photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

The Capture One Outrage

#captureOneGate?

in General Rants , Friday, December 16, 2022

The photointerwebs, or at least that part which is interested in Capture One, exploded in a orgy of demonstrative outrage last week, when a new pricing model was announced for Capture One software.

In a nutshell, the current offer is that you can buy a “perpetual” license, which will give you long term rights to use a particular release of the software, for as long as you meet the hardware / operating system requirement. In addition, any feature upgrades added up until the next major release you also get to use.  The to-be offer is much the same, only it removes the feature upgrades part, and can be bought at any time to cover the then-current product feature set.

It’s pretty clear why they made this move: some time ago, they introduced a subscription model running alongside the perpetual model.  A major touted benefit of the subscription model was that you get new features when they’re ready, not just at major release points (yearly in Capture One’s case). The problem here is that perpetual licenses also got that benefit, and the perpetual upgrade pricing was not very different to a subscription. So perpetual was more flexible, and on top of that did not lock you in perpetuity to a subscription. 

Since there are clear financial reasons for software companies to try to persuade their clients to move to a subscription model, this must have presented a serious commercial dilemma for Capture One.  And although their messaging was pretty flawed, actually I think they’ve come up with a fair compromise between offering choice to their customers and remaining a viable company, attractive to investors.

So Joe Photographer everywhere screamed he was going back to Adobe, which offers way better value for money (I’ll get on to that later), Joe of course forgetting how outraged he was when Adobe, faced with a similar dilemma, not only summarily dropped perpetual licences altogether, but also played a very nasty trick on customers a few months prior to going subscription only with their Creative Suite upgrade policy change. Then, they coerced people into upgrading, by drastically reducing the cutoff for upgrade eligibility from previous versions - only to kill off upgrades altogether a short time later.

But whatever - this is how commerce works. Neither Capture One nor Adobe are charities. They both need to pay their staff, keep the lights on, and keep the markets happy. Do I like the last part? Not much, no. Can I see an alternative? Nope.

So after several years of Adobe as The Great Satan, suddenly they’re all saints rolled into one.

But anyway, as Paul Reiffer put it, even skipping the false claim (well, false for now, I’m not that naive) that Capture One is forcing you into subscriptions, does any serious photographer really make core creative decisions based on whether or not there’s a subscription model involved?  I certainly don’t.

Adobe (and DxO, and Exposure, and Iridient) make great software. And a lot of people are very happy with Lightroom. Personally, I’m not. I dislike Lightroom for two reasons: one, it has an awful User Interface which makes it an absolute drag to use. But more important, for my tastes, it is an absolute battle to get any kind of attractive output from it. In Capture One my basic process is this: adjust exposure, balance shadows and highlights, adjust contrast with a Luma curve.  That takes about 30 seconds. With Lightroom it is nearly impossible to reproduce.  First of all to me Lightroom controls seem very unsubtle, and second they all interact with each other, following a Grown-Ups Know Best model apparently based what Thomas Knoll thought photos should look like.

Yes, the Adobe Photography Subscription, offers, on the face of it, a fantastic deal. But does it? Lightroom is not for me. Bridge is a clunky disaster area which seems to get worse with every update. Portfolio is ok but not much use to me. Lr Mobile is certainly very nice to have, but the UI is not pleasant. Photoshop? Well, of course, Rome remains Rome. But I think I can live with Affinity Photo for the few things Capture One can’t do.
So yes, an Adobe Photography Subscription is (much) cheaper than a Capture One subscription. Again, is that the basis for creative choice? Hey, a Kodak-branded Chinese Point & Shoot is WAAAY cheaper than a Nikon Z7!

But that’s just me. Don’t worry, I’ve got a long list of grievances against Capture One:

Obviously, the pricing is getting rather excessive. Generally speaking, a ceiling of $200-$300 per year for a core piece of somewhat specialised software is not that ridiculous. However, the problem comes more with what the upgrade or subscription charge brings you. In recent years this has not necessarily been very impressive. In particular for a lot of people Capture One 23 brings absolute zero added value, although for a particular customer segment I imagine it is pretty fantastic. Then again, that same segment probably was underwhelmed with Capture one 22. You can’t please all the people all the time. Actually the new pricing model does appear to be offering more flexibility on which features you want to pay for, but this is also wrapped up in a mysterious “loyalty scheme” which so far we know nothing about.

