Capture One Pro v12 vs. Adobe Lightroom Classic for a Fuji User

The Background:

Being a Fujifilm X systems camera user, which are those Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor, Raw conversion has always been a concern. Typically, 99.5% of the cameras out there use a Bayer filter over the sensor. This is a filter that passes all the red color data, but the remaining blue and green colors only have half their data passed and the rest is interpolated to make it 100%. Fuji is all about color and that method just didn’t jive with them since color matters so much. They invented a new filter, the X-Trans, which in a nutshell passes all color data in a different array but its all true color, not created by the camera or other software.

This type of Raw file created by Fujifilm is not able to be processed by the accepted software in place at the time and even now only a few forward thinking companies process X-Trans Raw files. Adobe has always done a poor job converting X-Trans Raw files and that continues, but Adobe has a nice photography post processing tool called Lightroom which is a pretty good tool for working on an image after the Raw conversion is completed. Other companies have stepped up with excellent Raw conversion, Iridient Developer comes to mind, but using one product to convert and then getting into Lightroom (Lr) is an inefficient process so if you seek quick, efficient workflow you are left with using Adobe’s crummy conversion process which has produced “worm” looking artifacts, and a less sharp image afterwards. You can address some of this using Lr’s excellent tools and get an acceptable image but it takes time and is never really perfect.

And now, Capture One:

Last fall Capture One, which is Phase One’s software side, announced a support deal worked out between Fujifilm and and Capture One. Capture One is a conversion and post processing tool that existed for Phase One’s top caliber very expensive medium format cameras. It quickly became the darling of the digital medium format professional users with its in studio tethering ability, awesome colors, and standard post processing capability. Professionals use more than one camera and many also shot Nikon and Canon and asked Capture One to support their other systems and Capture One (C1) decided to comply. Now professionals had a great software product across all their camera platform which they could tether with, and post process with, within reason. For more in depth work like healing, or cloning, and for local and global adjustment they still used Photoshop (Ps) which has Layers. And levels, and Curves, and an extremely wide range of adjustment and enhancement capability. So you shot, did some minor work in C1 then imported to Ps and finished things off. Still not real efficient as a workflow but the results made it worth it.

Phase One’s Capture One supported Fujifilm X-Trans Raw files from near the beginning but that was Raw conversion and C1’s basic post processing only. C1’s Fuji Raw file conversion was, and still is, some of the best available. Far better than Adobe. Only Iridient Developer matched or maybe exceeded C1. C1 did not support many lens profiles though, no film simulations and just the newer X system cameras when they got around to it. When Fujifilm came out with their own medium format, the GFX50s, it wasn’t supported at all. Phase One NEVER supported competitive medium format (MF) cameras and even today, Fujifilm’s GFX is the only MF they do support. Thats what happened and was announced last September. FULL support for all current day Fujifilm cameras, even offering a Fujifilm specific version if you didn’t want the full blown “support the world” Pro version. Same everything but only for Fujifilm whereas the Pro version supports 90% of the available manufacturers - Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, etc. Oh, C1 also announced Fujifilm Express, a bare bones processing and Raw conversion tool for FREE. Just download it and go. Let that sink in. Full support for Fujifilm and for enthusiasts on a budget, a free version to satisfy. Fuji and Phase One working together. Love it.

Around version 10 or 11, C1 did an overhaul on their product and upped their game offering additional adjustment features and functions. C1 now has Levels, Curves, LAYERS, and all the sharpening, exposure, noise reduction, highlight and shadow sliders, brushes, masking, and their EXCELLENT color adjustment tools. plus tethering, Raw conversion and film simulations. YES! Fujifilm’s film simulations. To me, they are the best, most accurate film simulations on the market right now. Boom! All this in one product. I used C1 in my studio and on larger location shoots when I shot with Nikon cameras. I loved it. But when I went Fuji, I went with their MF camera too and that was a no-no for C1, so I used a combo workflow involving Iridient Developer, Lr and Ps. I kept my C1 file key and the v9 product though just in case . So now, I could go back to C1, if I wanted to and either subscribe monthly or buy the Fujifilm version outright. I already own several post processing products so it wasn’t just a slam dunk to spend more. On a lark, I brought up version 9 and found an upgrade path to the all encompassing Pro version for a really good deal. So I did it.

