Fstoppers' First Look at ON1 Photo RAW 2017

Fstoppers' First Look at ON1 Photo RAW 2017

This week, ON1 Software released their new Photo RAW 2017 processor. It functions as both a raw processor and a simple editing workflow that can be used as a standalone application or as a plugin within various other editing applications such as Lightroom. In this article, we will take a quick look at Photo RAW 2017 in order to provide some first impressions on what ON1 is touting as one of their most powerful tools to date.

As with Lightroom, Photo RAW 2017 is broken down into a series of modules designed to work together or independently within your workflow. This review will cover each in succession to evaluate them on their own merits and shortcomings. This review is not meant to be comprehensive, as it is only based upon a few hours of use.

Browse Module

Photo RAW 2017 is touting the browse module as an alternative to Lightroom's organizational structure. Unlike Lightroom, Photo RAW 2017's file management module does not depend on any sort of importing. The user simply browses through his or her own file system to organize and manage photos. The workflow is designed to be quicker and less cumbersome than Lightroom, but this comes at the cost of being less concise. As a whole I found that the feature delivered on what its goal was, and it is likely that many users will be quite happy with it. Personally, I still prefer the Lightroom workflow. It is really the only thing left in which I feel Lightroom still remains a leading force.

Develop Module

The develop module is what I'd consider to be the most important aspect of Photo RAW 2017 and is what would ultimately decide whether this software would make it into my own personal workflow. There is no shortage of raw processors on the market to place a fairly high bar on Photo RAW 2017. In terms of raw processing features, Photo RAW 2017 aims for a fairly simplistic approach similar to that in Lightroom. The standard controls that have become fairly expected within raw processors are all present. Photo RAW 2017, however, appears to lack any of the more advanced features such as lens profile corrections or a tool to fix chromatic aberration.

One nifty option that I did quite enjoy was a simple checkbox below the vibrance slider that allowed the user to reduce the impact of a vibrance adjustment on skin tones. Photo RAW 2017 also included a panel for automated skin retouching that seemed to work decently well for me. I wouldn't ever use it for commercial work, but I could see it coming in handy for work such as wedding photos.

As for raw processing quality, I wanted to compare Photo RAW 2017 to the two other industry-leading raw processors, Capture One Pro 9 (which was actually recently updated to version 10) and Lightroom. The images below were processed in their respective applications with no additional alterations. The images were loaded directly from the Nikon raw files and exported at full resolution without any adjustments.

In terms of dynamic range, I was quite pleased by Photo RAW 2017. The image enjoys somewhat less contrast than the image processed with Capture One Pro 9, but without sacrificing color quality as is clear with the Lightroom image which felt somewhat washed out to me. Photo RAW 2017 also seemed to handle color accuracy within mid- to low-saturation areas very well. I was surprised to see the degree in which Capture One Pro 9 added a slight red cast to those same tones. Photo RAW 2017's accuracy seemed to struggle, however, within the context of more saturated colors such as the knife handle, which appears to have a rich orange that is closer to red than the others, which does not reflect how the knife handle appears in real life. Both Capture One Pro 9 and Lightroom were much closer to the true color of the object photographed.

As a whole, I'm quite pleased with Photo RAW 2017's raw processing. In my opinion, it created the most visually pleasing image by default, even if if color accuracy wasn't perfect. In this comparison, I feel Lightroom is the clear loser.

Effects Module

The effects module represents a pretty typical color grading tool that is very reminiscent of most of the others that can already be found on the market. It especially reminded me of Alien Skin, which, personally, I don't use. It was quite fast, however, which is certainly a boon that puts it ahead of many of the other effects suites that I have used. I also quite enjoyed the button that let me fill the screen with large previews of a given folder of presets. Generally I find tiny thumbnails quite difficult for judging if a preset is desirable, so I end up clicking through each image one by one. This tool eliminated that need and certainly would speed up my workflow. With that in mind, I was quite disappointed to see no support for color lookup tables, which I primarily use to color grade my photos using 3D LUT Creator. This is something that would likely keep the effects module out of my workflow.

