FREE RawTherapee 5 Software Hands On

In this blogpost i want to show you a completely FREE, yes you read that right, FREE RAW photo editor RawTherapee 5, which has more features than any other editor software i have seen, including Lightroom, Capture One, ON1…

Here are some of the features:

  • High Image Quality

    • 96-bit (floating point) processing engine.
    • Non-destructive editing.
    • Get the most details and least artifacts from your raw photos thanks to modern and traditional demosaicing algorithms: AMaZE, DCB, AHD, EAHD, HPHD, IGV, LMMSE, VNG4, Mono and Fast.
    • Advanced color handling from white balance to HSV (Hue-Saturation-Value) curves, color toning and color management including wide-gamut and soft-proofing support.
    • Powerful CIE Color Appearance Model 2002 (CIECAM02) module.
    • Enhanced exposure and tonality tools: tone and Lab curves, highlights and shadows tools, tone mapping (HDR-like effect), etc.
    • Multiple denoising methods: luminance, chrominance (both rewritten in 2012), impulse (for salt and pepper noise) noise reduction.
    • Several tools to enhance details: unsharp mask, RL deconvolution, contrast by detail levels.


    • Multi-threaded algorithms for high performance (RawTherapee can utilize modern processor features, like SSE).
    • Quick thumbnails load lightning fast and are replaced later with live thumbnails.
    • Batch processing: convert all the developed images at once without loading the processor while you work.
    • Copy/paste editing parameters from one file to many other. Partially copying and/or pasting is also possible.
    • Basic tools immediately at your hands.
    • Parallel editing of multiple images in separate editor tabs, and/or all at once from the file browser.
    • An optional secondary display can be used.


    • Wide variety of supported cameras: almost all DSLRs and even some medium format bodies are supported.
    • Can load most raw files including 16-, 24- and 32-bit raw HDR DNG images, as well as standard JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8-, 16- and 32-bit logluv) images.
    • Can save JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8- and 16-bit) images.
    • Advanced control over the algorithms with many fine-tuning parameters and curves.
    • Can send to GIMP or the editing tool of your choice in one click (16-bit TIFF file).
    • Command line usage besides the normal graphical interface.
    • Various layouts: multiple tabs, single tab with filmstrip, vertical tab with filmstrip, dual monitor.

    Freedom for Free

    • RawTherapee is free and open source software, meaning you can use it free of charge, wherever you like on whatever hardware you like, as long as you abide by the copyleft GPLv3 license. Download the source code, modify it, feel free to do what comes to mind. We believe in open software.
    • It is cross-platform: Linux, Mac, or Windows, be it 32-bit or 64-bit – you pick, we provide.
    • International: it is available in 25 languages!

but that´s not even nearly all, a LOT more features:

General Features

  • All the standard features you would expect from a raw developer and much more,
  • A batch processing queue to make tweaking a photo as fast as possible while leaving the CPU grunt work queued up for later,
  • Floating point engine – the only raw developer on the market which does all calculations in precise floating point notation so nothing gets rounded off and lost,
  • SSE optimizations for better performance on modern CPUs,
  • Color management using the LittleCMS v2 color management system for more precise color handling, providing control over working and output color space,
  • Support for reading and tone-mapping 16-bit, 24-bit and 32-bit floating-point HDR images in the DNG format,
  • File browser featuring colored tagging, searching (by text matched to the filename), metadata filtering (by file type, camera model, lens model, photo parameters),
  • Support for DCP and ICC color profiles, for precise colors or for replicating the “camera look” to match out-of-camera JPEG images,
  • A history panel to easily see what changes you made and jump back to a specific point,
  • A snapshot panel to work with multiple versions of changes to a photo,
  • A flexible UI where panels and some individual elements can be adapted or hidden,
  • Easily pan around photos much larger than your screen thanks to pan rate amplification, eliminating the need for numerous and fidgety mouse movements,
  • Scroll the tool panels using your mouse scroll wheel without worrying about accidentally misadjusting any tools, or hold the Shift key while using the mouse scroll wheel to manipulate the adjuster the cursor is hovering over,
  • Maximize screen-space by right-clicking on a tool to keep it visible while automatically collapsing the other ones,
  • A Before|After view to compare your latest change to any previous one,
  • Support for PP3 processing profiles (sidecar files), whole and partial,
  • Show various channels in the preview: red, green, blue, luminosity and a focus mask,
  • Show various channels in the histogram: red, green, blue, CIELAB luminance, chromaticity and raw,
  • Color clipping indicators in the preview,
  • Export Panel with Fast Export Options,
  • Keyboard shortcuts to speed up work,
  • Command line support to automate RawTherapee using scripts or call it from other programs,
  • Support for most cameras,
  • Support new raw formats by simply editing the camconst.json file in a text editor,
  • Audio feedback to inform you when a CPU-intensive task completes e.g. when the queue is done being processed,
  • Preserve IPTC and XMP of pre-tagged files,
  • Adapt RawTherapee to use your system interface’s color scheme and widgets or try the provided custom color schemes,
  • Localization in almost 30 languages.

