I've been a fan so far of Paint.Net, but your article has piqued my interest in this product and I will be investigating it shortly.
Traditionally the Darktable project only releases one update a year, with a new version arriving on Christmas day. But the developers behind Darktable have been adding new features and improving existing ones so quickly that one a year is no longer enough. Going forward, Darktable users can expect two updates a year, one in …
It is a completely different product to Paint.net.
Adobe would want you to use Photoshop instead of Paint.net, but they would suggest Lightroom instead of Darktable.
Your work flow would be to import from the camera into Darktable or Lightroom, then you. Ishtar do subsequent work in Paint.net or Photoshop.
Actually Photoshop can open directly RAW images through Adobe Camera Raw - which does share the RAW engine with Lightroom.
The real difference is that PS can work on one image at a time and won't store the changes in a database or sidecar file - while layers so allow PS to do some non-destructive editing, you'll have to store everything into a separate file. After all, it's a generic image editor not limited to photos.
LR and its copies like Darktable were created with photo-editing in mind and around a workflow where the user need to work on several images at the same time, usually in RAW format (for maximum quality) and in a non destructive environment - where all changes are stored separately and applied on-the-fly to the current image. In controlled situations, usually the same settings can be applied to many images at ones (maybe refining later the best ones), saving a lot of time compared to editing them one-by-one.
Usually these tools are used for most editing tasks - with the most complex one demanded to the likes of Photoshop when needed. They are far more than RAW converters - and the trick is to start always from the RAW data without converting them in something like TIFF, or, far worse, to JPEG.
It's worth distinguishing between Darktable, Raw Therapee, Lightroom etc and Photoshop, GIMP and similar.
Darktable etc are designed for image processing, where the file is handled non-destructively and no changes are made to the underlying file. Processing is much like original darkroom work with dodging and burning, tweaks to contrast, colour adjustments and some relatively simple masking. Some processing applications go a little further with masks etc but the approach is still the same. Adjustments to each image are stored separately either in a database or in sidecar files.
Photoshop, GIMP and similar are pixel-level editors designed to make fundamental and irreversible changes to the image that are baked in permanently when layers are merged prior to export. Some applications will allow layers to be retained and even edits undone if layers are not merged before saving the image as a .psd file, but this is not the way these editors were designed to work originally.
I'll be interested to take a look at the new Darktable.
Having recently made the journey from Lightroom to darktable, and having found nothing that would cause me to revert, I am not at all clear what I have lost in the way of DAM capability by making this switch. I have made not one single change to the organisation and naming of my image assets. With the 3.6 version of darktable I no longer need to use Photomechanic (Windows) or Rapid Photo Downloader (Linux). My impression is that almost everybody could and should make the switch from Lightroom to darktable.
I keep evaluating options to switch away from Lightroom, but the DAM is its killer feature. My workflow is built around its import and export and it's smart collections, as well as it s Print module which nothing else even comes close to emulating.
I love how I don't have to organise things because it does it for me. And with almost 50,000 images catalogued and organised (in multiple ways, one image can be in several collections at once - you can't do that just by putting stuff in folders) there's no way I could or would switch to a program where I would lose that.
It's kind of a shame because there are so many editors out there that are better at editing, but Lightroom enabled a workflow that keeps the time I spend in front of the computer (otherwise known as boring-tedium-time) to a bare minimum, and that's why it doesn't have any real competition.
I don't know exactly what DarkTable offers. However, I would welcome open source release of high quality and versatile blind deconvolution software.
This type of manipulation seems to be sewn up by expensive proprietary software. When last I looked, tools like ImageJ offer deconvolution but not the 'blind' variety.
Perhaps I am wrong about availability of blind deconvolution?