From Lightroom to Photo Mechanic, Iridient Developer
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Adobe Lightroom is great. Gives you a lot of possibilities, manages your library, develops your RAWs. It’s a great piece of software. Now, up to December 31st, you can have it with Photoshop for 10 USD a month if you, like me, have a licensed version of a Photoshop >CS3. So it’s a no brainer kind of buy.


But if you’re looking for the best image quality out of your RAW then, well, there is something more. Previous tests on Iridient Developer (version 2.3 just released)  actually confirm that, especially with X-Trans sensors, you can get much better results out of your RAWs. So the question is:

If there is a good alternative for the RAW processing part, is there  also a good alternative for the Library Management part?

The answer is YES: Photo Mechanic 5. Camerabits Photo Mechanic is a software largely used by photography professionals and photojournalist that save, archive, keywording they files. It has a great keyword management module and some possibilities that you don’t have in Lightroom, such as on-the-flight ingest to multiple hard drives or folders, live ingest and live slide show (great when you shoot and you wish to display while you’re shooting without tethering your camera). It has got may other interesting features so let’s try to dig a bit in detail and check how it works together with Iridient Developer.

Ingest – (Lightroom Import)

The first great part of Photo Mechanic is the Ingest Module. When you use it you can specify a lot of interesting things.


  • From where you’re ingesting, MULTIPLE location at the same time!
  • Your Primary and secondary destination folders
  • Creating Folders automatically on the base of your preferences (I use {iptcyear2}.{iptcmonth0}.{iptcday0} – {headline})
  • Renaming Photos on the base of your preferences (great use of the “Variables” and “Job” concepts here)
  • Apply set of keywords while you’re ingesting (IPTC Stationery Pad…)


So, just here, if you compare to Lightroom 5, you have a lot of more possibilities. And all these info you put GOES on the single files you’re working on, not on a “catalog” as in Lightroom. Photo Mechanis is much more “old fashioned” oriented but, thus, allows you to keep records of your photos with all the attached infos, without needing additional catalogs that may grow up to incredible file size and could be corrupted (not to talk about future proof)

Contact Sheet (Library in Lightroom)

So after your ingestion you’ll have your files in a folder, a “contact sheet”. You can tag your photos, add colors and work in cooperation with Lightroom to keep consistency of the color coding you use in both applications.


The software is very fast in managing the files but relies, for the RAW, on the underground Apple RAW support. So you need an updated 10.8 to use photographs coming from newborn cameras. As I mentioned before you may want to use Photo Mechanic together with Lightroom. How? Pretty simple. Go to the Program Preferences and set the IPCT screen as follows:


Then define your color coding in Photo Mechanic and do the same in Lightroom – This is Photo Mechanic


And this is Lightroom:


As you may see the only issue here is that the shortcut keys works differently (to me much better in Photo Mechanic, is more intuitive to flag the best photo with ‘1’ rather then ‘9’. But if you followed the screens you’ll have a coherent color coding across each software.

IRIDIENT Developer – (Develop in Lightoom)

So now it’s the turn of working on the image. The very nice thing of Photo Mechanic is that it let you specify your favorite RAW App linked to filename extension:


This nice feature allows you to decide, for each camera you have, the right RAW App. Cool! Capture One is a great tool for the medium format gigs so I may decide to use it with my Phase One files. Now let’s go on with developing a file. As usual I’m using here X100S inputs, a nice photograph I took, let me see (great Photo Mechanic again: on mouse over for all the photo info):


@ISO 1600 f2.8. I thought this was a good candidate for processing with the new Iridient Developer 2.3 since Brian states that the new version improves:

  • Greatly improved automatic chromatic aberration correction.
  • Improved image quality and processing speed when using lens distortion and chromatic aberration corrections.

So here I should see some benefit as the sun was setting down in front of me… So, simple processing again with ID, turning on the chromatic aberration controls (the RAW file had some CA, but not that much). And here the result, OUT OF IRIDIENT DEVELOPER, no further sharpening or processing in Photoshop…


Pixel peepers can look at these 100% crops:

_DSF2859-web-Crop1 _DSF2859-web-Crop2 _DSF2859-web-Crop3

As usual the results are great. This camera, with the correct RAW developer, gives a superb output quality for it’s size&price. Cannot understand why people as Lloyd Chambers or Steve Huff continue saying that the XTrans sensor is so-so, the camera does not focus quickly etc. For me, in this size, this X100s is the best of its’ class.

Wrapping up

So the Photo Mechanic and Iridient Developer work well together and offer, at the end, a better flexibility in file management and a very good RAW processing. Sure Lightroom still does many other thing, such as printing* and advanced editing with “local” capabilities. So, again for the price is hard to beat.  But still a professional photographer, very keen on the results, would need to get to Photoshop for final post processing magic. To me Adobe with LR went too much toward a wider “consumer” market and could have donereally better with their raw processors and file management capabilities. I may dream of a “pro” version of Lightroom in the future, but, till that date, without actually replacing it, Photo Mechanic should be seriously considered (many other aspects of the SW weren’t covered in this short article) and Iridient Developer is an absolute MUST HAVE.

* Sure, a dedicated RIP, it’s another story (I print myself on an 44 inches HP Z3200 my photographs and I know the difference in terms out output resolutions).




Massimo Cristaldi

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