That’s Not a Lightroom Killer; This Is a Lightroom Killer! We Review ON1 Photo Raw 2022.5

That’s Not a Lightroom Killer; This Is a Lightroom Killer! We Review ON1 Photo Raw 2022.5

Calling raw handling software a "Lightroom Killer" is a cliche. Nevertheless, this powerful suite of tools is starting to overshadow the Adobe Photographer's Plan. It is now posing a real challenge to Lightroom and Photoshop. ON1 Photo Raw has another update, and now it offers everything most photographers need. It's why I've said goodbye to Lightroom and Photoshop. Will it tempt you too?

ON1 Photo Raw has taken time to evolve into what it is today. I first came across it years ago under its old name, Perfect Effects. It was a viable alternative to the early iterations of the Nik software, and it worked as a plugin and stand-alone program. Honestly, I wasn't that impressed with its results back then, which seemed to do little more than what Instagram filters later did. But it started to grow and evolve.

Since then, it has come a long way. It now includes a browser module that incorporates an advanced catalog. Imagine the prodigious love child of Lightroom and Bridge. It has an integrated raw development and layers-based editing module like ACR and Photoshop combined. Then there's the AI-based resize software, plus the newly improved denoise tools that knock spots off most everything else on the market. It is also a portrait enhancing, HDR processing, time-lapse creating, focus stacking, AI-controlled sky swapping, panorama stitching photo editor with an advanced search engine, and many other tricks up its sleeves.

ON1 Photo Raw 2022.5 Browse works both as a file browser and as a catalogue

Switching between the modules is immediate. It's much faster to switch back and forth between the raw development and the image editors than between Lightroom and Photoshop. Additionally, On1 has clearly put a lot of work into developing its raw development software, so it doesn't use the same generic algorithms employed by some of Adobe's other competitors. I like ON1's unadjusted results of my cameras' raw files far more than Adobe's, which I find over-sharpened and lacking.

The most significant change brought by the latest update to ON1 Photo Raw 2022.5 is the inclusion of Resize AI within it. The AI version of Resize uses information trained by millions of photos, so the resizing process adds information to the image instead of just blowing up the photo's existing data. It uses real-world texture examples to decide how the image should look. The resizing can be batch processed to an entire folder of images, and the Resize module also enables batch printing.

I've used ON1's Resize AI to increase the size of small images to more than double their original proportions. The detail in the enlarged images is incredibly fine. I find that with my super-sharp OM-1 photos, I must increase the smoothness slider to avoid unwanted artifacts.

Resizing a heavily cropped image

Another new feature is the increased number of lenses added to the lens correction feature. As an OM System (Olympus) user of the excellent quality pro lenses, lens profiles aren't such a big deal for me. However, if you have lenses that give barrelling, pin cushioning, vignetting, and chromatic aberrations, then this is where the software comes into its own. It also includes profiles for popular third-party lenses such as Tamron and  Sigma. Even with no profile built into the software, such as with compact fixed-lens cameras, ON1 Photo Raw accurately estimates what correction is needed. You can easily make further manual adjustments if required, for example, to photos shot with an old film SLR lens.

Another improvement is with the masking in Sky Swap. Advanced masking has been an area where ON1 has been miles ahead of Adobe. Even the latest introduction of sky masking in Lightroom leaves a lot to be desired, with the boundaries between the sky and foreground subjects ending up with noticeable lines around them. ON1 gives smooth transitions, and the gaps between the twigs and leaves of trees are accurately masked.

If you've previously read my reviews, you'll know I am a fan of ON1 NoNoise AI. It's a function I rarely need with my newest camera, although I have some old images I do use it for. It works at the de-mosaicking level deep in the raw process and does a fantastic job. But it also works on RGB photos, such as JPEGS, PNGs, TIFs, etc. With that latter group, there have been considerable improvements in the latest release. It does an incredible job of cleaning noise and retaining fine details in the image.

The individual components on ON1 work as plugins for other apps. If you want to open them from Lightroom, Affinity, and so on, the plugins need to be purchased separately or added to a subscription. Likewise, it is possible to send images from On1 into external applications, in much the same as one would open another app from Adobe's software. I do like the black and white results I get from Silver Efex Pro, so being able to open into that directly from ON1 is essential to me.

Adjustment layers can be individually masked and blending modes applied. Different images can be layered too, of course.

The user interface is well thought out. Some other programs, such as Affinity, copy the look of Photoshop. Many raw developers are similar to Lightroom. But ON1's UI is quite different from Adobe's. There are enough similarities in how it works to make the change from using one program to another easy. But, like any new program, some things take a little learning.

