People who don’t own editing software hear a lot about Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. They might not realise what else is out there.
Our ON1 Photo RAW review looks at this photo editor program in comparison to Adobe products. Does it hold a candle to them? Let’s have a look.
What Is On1 Photo RAW 2019
ON1 Photo RAW is a recent addition to the photographic editing world. It’s so new that I hadn’t heard of it until it came to this review.
This software combines the most used features from Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. This makes it an all-new photo editing experience. Who wouldn’t like Photoshop with a photo library and organisation?
What about all the other tools that use the power from Photoshop and the simplicity of Lightroom? That would make one hell of a software. But I can dream.
Most raw engines start as DCRaw or other open-source libraries and layer their interface on top. With On1 Raw Photo RAW, they started from the bottom, giving you a completely new raw editor.
Similarities Between On1 Photo RAW, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom
There are things I love about Photoshop and some things I loathe. The same goes for Lightroom. I have yet to find something that gives me the same control over my images. Isn’t that the point of all these software packages?
From the get-go, I can see some similarities between On1 Photo RAW and Lightroom or Photoshop. This similarity makes it a great competitor to Adobe. By combining two packages in one, you save time and financial burden.
The On1 photo editor also offers faster editing through tabs and easy to use modules. Here, you can resize, export, share, and print, with similar filters and presets as LR. Fast browsing is a cinch when you have a program that organises images well.
It’s also perfect for fast culling. Compare modes make it easy to see what you’re doing. Batch processing enables quick and efficient work. Rate, label, create albums with non-destructive edits? Yes, please!
ON1 has easy to use editing tools and integrated layers for combining many shots. You are also able to add text, which is a benefit if the photographer deals with more than just their images.
There are a few things that make On1 standout. HDR, panoramic images and tethered shooting aren’t new features by any means. But they are well done, especially when it comes to On1 vs. Lightroom.
User Experience – Is On1 Photo RAW Better Than Photoshop?
Most photographers are going to be very comfortable with this engine. The layout is intuitive and easy to navigate. It isn’t a million miles away from Adobe Lightroom, which is a plus.
The biggest problem for new raw editors or any editing software is breaking into a saturated market. They have to make themselves stand out.
On1 Photo RAW hears all the drawbacks found with using Adobe, the market leader. Their subscription fees are stopping people from enjoying their workflow.
With On1 Photo RAW, you have a different model. There is a yearly fee of $99. And you can still use the updated version you have, with all the bells and whistles if you don’t renew.
This feature makes it easier to swallow. It will ensure more and more people sign up for this program than lining Adobe’s pockets.
Not only is it faster, and can do everything Photoshop can in a blink of an eye, you can also use PSD formats in On1. With the On1 Photo RAW 2019 version, everything is neat. It makes sense. There are four primary tabs to work from; Develop, Effects, Portrait & Local.
These areas are where all the editing happens.
Develop – allows you to adjust your image as a whole.
Effects – let you add filters and layers.
Portrait – is a dedicated tab for adding adjustments to faces.
Local – is where you adjust specific areas of your image.
As well as these tabs, there are also Layers, Pano, HDR and Focus as extra tabs. Having these in easy reach allows quick and efficient image editing.
What’s New in the On1 Photo RAW 2019 Edition?
The edition before this was the On1 2018, and before that, the 2017 version. It’s nice to see a company improve year after year. From what it seems, they listen to their customers and update accordingly.
You cant do this in Lightroom (ok, HDR you can, but you don’t have much control). It is a huge benefit. Many use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve the results you can here, in one program.
This element makes it easy to change areas of your image, pulling the best parts from both. The benefit here is the new AI Masking. This tool allows photographers to identify areas for selection or masking.
Keywords and Text
Keywords are, well, key, when it comes to editing software. One of the reasons I love Lightroom is the well-addressed keywords.
From reviewing other platforms, such as Darktable, I realise how important they are. Darktable’s review fell short due to their terrible keywording.
With On1 Photo RAW you can see every keyword you use in a single, searchable list. You can apply, clear, edit, or delete keywords. Perfect.
The other area that is new in On1 Photo RAW is the text tool. Most of us won’t use this, but it cuts out our need for Photoshop. If you do need it, it saves time having it in the same place as your images.
New Interface, Filters, and Profiles
As you would expect with any updates, things will look a little newer. On1 Photo RAW is no exception. They have a fresher and more modern look to their interface. Sliders take less space, and everything is easier to see and navigate.
There are also new filter options, including dedicated film grain, curves, and color adjustments. These allow you to target colors and tones easier and faster. You can now even search for and sample filters before applying.
Camera and lens profiles can be a hassle, especially with newer editing programs. They have many sliders to choose from, but they are redundant if the program doesn’t work with your camera.
On1 Photo RAW added support for the latest cameras and lenses. The total is over 800 acceptable models and brands.
Focus stacking is something you may not have heard of before unless you are a macro, landscape, or product photographer. Focus stacking layers images with different focal points to achieve a narrow focal length.
Let’s say you photograph a spider from close up. You need a wide aperture due to the light. This only places the spider’s eyes in focus.
Focus stacking combines many images to ensure the entire spider is in focus. You need to capture the images using different focal lengths.
On1 Photo RAW 2019 makes it very easy to do this, and it does it well. In Adobe Photoshop, you need practice in dodging, burning, and masking. It’s a steep learning curve, and it takes time.
