RAW editors are the software equivalent of the digital dark room - they turn digital negatives into something usable and beautiful. They need to be powerful (so visits to Photoshop are obviated), fast (try thumbing through a thousand wedding photographs on a four year old laptop) and intuitive (I want to play with my kids, not my computers).
I started using Bibble 4 back in March 2007. The interface was antiquated but the quality was exceptional, it ran on very little hardware and had some innovative ways to produce black and white photography. At $129 for the pro edition (plus a free upgrade to Bibble 5), it was one of best kept secrets in the photography community. At that time Aperture required $5000 of hardware to run and Lightroom, while a viable alternative, just didn't appeal to me. One other product, Lightzone, was incredibly intuitive but only suitable for landscape photography because of it's limited batch capabilities.
Bibble finally announced the release of Bibble 5 this past December. It's original target of December 2008 (already later than most anticipated) was delayed and instead a buggy beta was released. In 2009, I switched to Lightroom which had come up with its second edition which had selective editing and a good library and print module.
The coolest feature in Bibble 5 is selective edits. It works entirely different than Lightroom in that you create a layer (like Photoshop), select the area you want to edit (using a lasso, circle, or other funky shapes) and make changes. It's much more powerful and flexible than Lightroom but also more time consuming. Without the auto select feature in Lightroom you either have to take time to be precise or have be comfortable with sloppy work. Time is literally money and being sloppy never appealed to me. The user experience is a bit different and bugs are still prevalent throughout the system (e.g. select all shortcut key doesn't work).
While I prefer color photography to capture the brilliance of babies, toddlers and children, I was happy to see that Bibble still had the leg up on black and white photography tools. I'm not going to spend much more time on the individual features though, since every photographer should pick the tools that accentuate their own photography and all the software providers have free trials that you can download.
I like to work fast, which breaks down into flipping through large volumes of photographs quickly, making bulk edits and exporting them out to jpgs or prints without missing a beat. Both Bibble and Lightroom applied bulk edits quickly, to the point where differences were negligible on my Mac Pro 2.66 GHz Quad with 12GB of memory. Once you select the correct preferences for Lightroom, it runs a 5-10K catalog of photos without a hitch. So what about exporting the files...
Lightroom 2 imported 23 Canon 5D RAW files in about 12 seconds and exported the jpgs in 58 seconds. As an aside, it took about 1:14 minutes to generate the previews (I highly recommend you do this at the time of import to save editing time later). You can see the CPU usage with the first hump from generating the previews and the second from doing the export.
It seemed to me that Bibble has so many bugs because they spent all their time optimizing performance. Photos were imported in less than 6 seconds and exported in a blazing 20.4 seconds. They must be pretty proud over there at Bibble Labs because the processing time is displayed prominently on the screen for the entire batch and by file. Looking at the CPU usage on my Quad pro with 12GB memory you see they use every bit of CPU available to achieve this. You can see the vertical bars on the far right and the fact there are only a few of them because it went by so darn fast:
For those who are curious, Lightroom 3 took a minute and a half to export the same files. One can only assume it's because it's a Beta since the goal of LR3 is speed. While Bibble 5's performance is impressive, it really only amounts to saving 10 minutes for a wedding and I can use that time to go build some legos with Aidan. So I'd recommend going with whatever package has a better set of tools for your photography needs.
Anyway, I will readily admit that my testing with an iPhone stop watch is anything but rigorous. The point was to do a brain dead activity for a bit after a long week and kill some time till the wife was ready to play. Feedback or questions are always welcome, but since Michelle is now next to me, it's time to go... have a great weekend.