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Down in the details

Flip, Flop

in Photography , Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back in June 2006, several geological eras ago in Internet years, I wrote a blog post which started out like this:

Following earlier posts about this, today I managed to find time to evaluate Iridient RAW Developer 1.5.1 against CaptureOne Pro 3.7.4, for Olympus E-1 RAWs. The results are clear: RAW Developer is extracting more detail and more neutral colour than CaptureOne

Now over 9 years later, I’m repeating the same loop. In recent months I unhappily emigrated from Aperture, and eventually settled on returning to CaptureOne as the best compromise. I painstakingly exported my Aperture library and watched CaptureOne painfully, sluggishly import it. It didn’t do too bad a job - better than Lightroom anyway - and I was more or less able to recreate my Aperture projects within the approximation of MediaPro which has been bludgeoned into CaptureOne. And I diligently set about getting back up to speed with C1, helped by the ample, free tutorial material on Phase One’s website.

I managed to convince myself I (still) quite liked the default “Film curve”, and I was and am impressed by the exposure controls and the layer adjustments, in particular to apply local white balance.  I am a lot less impressed by the total lack of luminosity, or indeed luminance curves/levels.  But I guess I can live with that with some help from the saturation sliders.

But more and more I started getting a feeling that things didn’t look quite right when taking a closer look. I’m no pixel peeper, but even so, once I’ve noticed something at 100% magnification I find it hard to ignore. I was seeing a disturbing “plastic” look in low frequency areas, and lack of definition in high frequency detail like foliage. First I thought it was just a limitation of the small sensor in the Olympus camera I mainly use, or maybe the less than top-level lenses. But then I started down the rocky road of comparing Raw developers. Yet again.

The following nondescript postcard shot from Norway provides a good example - shot with an Olympus E-P5 and 17mm f1.8 lens (actually quite a good lens) at f8.0 (which, yes, is a slightly suboptimal aperture if you’re a pixel peeper), handheld. So it’s hardly a technical masterpiece, or indeed an artistic one.

Drm 2015 06 01 P6012469

Within this photo, I’ve compared two areas at 100%, one processed with Capture One 8.2, the other with Iridient Developer 3.0.3.  The differences, at least to me, are obvious.

Iridient Developer 2

Left: Iridient - Right: Capture One

Iridient Developer

Left: Iridient - Right: Capture One

For the Iridient images, I have used default settings, including the Iridient Reveal sharpening mode and default noise reduction. On the Capture One side, I have used default settings, but with Pre-sharpening 2, and noise reduction disabled. Leaving camera default noise reduction on is a real disaster. I cannot for the life of me imagine why people say Capture One has good noise reduction. And I have tried very hard to fine tune it, I really wanted to be able live with it.  At the same time I briefly tried comparing with Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop CS6) and Aperture 3. Abobe Camera Raw gave pretty much identical results to Capture One. Aperture was marginally better. But Iridient is miles ahead.

Iridient has one other ace up it’s sleeve, the Lab mode curves. Being able to apply contrast with no colour shift using the luminance curve is very nice. It’s also very good for highlight recovery, which is just as well, as Iridient “Extreme Highlight Recovery” slider is not one of it’s strong points. The sharpening and noise reduction are industry-leading, and the general level of control is outstanding.  Of course, there are no layers, no local adjustments, none of that fancy stuff. But that’s what Photoshop is for.

All this really only holds for my personal experience with Olympus micro-four thirds cameras. I daresay Capture One might handle my Ricoh GR better, but that’s out of scope here. I’m sure it does an excellent job with digital backs and high-end DSLRs, but I really don’t think Phase One has much focus on us “little people” - although they’re happy to take our money.

Probably before long I’ll have changed my mind again, but for the time being I’m fully committed to an Iridient-centric workflow. 


Posted in Photography on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 08:55 PM • PermalinkComments (7)


Bernard July 29, 2015 - 12:28
Funny, my experience is rather the opposite - at least for now, because as you say probably before long I’ll have changed my mind again.
I have not compared C1 v8 with Iridient on Olympus raw files (I have many old E-1 files, and more recent E420), I'll see. But I have made the comparison on Fuji (X-E2) raw files. On these files, it is true that Iridient does give an immediately better looking curve, and finer details. Bit I can match it with Iridient if I disable the film curve and use a "linear" conversion, witha curve of my one, decreased clarity, decraesed sharpening radius and increased amount, and increased detail in the noise reduction settings. This can be easily applied using a preset.
And on the other hand, I miss layers and local adjustments in Iridient very much - I don't want to be forced to use PS if I don't have to.
As for the DAM side of things, the little C1 does is enough for me (with a little help from Photo Mechanic). So, for now it'll do (until next week at least ;-))
I had once great hopes in the promised catalog feature of PhotoMechanic, but after several years of waitingI have given up hope on this front.


Bernard July 29, 2015 - 1:04
I have just tried on 2 E-1 files from 2005 :-) I think I can match or best Iridient with C1. Of course I used Iridient default settings, and fiddled with C1, I may have overdone it. All this to say that the difference is not clearcut.


Bernard July 29, 2015 - 1:05
C1 top, Iridient below/


David Mantripp July 29, 2015 - 1:43
I'm not sure that E-1 files behave the same as today's ORFs, after all they have a completely different sensor and much bigger pixels... Anyway, I have tried your suggestions, although to be honest I've tried a lot before, and actually I find the biggest improvement is adding some structure along withe reducing the clarity. The problem is though, that for me, a basic, everything off Iridient rendition looks much more detailed sand natural than a linear C1 rendition with everything set to zero. I agree that you can improve from the defaults in C1, but at some cost. For example it seems then that the clarity tool basically can't be used. Also note that C1 support states that the camera calibrations assume that you use Auto, and it is better to use Auto and compensate with the HDR sliders than to use Linear. So they say. Of course none of this might be visible in a print, and there are rapidly diminishing returns from all this fiddling about!


Bernard July 29, 2015 - 4:03
Well, first of all sorry for all the spelling mistakes in last night's comment ;-(
True, the clarity tool of C1 is often problematic (although it seems to work well on Nikon files). And structure is indeed useful.
I'll look into all this some more. As I said, for now, the fact that I can do almost everything in C1, and then only occasionally have to resort to PS, is a very big push in favor of C1. But I do have to use Iridient more and get to know it better.
Or we could get a life (oh, this is it).


David Mantripp July 29, 2015 - 10:43
I just caught myself thinking "...I wonder what it would look like in Lightroom..." - then I slapped myself and went out for a walk.
Enough. Oh, but, Camera DNG profiles work in Iridient ... :-)


Bernard July 29, 2015 - 10:50
I have just reread your blog post from 2006 - and the comments. The same blokes, 9 years younger. And er… fascinating to realize how so little has changed, actually. Still looking for a good DAM system and a good converter, if possible not joined at the hip in the same evil program. In the meantime Aperture has come and gone.
At least we have made some photos.

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