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ON1 Photo RAW 2022 review

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 goes way beyond the raw processing implied by its name to meet practically every photo-editing need

ON1 Photo RAW 2022
(Image: © James Abbott)

Our Verdict

ON1 Photo Raw 2022 is a pleasure to use overall and the quality of results are on par with direct competitors, so it’s software that could easily stand up within a professional workflow. Some controls are in places where you wouldn’t normally expect, but the level of control available, alongside support for many other file types, is impressive. And with subscription, perpetual license and bundle options available, there’s an option for everyone at a range of price points.

For

  • Great image quality
  • Professional level of control
  • Integrated layers support
  • Impressive new features

Against

  • Sky Swap AI is good but not always effective
  • The catalog suffers occasional slowdowns
  • Some adjustment locations take getting used to

Digital Camera World Verdict

ON1 Photo Raw 2022 is a pleasure to use overall and the quality of results are on par with direct competitors, so it’s software that could easily stand up within a professional workflow. Some controls are in places where you wouldn’t normally expect, but the level of control available, alongside support for many other file types, is impressive. And with subscription, perpetual license and bundle options available, there’s an option for everyone at a range of price points.

Pros

  • + Great image quality
  • + Professional level of control
  • + Integrated layers support
  • + Impressive new features

Cons

  • - Sky Swap AI is good but not always effective
  • - The catalog suffers occasional slowdowns
  • - Some adjustment locations take getting used to

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 is competing in a fiercely competitive market, with the big names holding the lion’s share of users. But while the likes of Adobe Lightroom and Capture One have large and loyal customer bases, ON1 Photo Raw 2022 is a direct competitor that comes in at an attractive price point with various licensing options alongside impressive features that make the software a compelling alternative for photographers of all levels.

The more you explore the software, the more you discover how ON1 Photo Raw 2022 packs in some incredible features not available in the aforementioned software; features such as the ability to create time-lapses, for instance, that you normally require plugins or additional software to achieve, and the way it can incorporate layered, composite images in its non-destructive workflow. 

But getting back to basics, ON1 Photo Raw 2022 provides all the controls photographers need to make their raw, and many other file types. Its biggest problem might actually be its name. It sounds as if it's designed specifically for raw processing but, in fact, this is an all-in-one tool that includes image cataloguing and browsing, raw processing (just one aspect of its use), detailed image adjustments and masking and a larger library of effects filters and effects presets.

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 is available for both Mac and Windows PCs and requires a minimum of 8GB of RAM while 16GB is recommended alongside a mid-range processor, so you’ll need a reasonably powerful computer to run the software. In terms of licenses, you can opt for a subscription at prices a little below those of corresponding Adobe Photography Plans, or a one-off license fee for less than the cost of an annual Adobe subscription. 

Key features

The Develop panel is where basic image adjustments and raw processing are carried out, but there's also an Effects panel which offers some overlap in tools and functions. (Image credit: James Abbott)

The Effects panel offers an array of Filters which can be chosen and combined manually, or you can choose preset combinations from the presets panel on the left. (Image credit: James Abbott)

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 aims to cover the whole photographic workflow, from image cataloguing and raw processing to image enhancement and effects. The level of functionality is impressive and overlaps with both cataloguing software like Lightroom and photo-editors like Photoshop, although it couldn’t completely replace the more detailed and technical adjustments in Photoshop and Affinity Photo etc. 

Everything you need to process your images with excellent results is available including standard adjustments, local adjustments, distortion correction and much more. Not to mention, this latest version of Photo Raw is packed with a host of new features that make it a great upgrade option for existing users, as well as an extremely attractive proposition to new users. 

New features include NoNoise built in (previously sold separately), which handles noise reduction well and applies fantastic sharpening results, Sky Swap AI, which makes light work of swapping skies, and a new ability to run Photoshop Actions within the software with ease. It's interesting to see how AI-driven sky swapping has taken off – it's not just Skylum Luminar AI that can do this any more.

