30 December 2011

LightZone, RIP

Four years back, I muttered into my beard about the tendency for good tools to be bought up and killed off by the big beasts of the computer software jungle.

I have long ago had to abandon Onfolio Academic, one of the programs I mentioned in that post. With no maintenance, never mind development, by its new owners (Microsoft) it eventually failed to work under updated versions of Windows ... and then Microsoft themselves abandoned their own poor, half sucked version. Nowadays I use LinkCommander which, whilst not at all the same thing, takes over some of Onfolio's functions and can be persuaded to support some others. PaintShop Pro, however, remains well supported by Corel and I'm still happily using it despite the presence of Adobe PhotoShop on the same machines. In fact, as part of the future proofing preparations mentioned below, I just updated to the latest (X4) version, even though I'm happiest with X2.

Still in the image processing department, back then in 2007 I mentioned that I was on the cusp of decisions about LightZone. Shortly thereafter, I took the plunge and committed to it. LightZone was a program designed to work the way a Zone System attuned photographer thinks, and was superb. I developed a two part workflow in which initial development (in darkroom terms, the stage roughly analogous to film processing) to TIFF was done in LightZone while finalisation (the fine printing stage) continued in PaintShop. It was a partnership made in heaven, reflected in the credit at the top right of this blog.

Three months ago, however, the web page of Light Crafts (developer and publisher of LightZone) went off line. And has stayed that way. There had been no development for some time before that. There is prima facie indications that the prime mover behind Light Crafts has abandoned it to work for yet another of those big beasts (actually a big fruit, in this case) of the computing world – but, unlike the progenitors of Onfolio and RawShooter, without providing a migration path or even any warning to the program's user base. When I recently had an industrial scale computer crash and had to reinstall Windows 7, LightZone was distinctly reluctant to coöperate ... which put the writing on the wall.

So ... I'm now phasing in a new image handling régime so that I don't have to do it all in a rush when the sad day comes for LightZone to go. I am trying out numerous RAW conversion tools at present, in search of a preferred replacement, using Adobe's Camera Raw (via Bridge) as a temporary stop gap.

And that is why (to answer several email queries) the "Imaging via LightZone and PaintShop" credit at the top of this blog has become "Imaging via PaintShop Pro.


Anonymous said...

Light Crafts ceased operation in September, but the LightZombie Project is a volunteer group that is providing on-going support for LightZone.

We've collected links to re-download the installation files, instructions on recovering lost license keys, and links to help files and various tutorials and such.

We're providing updated Raw file support for recent cameras. We've added support for all recent Canon, Nikon, and Sony DSLRs, plus others as requested. We just added Raw file support for the Canon S100, Nikon 1, Fuji X10, and Sony NEX-7, among others.

We're also doing what we can to provide general support. We've provided a workaround/fix for a problem on Macs when non-ASCII characters appear in a folder or file name.

Communication is another big push. We've got forums, a blog, an open-source project on github including a tech wiki, and a Twitter feed. So far we've got somewhere around 100 registered members and probably a couple hundred more people who follow the activity and/or download files but haven't registered yet.

Drop by our site and check it out. (I'm embarrassed to say that as I write this, the site is offline for the third time this week. That's not by choice, and we're looking to get that situation corrected soon.)

Anonymous said...

While it probably does not help Microsoft users, I've found a fantastic alternative to Lightzone under Linux (my OS of choice). Darktable (www.darktable.org). It's free, works with RAW, has zone mapping, and a bunch of other great tools. I've made the jump.

Anonymous said...

And now LightZone has risen from the glimmering ashes :-D