Rawstudio: A fast and light RAW photo converter


Author: Nathan Willis

Rawstudio is an open source, GTK+-based RAW photo converter. It takes a straightforward approach — no outside-the-box interface designs, no fancy frills. The result is an easy-to-use application that is stable enough for everyday usage, even though it is still undergoing constant development.

You can download the latest source code packages from the project’s Web site; the code is a simple compile without arcane external dependencies. Because Rawstudio is GPL-licensed, your Linux distro may ship it or include it in the official package repository, but Rawstudio releases are dependable enough that fetching and building the latest version is worth the trouble. As of press time, the latest release is 0.5.1, which is the first to support batch operations — an extremely helpful feature.

Like most (if not all) of its contemporaries, Rawstudio calls on DCraw for RAW import support, so that chances are that if your digital camera can shoot RAW files, Rawstudio can read them. By default, the Rawstudio interface uses a single window with three panes: across the top is an image browser that displays thumbnails of images in the current working directory, beneath on the left is a preview window of the currently selected image, and on the right is the tool box.

Basic editing

Rawstudio. Click to enlarge.

Rawstudio’s tools use the conventional slider controls for exposure, saturation, hue, contrast, and tint, and a row of buttons for simple transformations such a flips and rotation. In the current release, you cannot directly enter numerical values for the conversion controls, but must use the mouse for all adjustments. There is a dedicated reset button for each control, however, which is a plus.

As with RawTherapee, I found it extremely frustrating that the slider controls automatically grab mouse focus. This means that you cannot use the mouse wheel to scroll up and down the toolbox without taking pains to position the cursor out of the way of all the controls: if you try it, whichever slider you happen to be positioned over will scroll off in one direction or another. If left unchanged, that is only going to be a bigger and bigger problem as Rawstudio adds more tools.

A nice, unexpected touch is that the tool box actually contains three tabs of identical controls (labeled A, B, and C). Within each tab you can make different adjustments and see the results immediately in the preview pane. Thus you can cycle rapidly through up to three “views” (as the app refers to them) without having to export the results and open them in an image editor separately — very handy.

When you choose Export from the File menu, Rawstudio writes out a file using the settings on whichever of the three views is in the forefront. It does not automatically append an A, B, or C to the filename, though, so if you want to export several alternatives you must manually indicate which is which. I found it disappointing that the Export module does not remember the folder to which you have previously saved output files. But export is fast, and gives you your choice of JPEG, PNG, and 8-bit and 16-bit TIFF formats.

Some minor interface inconsistencies may trip you up. For example, even though the flip and rotate buttons sit beneath the A, B, and C adjustment tabs, they affect all three views. If they are not hierarchically under the adjustment tabs’ influence, they should be relegated elsewhere — perhaps under the Photo menu, where Rawstudio puts white balance, crop, and straighten tools. That would be more consistent, although I think that the Photo menu is a bad place to hide white balance, crop, and straighten, much less additional tools.

Batch processing and advanced features

Rawstudio’s batch processing is straightforward. You can add any photo view to the batch queue with Ctrl-B, edit batch settings from the Batch tab, and run them all together. Right now, batch processing is limited to file export: you cannot, for example, set up an adjustment macro and apply it to all files in a directory. And the entire batch queue must be exported to one location, using the same output file type.

Rawstudio also has basic file management support. The thumbnail browser pane lets you assign a “1,” “2,” or “3” priority to each photo and restrict your view by priority level. These priority assignments are saved between sessions, and Rawstudio does remember the settings of each adjustment view, but it does not preserve the batch queue. Were it to preserve the queue, it would have the makings of an excellent multisession editing tool.

Rawstudio does have basic color management (marked as “experimental” in 0.5.1), but is does not yet support reading or editing file metadata. That may be a deal-breaker for some users, but on the plus side, it imparts speed. When browsing to a new directory, not pausing to read and parse metadata from every file contributes to making Rawstudio the fastest of the Linux RAW converters I have tested — far faster than RawTherapee, Bibble, and LightZone. UFRaw, since it does not include any file management, is not a fair comparison.


All factors considered, Rawstudio is an excellent “fast and light” RAW converter. It does not sport image retouching, file management with metadata, or all of the advanced correction tools of some other RAW converters available on Linux. But the less fixing your image or set of images needs, the better Rawstudio will serve you. It is fast and it is reliable — two factors every photographer appreciates.