YarcPlus Vs. BreezeBrowser
Two Great Canon Raw Converters
NB: Just days before this article was published in September, 2002, BreezeBrowser was upgraded to Version 2.2. This new version features a new digital noise reduction reduction mode and also improved camera profile support. Both of these fine programs are subject to continuous upgrades — available as free downloads to registered owners.
A RAW Converter History
Every new technology generates new market niches. In 1998 when Nikon brought out its first digital SLR — the D1 — it introduced the concept of the RAW file; one to which the camera had not pre-applied any colour balance, sharpening or other corrections. This was important because it allowed photographers to derive maximum image quality from these files in post-processing in Photoshop. Nikon, to their discredit, didn't provide the ability to use these files unless one paid hundreds of dollars extra for an accessory program. (NEF and RAW files can not be read by standard programs such as Photoshop. They need a proprietary converter).
This created a new market niche which was quickly filled by a terrific program called Bibble, which turned out to be much better than the Nikon's (NEF) converter, and it cost a lot less as well. Such is the free enterprise system.
In 2000 when Canon brought out its first DSLR — the D30 — they provided the ZoomBrowser utility. This was able to translate Canon RAW files to standard TIFF format, and best of all didn't cost any extra. Unfortunately it turned out to be a limited program that was awkward to use.
To their credit, in 2001 Canon released an SDK (Software Developers Kit) and soon we had two shareware products for the Canon RAW format; BreezeBrowser and Yarc (now YarcPlus).
This is Not a Test
Though the title reads "YarcPlus Vs. Breezebrowser" this is not a comprehensive test. (A link to a more detailed comparison test is found at the end of this page, as well as links to both product's web sites). Instead what I will do is point out to you the basic features as well as my likes and dislikes in both programs.
Both programs may be downloaded and evaluated without charge, and my suggestion is that if you currently own one and not the other that you download both and give them each a try. They are both relatively inexpensive, and you might even find that you want to have both available since while both are excellent products neither offers everything that one could want in a RAW converter.
Screens & Views
Fig. 1 Fig. 2
Using a file converter program is very much about ease of file access and image recognition. BreezeBrowser provides two "screens"; the first shows a file browser to the left of screen and thumbnails to the right. These thumbnails may be viewed in three different sizes. In Figure #1 above we see them at their largest size. In Figure #2 you see the second screen, which shows a large view of a chosen frame along with all of the camera's shooting data and a histogram.
YarcPlus on the other hand has a total of 5 viewing screens plus a floating EXIF (camera shooting data) window. These are seen below as Figures 3 — 8. Obviously YarcPlus provides more different ways of viewing thumbnails and enlarged files than does BreezeBrowser, but frankly I don't find this to be a huge advantage.
Fig. 3 Fig. 4
Fig. 5 Fig. 6
Fig. 7 Fig. 8
You'll notice that in Figs 3, 4 and 5, YarcPlus has its RAW conversion settings visible. This is shown in more detail in Figure 9 below. Figure 10 below shows BreezeBrowser's conversion screen, which is only visible when you have clicked on the CONVERT button found on the full-image screen (Figure 2 above).
Fig. 9 Fig. 10
These are simply two different approaches to user interface. I can't honestly say that one is highly preferable to the other. And, when it comes to the things that can be done to the image in processing, both programs provide very similar capabilities.
One thing I do prefer about BreezeBrowser is that a right-click on any thumbnail, or on an enlarged view, produces a comprehensive list of image management and conversion capabilities (Figure 11, below). YarcPlus provides a much more limited selection, and then only when a thumbnail is right-clicked, not with larger views (Figure 12, below).
Fig. 11 Fig. 12
ARF Vs. Combined
There are any number of additional areas in which these programs differ. A day or so with each free download will quickly tell you which one better meets your particular style and workflow. But each program has one specific capability that the other does not (at least as of August, 2002. See the note at the top of this article).
YarcPlus features a unique noise reduction capability named ARF — Artifact Removal Filter. In brief ARF is a pair of filters that are used to reduce chroma noise and other noise artifacts in Canon digital images. It can be helpful in some instances, and higher ISO files benefit from it more than ones shot at ISO 100. I see just a small improvement at ISOs under 400 on the D60. A detailed article on ARF by one of YarcPlus's authors can be found here.
BreezeBrowser's unique strength lies in its Combined conversion mode. While most people think that a RAW file is exactly what's put out by the chip, that isn't the case. Digital imaging chips do not capture data evenly across the range from lightest to darkest tonalities. Therefore a curve is applied by the camera to compensate for this. If you wish though you can extract the Linear RAW file. There are Photoshop Actions available on the Net for converting these so-called Linear files to something usable (they are very dark).
Why would you want to do this? Because in "normalizing" the file the in-camera processing compresses or clips (I'm not sure which) some of the highlight information. With careful work it is sometimes possible to extract about a half stop more detail in the highlight areas, thus sometimes reducing "blown-out" highlights.
BreezeBrowser goes this one-better by doing a RAW conversion while simultaneously extracting the Linear information as well. It then combines these two automatically into a new file and saves it as a TIFF. A real time saver over doing it yourself in Photoshop. Don't expect miracles though. If the highlights have been heavily overexposed nothing is going to get them back.
Ideally one could wish for the ARF capability of YarcPlus together with the Combined capability of BreezeBrowser. Failing this what you need is to own both of these utilities and use the best features of each when needed.
A Few Issues
One frustration with YarcPlus is that the setting for assigning a profile to the conversion is buried three levels down in Options / Preferences / Output Options. If I'm working with a mixture of files shot in both sunny and cloudy conditions it's a nuisance to have to navigate there to make the change in profile required. It should be part of the main conversion menu.
On the other hand YarcPlus has a terrific capability called Picture-By-Picture conversion, where you can tag a number of images for conversion, each with different parameters, and all at the same time. A real time saver if you need it when converting a large number of files in batch mode.
As far as user interface goes, it really is a matter if personal preference. I have been using BreezeBrowser regularly for a couple of years so it seems intuitive to me. Another reviewer finds YarcPlus' superior. You'll need to draw your own conclusions.
It needs to be noted that both of these programs are for Windows PCs. A comprehensive RAW conversion program does not exist for the Mac platform though a program called Graphics Converter for the Mac will handle Canon D30 RAW files in a basic manner.
My original review from 2001 of BreezeBrowser is found here.