Layers Module

The layers module largely felt like a simpler version of Photoshop, but designed for those who long to go beyond the editing capabilities of a tool like Lightroom but don't want to learn the breadth of a tool such as Photoshop. For what it is, I found the layers module decent enough but sufficiently lacking to a point where I would likely never place it within my workflow. The layers module would work great for photographers who only need to do simple masking along with retouching blemishes. For anything else, I would recommend moving to Photoshop. I was quite surprised not to see a dodge and burn tool, which would be needed before I might take the layers module seriously.

Resize Module

The resize module is quite poorly named. It is more of a finishing module designed to help the photographer prepare his or her photos for export. It includes the obvious resizing options along with post-resize tools such as sharpening and the ability to add grain. The resize module also includes a nifty widget that helps in the creation of images destined for gallery wraps or tiling. The most important aspect of the module is certainly sharpening, however, which I compared to Lightroom (before).

The photos below are at 100-percent zoom with the sharpening turned to maximum.

Lightroom did a considerably better job of sharpening the in-focus part of the image. ON1 Photo RAW 2017's version is softer, even with sharpening turned to maximum. In contrast, though, ON1 handled out of focus areas much better than Lightroom, which is apparent when comparing the wood section of the photo. The Lightroom version introduced a noise pattern into the photo whereas ON1 did not. As a whole, I probably would not use either and still prefer to sharpen in Photoshop, which allows me to achieve the Lightroom-like sharpness without adding a strange pattern to blurred areas.

Another aspect to note is that these images are unaltered other than being processed by their respective software with the exception added sharpening. Within the context of this zoomed view, it is quite obvious that ON1 Photo RAW 2017 does a much better job of processing shadows than Lightroom. The shadows within the holes of the cake in the Lightroom  sample have virtually no detail in them while ON1 is able to maintain some detail.


ON1 is claiming incredible performance out of Photo RAW 2017, which I would suggest is somewhat of a stretch. While I would say that it is certainly decent enough performance, I often found switching between modules to be as much or more sluggish than switching between modules within Lightroom on a computer that is no slouch. I would place ON1 Photo RAW 2017 firmly within the realm of usable, but wouldn't go so far as to give it a top grade for editing performance.


In short, my first impression of ON1 Photo RAW 2017 is that it is by far the best software I have ever used that has come from ON1 and is the first time I am actually considering bringing a piece of their software into my workflow. Photo RAW 2017 certainly isn't perfect and leaves tremendous room for improvement toward which I expect ON1 is already hard at work. I would suggest for most users that their best course of action would be downloading the 30-day trial from the ON1 website and giving Photo RAW 2017 a whirl to see if it fits in their own personal workflow.

What I Liked

  • Strong raw processing
  • Innovative workflow
  • Elegantly designed

What I Didn't Like

  • Mediocre performance
  • Poor color accuracy within highly saturated tones
  • Mediocre sharpening
  • Lack of LUT support
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Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Ryan, I think this is a good first impression review. I downloaded the trial as well and had a similar experience. Though I don't personally use any OnOne plugins in my workflow, I was interested in seeing what "the future of raw editing" looked like.

Performance was ok. Not as fast as I thought it would be. Sure, you can develop process RAW files. But I was surprised that the first version of the software didn't include support for lens profiles, chromatic aberation or even native camera profiles. These are all features we professionals have come to expect in our current raw editors. Tethering is a big thing for many of us as well, which is also not offered at this time. Also, I really like having the ability to use the Color Checker passport by X-rite, not just for white balance, but for creating profiles. Currently, LR is the only RAW editor that takes advantage of this technology.

As a professional working in the field, I shoot a lot of product photography. Photo Raw doesn't offer anything at this time that would make me want to leave my Lightroom/sometimes Capture One workflow.

