Apple finally introduced support for the RW2 format from the Panasonic LX-3 and the Leica D-Lux 4 compact digital cameras in the Digital Raw Camera Compatibility 3.0 update. You may have been wondering why it has taken so long to add support for these models. The reason is that the LX-3 and the D-Lux 4 use a lens with high (up to 2.9%) lens distortion at short focal lengths. Apparently, this is the price that has to paid in order to have a 24mm (equivalent) wide angle zoom lens in a compact camera. The built-in raw conversion engine in the camera corrects for this distortion and also applies other corrections for de-vignetting, chromatic aberration and sharpness when the photo is saved as a JPEG. To compensate for the distortion, the photo has to be cropped quite a bit. See here for more details. Technically, the shortest focal length is more like 21mm (equivalent). While Adobe Lightroom users were enjoying RW2 raw photos from the LX-3 and D-Lux 4 for quite some time, Apple’s digital camera raw engine didn’t have support for lens distortion correction until version 3, which was released at the 9th of this month. It supports both, Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09. Unfortunately, you’re SOL if you’re still using Aperture 2.
All photos below are from a single shot and based either on the RW2 raw file or the JPEG created by the camera’s internal raw conversion engine. I did not apply any corrections.
The version below shows the true focal length at the 24mm setting. The RW2 file has been processed using RPP Raw Photo Processor. You can even see the handrail from the balcony at the bottom.
The next version shows what the photo looks like after being processed into a JPEG by the internal raw conversion engine in the Panasonic LX-3 digital camera. If you compare it to the photo above you’ll see that some cropping was applied to compensate for barrel distortion.
The last version shows the result from the RW2 file processed in Aperture 3. The cropping is exactly the same as the version above but the lens distortion correction is slightly different in the center. Apple’s LX-3 correction profile doesn’t apply as much sharpening as the internal raw engine does. There’s less noise, less saturation and more detail.
The great thing about the LX-3 and the D-Lux 4 compact cameras is that they can take a photo in two formats (RAW + JPEG) at the same time. If you have enough memory at hand you just may want to leave the camera in this mode and decide later with which version of the photo you want to work with. The improved import function in Aperture 3 makes it even easier to handle both formats for a single photo.
Click here to download larger versions of the photos above (1.6 MB).