ACR - Capture One - sharing experience

Started Oct 20, 2012 | Discussions thread
tigrebleu Senior Member • Posts: 2,020
Re: ACR - Capture One - sharing experience

I've been using Capture One since quite a long time now, starting with Capture One Limited Edition 3.7, and then with Capture One Pro 4 through 6. Lately, I had the chance to upgrade to version 7, and all I can say is: this is the best RAW converter out there, period.

I disagree with the comments on C1 not being as good in harsh lighting. In fact, while C1 may be less powerful at recovering underexposed or overexposed areas as LR, its Highlight Recovery and Shadow Recovery tools are surprisingly efficient when the exposure isn't too off. With a bit of Brightness tweaking, I get very impressive results on most pictures, even if they're underexposed by more than a stop. Overexposure is more difficult to deal with of course, as highlights clip faster than shadows.

Last year, on my trip to NYC, I was faced with some of the worse sky conditions possible for skyscrapper photography: washed-out, detail less, white sky, with loads of humidity. If I had a camera with better dynamic range, I could've done better, but the K-7 really isn't part of the leading DSLRs when it comes to DR. The K-30, K-5, D7000, D800, etc. would've done much better for sure. But I had a K-7 back then, so I had to work within its limits.

The backlight was so strong, most skyscrappers would've turned out blurred with a proper exposure, thanks to light so hazy that was "spilling over" the edges of the buildings. So I decided to underexpose my shots, by -1 to -2.33 EV, to avoid this. When I got back home, I just used the Shadow Recovery tools to bring out the details in the dark buildings, while keeping the highlights in check with the Highlight Recovery tool. The results: pictures with a nice exposure, a great color and contrast balance, and only at the expense of some added noise (pushing exposure by 1 to 2 stops does that somehow, LoL).

There are three areas in which C1 Pro really shines, IMHO. First one is in the level of details it can pull out of a RAW file. I haven't seen any RAW converter doing better than this, and I've tried many (Aperture, LR, DxO Optics, Bibble Pro, etc. — all to the latest versions).

Second huge point in favor of C1 is its ability to get accurate color gradients in pictures with harsh, saturated lighting. I remember back when I was using Capture One LE 3.7, I converted a file in which a drummer was playing his instruments under very saturated red lighting. Capture One was the only RAW converter able to render out the cymbals with smooth, natural color gradients, from deep red to shiny golden yellow. The other two converters I used back then (LR 1 and Bibble Pro 4) weren't even close to this image quality. The worse was Bibble Pro, but LR wasn't much better. Both converters produced pictures with loads of colors blooming, resulting in (almost entirely) solid red, oversaturated cymbals.

Third huge point is the lens correction tools. One click purple fringing (very efficient) correction and one click chromatic aberrations correction is already wow, but add lens distortion, lens light fall-off and lens corner sharpness tools, all settings which can be recorded as a lens preset for later use, and you got the most powerful RAW converter out there.

With local adjustment layers, rather efficient noise reduction, moiré supression tools, etc., that's one heck of a software you got there.

My only complains would be the lack of metadata and file management options (you need to buy an additional software for that), like Lightroom offers, and the slower converting time. But then, there's no perfect product, only the one that fits your need the most. To me, C1 does just that. I understand why people love Lightroom — it's got a great user interface (more intuitive than with Capture One), pulls out great results out of RAW files and does all that at a decent price and with lots of plugins available, either from Adobe or third-party developpers.

But in the end, image quality and detail was more important than speed, plugins and price, so Capture One remains my favorite.

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If photography can be considered like painting, then I'm still at the preschool "paint with your fingers" level.

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