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Topaz Labs' flagship app uses AI algorithms to make some complex image corrections really, really easy. But is there enough here to justify its rather steep price?
In a raw editing workflow, overall image processing speed contributes to an application feeling either sluggish or responsive. We're going to evaluate speed by taking a look at the time it takes to import raw files and export processed images. We'll also look at how long it takes to generate high quality previews when cycling among images in fullscreen and 1:1 views.
With database-driven cataloging software you first must import an image before you can start working on it, so one of the more obvious questions is just how long this import process takes. DxO Optics Pro 8 is a file browser (more on the consequences of this later) that doesn't require an image import, so here we're comparing import times only between Capture One Pro 7 and Lightroom 4. In both programs, selecting the Import option brings up a separate import window that can be expanded to fill the screen.
|Lightroom 4 arranges image source locations on the left column and destinations along the right column of the import window.||Capture One Pro 7 opts for a two-column interface, devoting more available space to its image thumbnails.|
For this comparison I imported 200 raw files from a class 10 SD card plugged directly into the USB 2.0 slot of a 2010 27-inch iMac with 8GB of RAM. The raw files came from a combination of cameras with output ranging from 12-36MP. The applications were configured to copy files from the SD card to a folder residing on the internal SATA startup drive. The files were renamed on import but no metadata or additional image adjustments were applied.
|In Lightroom 4's Catalog Settings dialog you can set the maximum dimensions of the image previews it will generate during the import process.||Capture One Pro 7 lets you configure the preview size for file imports in its Preferences>Images tab. The setting defaults to the nearest match to your primary monitor's resolution.|
On my 27-inch iMac screen, Capture One Pro 7, by default renders image previews of 2560 pixels in the long dimension during the import process. I set Lightroom 4 to render image previews of 2880 pixels, the nearest available match.
Capture One Pro 7 was able to import the raw files and render the 2,560-pixel image previews in 8 min., 55 sec. In virtually the exact same time, Lightroom 4 was able to import the images but took an additional 8 min., 30 sec to create its 2,880-pixel image previews.
WINNER: Capture One Pro 7 imports and builds previews nearly twice as fast.
|Once images are loaded by the raw converter, an important speed issue concerns the ability to cycle among images quickly when making initial selects.|
In Lightroom 4, while generating previews essentially doubled the time of the import process, the upside is that those previews are stored in a cache on the hard drive which is called upon each time you browse through your image collection. There is no time spent waiting for a high quality preview in either the Fit or Fill image views precisely because Lightroom generated 2,880-pixel previews during image import.
Capture One Pro 7 also generated previews during import, yet when cycling through images for the first time there is a brief, but noticeable 1-2 second delay until a high resolution preview is visible. To be fair, once an image has initially been selected, subsequent visits to the image bring up the high resolution view immediately.
In DxO Optics Pro 8, you don't have to go through an import process before working with an image, but you do have wait for a preview to be generated when you select an image. I've found this to take anywhere from three to six seconds depending on the magnification view and the image's pixel count. Unfortunately, it appears these image previews are stored in a temporary cache, because they are available only on a per-session basis. If you quit and relaunch the app, new previews must be built all over again from scratch. In addition, in a 1:1 view, Optics Pro 8 only builds a preview for the visible portion of the image, so as soon as you scroll, you must wait for a new preview to be built.
WINNER: Lightroom 4 provides immediate high resolution views when cycling among images.
|In Capture One Pro 7, you can create and save multiple output options and run them simultaneously, although you're allowed only one filename and destination per operation.||DxO Optics Pro 8 also lets you create and run multiple output configurations simultaneously. You can export files to multiple locations, with different filename suffixes, at the same time.|
To compare batch processing times I selected a raw file, made edits to white balance, exposure, sharpening and noise reduction and then batch-applied those changes to 19 additional raw files located in the same folder. All 20 files were then exported in a single operation as full resolution JPEGs, with no EXIF data embedded, to a folder on the same hard drive. I repeated this test for each raw converter.
Lightroom 4 processed its files in only 1 min., 41 sec. while Capture One Pro 7 took 3 min., 33 sec. and DxO Optics Pro 8 clocked in at 5 min. flat. Obviously, your times will vary depending on file size and the types of edits applied, but each time I ran this test, Lightroom 4 was significantly faster.
WINNER: Lightroom 4 exports files in just under half the time.
For all of the additional functionality they provide, raw processing applications are ultimately judged on the quality of the images they produce. Here we'll take a look at how these three apps handle a variety of image editing tasks. I should point out that many of the differences you see in this section will be subtle and may be hard to discern without a calibrated and profiled monitor.
