Darktable 4.2 update brings new highlight preservation modes, EXIF lens correction and more to the free open source photo editor

Jan 6, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Darktable 4.2 update brings new highlight preservation modes, EXIF lens correction and more to the free open source photo editor

Jan 6, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Darktable has just received a massive version 4.2 update bringing with it a whole host of new and updated features. The summary of major highlights is down below and you can see the complete list of changes over on GitHub, but some of the much-welcomed new features include two new highlight preservation modes to reduce the effects of clipping and automatic lens distortion correction straight from EXIF data.

Other major additions include a reworked pixelpipe caching feature with improved speed and reduced memory footprint, previews of presets without applying them, an improved duplicates manager, focus peaking, and a new Sigmoid display transform alternative to the filmic and base curve modules that allows you to expand or contract the dynamic range of the scene.

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One of the biggest features for many photographers will be the two new highlight recovery modes, which are “inpaint opposed” and “segmentation based”. Inpaint opposed, says the Darktable team, “has proved very stable and provides good results in many images” and has become the new default mode for dealing with highlights instead of just clipping them completely. It provides a pretty natural highlight falloff instead of just a hard edge from pure white to the rest of your scene.

The rest of the feature highlights look like this:

  • New Sigmoid display transform module, which can be used in place of the filmic and base curve modules.
  • Two new algorithms are provided in the highlight reconstruction module: “inpaint opposed” and “segmentation based”. The “inpaint opposed” algorithm has proved to be very stable and provides good results in many images, so it replaces “clip highlights” as the new default algorithm.
  • The pixelpipe used for image display in the darkroom view has been reworked so that it can be used elsewhere (darkroom view, second display window, duplicate manager, style preview, snapshot routine). This has allowed for code de-duplication as well as enhancement of many of these features (see below).
  • The second darkroom image window has now been enhanced to support both the focus peaking and ISO-12646 color assessment modes.
  • The snapshot module has been entirely reworked so that, instead of using a fixed screen capture it now uses a dynamically generated view using the new pixelpipe functionality. This means that it can now be zoomed and panned with keyboard/mouse.
  • The duplicate manager previously used a different pipe routine to calculate its previews (i.e. when long-pressing on a duplicate image thumbnail) which often meant that the displayed duplicates differed from the main darkroom view in subtle ways. Use of the new pipe routine now means that these previews will be identical to those produced during darkroom editing.
  • It is now possible to preview the effect of a user-generated style on an image before applying it. Simply hover over the style name in either the lighttable styles module or the darkroom quick-access menu and a new tooltip will appear, showing the image with the style applied along with details of the modules that are included.
  • Some cameras record lens correction information within the image EXIF metadata. The lens correction module has been enhanced so that it can extract this data and use it to correct lens distortions.
  • darktable is now able to read and write JPEG XL images
  • Processing and utility modules have been altered so that if a module is not entirely visible when expanded, it will be automatically scrolled until the entire UI is visible on screen.For users who currently use the “scroll to the top when expanded” preference setting to achieve this effect, this change may provide a better alternative.As part of this change, a new animation effect has been added when expanding/collapsing modules. The speed of the expand/collapse animation can be controlled via a preference setting
    (preferences > miscellaneous > duration of ui transitions).
    Set this to zero to disable the animation.
  • The pixelpipe caching functionality has been completely overhauled. More cachelines are used with an improved hit-rate while controlling the total amount of memory used, leading to a significantly faster interface.
  • The slideshow has been rewritten for a better user experience. A small preview is displayed while the full image is computed to provide feedback to the user that something is being done in the background.
  • A new drop-down menu has been added to the top filter bar to allow filters to be easily added and removed. Some range widgets have been removed from this list as they are not easily readable on the top bar.
  • The UI of the range rating filter widget has been reworked for better readability. This revised widget is designed to be easier to use and more efficient.

You can read the complete set of changes with the 4.2 update over on GitHub, but if you’re an existing Darktable user or you simply want to get out of the monthly subscription model cycle and still be able to edit your photos, the new update is well worth checking out. It’s also available on GitHub, or you can get it from the Darktable website for Windows, Mac and Linux.

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[via DPReview]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “Darktable 4.2 update brings new highlight preservation modes, EXIF lens correction and more to the free open source photo editor”

  1. Ben Bailey Avatar
    Ben Bailey

    Yes.

  2. Rhodri Phillips Avatar
    Rhodri Phillips

    Is there a version for iMac

    1. cycleguy55 Avatar
      cycleguy55

      Yes, as noted at the end of the article.

  3. Rhodri Phillips Avatar
    Rhodri Phillips

    Carel Cramer ooh great, thank you!

  4. Carel Cramer Avatar
    Carel Cramer

    Rhodri Phillips sure ther is….

  5. Carel Cramer Avatar
    Carel Cramer

    see below