There really should be two ratings for software reviews; one for image quality and usability.
I rate C1 as 5 for image quality and 2 for usability.
I am a long time user of C1, and when version 7 came out I was ANGRY that they did not also release the Express version. So I moved to DxO Pro Optics 8 and couldn't be happier. Now that C1 Express finally came out I downloaded the trial version and immediately am frustrated with the changes in the UI. I never cease to be amazed at why software developers want to change the basic functionality of their software when issuing updates.
1) Image quality is tremendous IF and that's a huge IF you don't use the noise reduction functions. It SUCKS! Always has and nothing has changed in version 7. There are too many third-party options for great noise reduction. Sharpening is very good, but don't overdo it.
2) Color is a hard 5 (on the DR scale)! Skin tones and general color accuracy is superb. Plus, the real truly useful attribute of version 7 is the highlight recovery. No other image software comes close to the truly amazing ability of C1 to recover blown highlights. DxO does not come close to matching this function.
3) File handling; Load times for thumbs is a bit sluggish, but my RAW files are all 25 megs and I load huge volumes of images (200-700 at a time) so I guess it chokes a little on volume. When scrolling through your thumbs and you want to convert, all you do is hit
1) File Handling; I know, an apparent contradiction, but Version 6 loaded my entire hard drive's directory structure which I was able to access instantly. Now, with version 7 I have to import "catalogs" then drill down, find the directory and load images. A MAJOR pain in the ass!
2) Exporting: Setting the export directory is much more cumbersome in V7 than previously. WHY would you change this basic function on top of the other changes you inflict on users? Plus, engaging the conversion process is very very cumbersome. In version 6 you could use a keyboard shortcut to convert, making it quick and easy. But Version 7 Express stopped that capability. Now you have to click twice and bring up another interface to begin the conversion process. VERY frustrating. File>Export>(choose "variant" or original to see the conversion interface)>click "Export (#) (variant or original)" There is NO keyboard shortcut.
Conclusion: The image quality and blown highlight recovery is reason to buy this for $99. But usability SUCKS as compared to previous versions. I'm being forced to relearn software that I've used for 10 years. I do not like that. Phase One specifically made using C1 v7 a very cumbersome experience. I'm assuming this is to "encourage" users to upgrade to the Pro version which costs $300 vs $99 (new and $69 upgrade from V6 ONLY.)
PS: Phase One is a Danish company that simply does not get the American market. The web site is a nightmare to find help, license software, etc. The vernacular they use ("variant" instead of easy-to-understand "copy") is a hindrance, and then the attitude of the company when they issued V7 by only releasing the pro version made many existing users very angry. Plus, they simply ignored user requests for an explanation and just refused to address the issue at all. Ignoring your customers is really not a good thing to do.
I'm a very happy user of DxO Pro Optics 8 and use C1 only if I have blown highlights I need to recover.
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