Capture One for iPad was, and remains, a massive disappointment. The core application looks fantastic, but it is rigidly locked to a workflow which places it as some kind of initial preprocessor for the desktop application. And development seems to have paused if not stopped.

Capture One refuses to support Hasselblad cameras. Well, I don’t know which party is to blame here, and it would certainly require full cooperation from Hasselblad to develop a solution comparable to Phocus, but still… time to get over past feuds?

Capture One’s catalog is far better than its many detractors claim. But it has vast scope for improvement, and while a few bones get thrown to customers who actually value catalog features now and then (versions in separate collections in Capture One 23 is nice, for example, but so far I can’t convince myself that it is $200 nice). The catalog needs to extend parent-child view to User Collections (at least we have it in Folders now), and really, really implement some model of Stacks, Ideally Aperture’s model, not Lightroom’s half-assed hack.  And yes, maybe get a competent data modeller to optimise the database?

But for me it all boils down to this: Capture One gives me results that I’m really very happy with, and is largely a pleasure to use. I’m happy to pay for that, unless the pricing or licensing gets completely insane, and honestly, we’re far away from that. The recent announcement is an adjustment dictated by market conditions, not some dastardly schemes designed to shovel vast amounts of cash to a predatory private equity firm, however attractive that narrative might be to drama queens on the interwebs.

Posted in General Rants on Friday, December 16, 2022 at 11:16 AM • PermalinkComments ()

Losing faith in Lightroom

flip / flop / flip / flop etc

in Post-processing , Wednesday, December 16, 2020

At various intervals over the years I’ve questioned if I’m using the best approach to managing and processing my digital image files. As covered ad infinitum in previous posts, my tool of choice was Apple Aperture, but that rug was pulled from under my feet by the bling-flingers in Cupertino.  I eventually settled on Lightroom, with some misgivings, and have grown to accept it as the best compromise. It even has some unique features which I really like, in particular the “lights out” display mode, which is excellent for evaluating processing results, as well as for triaging photos without distractions. On the other hand, the UI is ugly, and the processing engine is based on the will of senior Adobe engineers to make everything look like it was produced by a badly calibrated 1 Hour (film) processing lab, with saturation turned up to 100. I spent a lot of my time in Lightroom fighting against under the hood saturation and contrast changes.  But, it was the best compromise.

Then came Lightroom Classic v10: from the beginning, this was not good. There were very noticeable performance slowdowns and UI glitches which made it very irritating to use. See all 9 pages (so far) of this thread, started on October 22nd. Adobe, with all their vast resources, eventually pushed out a version 10.1, which not only failed to solve the initial problems, but introduced a new “feature”, namely allowing Lightroom to quickly, completely and reliably freeze the Mac it is running on, requiring a power off reset to restore things - almost unheard of in the Mac world.  And to make things worse, they were warned about this beforehand, and therefore released this version in full knowledge that it contains this disastrous flaw.  It seems this flaw is linked to GPU processing: now, it may be true that testing for various hardware combinations is a big task (although for less so than for the much more varied Windows world), but other much, much smaller companies seem to have managed just fine (CaptureOne, DxO, Exposure for example).

I suppose Adobe will eventually fix this - although to be honest I’m not 100% confident - and there does remain the workaround of reverting to v9.4 (while sacrificing 2 months of editing and processing), or sticking with the sluggish performance of v10.0.  But as a subscriber I’ve had enough of this. Adobe are showing themselves to be an untrustworthy partner, and their support staff are condescending and arrogant.

For the most recent photo diary I published, The White Arcades, I had almost finished processing the photos in Lightroom, as usual fighting against the application’s obsession with making everything look garish.  But given the above, I decided to dust off CaptureOne, and, what the hell, try to import my entire Lightroom catalog of over 80’000 photos. Well, it worked pretty well. It took a few hours, and some files would not import (some DNGs, and of course Hasselblad Raw), but otherwise fine. I then reworked the photos I’d chosen for The White Arcades. Thanks to a combination of CaptureOne’s linear profile and luminosity curve, I actually managed to quickly get the look I wanted. Some of the more sophisticated display options in Lightroom are not in CaptureOne, and yes, the DAM functionality is not quite as good, and no, CaptureOne doesn’t have Adobes’s excellent stitching tool. But it is smooth and reactive, it has a non-modal UI, and it doesn’t crash my Mac. I’ll have to use Phocus for Hasselblad files, but’s not such a bad thing.

