Capture One Pro 7 Quick Review

Choosing a RAW converter is a highly personal choice, kinda like choosing the type of emulsion was in the old days. I have a license for the majority of big players in the market (Capture One Pro, DxO Optics Pro Elite and Lightroom/Photoshop), partly out of curiosity, and partly the look they produce can significantly change from release to release. And also because you can’t know in which one a given image looks better. But the starting point, the converter I always try first, is Capture One Pro. So I was very excited to see a new release. Following are my observations working a few days with the software.

Retina Display Support

To be honest, this single feature worth the upgrade price for me. The immersive potential of working with files on a print-resolution screen is simply mind-blowing. You must try it in person to understand all of the benefits and experience this visual joy.

New Processing Engine

This is an incremental update to what I consider the best image quality in the industry. Don’t believe all the marketing bullshit, though. The fairly aggressive noise reduction in the Capture One 7 process is disastrous to details on anything I shot below ISO 800. I don’t say that the noise reduction is bad, just I find the default 50 way too much. If you are used to the huge amount of details Capture One can produce, just swing the luminance noise reduction slider back to zero or a small value. And presto, you’ll get back all the details. Other that that I prefer color from the new imaging engine. It also handles highlights on files from my 5D3 way better than the v6 process. I usually ETTR (expose to the right) optimize my exposures, so handling highlights well is of major importance for me. Lightroom 4 does a great job in this regard, but the v7 process is comparable. The net result is that I don’t have to back about 1/3 of a stop from the correct ETTR exposure to protect the extreme highlights.

It is a pity that the engine does not work at all in accelerated OpenCL mode on my retina MacBook Pro. The log file tells that:

OpenCL : found platform Apple, OpenCL Version 
       : OpenCL 1.2 (Aug 24 2012 00:53:09)
OpenCL Device : GeForce GT 650M
OpenCL Driver Version : CLH 1.0
OpenCL Compute Units : 2
OpenCL not enabled in Mac OS 10.8

Seriously hope that Phase will fix it in upcoming updates. It does take advantage of the 4-core/8-thread processor however. So overall responsiveness is very good. I just want some more as the GPU in the machine is capable of 4x the floating point performance of the CPU (253 vs 64 gigaflops)…

Catalogs

This is the same crap I struggled with in Lightroom 1 days… Tried to import my RAW archive containing about 30,000 images. After about 40 minutes of crunching the application hanged, so I had to kill it. This left the catalog corrupted, not a single folder showed up. Although Phase does not recommend large sessions, I’m still using a single session for all my images. If it gets lousy, I simply throw it out and start from scratch without any ill effects. I think the catalog is full of bugs (is this the crap they bought from Microsoft a few years back?) and operational gotchas, so I’ll skip it for the foreseeable future. One piece of advice if you start to experiment with it: importing into the catalog DOES NOT import previous image settings, UNLESS you explicitly mark it so with a semi-hidden check box on the import dialog. This should be the other way!

Live View with Canons

This is a rather irritating move from Phase: release an app with a feature that does not work at all! There are no workarounds, it just doesn’t work. Actually this is just another chapter of the buggy Canon EOS SDK saga that plagues OS X 10.7.5 and 10.8.x users. In my opinion they should disable this feature until Canon releases an SDK that finally works (their EOS Utility now does, so the SDK should be on the horizon). So because of this, I was unable to test this feature.

Verdict

Retina support +++, new processing engine ++ and -, catalog is a big – (I would not use it in the current form), live view for Canons is another big – (I’m using another solution by the way). The new release does bring improvements for the things I care about (especially retina display support), and is rather lousy in things I don’t give a damn about. So at the end I’m very happy with this release!

Update 12/2/2012:

Version 7.0.1 fixes some of the issues reported here.

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