RAW Power 3.0 Offers Mac-Based Photographers a Capable Editor and iOS Integration

RAW Power 3.0 Offers Mac-Based Photographers a Capable Editor and iOS Integration

RAW Power 3.0 gives Mac-based photographers a solid way to handle raw file editing that nicely syncs up with a version that runs on iOS. 

The app was developed by Nik Bhatt, a former Apple engineer who led the iPhoto and Aperture teams. I really loved the late, lamented Aperture, but Apple knifed it in 2014 when it decided not to compete against the Adobe juggernaut anymore. I was sorry to see Aperture go, as it was an excellent raw editor, and I became used to its workflow. 

RAW Power 3.0 works directly with the Photos library to add some of the new features that change the way photographers can store, sort, and view their photos. Photographers can store their files on the desktop or inside Apple Photos. With full photo library support, RAW Power adds the ability to browse albums and folders, create and change albums and folders, and rearrange album contents. All changes instantly apply to the system photo library and iCloud Photos.

The new RAW Power 3.0 adds ratings and flags to the Photos library to improve organization and allows easy filtering of any album by rating, flag, file type, and adjustment status. Remarkably, ratings and flags sync through iCloud Photos to other Macs and iOS devices. Other improvements include a separate section for recently viewed items and tabs for viewing multiple albums at once. 

I gave RAW Power for Mac and iOS a spin and found it a useful option for editing raw images. The controls are similar to what might be found in other editors, but there are some nice flourishes many users will find appealing. 

For example, you get the ability to reorder and select default adjustments to customize and accelerate workflows. New adjustments include Auto Enhance with Face Balancing, Auto White Balance, LUTs with film simulations, levels, and a channel mixer. All editing enhancements are also incorporated into the RAW Power Photos Extension. 

I was impressed with the app's Auto White Balance capability, and there's an automatic edit button that did well. New photographers will appreciate those settings. 

I liked the way the app identifies blown out pixels and deep black areas. It's not the only editing tool that does this, but it's easy to work and a good display of the data. You can save a file back to photos with your edits and then see those changes back on the iOS version of the app, or work the other way round.

Who is this app for? I doubt seasoned Abobe users will jump into RAW Power 3.0. It's still missing some features, which I will go into later in this review. But if you are a hobbyist photographer who wants to have a high-quality raw editor and you are part of the Mac ecosystem, RAW Power can be very attractive. Pros may also like it, but will likely finish their edits in something like Photoshop, On1, Luminar 4, or another full-featured editor.

Things I'd like to see are the ability to repair or edit items out of an image. There's no content-aware fill, no cloning, no gradient tools, or some of the niceties I've grown accustomed to in other editors. I talked to developer Nik Bhatt about what's missing, and he says these features are on the roadmap.

I liked how RAW Power 3.0 handled raw files from my Sony a7 III, and it was fully as capable as any raw editor I had used. It was a plus to make custom menus, leaving off seldom-used tools and dragging frequent adjustments to the top. Lightroom Classic does something similar by allowing you to display or hide individual edit panels, but it isn't as slick or as deep as what RAW Power 3.0 does. 

I checked the iOS app, and it has the same editing capabilities. Files can be opened from Photos or using the file app provided with the latest iOS. I recently bought an iPad Pro, and I could do fine raw edits by grabbing the files off an external drive plugged into the iPad Pro. When synced via iCloud, my edits made it to the Mac version exactly as I had left them on the iPad. If you want to use another iOS editor for finishing your image, the share button can get anything from Raw Power on iOS to apps like Affinity, Photoshop, Lightroom for iOS, or popular apps like Halide.

What I Liked

  • First-class raw editor, with some DNA from Apple Aperture.
  • Moving between iOS and the Mac, keeping edits intact.
  • Flexible menus add to enhanced workflow and speed.

What Could Be Improved

  • Lots of features I use daily are missing, like object removal, gradients, creating panoramas, and importing HDR files. The developer says they are coming in future versions.
  • I really don't like the dependence on Photos, an app I never use on the Mac, although I do use it to manage photos on iOS.

RAW Power for iOS 3.0 is available for $39.99 in the Mac app store. RAW Power 3.0 runs on macOS Catalina and Mojave and is available as a free upgrade for existing users of Raw Power for Mac 2.0.

The iOS version is $9.99 in the iOS app store and is a free upgrade for current RAW Power for iOS customers. RAW Power for iOS 3.0 runs on iOS 12 and 13, but does not support iPhone 5S, 6 or 6 Plus, or iPad Mini 3 or earlier. 

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I quite like the raw processor/editor functionality of this app. But I am also not too sure how to efficiently insert this app into my workflow. As stated, it can be used as a stand-alone DAM and editor for images stored anywhere on your system. It can also pull directly from Photos as a kind of enhanced Photos DAM. Yet, in both cases, it lacks basic DAM functionality like keywords. It doesn’t seem to read Photos’ keywords, nor can you create keywords. As such, it seems to me only truly useful as an external RAW editor, with Photos as your DAM. And as Photos is not a particularly good DAM, I’m still left with having to go back to other third-party DAM/Editors like LR, Exposure, ON1, etc.

I’d be interested to hear how others are using this app.

Nik, the developer, has written in detail about how third party editors, when editing photos via the Photos app on the Mac, are often at odds with edits made in the Photos app proper and sometimes end up creating a jpg instead of metadata for rendering of the original RAW file. Has that been solved with in MacOS at this point, or do editors like RAW power still suffer from Apple's under the hood choices?