There's no shortage of posts on the web claiming definitively that, 'Raw converter X produces better images than Brand Y.' The problem I've always had with general statements like these is that most raw converters provide so much editing flexibility that it's pretty rare for one program to produce results that you cannot match reasonably well with appropriate adjustments in another one. There's no denying, however, that if one converter provides a better starting point for your subsequent edits, that can be a real time saver.
Below we compare the color rendering of Lightroom 4, Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8 at their default settings. During evaluation of a range of images of varied subject matter and lighting, I've found that in many cases the differences between raw converters can be relatively subtle. Make no mistake, these applications won't produce identical results, but the distinctions often come down to saturation and contrast differences.
|Capture One Pro 7||DxO Optics Pro 8||Lightroom 4*|
*Note that both Capture One Pro and DxO Optics Pro have distortion and chromatic aberration (CA) correction enabled by default for supported lenses. We'll discuss optical correction in a bit, so here I've enabled Lightroom's auto lens corrections in order to concentrate on differences in color and contrast.
As you can see, the default color rendering differences in this outdoor low ISO scene are fairly subtle. Capture One Pro 7 produces the highest contrast while DxO Optics Pro 8 yields a slightly darker image with more saturated colors. Lightroom 4 takes the most conservative approach, offering a relatively flat-looking image. You can easily produce matching results with minor adjustments to any of the converters' default settings. Yet it's been my experience in evaluating dozens of default conversions that, as seen here, Lightroom is less likely than its rivals to produce 'output ready' results out of the box. In particular, Lightroom can often struggle to reproduce saturated reds accurately, typically veering towards a magenta-ish tone.
WINNER: DxO Optics Pro 8 typically provides more pleasing saturation at its default settings.
One scenario where you will notice more obvious differences in default color output is in portraiture. Capture One Pro has long been touted by its users as producing more realistic skin tones out of the box. I've found, however, that this claim is largely dependent on which camera you're using. Simply put, each of these raw converters produces more pleasing and accurate results on some camera brands and models than others, as you can see below.
|Olympus OM-D E-M5 in diffuse window light: (From L to R) Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8, Lightroom 4. Each image processed with default raw conversion settings. Photo courtesy, Richard Butler.|
|Canon EOS T4i/650D in bright daylight: (From L to R) Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8, Lightroom 4. Each image processed with default raw conversion settings.|
|Nikon D600 in fluorescent lighting: (From L to R) Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8, Lightroom 4. Each image processed with default raw conversion settings.|
|Olympus E-PL3 in overcast light: (From L to R) Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8, Lightroom 4. Each image processed with default raw conversion settings.|
|Sony Alpha SLT-A57 in overcast light: (From L to R) Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8, Lightroom 4. Each image processed with default raw conversion settings.|
For my money, Capture One Pro 7 produces more realistic skin tones for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Nikon D600 shots seen above. DxO Optics Pro 8 delivers more faithful results in the Olympus EPL-3 and Sony SLT-A57 images. I'd rank Lightroom 4 the most accurate in the Canon EOS T4i portrait. This is an admittedly subjective ranking, and the differences are fairly subtle.
In processing dozens of portraits shot on a variety of cameras, however, I've found that both Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8 offer consistently more accurate (and pleasing) results than Lightroom 4. Your mileage may vary of course, depending on the camera(s) you shoot with.
TWO-WAY TIE: Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8 consistently provide natural, pleasing skin tones.
Topaz Labs' flagship app uses AI algorithms to make some complex image corrections really, really easy. But is there enough here to justify its rather steep price?
Above $2500 cameras tend to become increasingly specialized, making it difficult to select a 'best' option. We case our eye over the options costing more than $2500 but less than $4000, to find the best all-rounder.
There are a lot of photo/video cameras that have found a role as B-cameras on professional film productions or even A-cameras for amateur and independent productions. We've combed through the options and selected our two favorite cameras in this class.
What’s the best camera for around $2000? These capable cameras should be solid and well-built, have both the speed and focus to capture fast action and offer professional-level image quality. In this buying guide we’ve rounded up all the current interchangeable lens cameras costing around $2000 and recommended the best.
Family moments are precious and sometimes you want to capture that time spent with loved ones or friends in better quality than your phone can manage. We've selected a group of cameras that are easy to keep with you, and that can adapt to take photos wherever and whenever something memorable happens.
What's the best camera for shooting sports and action? Fast continuous shooting, reliable autofocus and great battery life are just three of the most important factors. In this buying guide we've rounded-up several great cameras for shooting sports and action, and recommended the best.
|Wild American Flamingos by Fotorequest|
from Flamingos Unlimited
|No Space Race Here by Nilesh Trivedi|
from Empty spaces in the city
|Two Surfers by JeffryZ|
from Reflections on the Shore
|_MG_5014 by tim and jan|
from Cruise Liners
We've gone hands-on with Nikon's new 17-28mm F2.8 lens for its line of Z-mount cameras. Check out the sample gallery to see what kind of image quality it has to offer on a Nikon Z7 II.