For me personally, I'd say the best part was the browsing experience. I like that it functions like a file browser, much like Adobe Bridge without having to adopt a catalog or session workflow. If you're organized and know where you're files are, this is a great way to work.

For anyone interested, I spoke with OnOne via twitter during a live webinar and they provided a link on upcoming features of the Photo Raw software https://www.on1.com/products/photo-raw/coming-soon/

Ryan Cooper's picture

Interesting that they list "red eye removal" as a feature in 2017.5, its already in the software now. (Not that I've encountered red eye in 3/4 of a decade now shooting portraiture haha, kinda a non issue outside of point and shoot)

Leigh Miller's picture

I'm personally not too sure about it yet. Works well enough with Bayer sensors but struggles and fails with X-Trans. So again, we Fujifilm folks are a second thought. Colour accuracy is suspect...and sharpening default is pretty high.

On the good side, it is faster than Lightroom and C1 Pro.

Good alternative to C1 and Lightroom...if you shoot Bayer sensors.

NOT faster than C1 10 Pro! This is completely BS, I just tested this on Windows 10 Pro and on full specced iMac 27" macOS Sierra. CaptureOne Pro 10 is just as fast and maybe faster than On1 RAW! And.. C1 got more tools that is actually useful in a RAW converter, replacing sky is for editing programs! I want advanced color editor like in C1, LAB/RGB readouts, luminosity masks, etc! What a blow this was, sorry.. But all this hype and then they release this? No thanks, not buying something that LR already does better. Try Luminar from MacPhun, thats even better than this.. Sorry ON1, you disappointed me on this. Too much hype maybe. And what about the local adjustments? Thats a huge disappointment, only a few tools. Pfffffff...

Leigh Miller's picture

Your mileage may vary....

I tested against LR CC, C1 and Silkypix on a Mac Pro 8-Core, 64GB RAM and Dual GPUs. It ran faster but was not as stable. It crashed a few times..I'm not 100% sure but there is a memory leak somewhere in there. I tested with files from a few cameras and there were varying levels of processing speed so that may be a factor for you.

The rest...totally agree with.

I don't see how it can vary(?). I tested On1 RAW on same iMac as where I tested CaptureOne Pro 10. iMac 27" late 2013 with i7 hexacore 3.5 Ghz, 32GB RAM, GTX 780M 4GB, Apple Flashdisk 512GB. Same hardware on both programs and CaptureOne responded faster. The zoom and pan in On1 is miles away from CaptureOne in terms of speed, just miles in my opinion. If I "scroll to zoom" it takes On1 2-3 seconds to zoom in on a wired mouse. I also had quite a few crashes in On1 trying to save my work back to my DAM-program (Lightroom). Using LR for cataloging and C1 for RAW processing. But On1 crashed many times and I lost all edit on the file. I have tested with iPhone 6s+ and Nikon D750 and Canon 5D Mark III and Fuji X20. Even C1 works better with LR than On1 do atm, thats quite bad for their rep as a "plugin".

People should really try Luminar from Macphun, the editing is just amazing and it works like an awesome plugin for LR if you use LR on a daily basis. I can edit my synced iPhone files from LrM in Luminar and sync edit back to my mobile. Just try a demo and you gonna forget this On1 hyped "thing".

Stefan Nilsson's picture

In the Develop module I tried to overexpose an image during the global settings, then added a gradient to compensate it down again. But the hightlights were blown. This also complies to overexposure using local adjustments and then use another layer to compensate. Still it will damage the final quality. Is it just on my computer, PC, or this is how ON1 RAW works?

Marco Introini's picture

I use onOne softwares from years, but this time I obtained a refund for PhotoRAW. It's simply too buggy, too slow, the colors are incorrect and the rendition of Fuji RAF file is worst then any other softwares, including free ones. For now I'll leave it alone

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

I've used On1 as a Lightroom plugin since version 7 or 8. It has gotten a lot better, but I wish they would turn the hype volume down a bit because they undermine themselves. Each release overpromises and underdelivers. I really like the potential of the On1 suite, but I've never been able to realize it. I can't remember Lightroom ever crashing on me and I started with Lightroom 4. On1 crashes not all the time, but often enough that I know to expect it. Whether using it as a plugin to Lightroom or doing something in it as a standalone app, On1 has crashed on me more times over the years than I can count. On1 RAW won't even install...it crashes during the installation. And it's not my computer. On1 is the only app on my computer where crashing is something I know to expect and I just have to manage it.