Long term I’d prefer not to be trapped in Adobe’s subscription dungeon, but while it was giving me a good set of tools I was ok with it.  Now Adobe has lost my trust.  Eventually completely cancelling my subscription is not something I’d do as an act of revenge - they wouldn’t even notice - but just one of self interest.

Posted in Post-processing on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 01:26 PM • PermalinkComments ()

Hell freezes over

coming to my senses?

in Product reviews , Sunday, August 30, 2015

I have spent a huge amount of time and effort over the years, not to mention a little money, trying to avoid using Adobe Lightroom. The various reasons for this include that I don’t much like the GUI (compared to Aperture, RIP), I don’t much like the library (compared to Aperture, RIP), and I’m uncomfortable with the Adobe subscription model. I also have a certain sense of antipathy towards the rather over the top, uncritical, fawning cheerleading which comes from so many on-line self-appointed gurus, all of whom have their book, or video, or workshop to sell, and all of whom have contributed, thanks to killer marketing skills from Adobe, to Lightroom’s supremacy. A successful symbiotic community, but not one which has done much service to the world of digital photography in general.

But is Lightroom itself actually all that bad? Well, no, it isn’t. It’s pretty good actually, but it is neither the Second Coming, nor is it without faults, nor is it as overwhelmingly superior as the shill wolf pack would have you believe. But looking at the combination of requirements that I have personally, I have to admit, finally, that avoiding it is like cutting off my nose to spite my face. So I’ve finally admitted that resistance is not only futile, but counterproductive as well.

Lrgrab

I certainly wasn’t expecting to be looking at this, a few weeks ago.

The quality of the output from the Develop module tends to get widely derided these days on the interwebs, especially compared with CaptureOne. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect there is more than a grain of anti-Adobe sentiment behind this. The difference in quality, measured as resolution and definition, between all Raw converters on the market, is generally minimal. To my eyes Iridient Developer has a slight edge, but that may be down to its superlative sharpening tools. Yes, there are differences in colour rendition, but if you drill down a bit to understand why, then generally you can pretty much neutralise them. If utmost, 200% pixel peeping brick wall cat’s whiskers photography is your thing, then probably Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw is not what you need. But otherwise, the combination of features and sheer completeness of Adobe’s offering is difficult to ignore.

The Lightroom user interface still looks to me like it has overall design philosophy. Different modules, even tools within modules, look like they were designed and integrated by different people with little communication between themselves. Indeed, the different Modules behave more like separate applications linked together through a common launcher than parts of the same application. The essential weakness of the cumbersome modal design is betrayed by the Develop Module leaking into the Library Module by way of the Quick Develop tools. It’s a pity that either stubbornness, not-invented-here syndrome, or, most likely, be-suited MBAs clutching their ROI and P&L spreadsheets is preventing a major UI overhaul. And, think of all the income from the new editions of books, videos, etc!

But on balance the experience is positive. Compared with CaptureOne, the only real advantage that I find there is that the image adjustment tools are more intuitive and faster to use, and certain features such as perspective correction (especially), highlight recovery, and clarity control, are better. On the other hand Lightroom has far better support for camera calibration, and the sharpening tools are better. I prefer CaptureOne’s layer approach to Lightroom’s edit points, and I preferred Aperture’s local edits approach to both of these, but in the end the functionality is much the same.

The killer features in Lightroom are the Library, and, surprisingly, Lightroom Mobile. The Library is almost as good as Aperture’s. It is fast, smooth, and there are plenty of well designed metadata tools. The implementation of Stacks is a half-baked copy of Aperture’s (and really, it is, just look at when it was released in Lightroom), albeit more powerful than CaptureOne’s Versions, and the Smart Collections are weak compare to Aperture’s Smart Albums, but on balance, it is - now - the best on the market. Overall, compared with CaptureOne’s improving, but incomplete and laggy Catalog, Lightoom’s Library is much easier to use. And the other major plus for me, at least, is full support for large Photoshop and TIFF files, which means I can catalogue my film scans together with my Raw files. Aperture let me do this as well - indeed, the fact that Lightroom 1 had serious file size limitations was one major factor leading me to switch - but Lightroom actually is smoother.  The only “orphan” files I have now are Sigma Merrill Raws, but nobody supports those. The workaround of cataloging a proxy JPEG and using that to launch the X3F in Iridient Developer works just as well in Lightroom as in Aperture, or indeed CaptureOne.

