Let's compare: dt vs. RawTherapee

I was prompted by the recent, but reoccurring ‘discussion’ on who likes what in which program, and why the other is rubbish (complexity and stuff…): Devs - How Hard Would It Be To............?.

So, let’s compare both programs. Please note that this is a list I compiled without extensive checking of all functionalities, idiosyncrasies and underlying theory. I have much more experience with the methods underpinning RawTherapee than darktable. Please correct me where ever you think is needed.

Tools in darktable 4.3 RawTherapee 5.9 equivalent
Deprecated modules:
defringe Detail > Defringe
spot removal Detail > Spot Removal
crop and rotate Transform > Crop, Transform > Lens / Geometry > Rotate
Other modules:
raw black/white point Raw > Raw Black Points, Raw > Raw White Points
demosaic Raw > Demosaicing
input color profile Color > Color Management > Input Profile
output color profile Color > Color Management > Output Profile
white balance Color > White Balance
highlight reconstruction Exposure > Highlight reconstruction
raw chromatic aberration Raw > Chromatic Aberration Correction
hot pixels Raw > Preprocessing > Hot-pixel filter
raw denoise N/A
denoise (profiled) N/A
surface blur N/A
lens correction Transform > Lens / Geometry > Profiled Lens Correction
chromatic aberrations Transform > Lens / Geometry > Chromatic Aberration Correction
haze removal Detail > Haze Removal
rotate and perspective Transform > Lens / Geometry > Perspective (Method: Camera-based)
orientation Dedicated buttons in GUI
liquify N/A
retouch Detail > Spot removal
exposure Exposure > Exposure compensation
tone equalizer Exposure > Shadows/Highlights (not identical)
crop Transform > Crop
graduated density Exposure > Graduated Filter
color calibration Advanced > Color Appearance & Lighting (this module is much more advanced), Color > Color Management > Abstract Profile (similar intent)
diffuse or sharpen Detail > Edges (much less advanced)
censorize N/A
negadoctor Color > Film Negative
blurs N/A
astrophoto denoise Color > Noise Reduction
color look up table N/A
contrast equalizer N/A (maybe Color > Contrast by Detail Levels)
lowpass N/A
highpass N/A
sharpen Detail > Sharpening
color mapping Color > Color Toning (not idential)
color balance rgb Color > Channel Mixer (much less advanced)
rgb curve Color > RGB Curves
rgb levels N/A (similar effect can be obtained with RGB Curves)
base curve Exposure > Auto-Matched Tone Curve (works differently, intends the same)
sigmoid N/A
filmic rgb N/A
LUT 3D Color > Film Simulation
contrast brightness saturation Color > HSV Equalizer
tone curve Exposure > Lab* Adjustments
levels Exposure > various tools
shadows and highlights Exposure > Shadows/Highlights (not identical)
local contrast Detail > Local Contrast
color correction N/A
color contrast N/A
velvia Color > Vibrance
color zones Exposure > Lab* Adjustments
bloom N/A
colorize Color > Color Toning
lowlight vision N/A
monochrome Color > Black-and-White
grain N/A
soften N/A (effect can be achieved with Detail > Contrast by Detail Levels)
split-toning Color > Color Toning
vignetting Exposure > Vignette Filter, Transform > Lens / Geometry > Vignetting Correction
color reconstruction N/A
dithering N/A
framing N/A
watermark N/A
darktable 4.3 equivalent Tools in RawTherapee 5.9
N/A Exposure > Tone Mapping
N/A (similar to Sigmoid / Filmic) Exposure > Dynamic Range Compression
N/A Detail > Microcontrast
N/A Detail > Impule Noise Reduction
N/A Advanced > Retinex
N/A Advanced > Wavelet levels (can be used for many things)
Different implementation, more flexible as it is available in many modules through masks Local Adjustments
N/A Raw > Dark-Frame
N/A Raw > Flat-Field
N/A (possibly similar effect with surface blur?) Raw > Capture Sharpening

As you can see, there are roughly 23 modules in darktable that have no dedicated equivalent in RawTherapee. Conversely, RT has about 10 modules that may or may not have a good equivalent in darktable.
Is this a world of difference? Personally, I don’t think so. Think of complexity what you may, but I think this data shows that you cannot use the argument that one of the two programs has way more features than the other.


Thanks for the write-up and initiating this. It isn’t just that thread: the comparison and gatekeeping happen almost every time we talk about one or the other post-processor. Frankly, it is hard to follow, return to and moderate those long-running threads.


Very nice @Thanatomanic thank you for taking the time to do this.

I’d say Detail > Microcontrast in RT is likely similar to Contrast Equalizer in dt.

Exposure > Tone Mapping in rt, there is a depricated Tone Mapping module in dt (you need a preset in order to make depricated modules appear, so… Not sure if that counts)

Raw > Capture Sharpening in rt is like a preset of Diffuse or Sharpen

In general I would grouped all noise reduction together. Not sure there is a clear winner between all methods in either application, sort of just depends on what the user finds acceptable.

A few other notes, which you might love or hate depending on your own philosophy:

  • dt has a database that keeps track of things; you can filter and sort based on what’s in the db. RT loads whatever is in the current folder
  • dt: lots of masking everywhere; adds a lot of complexity for the user. RT has some functions for local adjustments; more straight forward for new comers but perhaps less powerful on the whole
  • dt: linear but non-fixed pipeline; you can move modules around in the pipeline; adds a lot of complexity. RT linear fixed pipeline; straight forward and easily understandable
  • dt: modules can have blend modes applied to them. RT: not sure there is any equivalents
  • RT: can handle DCP profiles. Dt can not.
  • dt can be extremely fast via gpu acceleration and some modules are only usable if you have a gpu (lapsians highlight reconstruction, diffuse or sharpen, blur). RT: extremely well.optimized on CPU, but CPU only.