As far as functionality, I hope all the modules work together in Photo RAW like they were developed by one company to work in conjunction with each other. That's something they've not been able to do in the past. In Lightroom, there's no question all the modules are just modules in one product. In On1, to this point, all the modules feel like separate apps. Changing modules can feel like you're launching another program, including the launch lag. Basic tools that should be universally available are only in this module or that one...it's just never been a fluid, cohesive, intuitive experience.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an On1 hater. I wish they would get it right because I really like what their product does on paper. It just hasn't delivered for me over the last two or three years of real world use in terms of usability, performance, or stability. I drank the Kool-Aid with the version 9 and 10 upgrades, but I'm looking at Photo RAW with a ton of skepticism. I have a support ticket open so hopefully, they can get me past the installer crashing. But that just doesn't bode well for the stability of the product once it's installed, given my experience with it crashing routinely. If they don't get it right with Photo RAW, I'm done. Maybe I'll check back in with them in three or four years because their product does get demonstrably better each year, but it's just never been as good as they say it is. I would love to switch to On1 RAW entirely and stop using Lightroom, but I suspect that even twelve months from now, they still will not have delivered a stable, full-featured Lightroom replacement. I hope they do, but I'm not counting on it.

Well written. Regarding stability, the program have crashed on me over half the times I try export back to Lightroom the final and ALL changes is lost. So much for the local adjustments, dodge and burn, replacing sky.. Have to redo all work on half of the images I tried if I cared. Luckily I only downloaded the free demo. Good luck man.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

Thanks for sharing your experience, Aleksander. I always wondered if it was just me it was crashing on regularly. After reading in the comments that others are having the same experience, I'm probably going to just move on from On1. They just don't seem to be able to get it together. It's 2016. Software doesn't crash like this anymore. You have to go back to Windows 9x/NT days for this kind of crashing to be normal. Operating systems and applications have become a lot more stable as personal computing has matured. This kind of regular crashing is just not acceptable in 2016, 2017, or 2010 for that matter. I'm not spending any more money on software that I KNOW is going to crash regularly.

True story! Merry Christmas and good luck!

It is slow. Taking into account their claims of "blazing fast" - as slow as hell or Lightroom (whatever hell looks like in your imagination).

CaptureOne 10 Pro is faster and got lots of more professional tools. LR is faster in my opinion. Luminar is faster, cheaper and a lot more functions. I cant see how they can survive this after all the hype, the program is mediocre and bordering to terrible. Stability of On1 RAW is worse than Windows ME.

Kyle Medina's picture

Organization is the first think I compare to LR. If it doesn't even have anything similar I do t even bother. Especially LR integration with PS. I'll use other programs as plug-ins in PS but I'll never consider getting rid of LR if these other programs can't do what LR does with organization.

Dallas Dahms's picture

I'm quite happy with Lightroom, so there's no compelling reason for me to want to move away from it. However, it's good for us that there are alternatives in the RAW processing space. It helps to keep development strong and prices competitive.

Mihael Tominšek's picture

Glad someone is happy with Lightroom. Reason we all seek alternative is Lr make fun out of pro users with adding consumer features but overlooking performance. Lr is slow. It is unvorkable slow. Regardless of HW. I'm sad ON1 didn't deliver... I hoped.

Spy Black's picture

Well, a bit raw, so to speak, out of the gate, but hopefully they'll expand and improve the software to be truly competitive with the likes of Lightroom and Capture One. I'd say their biggest blunder was just hyping it larger than life, but we'll see how this evolves down the road.

