Sigma Photo Pro version 5.5 offers a dedicated monochrome conversion mode.
The results from this mode are gorgeous. With technically excellent images, the technical advantages of direct black and white conversion don’t jump out and make themselves obvious, but in theory direct conversion should be able to deal with noise and dynamic range a little better.
The main problem in preparing the images here was an SPP 5.5 for OS X that crashed 20 times or so over the course of an hour. Clearly Sigma's engineers just cannot get their code correct (as in program correctness in computer science terms), even if they can produce high quality output.
Because of the dominant red/orange color, I went with a blue bias to accentuate the tonal differences and to create more drama.
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