lightroom is nondestructive, but as soon as an image is sent to another application, including a plugin, its adjustments are baked in and saved as a new file. This can be hassle for photographers who want the flexibility to jump back and forth between making RAW adjustments and adding effects.

By contrast, “Everything within Photo RAW will be nondestructive,” Harlacher said. Every separate component of ON1’s software suite will exist as a module within Photo RAW. However, ON1 isn’t turning its back on Adobe. In fact, the entire Photo RAW program can run as a plugin within Lightroom, albeit with the usual loss of nondestructive edits when moving between the two applications.

For iPhone photographers excited about the possibility of shooting in RAW with iOS 10, it’s also worth noting that ON1 Photo RAW will run as a plugin within Apple Photos on the Mac.

Unlike Lightroom and other RAW processors, Photo RAW doesn’t store images or information in a “catalog.” Instead, it functions as a hybrid image browser and indexer, and skips the often tedious import/ingest process of other programs. Simply point it at a folder of images, and the program instantly loads them. It still stores metadata about the files, however, so users can organize and filter images within the program.

The potential downside of this approach is that it leaves it up to the photographer to create and maintain a folder hierarchy. However, again, the entire app can function within Lightroom for those who would prefer to continue using it to manage files.

Another difference between Photo RAW and Lightroom is how users will buy it. “We positioned ourselves to solve the pain points of photographers today,” Smith explained. “One of those is the subscription model.” When Adobe moved to Creative Cloud, it forced users into a subscription service. A special offer for photographers offers both Lightroom and Photoshop for just $10 per month, but the software license expires if a user cancels his or her account.

While ON1 also offers a subscription model for those who want it, the license is perpetual, meaning users can cancel their accounts and still use the software indefinitely, albeit without automatic updates. The goal is to make Photo RAW as accessible and flexible as possible for photographers. “We’ll work wherever you want to work,” Smith said.

ON1 Photo RAW is scheduled to be released this fall, with a public beta coming later in the summer. ON1 Plus Pro members will receive Photo RAW as part of their subscriptions ($150 per year). As for the standalone pricing and availability, ON1 Photo RAW will be available in December of 2016 and will be available for purchase at $119 for new customers, and $99 for upgrade customers.

Update 11/7/2016 by Anthony Thurston to reflect new pricing and availability. 

Photography

Edit portraits with A.I. and adjust focus in the new ON1 Photo RAW 2019 editor

ON1 Photo RAW 2019 now has a dedicated tab for portraits that automatically recognizes faces to help with retouching. The update also brings a new focus stacking tool, enhancements to layers, and improvements to local adjustments.
Photography

Golf ball-sized Lume Cube Air is a pocketable LED for photos and video

Off-camera lighting for smartphones and GoPros just got even smaller. Meet the Lume Cube Air, a smaller portable LED light designed for photos and videos that weighs only about two ounces.
Photography

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Photography

Flickr just expanded Pro tools — but free users may have to delete some photos

If you have more than 1,000 photos on a free Flickr account, you might want to decide which to delete . Flickr announced some changes following an acquisition by SmugMug, including a new way to calculate the free account storage limit.
Photography

Photography News: Flickr keeping Creative Commons photos, ONA gets colorful

Flickr has confirmed it's saving all Creative Commons images, ONA has released a new capsule collection in partnership with Passion Passport and 7Artisans has launched a new drone-specific 35mm f/5.6 lens.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Mobile

Which smartphone has the best camera? We found the sharpest shooters

They say that the best camera is always the one you have with you and that makes your smartphone camera very important indeed. Join us for a closer look at the best camera phones available right now.
Smart Home

Picture this: The Aura packs thousands of photos in a single frame (for a price)

Are you one of those people who miss the good old days of flipping through photo albums to see each and every favorite photo? If so, you might love the Aura digital photo frame. We tested the device and came away impressed.
Photography

Full frame or 4K for less than $1K? These 4 older cameras still have a lot to offer

Looking for a great camera deal? Sometimes, you might be better off buying one that's a few years -- last generation's professional models may not cost much more than today's entry-level models.
Photography

Get up close and personal with this telephoto lens for your phone

Moment is replacing its aging 60mm telephoto lens with a new 58mm tele lens, redesigned from the ground up for the latest iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy phones. Mount it onto the phone via a case and get closer with 2x optical zoom.
Deals

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.
Photography

Nikon gives full frame mirrorless it’s due with Z7, Z6 ships Nov. 16

Nikon's long-awaited mirrorless camera is finally here -- and there are two of them. The Z7 and Z6 are the first of the new Z-series, which also introduces a new lens mount that can accommodate wider apertures. Both cameras are now…