Blend modes are available in the Color and Light tool in Local Adjustments. Local adjustments can be used globally by selecting Full Image and optionally setting the Scope slider to 100 (depending on whether or not you want to make use of the deltaE detection).

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I very much hope no one really thinks that ‘the other is rubbish’. I love all of our tools, even if actively I only use one. I hope the cooperation, the exchange of knowledge and ideas will continue in the future. A big ‘thank you’ to all, whether working in a team, or as a solo developer, or ‘just’ coming up with ideas, submitting bug reports, educating fellow users, or sharing a photo to enjoy.


For me it is not a competion where one must be best. They are different and that is their greatness. I feel RT has an easier learning curve and interface, however, for me the drawn and parametric masking ability of DT won me over for my needs. I would love to see all the great features of both programs combined into a third program. Maybe it could be called Darktherapee :slightly_smiling_face: But I appreciate that it would be difficult to implement and maintain. There are already two forks, one for DT and one for RT where the developers feel that DT and RT already are bloated and need instead to focus on the ‘most important’ modules.


Interesting thread. For what it’s worth, although I definitely consider myself an dt user, I’ve never felt that RT is “inferior”. Just different! Darktable suits me - I like the way the pipeline is in clear view (so as to speak) in RT, and the fact that things like masking are available with all modules, and this kind of more workflow related things

. But I’ve no doubt that I could happily process my photos to my taste with RT as well! I have actually… because I’m used to dt it was a little fumbling. But that was due to me, not the software.

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This is a great comment. I routinely pop in and check on RT and ART and as of late Ansel now that AP is quite active again. ART has elements of DT in its RT backbone and then many neat and clever modifications made by @agriggio to make it unique and useful. He is very active and responsive to feedback. If he has interest and sees merit in working on something he does and if not he is clear that it is not something that interests him. Also recently following Ansel… AP made tremendous speed improvements on the Guided Laplacian HLR. I never used it that much but if people do then looking at the his code would reveal how this was sped up and perhaps how other things could be sped up. He has also responded quickly to comments recently posted here and on the DT git wrt DT not calculating pixel values correctly when scaling images esp down scaling. He introduced a fix and exposed the final scaling module which DT apparently has but it is hidden. It can now be repositioned and allows for sharpening to be placed right after it when downscaling. This now does the calculations in linear rgb as it should be and not later in display space. These comments are before the DT devs for their review and so this may find its way into DT at some point… My point is there is so much to gain from sharing rather than tearing down another project so in the end it can be a win win for everyone…


A good comparison chart.
I would add gui differences, where in dt you can group modules by effect and see pipe order, whereas rt is just grouped by effect.

And one correction. Channel mixer in rt is most like color calibration in dt, not color balance rgb.

I want to add a few (non-exhaustive) additions to @Thanatomanic excellent comparative analysis:

Local Adjustments (LA) groups together concepts that look a bit like what’s in DT, if you’re using “Full-image” mode (plus DeltaE):

  • as Wayne @Wayne_Sutton mentioned: blend modes in “Color and Light”
  • Log encoding, close in spirit to “Filmic”
  • Sigmoid in Cam16 & JzCzHz
  • The concept of “Scene” (as well as that of "Viewing) present in Ciecam “Main” and LA
  • the use of “Log” instead of linear in “Retinex”, several years ago now
  • Original Retinex, based on Laplacians, Fourier transform, and Poisson equation in LA, which allows to simulate “Dodge and Burn”
  • Warm/cool which allows chromatic adaptation
  • the Wavelets modules (main and LA) are very rich and contain something other than local contrast…

I do not describe everything, it would be boring and useless…



Blur/Grain & Denoise is worth mentioning also.

Yeah, I guess “RawTable” sounds kinda like a sushi restaurant, eh? :slight_smile:


Hear, hear! A little love for ART. I like all the FOSS tools and try to remain reasonably up to date on each but I’ve been following (and regularly using) ART more lately. However I have to admit I lost traction on the dt WB / color calibration thread a long way back… :grin:

Thanks everyone for the comments, corrections and additions. I will update the list accordingly.


I think this table would be a perfect addition to the new pixls website

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I really like this comment. I get put off when people feel the need to bag out one program (especially FOSS) while promoting another. These FOSS programs are all supplied free of charge by generous developers and if one program does not meet our needs then use another one. I usually see pros and cons in each program I try. For me the masks in DT have won me over for my needs, but I still have others such as RT installed and used when appropriate.


I saw a butcher shop

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Yeah that’s nice and all but which one smells like turnips?

Absolutely. If it wasn’t for all these wonderful little toys — and everyone that’s involved in making them — there would be no camera in my camera bag and heck of a lot less joy in my life. And for that, I will always be eternally greatful.

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For me in the beginning I would have easily chosen RT if it could edit the Details>Property>Details portion of every photo file (actually searching for a program that would is how I discovered DT & RT)… . DT’s very capable XMP database therefore makes DT the winner for me (masking is just a perfect bonus) - no other choice if I can’t find that specific photo with the lenticular cloud over the Catalina’s then how can I edit what I can’t find…

So your right love em both - can’t even think of hating one or the other!