Because it combines a browser with a catalog, importing pictures into the program is unnecessary as you do with Lightroom. However, an advanced import method is available to bring images in from a memory card. That is accessible through the file menu; there's not a big import button using up valuable UI space. A small export button is located at the bottom right of the screen.

ON1 Photo Raw costs less than the Adobe Photographer's Package. Moreover, you can buy it outright and not commit yourself to a monthly fee. I still know photographers who balk at the idea of renting software. Buying it outright costs $99.99, although this drops to $79.99 for an upgrade.

Many photographers are tightening their belts as disposable income is becoming scarcer. Consequently, switching to ON1 might be attractive for many who need to consider their budgets. There are a host of subscription models. $89.99 annually gets you ON1 Photo Raw, plus all the plugins and cloud synchronization with the mobile app. Compare that with Adobe Photography Plan, costing $119.88 per year and only gives you 20 GB.

With 1 TB of cloud storage, ON1 Photo Raw is $179 per year, $60 less than the equivalent Adobe package. This latest upgrade is free for those who already own ON1 Photo Raw 2022.

What I Do and Don't Like about ON1 Photo Raw

Photoshop is a bloated program with many features we never use because it is aimed at digital artists and other creators who are not working with photographs. ON1, however, is made by photographers and aimed solely at photographers. What I really like about it is its usability. It is aimed at every level of photographer. An absolute beginner is served by single-click presets. Meanwhile, advanced layers adjustments and creative tools suit editing experts. Furthermore, ON1 produces a host of tutorial videos that explain how to use its wide array of tools.

Unlike Lightroom, the browse module allows me to access folders and files not imported into the catalog. Switching back and forth between different modules is lightning fast. I really like the results I get from editing raw files. Most of my images go no further than just being tweaked in raw. If I need masks, then ON1s tools are far more advanced and accurate than anything else I have used.

If I do any editing, the layered editing tools are intuitive and wide-ranging. ON1 has some adjustments that would take a while with multiple layers to replicate in Photoshop. I am still particularly taken by Dynamic Contrast and the Tone Enhancer for making an image pop. They work far better than Adobe Raw's clarity and detail sliders. Furthermore, the noise reduction is miles ahead on Adobe's muddy results.

It's great that you can import the catalog settings from Lightroom and the Develop Module adjustments too. Once applied, they give a close approximation of the adjustments you made. However, the import process takes a long while, especially if you transfer the adjustment settings too. You may need several hours to do this, depending on the size of your catalog and the speed of your computer.

Historically, I experienced some performance-related issues, but these were ironed out in the 2021 version. ON1 Photo Raw 2022.5 operates smoothly and quickly on my 8-year-old computer.

Can I recommend it? Definitely. The website has a 14-day free trial and is worth giving it a go. 

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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The results from Capture One are impressive, but I know a few people who find it outside their budget. It is fine software though.

I also own CO but it's so slow if you have a catalog with some images it lasts until it starts and importing lets say 800 images last an hour. In the same time I've culled them already in LR.

I'm the impoverished amateur lol. I can heavily recommend C1. I did some math on the cost of a light room sub model, vs capture ones out right purchase and upgrades, vs capture ones sub model a long while ago (Prices may have changed) and while the up front cost of paying out right for C1 is quite pricey it's still cheaper in the long run even after upgrades later down the road. What is hilarious to me is that C1's outright purchase is cheaper than C1's own subscription model for a one year sub. As long as you aren't buying the newest gear every single year you should not have to upgrade often. I only upgraded to C1 22 because they finally added pano stitching, HDR merge, and support for GFX100s raw files. Unless I get some crazy new camera I really have zero reason to upgrade past where I'm at right now and I don't have to deal with a monthly sub anymore. After using C1 I dropped light room like a weighted sack of poop in the Mariana Trench.

In the end, they are all tools. People will use what works best for them. I've tried On1, even paid for it, same with Capture 1, still returned to my first love - Lightroom + Photoshop.

That's fair enough. It is horses for courses.

I agree with you. Whatever works for you works best. There will be always new stuff that are better though. To each, their own.

Funny how every new piece of software that comes out is a "LR" killer, yet the LR and PS package has been the same price for about a decade now and Adobe is printing money. LOL I did leave LR a couple of years ago at the end of my subscription to go to CP1, but only b/c CP1 has the option of using "Sessions". And I did purchase the ON1 2022.5 version, but it's not killing my CP1 NOR will it kill LR.

