Because of a recent problem I had with colour management, I had cause to look at other software, and to take a second look at Canon DPP. I use linux, so that was the main reason for not using DPP to start with, but I now have a working instal of DPP (3.14) under native linux (using wine), so DPP runs at close to full speed (as opposed to slow in a virtual machine).
I have spent some time (a few days) really giving DPP a good try, and quite liking it. I thought it might be useful to record my thoughts of DPP vs the some other free alternatives I have been using, or I hope it might at least be a bit interesting to some. I will organise my thoughts roughly as per my usual workflow. The free alternatives I was using are DigiKam (a photo manager, and simple editor that handles raw files), and Rawtherapee (an raw file converter and editor).
1. DPP shows thumbnails in the computer's file/folder structure by default (you can select them and assign them to collections if you like as well). DigiKam does much the same, except the root location for your photo file/folder structure is assigned as a collection, so you don't have to deal with anything except the photo files - all you see are the folders with photos in them, not the whole hard drive. Slight edge to DigiKam here.
2. Enlarging thumbnails for closer inspection and rating/tagging/deleting etc is done in DPP via the Quick Check tool. In DigiKam, you have a view with thumbnails across the top, and an enlarged view of the selected photo underneath. You can achieve the same in DPP by selecting them all and changing to the edit window. So, they are different, but probably one method is on a par with the other.
3. Non-destructive editing of RAW files. DPP stores recipes in the RAW file . Rawtherapee stores the 'processing profile' in a separate file, same name as the CR2 file with .pp3 extension. Not sure how the DigiKam editor does it, but as it is the editor I liked least – haven't searched too hard. DPP and Rawtherapee's methods are equivalent. Nothing to choose between really.
4. Raw conversion. DPP gets the colours right on my Canon camera (600D) by default (not surprisingly). DigiKam needs to have it's colour management tweaked (as does Rawtherapee) DPP wins here for Canon users of 600Ds,don't know about other models – they may be fine.
5. DPP cannot handle 3rd party lens correction as far as I can discover. DigiKam uses the Lensfun library and database, and so has 3rd party lenses, but probably not all of them as it depends on the database being updated as new lenses come out. Rawtherapee can load a lens correction profile (.lcp file like Adobe uses) that you can create yourself, or may be downloaded. Greater chance of being able to correct lens distortion and chromatic abberration, so Rawtherapee wins here.
6. Exposure. Rawtherapee has the best range of controls by far (not surprising as it is a dedicated editor) and has compression and recovery options that enable you to salvage a poorly exposed image far better then the others. DPP and DigiKam are both fine for normal images however.
7. Sharpening. DPP has basic sharpening and unsharp mask type sharpening. DigiKam has an extra method, called 'refocus', and Rawtherapee has many options, such as unsharp mask, edge enhancement, microcontrast, contrast by detail levels (this last being one of my favourites) and the best ability to control them all. Rawtherapee wins here.
8. Noise reduction. DPP puzzles me a bit here. The controls seem to have only a minor effect, but it always seems to manage to produce a nice enough picture. Not sure if this is a good thing, as I like being in control . DigiKam has greater control but is slow to try different levels. Rawtherapee is the most powerful, and is what I will use for any tricky/noisy photo, but DPP is fastest and easiest for most images.
9. Speed. Mostly a concern when doing raw conversion, and some editing operations. DPP is fastest, DigiKam is slowest, particularly in some of the edit modes.
10. Batch mode is available in both DPP and DigiKam. I think I prefer DigiKam's methods but there are things I like about DPP too. I will use whichever works at the time.
1. I will probably always do final touches and fixes in Gimp after basic conversion and editing has been done, by either DPP, DigiKam, or Rawtherapee.
2. DPP will probably get used most of the time because of speed and ease of use on most images.
3. DigiKam is a better photo manager. Various reasons, but you could probably conclude it's mainly a personal preference .
4. Rawtherapee is a far better processor for difficult situations. Many more options to rescue/correct with. It is also, therefore, more complicated to use. Glad I have it in my bag of tricks though.
5. The combo of DigiKam to manage photos, and Rawtherapee to process them, and Gimp for final editing, is very powerful and all I think I could need. However DPP can replace the first 2 for for 90% of the situations, and is easier and faster.
I would hope and expect, that non-free software, such as that offered by Adobe, would best all of the above. Still, I think I am getting a lot of functionality for free so far.