The latest full release – no longer Beta, and accepting previous C1 Pro activation keys for unlimited access but otherwise now on 30-day trial – of Capture One v4 now handles Sony Alpha 700 raw files and transforms high ISO rendering in comparison to the industry standard Adobe Camera Raw.
Capture One 4.0.1 is, oddly, released at the same time as an update to Capture One Pro v3.8 which adds other new Canon, Nikon and Olympus models but not the Alpha 700. Version 4 is not dubbed ‘Pro’ but it’s far more advanced in interface and workflow than the earlier ‘Pro’ version. It is almost as if there are two entirely separate development teams at work.
C1 v4.0.1 allows browsing of folders, like Bridge, without importing or creating libraries. The directory structure is shown normally, using GUI-familiar heirarchy and navigation. It can be set to send the processed image to Photoshop, so single file handling can resemble Bridge. Options include a wider range of colour spaces (ICC profiles) than Bridge/Adobe Camera Raw, and a freely resizable output, which you can specify by percentage up or down. All the familiar ACR-type controls are present and the interface closely resembles LightRoom or ACR in organisation and values for adjustments. It is considerably slower to use for single images than Bridge/ACR, about the same as LightRoom, but lends itself more to batch processing.
C1 creates copy files for every image you process, whether sent to Photoshop or not. These reside in your user/home Pictures directory by default, and you may want from time to time to erase them. They do provide valuable back-up copies of the image before any further PP work but they also eat disk space and are part of the reason for the slower performance of C1.
This is not a full review or test! It is just a very quick check, using a convenient ISO 1600 file shot last weekend, which shows enough to completely K.O. ACR 4.3.1 and then wipe the floor from corner to corner with it, dragging Adobe’s utlity round by the hair. If a rematch is scheduled, Adobe will need to do a lot of hard training quick.
OK, here’s Adobe Camera Raw 4.3.1 on neutral parameters (usual stuff – no sharpening, native size export, no luminance NR, 50 Chroma NR):
It’s not bad for colour, exposure was reduced by 1/3 stop and highlight recovery set to 50 (settings which were also used in C1) to pitch the image as a dark, late in the day shot through glass at Edinburgh Zoo. It’s wide open on the Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 cheapie zoom, which I have been trying out because the price dropped to around Â£110 in the UK and it has a good macro focus distance. 140mm at f4, 1/125th with SSS. Thick and slightly dirty glass, the Golden Cat has big mucky paws and obviously takes an occasional swipe at wee neds knocking on the double glazing.
At this size you really can’t tell if it is any good. Here is the Capture One version with similar overall settings, and Capture One’s Alpha 700 default colour profile:
Again, you can’t tell much, but there are significant colour differences and C1 does create some visible posterisation of tones. Not everything is wonderful. The balance of tones needed equal highlight recovery and exposure cut to hold in the highlights, but this has made the midtones a fair bit darker (identical exposure adjustment was set). Now take a look at a 100 per cent detail of the ACR 4.3.1 version:
You can see the big confetti patches in the dark background. Those can be worse in mid tones and colours.
Now check the C1 version:
OK, it’s dark, but with a properly calibrated monitor you will see the extremely fine pixel-size ‘grain’ of the C1 version. It completely contradicts the idea that A700 files are in some way coarser than D300 files (etc). Copy the file and open it in Photoshop/PSP etc, lighten it, view the noise structure. You will be surprised:
Now look at that grain compare to ACR again:
Which ‘camera’ would you buy?
It is easier to judge these pictures from full size JPEG Level 12 example which I’ve put on pBase:
Some brief tests on other files show that C1 v4 is not always as smooth, and ACR may be better for some low ISO images. I have no really suitable 6400 shots to try yet, but it’s very clear from the few night-time snaps I have that C1 v4 will transform their quality relative to ACR 4.3.1.
To try C1 v4.0.1 for 30 days, or upgrade from registered C1 Pro versions (it accepted my unlock code number) go to:
– David Kilpatrick