The winning and finalist images from the annual Travel Photographer of the Year awards have been announced, showcasing incredible scenes from around the world. Check out the gallery to see which photographs took the top spots.
The rumor mill suggests the announcement will be a 50mm F1.4 DG DN lens for full-frame mirrorless camera systems.
The a7R V is the fifth iteration of Sony's high-end, high-res full-frame mirrorless camera. The new 60MP Mark IV, gains advanced AF, focus stacking and a new rear screen arrangement. We think it excels at stills.
Using affordable Sony NP-F batteries and the Power Junkie V2 accessory, you can conveniently power your camera and accessories, whether they're made by Sony or not.
According to Japanese financial publication Nikkei, Sony has moved nearly all of its camera production out of China and into Thailand, citing geopolitical tensions and supply chain diversification.
Got a new camera? Get started with your Canon EOS R7 by changing these critical settings.
A pro chimes in with his long-term impressions of DJI's Mavic 3. While there were ups and downs, filmmaker José Fransisco Salgado found that in his use of the drone, firmware updates have made it better with every passing month.
Landscape photography has a very different set of requirements from other types of photography. We pick the best options at three different price ranges.
AI is here to stay, so we must prepare ourselves for its many consequences. We can use AI to make our lives easier, but it's also possible to use AI technology for more nefarious purposes, such as making stealing photos a simple one-click endeavor.
This DIY project uses an Adafruit board and $40 worth of other components to create a light meter and metadata capture device for any film photography camera.
Scientists at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia have used a transmitter with 'less power than a microwave' to produce the highest resolution images of the moon ever captured from Earth.
The tiny cameras, which weigh just 1.4g, fit inside the padding of a driver's helmet, offering viewers at home an eye-level perspective as F1 cars race through the corners of the world's most exciting race tracks. In 2023, all drivers will be required to wear the cameras.
The announcement is believed to be the M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro lens, which was confirmed on the OM System roadmap last year.
The new ultrafast prime for Nikon Z-mount cameras is a re-worked version of Cosina's existing Voigtländer 50mm F1 Aspherical lens for Leica M-mount cameras.
There are plenty of hybrid cameras on the market, but often a user needs to choose between photo- or video-centric models in terms of features. Jason Hendardy explains why he would want to see shutter angle and 32-bit float audio as added features in cameras that highlight both photo and video functionalities.
SkyFi's new Earth Observation service is now fully operational, allowing users to order custom high-resolution satellite imagery of any location on Earth using a network of more than 80 satellites.
The firmware update adds eye-detection AF to video capture and improves autofocus performance in other modes.
In some parts of the world, winter brings picturesque icy and snowy scenes. However, your drone's performance will be compromised in cold weather. Here are some tips for performing safe flights during the chilliest time of the year.
The winners of the Ocean Art Photo Competition 2022 have been announced, showcasing incredible sea-neries (see what we did there?) from around the globe.
Venus Optics has announced a quartet of new anamorphic cine lenses for Super35 cameras, the Proteus 2x series. The 2x anamorphic lenses promise ease of use, accessibility and high-end performance for enthusiast and professional video applications.
We've shot the new Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2R WR lens against the original 56mm F1.2R, to check whether we should switch the lens we use for our studio test scene or maintain consistency.
Nature photographer Erez Marom continues his series about landscape composition by discussing the multifaceted role played by the sky in a landscape image.
Check out some of our full resolution Canon EOS R6 Mark II photos, captured over the holidays and in the mountains.
After weeks with a production Canon EOS R6 Mark II, Chris and Jordan get into more detail than they could in their initial review.
The NONS SL660 is an Instax Square instant camera with an interchangeable lens design. It's made of CNC-milled aluminum alloy, has an SLR-style viewfinder, and retails for a $600. We've gone hands-on to see what it's like to shoot with.
Recently, DJI made Waypoints available for their Mavic 3 series of drones, bringing a formerly high-end feature to the masses. We'll look at what this flight mode is and why you should use it.
Astrophotographer Bray Falls was asked to help verify the discovery of the Andromeda Oxygen arc. He describes his process for verification, the equipment he used and where astronomers should point their telescopes next.
OM Digital Solutions has released firmware updates for the following cameras to add compatibility support for its new M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO lens: OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M1 Mark III, E-M5 Mark III, E-M1X, and OM-5.
Micro Four Thirds has 'size benefits, and a shooting experience that can’t be matched by a smartphone,' says the director of Panasonic's camera business, as we talked about the system's future, the role of video, the adoption of phase detection and the role his dog played in the development of the S5 II.