The best part of this area is the new ‘Autoalign Layers‘ button. This button takes images that could be slightly different in framing and ensures they are the same when placed together.
Portrait Editing Module
When you load an image and head on over to the ‘Portrait’ tab, it automatically searches for the faces in the picture.
By selecting the eyes and mouth, it allows local adjustments to these areas. It keeps the rest of the face separate, so applied changes will leave out the rest of the image.
Having this as a separate area keeps the confusion to a minimum, and makes it easy to return to for further editing.
Why Would You Use On1 Photo RAW 2019?
One of the things I love about Adobe Lightroom is being able to create virtual copies. Although it works with non-destructive editing, sometimes you want to play around with the same image and compare them.
Instead of applying adjustments and resetting the image to try something new, you can create duplicates of the same picture. Perfect for seeing the changes next to each other.
On1 uses the same idea but changing the name to Versions. The devil is in the details, and for me, this is a brilliant thing to include.
Masking is a way we can apply adjustments to areas of the image, not blanketing the entire scene. It is a common feature in editing suites, from Lightroom to GIMP.
Masking was present in previous versions of On1 Photo RAW. In the 2019 version, there is a more advanced masking tool. We see this through luminosity masking.
Lightroom and Photoshop exceed in this area of photographic adjustments. On1 Photo RAW finds its place somewhere between them.
Here, they are easy to use. The masking tool is on the left and allows you to ‘paint in’ or ‘paint out’ areas of an image. It is best to do masking when layered with other images.
If you want to select the shadows and highlights of an image, then the luminosity mask is for you. It is useful and works very well in One1 Photo RAW 2019.
Reduction in Noise
Noise reduction is a significant factor when choosing editing software.
Some stick to their guns and choose DxO OpticsPro because of its efficient noise reduction. But what about On1 Photo RAW?
Apart from it adding character and a specific feel to your images, most of the time, it’s unwanted. Sometimes, you need to get the shot no matter what.
One1 Photo RAW allows you to brush away noise without having to apply noise reduction to the entire image. Many times, I find digital noise to be problematic when photographing live bands.
A consistent look over the image might seem better if the colors or tones are similar. Especially when the digital grain is noticeable in a specific area.
Sometimes poor lighting conditions force me to use a higher ISO. With On1, I have no problem. Lightroom also deals well with the noise.
High Dynamic Range
If you choose the latter, a new window lets you adjust the HDR, similar to its raw editor. I was pleased with how it turned out and worked just as well as it would in Lightroom or Photoshop. The trick is not to overdo it.
The images were rich in tonal range and color while skipping the over-baked look that usually comes with HDR imaging.
Panoramic stitching is by no means a new feature. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been using this for years. Especially in the last few updates since their Creative Cloud subscriptions.
It is relatively new in On1 Photo RAW, appearing in the 2018 version. It works in a very similar way to how it works in Lightroom. Select the images, then right-click and ‘Merge to Panorama’.
The preview comes very quickly, faster than the competitors. There were problems when they first included this in their software, which is understandable.
One thing to note is, unlike Lightroom, which stitches the images into a larger Raw file, On1 stitches images into a 16-bit PSD file.
Likes and Dislikes
- No mandatory subscription
- Effect cookbook
- Dedicated portrait area
- Faster than Lightroom
- No need to import
- Almost as expensive as Adobe
- Feels a little immature compared to others
- Lacks dual monitor support
The pricing of ON1 Photo RAW is competitive. The 2019 version comes at just under $100. If you have any previous model, the update comes at $80.
It is a one-off price for the program, yet if you want to update the program, it will cost extra. It is a non-mandatory subscription fee. If you don’t want to pay for the upgrade, you can still use the program.
Adobe Lightroom comes at a subscription fee of $10 a month. This gives you both versions of Lightroom (Classic CC & CC) and Photoshop, alongside some Cloud storage.
For these three programs, you’ll pay $120 per year. Use them for ten months, and you’ll pay the same as On1. The problem is, if you stop paying, you can’t use any of the programs.
Many photographers hate this setup and preferred the one-off payment scheme they had before.
Personally, a one-off payment plan works better. If the updated version doesn’t have anything substantial, nor something I need in my workflow, I don’t need to pay the extra money.
This fact forces On1 Photo RAW to make significant and necessary steps in their updates.
From researching many different editing programs over the past year, I had the chance to look at many different packages.
Between the expensive, such as Capture One to the free, such as RawTherapee, none gave me a reason to consider leaving Lightroom.
I think that changed with On1 Photo RAW. It gave Adobe a run for its money. This is saying something, as I don’t change things in my life without a fight. Especially things that work for me.
Both Lightroom and On1 use non-destructive editing. They both use keywords and a brilliant organisation system. On1 is much faster as you don’t need to wait for the images to import.
I like that the effects panel has a little sample for each setting. I love that everything is well-spaced and designed. Some might see the interface as a little immature compared to Adobe, but it gets the job done well.
This program is for those who like Lightroom and want areas of Photoshop without the confusion or learning curve.
For a faster workflow and general ease of use, this is for you. If you are looking for editing software, give the free trial a go – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Check out our Photo Mechanic review next!
Have a look at this great video for how to improve your basic On1 workflow!