Exposure and Color Features

  • The Auto Levels tool tweaks your photos to provide a good starting point,
  • Various powerful methods of shadow and highlight recovery and reconstruction,
  • Post-crop Vignette Filter,
  • Graduated Filter (GND),
  • Pipette tool, which, when activated for a specific curve, lets you pick a point on the image preview and then places a corresponding adjustment point on that curve,
  • Two RGB tone curves, each with four methods of control, for unprecedented control of colors and exposure,
  • Hue, saturation and value (HSV) and red, green and blue (RGB) curve adjustments,
  • Wealth of Lab adjustments for separate control of colors and luminance:
    • L* curve for control of lightness,
    • a* curve to control the position of a color between red/magenta and green,
    • b* curve to control the position of a color between yellow and blue,
    • LH curve to control luminance as a function of hue,
    • CH curve to control chromaticity as a function of hue,
    • HH curve to control hue as a function of hue,
    • CC curve to control chromaticity as a function of chromaticity,
    • LC curve to control luminance as a function of chromaticity,
    • CL curve to control chromaticity as a function of luminance.
  • Avoid color shift by using Munsell correction,
  • Vibrance control,
  • Preservation of natural skin tones,
  • Tone mapping based on edge-preserving decomposition for a natural look,
  • White balance – automatic, manual or one of a wide variety of predefined sources,
  • Channel Mixer,
  • Black-and-White conversion,
  • Several methods of color toning,
  • Support for monochrome cameras
  • Adaptation of the CIECAM02 color appearance model ratified by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) to maintain accurate colors and to, given a set of initial viewing condition parameters, convert the image so that it will look the same under the target viewing conditions. Image processing using CIECAM02 is enabled via a number of methods, using curves and sliders. A multitude of tools are adapted to auto-switch to CIECAM02 mode when in use, including Tone Mapping, Sharpening, Defringe, etc.
  • Color management.

Detail Features

  • Various sharpening methods:
    • Unsharp mask featuring a unique and powerful threshold slider to bring out detail while avoiding halos,
    • RL deconvolution to undo the blur,
    • Edges true sharpening to enhance edges,
    • Microcontrast to enhance texture,
    • Contrast by Detail Levels using wavelet decomposition into five levels of detail.
  • Very powerful wavelet-based noise reduction in the RGB and Lab color spaces,
  • Impulse noise reduction to eliminate salt-and-pepper type noise,
  • Defringe tool for elimination of purple fringing (or other color).

Transformation Features

  • Perspective correction,
  • Adobe Lens Correction Profile support for automatic correction of distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration,
  • Distortion correction,
  • Post-demosaic chromatic aberration correction,
  • Pre-crop vignetting correction.

