Well I Downloaded Lightzone a few days back – it’s a free download for Linux users, I have been using Gimp and Cinepaint till now for most of my image based stuff, I had been told that Lightzone was a wonderful piece of software, so I decided to give it a go – it’s only about 25 Mb to download and it comes in a tarball (ready to run).
With the camera I was using I didn’t have any access to raw format, so for this quickie test I did my usual thing and immediately saved the images as TIFF files before I did any modifications on the files – this is to preserve as much data as possible during the editing process – editing in jpeg can be quite lossy.
I created two copies of the file in TIFF format and opened one in Gimp and one in Lightzone, I then spent about 5 min tweaking each file to make it clearer and more appealing to me – this isn’t scientific, and I have much more experience in Gimp than Lightzone. All I was looking for was a bit of an indication of which software would give a nicer quick result – I didn’t use any selections in this test – all of the changes were global, I could do much better in each software if I were to put in some time – this is a five minute test.
In Gimp I used curves, contrast, unsharp mask and hue saturation.
In Lightzone I used the zones (removed some and spread the remaining tones), sharpened, and adjusted the colour balance and the white balance.
I’ll just show some details of the image I used after I had finished with it in each piece of software, it was a bit of a tricky one – lots of reflections and shadows – all shown at 100%.
The reflections are kinda opaque, the colours are bright in the bright colours, but muted in the brown areas, I’m having a bit of trouble reading the reflections, they aren’t very clear.
Lightzone favoured the browns, it tended less towards the bright yellows and green, but the image is still warm and bright, the reflections are much less intrusive and can be read easier.
The result is very harsh when it was adjusted globally, I was aiming for the tones in the pond, so the tones on the stonework suffered, Again the intrusive blue reflection is a feature – it wasn’t blue, the sky was grey in real life.
In the Lightzone version the stone and concrete is much less harsh and more subtle, the overall effect is warmer and the reflection is again much less intrusive.
Just looking at the reflections in Gimp and it’s real hard to see past them, the colours are bright in the pool, but the grey area’s haven’t warmed up at all – the overall effect is harsh.
With Lightzone the reflections are easier to see past and to read as well, the stonework has also warmed up considerably.
Well this wasn’t scientific, for one, The Gimp, for all it gets right is an 8 bit imaging program, it simply can’t see the colours that Lightzone can, so a direct comparison is flawed. Having said that – Lightzone has some features that the Gimp doesn’t, like for instance the ability to see and compress tonal zones (what it was named for) – this is a fairly sophisticated feature which can be used to control harsh lighting.
Lightzone also has better global colour correction.
I’m going to be using both frankly – gimp is great when working with Black and White images, it also has one hell of a lot more functionality when it comes to stuff that’s not so directed at photographs. But looking at these results I’m going to be using Lightzone for colour images in future.
If anybody is curious – the file output by Gimp was fractionally smaller than that of Lightzone, but this was on the order of 50K – Negligible when you consider that both files were about 5.5 Mb – I used a 2MP camera to take the shot, it shot JPG (I suspect 8 bit) – so the original file wasn’t that great. And yes – Lightzone took longer to complete operations than Gimp did. I’m running V2 of Lightzone on an AMD Athalon @ 2Ghz w. 640 Mb ram running Ubuntu and it runs fine – though I’m looking at upgrading to 1Gb of ram at some stage.