Using it:

I’ve been working with C1 on newly shot images and, since my work has slowed to only a few days a week when work is there, I pulled in a few older Raw images from my Adobe archives. Right off the colors where very accurate, maybe a hair more saturated compared to Lr files but then who is to say Lr is right? I tend to like the colors, especially skin tones, and its easy to reduce color saturation if I want to. As a matter of fact, after watching a couple 4-5 minute tutorials and playing around in my “sandbox” of misc. files, I’ve gotten pretty good with masking, and have come to love using Layers in C1. As good as Layers are, so are C1’s Levels and Curves functions. I can get results faster, and my images have more punch, pizzaz, whatever you want to call it, but they look better to me. I think it starts with the Raw conversion because right off, you WILL see a difference in a C1 converted file vs. using anything else except Iridient Developer. Starting with a well converted Raw file just makes such a huge difference. Many times, I can just select my desired Film simulation, sharpen it a bit and I’m done. I’m using Layers to sharpen locally, for color management and for adding to the overall image sharpness where its needed and can make a difference. I can often mask a sharpened area, invert it and drop the background by an 1/8 stop or more to get something to stand out. Nice effect if wanted. Easily done. I use layers to burn and dodge, and for healing and cloning. C1’s most glaring weakness, if it can be called that, is its clone and heal tools. While better than Lr, they do not match Ps. As I postulated, maybe thats on purpose, I mean you have to start and stop things someplace and maybe the C1 engineers think advanced cloning and healing is better done with Ps. I have not had to import to Ps to heal or clone yet, C1 has been more than capable to date but I’m more of a in camera guy and don’t invoke Ps a great deal. Right now, for me the clone and heal functions work well for my work.

C1 has a Keystone slider which does the things I liked to do in Lr’s Transform panel. I can straighten walls and lines but I mostly use it for people pics by slimming them down a notch. You know, the lens adds ten pounds to a person? Well I take those pounds off. Seriously, some lenses can present a person a bit out of proportion so I sometimes make minor adjustments as needed. Its nice that C1 has that feature now. Of note is that a recent upgrade added support for almost every Fuji lens profile so maybe Keystone is not needed so much now. I tend to set my film simulation as a start, then maybe adjust colors but lately, I have been setting levels and curves adjustment first, then jump back to color to finish up. I rarely touch the Exposure tool panel anymore, using the HDR or highlight and shadow sliders in conjunction with levels and curves. C1’s handling of film grain as noise is right on with the internal handling done by Fujifilm’s cameras. Of the options offered, I tend to like silver grain the best. C1’s clarity slider also offers a separate structure slider and four different types of clarity. Clarity is still a medium not-quite-micro contrast tool and for me and my style of exposure, works better than a contrast slider. I often do nothing with clarity preferring to use the Nik Color Efex Pro tool to help there. Yes, Nik tools work very well with C1, the same as Lr. a good tip which works for me, is once I select a film sim, check the color, and look over my histogram, I hit the auto button for levels and make any minor adjustments, usually to mid tones. Then I sort of use curves to bring parts of the image to where I want in terms of exposure and tone. These are small movements on the curve! If needed, I use Layers with the exposure slider to burn and dodge. If not I set my film grain, adjust noise reduction if required, do overall background low pass sharpening, then fire up a Layer to sharpen my subject selectively. I don’t do this all the time but thats sort of how it works. This takes maybe 2-5 minutes per image. I’m working on setting up a batch process and import process to do much of this. Those will then be pretty much identical to out of camera images. Thats where I want to be for 80% of my work. Let me add that noise reduction is excellent and applied at conversion. Ditto for sharpening. I tend to walk back the degree of sharpening but it just depends on the image and subject. C1’s sharpening tools though are some of the best i have used, third party or from Adobe. Again, Iridient Developer has this sharpening method that works similarly but C1 makes it easier to apply.

Ok, more later as I learn more. I love using C1 and its made a difference. I haven’t talked about its output processing but that is really, really nice. I can create one set of jpgs for print, and at the same time provide a customer with smaller social media files sized for various social media platforms. One press of the button. If you haven’t tried C1, you should. Try the free version but I’m just sayin, you will probably be hooked.