Friday, April 17, 2015

My final thoughts on Capture One Pro 8 and Fuji X-Trans Files

Note: I decided to use my photos from a recent trip to the Angeles Range at Lake View Terrace, California. This photo set demonstrates the amount of detail you are able to extract from a TIFF file once it has been converted from RAW. The range is set up so shooters are comfortably shaded under a long awning, while the targets are out in the open sun. Metering appropriately was extremely challenging, but you will see below that Fuji files have amazing dynamic range. All RAW files were imported into Capture One Pro 8, converted to TIFF files and imported to Lightroom for editing. Gear used: Fuji XT-1, Fuji 56mm f/1.2 and an adapted Olympus OM 24mm f/2.8

To see my previous post on Capture One Pro, click HERE

An HDR sample using three TIFF files (slightly over-cooked). Nik software was used to combine all exposures
I have spent a significant amount of time working with Capture One Pro 8 (C1P for short) and in my opinion is a far better raw converter than Lightroom 5 (LR5 for short), whether I am using Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and/or Fuji files. The files just seem to have more punch, detail and clarity - things that are extremely important to me when I deliver files to clients. While some may argue that C1P has a good starting point and that LR5 with some tweaking can get to where they want, my experience suggests otherwise. Pete Bridgewood offered some great sharpening tips for LR5 that has greatly improved Fuji Raw files, but not to the same extent as C1P to my eyes. I started to notice some artifacts in my out-of-focus areas but only at the pixel peeping levels. 

I ended up going to the range with the same co-worker who bought a Fuji X-T1 based on limited use with mine. Instead of using a dedicated scouting scope to determine where our shots land, we used the Fuji X-T1 with a terribly inexpensive Rokinon 500mm, fixed aperture mirror lens.  Optically it is nothing to write home about, but as a component for a "digital" scout scope, it worked perfectly. Due to the crop factor you get an effective field of view of 750mm. You can essentially double your range by using the magnify zoom feature. I would have never thought to do this and I'm glad he taught me another way to use my camera. 
This is a Remington 700 bolt action with an upgraded Arctic Stock. Very cool toy. For this particular shot, I did a middle of the ground metering - pretty much an average of the highlight and shadow regions. There is definitely a lot of room for recovery.

For this particular shot, I metered for the shadow areas (my co-worker). While it may seem like I had lost all of the blue in the sky, this particular time of day was overcast and gloomy. 

An hour into our range time, the clouds parted and the blue sky made an appearance. I decided to swap to my Olympus 24mm with an intent to get a little more context of the range. I metered for the hills with intent to recover the shadows. In my opinion, it did an admirable job. What do you think?
So the million dollar question: Will I transfer my post processing workflow over to C1P. The answer is unfortunately, no. Simply put, I couldn't get behind the user interface. The functionality was very backwards to me and I spent a good amount of time trying to navigate the controls.  While I liked some of the features such as the color correction wheel and color blending, I found it very lacking in the portrait touch up department. A good portion of my work is portrait photography and I fix minor blemishes very quickly and seamlessly in LR5. I find Adobe's algorithms for healing and cloning at the top of its class. I spent a good half hour trying to edit a client headshot and I could not effectively clean up the file to my standards. This ultimately made my decision for me. I primarily blame myself for not being proficient with this tool, but for what it's worth, I found the LR learning curve to be extremely low. 

This is an example of a shot where the lighting was ideal. Enough light was coming to the shooters right creating a balance, so to speak, of light. Uploading the Raw file directly to lightroom left me feeling unenthused due to the muddy details. I know I shouldn't pixel peep, but it's a way to benchmark my files. 
I added this only because I don't get many photos of myself, especially doing something cool as skeet shooting. 

Part of me feels I did not give C1P a fair shake, but I just couldn't "invest" the finite amount of time (and money) I have to a new program. What honestly put the nail in the coffin for me was Fuji's recent release of their own Raw Converter (using the Silky Pix platform). Although I find C1P far more sophisticated and "sharper", Fuji's software was good enough for my needs and more importantly it is free. I will follow up this post with more examples from Silky Pix. 

-Dino

Note: By converting your raw files to TIFF, I noticed I lost my ability to use the popular camera profiles Fuji is known for. I personally am a huge fan of the Classic Chrome profile and not being able to utilize it as a creative tool was a little disappointing. If anyone knows a work around for this, I would greatly appreciate the advice