I am looking for software that can read the raw data from my cameras (a Cannon and a Nikon.) and where I can adjust the different color channels, hue and saturation etc. before transporting the raw to a common format (i.e TIF).

As I don't have that strong of a machine currently the requirements (RAM, CPU etc.) should be given in the answer.

I consider purchasing a Sony S5 Pro as well and with the specific matrix on the chip there I would prefer to know if the recommended software supports that as well.


3 Answers 3


RawTherapee is a free and open source RAW editor, also quite feature loaded. As I rarely use RAW images, I cannot say how it compares to LightZone (which Olli recommended), but it's for sure worth a look. This software is available as free download (no registration required).

Requirements differ with the versions, so you might want to pick an "older version" to meet your "not that strong machine". Unfortunately, they are not listed along their respective downloads, so it might be a bit tricky to figure out. Version 2.4.1 e.g. mentions 512 MB RAM, screen resolution 1024x768 as minimum requirement (currently, version numbers are at 4.x, but I couldn't find specs on that).

Find additional information on Wikipedia.

RawTherapee in action RawTherapee in action
RawTherapee in action (source: RawTherapee; click images for larger variants)

I used this tool quite a long time ago (version 2.3 and 2.4 back then), so I cannot give much details on the more recent versions. As I wrote this, I also rarely have to deal with RAW images. However, I liked what RawTherapee could get out of simple .jpg files even. I've stopped using it not because of "disappointment" (quite the contrary! I liked it), but due to "lack of need" (and time). RawTherapee seems to be quite well maintained, was running stable, and produced good results. Though I never used its full capacity, it would be my first choice if I had to deal with RAW pictures again.


I would recommend Darktable which is photography workflow application and RAW developer.

Darktable - Ligroom mode

Darktable basic features are:

  • Darktable runs on GNU/Linux / GNOME, Mac OS X / macports and Solaris 11 / GNOME.
  • Fully non-destructive editing.
  • All darktable core functions operate on 4x32-bit floating point pixel buffers, enabling SSE instructions for speedups.
  • It offers GPU acceleration via OpenCL (runtime detection and enabling) and has built-in ICC profile support: sRGB, Adobe RGB, XYZ and linear RGB.
  • Import a variety of standard, raw and high dynamic range image formats (e.g. jpg, cr2, hdr, nef, pfm, .. ).
  • Tethered shooting.
  • The powerful export system supports Picasa webalbum, flickr upload, disk storage, 1:1 copy, email attachments and can generate a simple html-based web gallery.
  • Darktable allows you to export to low dynamic range (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), 16-bit (PPM, TIFF), or linear high dynamic range (PFM, EXR) images
  • Darktable uses both XMP sidecar files as well as its fast database for saving metadata and processing settings.


  • *nix (tested: Ubuntu, Arch Linux, Funtoo, Gentoo, Fedora, Macintosh OS X)
  • 64bit operating system.
  • Required packages:libsqlite3, libjpeg, libpng, libraw (supplied), rawspeed (supplied), gtk+-2, cairo, lcms2, exiv2, tiff, curl, gphoto2, dbus-glib, gnome-keyring, fop, openexr
  • At least 4GB of physical RAM plus 4 to 8GB of additional swap space installed.

Darktable - Darkroom mode

  • That looks beautiful, yet I don't have that much of RAM (and can't have that much in my machine either). Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 12:45
  • 1
    Well its quite a piece of software really, considering its an open source free development its just amazing.
    – danijelc
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 13:01

I recommend Lightzone. They require registration before downloads, which is absurd. If you want to, you can avoid this by cloning and compiling from github repository.

Use case: photo manipulation, including color channels, hue, saturation, brightness, white balance, contrast etc. It is not Photoshop replacement. On commercial (and non-linux) side, feature set is comparable to Lightroom or Aperture.

Memory: on my computer, even with larger folders, 1GB of memory (for Lightzone, excluding OS and other programs) seems to be enough. I have Nikon D700, so my RAW images are approximately 25MB - I guess size/resolution of the original images affect memory requirements quite heavily.

Processor: more is better. As Lightzone is implemented with Java, it's not lightweight. I have 3GHz Intel i7, but it is a bit sluggish from time to time (this is highly subjective, though).

Compatibility: earlier I had problems with white balance on D80, but that is fixed already. I don't know about other RAW formats, but there's database available.

Usability: getting started takes some time, as everything is on toolbars, and some icons are non-intuitive. Additionally, some functionality - for example, exporting RAW files to TIFF - is a bit non-intuitive, but is still available.

File formats: supports exporting (converting) to JPEG and TIFF. Similarly, opens RAW, JPEG and TIFF files.

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