Capture One Pro comes down to us from the medium-format digital world. It was also apparently very widely used in early digital production houses, that went digital using the Kodak digital SLR adaptations of Nikon and Canon bodies. Places doing catalog shots in volume, say, didn’t need the resolution of film, and benefited a lot from the workflow and lack of lab fees.
They’re easier to draw than in Bibble, but still much harder to work with than Photoshop. I did successfully darken the background of a derby picture using layers.
Lines for each color plus a gray region for luminance makes it easy to see all four, and not too gaudy.
No option for logarithmic histogram.
The crop tool lets me set grid guide specs.
Focus Mask / Focus Tool
The tool is just a magnified preview window. This is very useful, actually, but the name makes it sound like a bigger deal.
The focus mask shows where the system thinks the image is in focus. This looks good on studio shots in their video; in practical use with my field shots at high ISO it mostly shows that fishnet stockings have higher contrast than faces, I think.
And there does not appear to be a keyboard shortcut for the focus mask. Ah; you can set a keyboard shortcut for any menu command, including that one, there just isn’t one by default.
The curve tool doesn’t seem to have a way to move the points chosen around using cursor keys, only by dragging.
This one does have a way to put the film strip or mini-browser or whatever the name is at the side instead of the bottom of the screen (vertical screen real estate being one of the hard limits most people contend with in photo editing).
The noise reduction tools are severely inadequate for this sort of image. Setting everything to absolute max definitely isn’t good enough (nowhere near as good as Photo Ninja’s Noise Ninja 3 can produce). I suspect that the heritage of this tool, studio cameras and lately medium-format ones at that, has left noise reduction as a fairly low priority. Huh; or perhaps there’s something wrong with the preview, the rendered image looks overdone (the one shown here is about half of all the noise reduction settings).
I made some use of masking here, to be able to bring up the shadowed ice on the face without blowing the sunlit water at the top any further.
Darktable is a Unix-only free software product. So it’s not available for Windows. My evaluation was done using an Ubuntu Linux installation on a virtual machine. I assigned the VM 4GB of RAM and all 4 CPUs. Darktable makes heavy use of OpenCL (API to access the compute power of graphics cards for general use), which was not installed on my VM. So for a number of reasons I’m pretty sure the responsiveness seen in my tests would be considerably inferior to what one would see on a native Linux installation.
Darktable doesn’t seem to pick up lens or exposure information from the Olympus EPL-2. Images from the Fuji S2 are completely broken, the icy falls picture is mostly diagonal magenta stripes. Tried DNG later, better for EPL-2, not usable (but a visible image) for S2.
Darktable works in LAB space internally, using 4x32bit floating point numbers. (Why four? LAB is still a three-component model, just not the usual three.)
The user manual is notably good, which in my experience is rare for such specialized Open Source software.
Darktable’s basic setup is a stack of processing modules. You can, if you need to, alter the order of modules in the stack. You can also put modules into the stack multiple times, with different parameters.
Many modules support turning on “blending modes”, which mix the output with the input (using one of the myriad modes that GIMP and Photoshop love so much). “Off” means just use the output of the module, which is what some modules are best for. Using blending modes lets you get really lost really quickly, but I think this is something that would reward practice and study, and is very powerful. Mostly the modes blends just one aspect of the imput and output images (like lightness, or chroma, or hue), passing the other through.
If that’s not exciting enough, there’s also “conditional blending”. Module presets can be related to camera, lens, ISO, and exposure setting information. So, theoretically there’s a huge amount of power and control available here. I can say that ordinary editing doesn’t seem to need to call on it, which means you don’t have to hit that learning curve on day one.
There’s a rather interesting specialized bit of UI for slider-controlled number boxes. The mouse wheel works over the slider (which is a small target). Works semi-okay even in remote X running on a virtual machine. And an interesting right-click box that supports both typing numbers AND variable-precision mouse control (not drag-based; you click on the spot, with curves showing you roughly what each spot means).
Here’s the main editing window, with the right-click box open on the exposure slider.
It doesn’t seem that I can change where the filmstrip appears. Since modern monitors are overly-wide and far to short, it’s much better to take required (and I can’t find a way to make it go away, either) space-using elements to the sides, NOT top or bottom. (The basic editing area, when all the overhead is subtracted, needs to be square; otherwise, either horizontal or vertical pictures are at a disadvantage.)
Crop and Rotate
The “guides” selections give you a wide choice of cropping guides visible during the drag. However, I can’t find a way to get it to do a 5×5 grid for me, which is what I’m currently using most.
Not sure about settings for “white balance” and “input color profile”
and “output color profile”. The model I’m familiar with from Bibble
and Photoshop involves a “working space” and then using the tagged
input space (or specifying if not tagged, but with my cameras that
Docs say the white balance module has a “temperature in” slider, but it
doesn’t; it has a “temperature” slider, and tint, and r, g, and b.
And that “temperature” slider seems to run up to 30,000K, an extremely cold color balance.
And things jump around at random a lot, often leaving me with an
intense green color balance.
The “flash” preset sets the color temp to 3965K. Daylight is 3556K. Daylight and flash are normally 5500K in the world I come from.
The exposure slider has a huge range, going out to 18EV. This makes it very hard to work with. Possibly becoming more comfortable with the right-click features of the slider would help here, however (making the actual slider kind of a secondary control).