Raw Pre-Demosaicing Features

  • Various demosaicing methods to start off by squeezing out the most detail possible from your raw photo:
    • AMaZE,
    • IGV and LMMSE for use with noise reduction to prevent maze patterns,
    • EAHD,
    • HPHD,
    • VNG4,
    • DCB,
    • AHD,
    • Mono,
    • Fast.
  • Line noise filter,
  • White and black point adjustment,
  • Dark frame subtraction to eliminate some forms of noise,
  • Flat field correction to easily correct vignetting, lens color cast and sensor dust,
  • Manual and automatic chromatic aberration correction.



The UI looks very cleaned up and if you worked with Adobe Lightroom than you will probably also think that it looks a lot like Lightroom and a bit like ON1.

So my first impression was that RAW Therapee 5 looks like a mixture of Lightroom and ON1 and when you start RAW Therapee 5 it really is similar to ON1.

The Browser is pretty quick, just select your folder on the harddrive where your photos are, double click on the folder and all your raw files are there ready to select and edit them.

Boom! thats how quick it should be, no long import necessary, you can get straight to your images and edit them. That´s also what i like about ON1.



When you double clicked a raw file then you get straigt to the develope module:

Now in the latest version you can also use Fuji-X Trans RAW files like with the Fuji X-T2, Xpro2…but you have to use uncompressed RAW´s in order to work (will be fixed in the  next version for compressed files too) You can also use Raw files from a camera with a Bayer sensor.

When you see all of the features and how professional the editor looks, you would never think that this is an open source software. So the developers made a fantastic  job with the UI!

At the same time when you see all the features and options you have in the develope module the first couple times, than you will probably be totally overwhelmed, just like it was for me.

Here are all the sliders and options you have in the develope module, and not even all of them could fit in the screenshots thats how many you have 🙂


So there are so many features and options which is great, some of the options like for the Fuji X-Trans Matrix i haven´t even seen in any raw editor before including Lightroom and many other options too.

Of course that also ultimately means that the more features you have the more you can do wrong, so if you want to learn this raw editor you will have a very steep learning curve!


Now since you can really do a lot wrong i can´t completely judge the image quality for now since i´m only using this editor for 2 days now, but here is a comparison with a lightroom edit:


Raw Therapee 5:

As you can see while there is more detail visible from shadows in the Raw Therapee 5 edit, there is a lot more detail in the sky of the Lightroom edit. I tried to match the Lightroom edit in Raw Therapee but the more i tried and moved the sliders the more noise was added to the image. You can see that here in detail:

There is a lot less noise visible in the Lightroom edit, so what i did is i added some noise reduction, but of course when you add that it again reduces detail:

So..all in all i would really rather prefere the Lightroom edit for this image, because there is more detail and less noise visible.


RawTherapee 5 also  has a lens correction built in and you can correct CA´s, but that correction is only possible with 2 sliders and you don´t have a pipette like in lightroom where you can choose the colored lines with it.

You can also add Film Simulations, and that´s by far the feature i like the most, you can not only add the Film Simulations for your camera, like my X-T2 velvia, provia, astia…but also famous color profiles from Kodak, Agfa, Polaroid, Rollei, every Fuji profile you can think of and even more:

To do this you have to download the folder which contains the film simulations called HaldCLUT and save it anywhere on your computer and then go to the options and tell Raw Therapee where it can find that folder:

The look of these film simulations are just beautifull and it gives your images that special something or you could also say it´s like a color grading. So even if you don´t want to use Raw Therapee 5 for editing your images, you could still just use it for using the film simulations. I really love how these look, especially the Kodak and the Polaroid look great! I also did some simple editing on these images with Raw Therapee, and as you can see these look a lot better than the comparison shot before



Raw Therapee 5 is very, very impressive! This is by far the best and most complex FREE Open Source raw editor you can get right now. In comparison with Lightroom it looks to me that lightroom can still recover the Highlights better and more detailed overall with less noise in the images.The highlightrecovery is better than in ON1 though at the moment. The shadow recovery is very good and the film simulations which you can add are just great. If you don´t want to spend money at all for a raw editor, save some money and don´t want a monthly subscription, then Raw Therapee 5 is the way to go, no other FREE software comes even close to this.

If you like to have Raw Therapee 5 you can download it here:


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