You can create time-lapse video from stills with the ability to remove flickering; and the Line Mask Tool is like the Polygonal Lasso in Photoshop and provides the same level of control as the Pen Tool but is much easier to use, making it ideal for creating both simple and complex selections. These are just a few of the new features and improvements – there are simply too many to list.

Interface and usability

There's a lot going on in the ON1 Photo RAW 2022 interface, but it follows the usual conventions of having a browsing panel in the left sidebar and adjustment tools on the right. (Image credit: James Abbott)

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 is presented familiarly with two main tabs for accessing the catalog and editing controls, which keeps things nice and simple in terms of layout and workflow. It is slightly different to the competition in the way that you access some controls and adjustments, although it does follow the standard of having the main controls situated on the righthand side of the interface so it’s exactly what you’d expect in this respect.

There is a split between the basic 'develop' adjustment and enhancement tools, and the program's large selection of Effects. These are presented in different tabs but have some overlapping functions, which takes a little getting used to.

These Effects/Filters provide a high degree of control and also include many useful effects such as colour control and black & white conversions with other useful and popular effects including film grain, noise reduction, borders and even effects like bleach bypass. They are the basis for ON1 Photo RAW's large collection of preset effects.

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 even incorporates HDR merging, shown here, and panorama stitching. (Image credit: James Abbott)

The software is a pleasure to use overall with the layout and general workflow being logical despite being slightly different to direct competitors. And although there are controls that are more suited to enthusiast-level photographers, professionals have the controls and tools that they typically require from software of this type which broadens its appeal hugely. The Catalog does, however, sometimes suffer from slowdowns, which can be frustrating when navigating folders containing large numbers of images.

Quality of results

The Sky Swap AI feature does not always offer perfect results, but it's still early days for this kind of technology. (Image credit: James Abbott)

Here's a more successful result – though you may need to make some manual adjustments to make reflections look more realistic, for example. (Image credit: James Abbott)

Overall, results are on par with direct competitors such as Adobe Lightroom and Capture One, although all three naturally handle things like colour, noise and sharpening slightly differently. But it’s safe to say that results are exactly what you’d expect from high-end software catering to the needs of all levels of photographers, from enthusiast to professional. 

Sky Swap AI is generally a great performer with the mixture of AI application and manual control, with the ability to refine the effect using the Refine Tools. Where the feature does fall though, is that the Refine Tool can cause blocking around the focal point when the sky replacement bleeds onto the subject is removed. Also, if there are white buildings close to or protruding into the sky, the AI and the Refine Tools simply cannot differentiate between the sky and building so the bleed can’t be removed.

NoNoise AI is extremely good at removing or reducing noise in high ISO images while preserving high levels of detail. (Image credit: James Abbott)

NoNoise AI works exceptionally well to reduce noise with manual control for fine-tuning the result for a more natural-looking finish. The sharpening that’s applied alongside is also excellent and even images with no noise look wonderfully sharper when run through NoNoise. It appears that Photo Raw applies chroma noise reduction automatically to a degree because high ISO images display a much-reduced amount, even before noise reduction has been started. This isn’t a problem, and Luminance noise is left untouched which is most important.

Verdict

(Image credit: James Abbott)

ON1 Photo Raw 2022 is a pleasure to use overall and the quality of results are on par with direct competitors, so it’s software that could easily stand up within a professional workflow. Some controls are in places where you wouldn’t normally expect, but the level of control available is impressive. And with subscription, perpetual license and bundle options available, there’s an option for everyone. The subscription options even include Adobe style cloud storage, and there's an ON1 mobile app to go with it.

This is easily the best version of ON1 Photo Raw to date, and the new features including NoNoise built into Raw, Sky Swap AI, the Line Mask Tool, time-lapse creation and the ability to run Photoshop plugins, among many others, make this a compelling version to jump into. And with a free 14-day fully-functional trial available, you can give ON1 Photo RAW 2022 a try before you buy.

James Abbott

James Abbott is a landscape and portrait photographer based in Cambridge. He’s also an experienced photography journalist specializing in camera skills and Photoshop techniques. He is also a CAA-approved drone pilot and professional aerial photographer.