I’m pretty happy with the noise reduction here. I may have taken it a small step too far, but it was also interacting with attempts to sharpen the not-quite-perfectly frozen heads.
Again, this is primarily a noise reduction problem. This image was shot at ISO 1600 on a Fuji S2 (and saved as jpeg, not raw). The fact that it’s a jpeg original partly explains my not trying too hard to rescue the clipped whites on the shoulder.
This one is a technical failure. Converting Fuji S2 RAW files, even via DNG, doesn’t work usefully in Darktable. The artifact grid also really messed up the jpeg compression, so even the “full res” version is a rather low quality jpeg file.
This image may be too easy to show much. But at least it shows that a good final version can be produced.
This may be the least successful edit I did with Darktable.
This worked about as well as anything else at rescuing some of the overexposed areas. (Remember, the overall exposure was such as to guarantee some areas that remain overexposed; thus it looks like crap.)
Why do Windows software developers hate me? Lightroom refuses to put its catalog on a network disk, and network disk is all I have (well, there’s a small SSD to boot from, but certainly not big enough for the Lightroom catalog). It similarly refuses to put the catalog on an external drive. It does seem to succumb to the linked directory trick though. But still, why does it try to refuse to use the most reliable disk available to me? Idiots.
The need for a central catalog in the first place is one of the main reasons I’ve never really used Lightroom, not even a serious trial. I’ve already got information irrevocably embedded in a proprietary database (I’m contemplating committing serious Python scripting to get the data out), and that’s the last thing I want to commit to.
Plus of course Adobe is out of favor with me right now due to the “cloud” licensing scheme. They’re asking me to pay them 2-5 times as much per year as I’ve been paying them for Photoshop, and telling me I can’t schedule when I can afford to do it. Plus all the usual worries about controlling update scheduling, losing access to saved files if I let my license lapse, and so forth. Basically, Adobe is enthusiastically encouraging a lot of their customers to frantically try to find something, anything, other than an Adobe product that they can live with. I expect that this boondoggle will lead to the creation of the competitors that will eventually kill Adobe.
Using Lightroom 5.0, on the standard 30-day trial. I think I may have had an earlier trial on this computer, but apparently they reset on major version changes or something.
I realized I needed to test Lightroom directly, because the responsiveness issue (which is bidding to be the major problem of many of these packages) isn’t going to be revealed by just using ACR in Photoshop.
In general I hate “all in one” software; it tends to be second-rate at most things, and third-rate at some. Very rarely it’ll be first-rate at something, but basically never more than one thing. I want packages that are really good at what they do, and that work together. Like Photo Mechanic, which is unsurpassed (has no competition, in fact) for the task of sorting and rating photos.
I really don’t want another catalog of my photos, but I don’t have any choice. It does seem to be able to import directories in place, without trying to absorb my existing photos, anyway.
The filmstrip tries to go across the bottom of the screen, but it can at least be easily changed to auto-hide. Haven’t found a way to move it to the side, or a second monitor, or something yet.
Hmm, these seem to ignore the mouse wheel until I’ve dragged them, but then start responding to the wheel. No, I guess it’s clicking on the slider (tiny target) that enables the wheel. Painful!
Yeah, as expected it’s doing very well here (Photoshop does, and ACR does).
As with ACR, quite primitive, not nearly adequate. Preview response isn’t bad, around a second.
Oh dear, it’s got that stupid crop mode where both the border and the picture move, in opposite directions, when you move the mouse—so that the effective motion of a given mouse motion is twice what you get in general. I think there was a way to turn that off in Photoshop, haven’t found it here yet. What a stupid idea!
Straightening is also part of this module. There doesn’t seem to be a way to use the level tool to define what I think is straight, and then modify the rotation, though. When I’ve got images in the wrong orientation, which happens sometimes, I prefer to use one rotation to fix both their being 90° off and any small departure from straight. Does it really matter? Who knows; a 90° rotation should probably be lossless, but I’m a suspicious curmudgeon.
But the keyboard shorcut to invoke this is “R”. Not “C” as in Photoshop and everything else. Similarly for zoom keyboard shortcuts, incidentally—different from Photoshop and hence from everything that has copied Photoshop.
The editing screen doesn’t seem to show ratings, color, selection, and hence also has no way to change them. They’re available in the film strip, but since that’s bolted to the bottom, that has to be hidden to have room to work.
The eyedropper tool (click on neutral) disappears after one use, so my very common mode of prospecting around for a good neutral point is ten times slower than normal, and far more annoying.
Noise reduction is key to this, and Lightroom has just the basic ACR tools there, which don’t hack it.
Even on a jpeg, Lightroom gives me Highlight control. It doesn’t seem to actually accomplish much, though.
This one is always tough; it’s badly exposed, really not something that can be rendered into an art-print grade result. However, lots of useful photos have problems that way, so that makes it a good test.
On this one, even dragging the shadows up to 100 didn’t help much. I’ve ended up with highlights -100, shadows +100, and exposure +1.15. And clarity kicked way the hell up, too, at 64. I tried both the DNG and the original RAF, and they behave the same, which is nice.
Almost starting to look like something, and I haven’t made the burned out highlights in the water above the lip much worse.
Always easy. Still easy. Probably not a good test photo, but kind of too late to replace it with something now.