As I said, it is a cliche, I used it a bit tongue in cheek.

Yeah, every software releases => Lr killer :))

I did say it was a cliche. And it has killed LR from my workflow.

The best LR killer is doing it right the first time, so no need for adjustments in post.

Not developing your images is the opposite of doing it right.

Looks interesting! I still can't bring myself to move away from LR though. Familiarity is important. Making changes to a workflow which works is rarely a nice thought.

That's very true. I've been using Lightroom for many years, since LR version 2 or 3. It was the premier raw developer and it has ggreat features, especially the catalog, but I do find that some essential elements in the develop module just don't cut the mustard anymore.

I was on LR a few years ago and was pretty happy with it, but was using it with a company based deal covering a lot of Adobe products that we used for work. I figured that as some point I would leave that company and then have to pay for it myself. That wasn't the issue but it got me looking into what else was out there and that is when I checked out ON1. Been using it happily for 5 years now. Swapping everything from LR to ON1 was a process but strangely easier than the move I made from Aperture to LR even further back in history. The only problem I have with ON1 is that all my b/w Tiff film scans don't work at all in it.

TIFFs with Photoshop-based layers don't appear in ON1. If that's the case, you could take out a month's trial of Photoshop/LR, flatten the images or export them as DNGs, then they would be accessible in ON1. Then just cancel the trial.

What I Like about Adobe LR & Photoshop, is the plethora of training videos. Many times I think about what I want in an image and sure enough, a quick search on YT and whala! it's there. I love that. Hard to give that up.

Not as many as Photoshop, admittedly, but enough to keep me entertained.

Thanks for the comment.

this is true. i dog on adobe a lot but the sheer amount of quality training out there even for free is staggering. trying to find videos on how to do obscure techniques in other programs is a problem I have run into with affinity photo and capture 1. it's not horribly bad but when you're on the crunch for time it gets frustrating.

I've been using ON1 for around 5 years now (initially alongside LR / Luminar etc. / Tried C1 too, I've dropped all of them. ON1 is still the program I like best. It's not perfect and you need a powerful computer to get the best out of it. However the customer support is excellent - not just generic replies but they really address the issues and try to replicate them - if they can't they say so.
They often have 'sales' too so it's not unheard of to get the full program for US$70-80. Well well worth the money.

Nice to hear you are impressed with it. Thanks for the comment.

It certainly resulted in me killing Lightroom and Photoshop from my workflow.

I loved the concept of ON1 and it was my primary editor for a couple years. But in 2020 and 2021 it had the nasty habit of losing edits even tho the side cars were not corrupted or lost. I was not alone, even the forum admin suffered from it. Lengthy sessions with support, to no avail. while not common to all users the issue was not uncommon. Do a search in the general forum on "lost edits".
So I went to Bridge and ACR which was a huge adjustment, reediting my keepers and the learning curve. Now I have no reason to trust ON1 to keep safely lots of edited images. Bridge is rock solid so far. but I am nostalgic for ON1 for the reasons stated in the article.

FIY here is a recent post that shows that the issue is alive and well:

Interesting, Jerry. I've not experienced or come across that issue at all. All complex software has issues mainly because the developers cannot physically test it on every combination of hardware and software out there. When users are numbered in the millions, as they are with Lightroom, Photoshop and On1 there are inevitably going to be issues. Google Photoshop Errors and there are 8,480,000 results. Thanks for commenting and if I hear of a fix, I'll come back to you.

Thanks for the response Ivor but with respect broad brush advice re "googling Photoshop errors" feels irrelevant and a bit patronizing. PS does not have a file/cataloging function and us photographers use a tiny part of PS functionality. Bridge and LR file management seem rock solid across a huge user base.

You would see in the referenced ON1 posts that the long time ON1 forum administrator and tester has experienced this problem along with many others, across a relatively tiny user base. ON1 support has acknowledged it. Many of us have spent hours helping support get a handle on it. I doubt very many pros with large vital image collections depend on ON1 to secure their images. It is only recently ON1 had a recovery facility. Time will tell whether this vital function holds up.

I just think it is fair to warn potential users to do their due diligence depending on their use case. It goes without saying that a solid ability to safely store images and edits comes first with any "all in one" software. The reality is that even an excellent but small company is limited in their ability to do QA across the huge technical variety of installations that you allude to. I admire ON1 as you do for addressing this challenge as well as they do and for their innovations and interface design, and also marketing approach..