I started with the pre-release version which sucked. The final release is much better but still not good enough to be usable.
I got my refund. Maybe in a year they will have made a lot of improvements for me to try it again.

I licensed ON1 Photo RAW 2017, BUT I have had activation issues, with a wrong number (too high) number of activations recorded on ON1's side for the software, meaning I will have future problems with the software. Unfortunately, there is effectively NO TECHNICAL SUPPORT. All one gets is generic responses from ON1 rather than any actual support to resolve anything. I recommend that everyone avoid ON1 and its products until it gets its support house in order, which means for now, avoid ON1 Photo RAW. I regret having to post something like this, but I have tried repeatedly to get a response on my activation issue, which is a critical one, and there has been only silence (apart from generic nonsense).

Oz Photo's picture

Clearly not ready for pros, no dual monitor support, no soft proofing, no print module like LR. In photography printing is the last frontier, I cannot believe they ignored these features and the outlook for 2017 does not include any of these to be added. I will leave LR unless they make some major changes to speed which by the way don't hold your breath.

All of the programs with the exception of C1 have turned to consumer or prosumer products.

Printing for some reason does not interest these companies including C1 which is a basic one photo print layout. I know a lot of other pros who want to place several different sized shots on a 11x17 for example therefore utilizing expensive paper.

So it appears now I will move to C1 and purchase Qimage for my print layouts. I also use On1 10 but I think that's where it will stop.

JeanLuc LaBarre's picture

I gave it a spin hope to see the 'blazing' speeds Matt K. talked of in the promos.
Sorry to say it did not live up to expectations.
I'm not running a rip snorting machine, just a 2011 iMac with an SSD installed, but a full 6 seconds in Develop to go from image to image is a little much.
My quest to find a viable alternative to Lightroom continues......

Mihael Tominšek's picture

Yes... Lightroom would be fine if:
- it would work smooth as used to be years ago
- would rather develop process and refine tools than add new features (C1 gives better image quality)
- would revamp DAM side...

I like that is saves metadata inside files.

Sylvain Carrier's picture

Here we are in March 2017 and it is "still not good enough to be usable" to quote Jeff above. I had to switch back to version 10 to do my work. I agree with Lenzy; "Each release overpromises and underdelivers".
I can't wait to be able to use version 2017 to take advantage of the new features...

It is now over 2 months since this review came out.
It's over 5 months since I purchased the upgrade, direct from the On1 site.
And I have yet to be able to get the program to open.
The automatic confirmation process denies my credentials every time I try to open the program.
Credentials that On1 recognizes when I try to log onto their web site.
Repeated emails have gone unanswered.
No one is answering the phones.
Downloading a trial version does no good, as my sign in details continue to be denied.
I have on multiple occasions sent them a .pdf of my sales slip, to no avail.
Stone silence.

They, of course, have my money.

Mihael Tominšek's picture

As it seems I still have only TWO options: Suffer Lightroom outrageous problems with performance and lack of image quality, but continue to work with software I have for free and kno well for past decade (from version 1.5+), or buy another software (C1), that does almost everything better and faster than Lr, but I must make few adaptations to my worksflow and transfer 100k images there and redo them, or just have both and just work new ones in C1 - which already shown as negative on two separate 30-day testing period. When I seek some images I know I did edit, I can't find them... yes on separate drive, not in Lr catalog. When I find them and want to do them again Lr I can not replicate the look and feel as I did in C1 (I always keep finished images as JPEGs also) - which makes me angry. So C1? Probably. I tested 8, than 9 and 10 is out.

Mihael Tominšek's picture

I installed 30-day Trial. On my quite fast 6-core computer with quite fast GTX770 and 32GB ram and 3x SSD, this is my first impression.

