What Would Happen With RAW Converters In The Future?


First of all, let’s try to imagine, what would have the most significant impact on photography in the next 5-7 years?
No surprise there – smartphones.

While many photographers were moсking the size of smartphone lenses, they underestimated a real killer feature – internal hardware. It’s more powerful than your camera’s, and it delivers fantastic results in photography.

For example, Focos app for iPhones with dual camera. It creates a 3D map of your photograph and allows you to work with color, exposure and bokeh in 3D layers.
Here are some of my experiments with Focos, all the editing was made on iPhone X only:

Also, take a look at Apollo. Using this app, you can set light sources on the image after it has already been taken. And what really impressed me is that you can manipulate the light sources in a 3D space.
For example, here I’ve added the first light source to lighten the ribbon, and the second (a cold one) to add a contoured light to it.

Looks interesting, right? Now, for the second part of the puzzle.

Neural networks. The feature of neural networks for photography is that the computers now know what the “beautiful image” is, because they can analyze millions of images which people tend to describe as “beautiful”.
Neural network is a fantastic topic, but today I’ll give you only two examples here (my plane is going for landing pretty soon).

First of all – this neural network by Nvidia, which replicates a style from one image to an entirely different image:

Or this neural network which allows you to take images in almost complete darkness:

The left picture – original image taken with ISO 8000, and the right picture – image recovered from it using this neural network.

Now, imagine that all of these features work together.
You’re making a portrait of your friend with your smartphone, and it analyzes millions of greatest portraits people ever made. Then it compensates all the technical issues, sets the light sources on your image according to the most suitable references. Oh, and it also replicates image style from one of your favorite photographers.

How would that change the RAW editing industry?
First of all – all the beginners and most of the semi-pro cameras would be gone in the next 7-10 years. Only because your smartphone would take much better images right from the box.
That would dramatically change RAW editing industry as well – there will be no more than 2-3 apps left on the market.
Who would stay? Apps which deliver fantastic features for editing. Apps which can be used by professionals to surpass neural networks. Apps which can be used by hobbyist photographers for the sake of a joy of image editing; something similar to the joy of film photography nowadays.

That’s why I think Capture One would not go anywhere. Even today it’s oriented at professionals and advanced hobbyists. And that would guarantee quite a bright future for Phase One.
Who else would stay? I think Lightroom might stay, but Adobe would need to completely rebuild it into a new software to fit the new market. And I don’t believe in apps like ON1 Photo or DxO Optics. They are doing great work, but they don’t have enough resources and user base to compete in the new market.

Are you interested in such topics? Would you like to see some video about image editing on smartphones from me? Let me know what you think.

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About Author

Alexander Svet – Professional photographer and photography instructor. Phase One Certified Professional and Capture One beta tester.