In my opinion, photographers should always shoot Raw— after all, if you don’t, you’re throwing away much of the information your camera captured. Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds of different Raw formats and dozens of Raw converters on the market. There also are a multitude of products that allow you to edit photographs out of Raw. Which should you use?
Trying to compare them all would be a massive undertaking. Although most major manufacturers have their own Raw conversion/editing software, (and there are a number of small, independent companies with Raw conversion and/or editing products), three products currently dominate the market: Apple Aperture 2, Adobe Lightroom 2, and PhaseOne CaptureOne 4. Even a comparison of only these three products is a daunting task. They are extremely sophisticated products with large amounts of tools and functions. It takes time, training, and practice to learn how to use them effectively. One could literally write a couple of books on the subject.
In spite of this, I decided to attempt a comparison based on a set of criteria that I believe will make this article useful. Before launching into the other details about this comparison, however, it is worth noting a few things.