Short version:
I will not bother to even learn this suite further, since it does not bring significant improvement over Lightroom to make the switch. Mostly it is NOT faster than Lightroom. (EDIT after doing same images in Lr - ON1 is quite slower than Lr). (EDIT 2, after comparing images: ON1 renders image details much better than Lr - like C1)

TL;DR version:
Instalation is straightforward. It crashed once, I lost work. I edited 4 images. Main image quality and detail is fine; I would dare to say it is better than in Lightroom. Highlights rescue and shadows... all works fine. I see quite few clever adjustments that are missing in Lightroom. But the tools and filters often gives very cheap results, as in freeware tools like PhotoScape. The main development is ok, though. I do not see this suite professional. Tools and buttons and adjustment are shattered all over the place. I know, I would need to learn suite better before make comments. But suite dis not impress me with main feature that was so much advertized: SPEED; than why I should throw my 10 years Lightroom knowledge away and lear something new to get results similar than I do now.

Image loading is the same as in Lightroom. About 2-3 seconds (ok, maybe a bit faster). Zooming and panning very the same as in Lightroom. Switching modules as in Lightrom... sometimes it just loads different "module", not just tool. Overall for just basic stuff (loading, adjusting, sharpen, grain, export), It take more time than in Lightroom because separate modules loads while they are not in Lr.

EDIT after doing same images again in Lightroom: ON1 is actually much slower to load tools and modules than Lightroom. And overal Lr is faster while editing too.

EDIT 2: Pixel peeping images editied in ON1 and Lr, ON1 give that "WOW" effect like C1, because images are much more detailed. Images from Lr in comparison looks like some cheap lense: lack of definition, smeared glow around edges, tons of CA, or if shoot wide open vs. stepped down od some lenses. Lr is CRAP regarding this. Even if I selectively brush parts of image and crank sharpenss, clarity, contrast, etc, image will still look as attempt to salvage a low quality image.

I hate that I can not adjust size of brushes other than with mouse in the menu (ok, maybe I just couldn't figure out how).

Skin retouch, HDR, and lot of other tools are very consumer/freeware like. I would not want to use them at any cost. I got better skin retouching results just with "retouch" and "perfect erase" tools. Which are similar to Lr spot removal with "heal" and "clone" mode, but with less control.

Exporting TIFF is much faster than in Lr... and for editing sliders work very smooth until more layers are added. That it is laggy as in Lr and I hear CPU and GPU fans working. For every touch with retouch tool, all preset previews are refreshed and rerendered. I hate Lr being laggy, choppy, slow, blacking out... and this ON1 suite is just the vera same. Few bits are faster, few are slower... overall the same crap. Which saddens me, since I really WANT Lr would get decent competition also on price level. And I could love this suite a lot, when it will be finished properly.

- the browse
- price
- being competition at least
- not being slower than Lr
- can give very fine image quality
- some presets are really fine
- compression adjustment
- de-haze
- ...

- speed
- single display
- freeware like tools
- lack of control at some tools
- sharpen, noise reduction, detail, etc
- ...

PHOTO: I layered images from bot editors and selectively masked them. Darker color of pullover on left is from Lr, brighter is from ON1. I did not try to get most accurate colors. I just edited to what my eyes was satisfyed. In both cases I used "kodacrome" preset. On Lr image I brushed extra sharpnes, clarity, exposure lift and WB on girl, where ON1 is just developed without brushing effects on top of basic development. Still ON1 reveal more details, better micro contrast and to my surprise it removes purple fringing completely as well. Lightroom did not touch fringing despite lens profile was engaged and fringing was ticked. I did not however removed fringing manually with color picker. ON1 gives more even color of cloth, and more even skin tones (no skin tools used). Since clarity and sharpness brushed over girl, Lr image gives impression of more hair detail slightly. Red color (not shown much here) is better represented in ON1 (I use Pentax camera). Capture One will be :)

ELLIOT STERN's picture

Months have gone by and in December this was still more like a beta or pre release but it is now June and a lot of fixes and refinements and features have been performed. How about an update about where the software stands today.

Ryan Cooper's picture

We published a review of their newest version of the software last week: https://fstoppers.com/originals/fstoppers-first-look-on1-photo-raw-20175...