As has been often said on the ON1 forum, maybe charge more and take the time needed. I know this is tough in a competitive and likely declining market. But that seems to be DXO's approach. Photo editing software cost is nearly irrelevant in a photographers total budget. I still think Adobe has hit the sweet spot on function, cost. QA, regular innovation and support.

I should perhaps have asked you to Google Lightroom errors, (About 14,400,000 results) as a comparator, but I used PS because you were referring to it losing edits, as opposed to development settings.

Although reasonably stable for most people, Lightroom is not without its problems, I've had catalog corruption and crashes with it in the past, although fixed now. A colleague of mine has it crash every few imports, and someone else I know regularly suffered corrupted catalogs.

But most importantly for me, the results from the ACR development are just not very good compared with other software. The pricing for the photographer's package isn't bad, but you can get more for your money with ON1, especially if you need to subscribe to the cloud package, although I don't.

Although I am a Lightroom user, Sony Cameras comes with a great version of Capture One which makes it quite affordable and a great way to start learning before upgrading to the Pro version.

If you are referring to Capture One Express, I believe it's free for most camera brands (I don't see a pricing for it). However, it has pretty limited functionality, which, may be good enough for some (or many) folks. I ran it in a Sandbox (virtual machine) with no hardware acceleration capabilities and it's pretty fast. Then again, C1 was always fast compared to most. Pair with Affinity Photo and you'll have a pretty powerful and relatively inexpensive editing solution.

As for the cons, the main things I noticed:

-- There's no layer support
-- There's no Color Balance access. It's there, you just can't see it.
-- There's no Batch Rename
-- There's no multiple export recipes (presets).
-- You can't customize any of the tools placement. They are pretty much fixed into place.

I still have LR and PS because my wife teaches Adobe skills, but I've been using ON1 as my DAM and editor since 2017. My main reason for preferring ON1 is that I can work with layers and it's all non-destructive. Also, I shoot with Fuji cameras and ON1 does a better job with the RAW files than LR. The AI features that have been added to ON1 are nice but beyond noise reduction I don't tend to need them.

ON1 isn't as mature as the Adobe products and users with recently released or unique computer hardware tend to run into issues. I've had only two problems with ON1 in five years that weren't caused by me, so to me that's pretty successful software.

Anyone who decides to move from LR to ON1 (or any other platform) needs to keep in mind that their LR catalog will need to be exported with edits applied or those edits will be lost. I can't speak for other LR alternatives, but ON1 does have a migration tool that pulls in your photos with LR adjustments translated into ON1 adjustments - in other words your files aren't flattened.

I don’t doubt for one minute it’s a great piece of software. Will it make me switch? No. Why? Investment of big big time in current workflow plus I don’t see it being able to replace Photoshop any time soon. Being a photoshop user for over 25 years I’ve developed my skills and knowledge along with the software. The thought of ditching it and picking up something new and learning from scratch is too awful to even consider. Like possibly many other photographers I only keep my Adobe subscription going for Photoshop. Photoshop bloated? I don’t think so. It can just do lots of things that other photo apps can’t. New photographers starting out with no skills in Photoshop may well find ON1 an attractive option. I think it all depends on who you are, what you do, how you do it. As for Lightroom I use it, it does a job but it could never replace Photoshop. The Adobe subscription deal for some is OK. Four pretty decent apps for £10 a month with free rolling updates. What ON 1 along with all the other photo alternatives does is help to keep Adobe on its toes, which for us Adobe users is no bad thing.

….plus the way Photoshop integrates with so many powerful plugins seamlessly like Boris Optics and others. Plus the other major point is if I want to do something new the answer is nearly always to be found out on the web from the likes of Phlearn and the other really great Photoshop gurus . All that accumulated knowledge is pure gold.

ON1 is fantastic (after having only experienced the current trial) - really tempted to pick up the full version. However, it falls down in its reliance on the CPU for image processing. It can lag and almost lock up, even with my 16 core threadripper (+32GB RAM), on an image that my GPU would have no problems editing 60 times per second.

Hi Alex, I'm not sure that you have that quite right. ON1 uses the graphics card exclusively for editing, zooming, noise reduction, etc and not the CPU. I've just upgraded my graphics card and there is a noticeable improvement in performance. It performs best with an OpenGL 4.2 compatible video card with 2+ GB dedicated VRAM. There is an adjustment that can be made in the Edit>Preferences>System menu that speeds things up, so it might be worth checking your settings there.

Interesting! I have a quite powerful GPU, 6700XT but still experience the occasional slowdown (and looking at my CPU, it goes to 100% during this). Probably some part of the process that is bottlenecked by the CPU/not done on the GPU.

