Open source Raw processor Darktable gets substantial 3.2 update

Version 3.2.1 (3.2.0 was skipped from public release due to last minute bug fixes) of darktable, an open source raw photo developer available for many operating systems, is now available. This marks a major departure from the software’s typical annual release schedule. darktable’s team states, ‘The unfortunate state of global health has led to a marked increase in contributions and improvements. On top of that, version, 3.4 is still scheduled for Christmas 2020. 2020 will therefore be the first year in which the darktable team will have the pleasure to offer you two major versions.’ darktable version 3.0 was released around Christmas 2019.

There are numerous new features and upgrades in darktable 3.2.1. As soon as you launch the software, you will be met with a refined user interface, including a major overhaul to the lighttable, which is the software’s library and photo browser. There are a variety of new overlay modes on thumbnails, including quick access to organizational tools such as ratings, labels and more.

Digital asset management has been improved in the latest release. The metadata editor has been improved with a pair of additional fields: notes and version name. Further, users can expect improved tag management, seven new collection filters and additional image information in the information module.

darktable version 3.2 includes the new negadoctor module, designed to allow photographers to capture digital images of their film negatives and process them with many useful controls and settings. Image credit: darktable

For photographers who want to work with scanned film negatives, the old film negative invert module had a problem, it only worked on non-demosaiced image data. This means that it did not work with negatives scanned using a digital camera. Version 3.2.1 of darktable includes a new module, negadoctor, which is based on the Kodak Cineon sensitometry system developed in the 1990s. There is a lot to discuss when it comes to negadoctor, so if you are interested in using your digital camera to scan negatives, I recommend heading to darktable’s article about version 3.2.1 to read more about how the new module operators and what settings you will have access to when working on scanned image files.

With darktable 2.6, the team introduced filmic to improve color in scenes with wide dynamic range. The filmic module saw major improvements in version 3.0 and has been further improved with darktable 3.2.1. New color science has been implement for improved handling of highlights during editing.

The lighttable in darktable 3.2 includes improved performance, new visual options and a refined user interface. Image credit: darktable

In terms of image editing, the histogram in darktable incorporates a pair of major new features. First, you can now adjust the histogram height size. Secondly, there’s a new RGB parade mode. This displays waveforms that represent the levels of each of the red, green and blue layers. With this mode, you can better visualize the distribution of color components in your image. Although not visible, the histogram has been rewritten for better performance.

With respect to performance, Rico Richardson on YouTube has published a new hands-on video detailing the improvements in darktable 3.2.1 and he remarks that the software is quicker and smoother overall. You can see that video below. If you are interested in using the free, open source darktable software for your photo editing, I highly recommend visiting his channel for many tutorial videos.

There are a lot of new features in darktable 3.2.1. If you’d like to download the latest version or even try darktable for the first time, visit the installation page. Additional information about the darktable 3.2.1 release can be found on Github. User manuals, downloadable styles, a book on using darktable to process your photos and many tutorials can be found here.