Monday, 7 January 2013

Capture One Pro 7.0.2 (beta) with X-Trans support

I was "raw only" shooter since I purchased my first digital camera in 2001. In the past 12 years I used almost every professional or high end digital camera offered by Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic or Olympus but never liked "out of the camera" jpegs , until the Fujifilm X-Pro1's arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in most cases OOC jpeg files were just perfect and didn't require any further post processing. But we all know jpeg limitations and advantage of using raw files. Sometimes I was missing the flexibility of raw files when the image was required additional fine tuning of white balance, highlights, etc.  So I decided to shoot in RAW+F mode and process raw files only when it was needed. Supplied Raw File Converter EX (powered by SilkyPix) produced fair results but I didn't like its interface. In-camera converter worked well but the workflow become an issue.  Lightroom's  workflow was excellent and output was very good, but with one important exception. Pictures with tiny foliage exhibited a very strange "water colour" (a.k.a. "smearing") effect. Let me illustrate the issue with one of my typical photo.

The scene with foliage
Shooting conditions: Fujifilm X-Pro 1, Fujinon 35mm @ F8, RAW+F (std), Auto WB, ISO 200, tripod, cable release. Now lets open RAF file in ACR 7.3.
Looks good at 33%, right?

RAW file in ACR 7.3 at 33%
Now lets magnify it to 200% (just to illustrate the issue) and check the pine tree. Pine needles look like they were painted with the brush. This effect is also visible at 100% magnification and 13x19 prints.

RAW file in ACR 7.3 at 200%
As I said, this phenomenon is very rare and some folks just don't care about it and using Lightroom with great success. But this issue bothered me because I am shooting a lot of scenes with tiny foliage in the background and I started to look for a better tool with intuitive interface, to get what I want from raw files with minimum efforts and errors.
With the exception of OSX specific RPP and AccuRaw I tried almost every other raw file converter available and, until I got the Capture One 7.0.2 beta, I couldn't either produce decent results or didn't like the interface.

Couple weeks ago I signed up to test Capture One 7.0.2 Beta Windows 64 bit version. The final production version is now released and I can share my very subjective results.

Capture One 7.0.2 Beta

I am not an expert in various raw converters, so my test scenario was very simple. I was wondering how "out of the box" output files look compared to each other. I set all raw file converters to their default settings and 8-bit jpeg output. Then Capture One ($299) output was compared to:

       1. Out Of the Camera jpeg (comes with camera, free)
       2. Adobe ACR 7.3 (Lightroom 4, $149)
       3. Raw File Converter EX (powered by SilkyPix, comes with camera, free)
       4. Command line DCRAW 9.17 (free)
       5. Oloneo PhotoEngine 1.1.400.318 (dcraw based, $119)
       6. Contenta RAW Converter 5.991 (dcraw based, $29)
       7. Helicon Filter 5.1.2 (dcraw based, $60)
       8. SILKYPIX Developer Studio Pro5 ($314)  

* All prices above as of December 28, 2012

Please keep in mind that my test results and conclusion are based on the Capture One 7.0.2 "beta" version.
Comparison screenshots:

Compared to Adobe Camera Raw
Compared to DCRAW
Compared to Out Of the Camera jpeg
Compared to Raw File Converter (powered by SilkyPix)
Compared to SilkyPix Developer Sudio Pro 5
Compared to Helicon Filter 5
My observations and comments:
  • C1 output doesn’t have “water colour” effect like ACR
  • C1 output doesn’t have “zipper” effect like DCRAW and most dcraw-based apps
  • C1 output has more details and better colour rendition than supplied RFC
  • C1 output has more details and better colour rendition than SILKYPIX Developer Studio Pro5
  • C1 output still has more details (but close match) and more accurate colour rendition than Helicon Filter 5. But again, results are very close. I liked Helicon.
  • C1 output still has more details (also a very close match) and more accurate colour rendition than OOC jpeg file. But I would suggest to reduce default C1 contrast value to -15 or so.
Please feel free to download and play with my files to draw your own conclusion. You can find them in my Dropbox folder

I couldn't find the image with another infamous effect, so called "colour bleeding", in any of my files. I hope that other testers will elaborate on the topic and share their test results.

Side notes:
  • I’ve never used Capture One before but the interface is very intuitive and I got used to it within an hour
  • Excellent tutorials are available at Phase One support site. Please read /watch them if you want to explore the full potential of this professional grade software 
  • I didn’t have any installation, performance or any other issues with Capture One Pro 7.0.2 beta. It performed flawlessly on my 3 years old HP laptop with AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-60 cpu + 4 GB of RAM running Windows 7
  • I didn't extensively test highlight / shadow recovery capabilities, but I can safely say that C1 is at least on par with LR/ACR 
One recommendation:
  • Capture One Pro 7 is much more than just a raw converter, it is a complete imaging solution for professional photographers. If you are looking just for an excellent raw converter then Capture One Express  ($99) might be your choice. Unlike Capture One Pro it also comes in Windows 32 bit version. But you need to wait until Phase One upgrade this product to include X-Trans support. I was assured that it is just matter of time.
Bottom line: I like Capture One Pro 7 and I like it a lot. In my opinion that even "out of the box" results are better than already excellent OOC jpegs. And you have raw file latitude to further enhance the final image. There is no doubt that with certain efforts you can get decent results from almost every other raw converter, but C1 brings it on a different level. Phase One folks are listening to photographers and delivered on their commitment to provide "the world’s best raw converter rendering precise colors and incredible detail with support for leading high-end cameras".  The true potential of the revolutionary X-Trans sensor is now revealed.


* I don't have any affiliation with Phase One whatsoever. I shared my personal conclusion only and you may have a different one.


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