I just use a 4GB GPU, nothing too fancy. (Not like the one in my son's machine!) When I have experienced similar glitches with different programs in the past it has invariably been the driver needing updating, and I found that Windows update was nowhere near good enough for that, so I use Driver Easy. Never had a problem since.

What "I" like about Photoshop and lightroom is that they work seamlessly together. I can roundtrip from LR to PS and back very easily. If Capture One gave me an "open photos as layers in PS" option, I'd be much happier with it.

Not a C1 killer. I took a snapshot with my Sony A7r iv in a local park of a scene with a wide dynamic range. Very strange results using the latest version of ON1 2022 16.5.1 with the standard camera profile. The only adjustments I made were to reduce the exposure slightly and reduce the highlights a fair bit. Did the same in C1 to the same raw file and the results were dramatically better. The ON1 adjusted image had strange blown highlights and fringing around distant tree edges against a blue sky. None of that happened with C1, and the result was much more natural looking.
I use ON1 for the black and white conversion profiles, which are really good.

Hi Jens, Thanks for commenting. I think all the different raw development programs give different default results for different cameras, and they all require different developments. I've used On1 on Sony raw files, albeit an older one than yours, and the results then were good, far better than LR/ACR. With my .orf files, the default results are great with ON1 and need much less tweaking than with LR. A lot of other OM System pros use C1, but I haven't tried it for a long while. I must give it a go and review it. If it's working for you, then that's good to hear.

Thank you ; maybe time to give it/them another go even though I don't consider On1 a LR "killer" .
I tried , and really likely the On1 way in 2017/18 ; however what I liked didn't always work . They (as other apps) seems to busy adding new toys before getting the old toys to work properly so I didn't get 2019 . . No ruler/grid was disappointing for replacement for PS .
Lucky for me I have old Lr5 for DAM/ first raw edits and Affinity Photo does the more advanced edit although many would call it basic editing . .
Only a two week trail ? :( . .IMO it takes longer than that to find the time to get to know the basics of any editing APP , and to give it any sort of a work out .
Will not rush into it as the fingers still feel a little burnt .

Hi Ian, I understand your point about the two-week trial, and this seems to be the standard practice of a lot of photographic software now. Lightroom is now only seven days.

As an amateur sports photographer I've been a dedicated LR user for 10+ years. I've resisted the subscription model, but Adobe make it harder as time goes by to stick with my (paid for!) standalone package. Maps module spitefully deleted. No updates. No new camera RAW packages. New glitches with every MACOS upgrade. I've tested lots of "LR-killers" but none have hit the spot. Until now. I tried On1 2022 a few months ago and instantly felt at home. There are lots of discount vouchers to be found online, so I bought the standalone package after my trial, and I'm very happy to have finally made the switch. I'll never go back.

PROS: No subscription! I don't get paid for my work, and for three months of the year I do virtually no photography, so a monthly subscription is never going to be good value for me. Maps! At last I can drop my photos into a map again. Familiarity. On1 is easy to use if you've spent years using LR, everything is similar, and unless you want to delve into the really advanced editing options (I don't use these) you shouldn't have any problems re-learning the basics. For me, almost everything I could do on LR, I can also do on On1

CONS: It's not perfect, but I feel it will improve over time. It needs a proper memory card import button. The card download itself seems to take ages, definitely a lot longer than LR. I'm using a pretty powerful MAC, but still the On1 package takes about 30 seconds to load. And then maybe another 5-10 seconds render time per image before you can do basic edits such as levels and cropping. Also, there's no Flickr integration, which adds additional layers of workflow. I've adjusted all my On1 memory usage settings to max, but still everything is quite a lot slower. Fine if you're an amateur like me, but probably not ideal for someone more prolific.

This comment you made : I've adjusted all my On1 memory usage settings to max.

May well be part of the problem. Although it seems counterintuitive some of the settings should not be set to max to get the fastest load times. I came across an excellent article the other day but have now lost it (I think on FB but maybe wrong). Maybe a search via Google will find it.

The software works OK when it is working. It causes freeze-ups and periodic crashes, at least on my Mac. The primary ON1 Photo Raw program is just a come-on. It is useless if you don't buy a large assortment of add-on plugins. The worst experience is the substandard tech support or, should I say, lack of tech support. The support department is lame, and "Stevie" in the support department will promote a negative experience. Software is only as good as the tech support that the developer supplies. Don't waste your time or money with ON1; there are too many other photo editing programs to choose from. I will stay with Photoshop and Lightroom, which works well for me.