My photographic workflow has some kinks and splits. The main one is between the handling of proofs, event photos, and snapshots, on the one hand, and the treatment given to final versions of important pictures (whether they’re art, restorations, portraits, or whatever). Since I’m an imperfectly fossilized dinosaur, I think of the two as “machine prints” and “custom prints”, the two categories you could get from a pro lab in the 1970s.
Custom prints require the full power of Photoshop for me. Since Adobe, in their death throes, has shot off their right foot (that being Photoshop), I’ll be continuing to use CS6 for the foreseeable future. I can use the other fork of my workflow to produce 16-bit raw conversions as the input to CS6 (so I can continue to use it far beyond where ACR supports my camera bodies).
The “machine print” side has long run through Bibble Pro (and more recently Aftershot Pro, which is what Corel called it after they bought Bibble). This side works by making fairly quick adjustments by eye to groups of photos; often I’ll start with settings for an entire session, and then make additional adjustments to photos from different parts of the session, and then sometimes all the way down to individual series of shots. This is much faster than doing full custom printing on each shot! But it’s also much better than just using the jpegs that come out of the camera. This is attempting to make “good” machine prints, like the video-analyzed prints from a pro lab, where a person looked at the print and actually maybe turned dials while watching a video screen. For maybe a full second.
Since Bibble Labs sold themselves to Corel, and then Picturecode wouldn’t renew the agreement about integrating Noise Ninja, Aftershot Pro is no longer a great candidate for my raw processing, and I’ve been wondering where to go next. The obvious place to go was Adobe’s Lightroom—except that even before the “Creative Cloud” disaster I was unhappy with their upgrade policies and their policy of not supporting old versions with new cameras. While I’m not pissed enough, I think, to actually cut off my nose, I’d at least strongly prefer not to give Adobe my money if I can reasonably avoid it.
Having no other pressing business to entertain me, I decided to go through and make an attempt to evaluate what I saw as the interesting candidates for my new raw processor.
|Product||Version Evaluated||Price (June 2013)||Supported OSs|
|Bibble Pro||5.2.3||Not available||Windows, Linux|
|Dark Table||Free||Linux, OS X, Solaris|
|Photo Ninja||1.0.5||$130||Windows, OS X|
|Capture One Pro||7.1.2 build 67846||$300||Windows, OS X|
|LightZone||4.0||Free (BSD license)||Windows, OS X, Linux|
|Lightoom||5.0||$150 (but frequently on sale for less)||Windows, OS X|
This is far from an exhaustive list. In particular there are a number of free-software packages available, many of which don’t support Windows.
Capture One Pro is the “big gorilla” here, to my eye. It’s what supports most of the expensive medium-format digital cameras and backs, and it’s apparently what was nearly universally used in digital production environments (catalog shooters and such, who went digital very early because their high volumes justified the high price).
My evaluation methodology is going to be very casual. I’ve chosen a few pictures that I’m going to go through and process with each processor. I’ll no doubt acquire opinions along the way, which I will publish, and I’ll show the results and discuss what I see in them some. This is not either a deep or an especially scientific analysis, and is very me-centric.
I’ll be posting an article every few days on this for a while; first a series of articles about one raw processor I evaluated, and eventually the big conclusion article. Hope this is all of use to somebody!