I think that the dependence on a physical file structure in the Library is pretty prehistoric, compared to Aperture’s fully virtual organisation, but the geek contingent could never live with the loss of explicit control that the virtual approach required, so we’re stuck in the past.  On a side note, recently I completely restructured my physical file organisation, to try to make it more convenient to PhotoSupreme’s needs.  Aperture didn’t skip a beat: together with MacOS, it noticed that the referenced files had moved, and just adjusted itself. CaptureOne, or Lightroom, would have just given up and died. But thanks to Apple shifting lock stock and barrel in to the luxury personal accessory market, we’ve lost all that innovation.

Ironically, my file structure is actually quite clumsy. This is due to an earlier period when I was using Lightroom 1, for about a year, until moving to Aperture 2.  I had to live with the file organisation imposed by Lightroom. Since this basically has never changed, re-importing into Lightroom CC was not a big deal. I did try the Aperture Importer: it’s not as good as CaptureOne’s by a long way, but not as bad as people say it is - it does actually work, albeit very, very slowly.  However, since all it really does is carry over some metadata, and that can just as easily be accomplished by writing metadata to original files or XMP sidecars, there’s little point in it. Takes forever and a day too, and the workflow is very badly designed.

I wasn’t expecting much from Lightroom Mobile, because it doesn’t do what I thought I wanted, i.e. remote editing and curation of the Library. It also gets a poor press, because it doesn’t do what a lot of people want, i.e. act as a front-end mobile file importer. What it actually does do is give you access to selected parts of your library which you have already created on the desktop, and, via “cloud” synchronisation, it then allows you to review and rate these, and to apply quite a high degree of image manipulation. On my new iPad Air 2, this works very well indeed, and actually, it turns out it is pretty close to what I wanted. Keywording would be nice to have, but what it does give me is enough to keep me constructively engaged during daily train commutes. Also, Lightroom Mobile supports importing and synchronisation of photos taken with iDevices. I haven’t tried that yet, but it is interesting. However, it does seem to conflict with a lot that Mylio provides. Mylio does do things that Lightroom Mobile does not, for example importing new files in the field and synchronising them with home and backup destinations, but several key things that it does do, and Lightroom does not, for example key wording, it does rather weakly.  I’m not really sure yet if Mylio is really needed in a Lightroom-centric workflow.

Finally, a CC subscription to Lightroom also brings Photoshop CC 2015, which has some useful additions for working with film scans, not the least being the Camera Raw plugin. I’d heard vaguely about this, but I didn’t really realise how useful it could be to be able to use ACR adjustments on a layer for film scans. Sure, there are other ways of doing everything in Photoshop, but the ACR toolset is specifically designed for photography, and makes everything much faster. And the fact that it swallows a 350Mb 16 bit XPan scan without a murmur is pretty impressive.

So, over the last months, I have invested a lot of time successively in PhotoSupreme, CaptureOne, and Mylio, and at this point pretty much discarded all of them in favour of Lightroom (maybe not Mylio, I may still have a use for that, but development seems to have slowed). It’s completely against current trends to switch FROM CaptureOne TO Lightroom, which, given my track record and general disposition, is probably as good a reason for doing it than any. Switching to Lightroom and writing a nice review about Jeff Schewe in the same month ? I must be going soft in the head.

 

Posted in Product reviews on Sunday, August 30, 2015 at 08:26 PM • PermalinkComments (6)

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)

Capturing St Tropez

le noir et le blanc

in Photography , Sunday, June 29, 2014

Following yesterday’s seismic events around Apple Aperture - which may or may not have a more positive interpretation, for example here, I decided to reacquaint myself with CaptureOne 7 Pro, and with its integration with MediaPro. No real conclusions yet, although CaptureOne is worth considering as an alternative to Aperture, but I was really impressed by two things: first, CaptureOne’s keystone tool and its black & white conversions. And second, and not for the first time, Apple’s RAW decoding really is very, very good. If CaptureOne is state of the art, well so is Apple. And CaptureOne’s much vaunted noise reduction, frankly, is about on the same level as Aperture’s, at the RAW decode level.

But enough of that, for now. I did end up producing some black & white versions of a few shots taken last week in St Tropez, France, in CaptureOne, that I’m quite pleased with. And that pulled me out of the OCD-levels of “testing” I’d got myself stuck into.

Drm 2014 06 21 EP36369

Un

Drm 2014 06 21 EP36372

Quatre

Drm 2014 06 21 EP36377

Cinq

Drm 2014 06 21 EP36366

Neuf

 

 

 

Posted in Photography on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 03:44 PM • PermalinkComments ()