Capture One is a premium Raw Developer package, squarely aimed at professionals who need to combine excellent results with a robust workflow and the ability to manage large numbers of big files swiftly.
Version eight refines the image optimisation, adds some welcome new features such as clone and heal, and improves the tethering for Nikon devices. In keeping with Capture One version 7, it offers you the opportunity to work in traditional Capture One sessions, or to run smallish catalogues using technology from Media Pro, which is also owned by software makers Phase One. In a straight ‘feature for feature’ shoot-out, Capture One will always lose out to Lightroom, especially when it comes to social media and geo-tagging features, and the ability to install plugins. In terms of absolute image quality, DxO probably gets just a tiny bit more from your images. However, when it comes to real-world, real photography applications, Capture One is unsurpassed.
It goes without saying that ‘Capture’ is a key component of ‘Capture One’. Originally designed for medium format digital backs, makers Phase One have extended the hand of friendship to Nikon users over several versions, first by supporting pro cameras, then by allowing tethering, then tethering with Live View, then adding support for more cameras and specific lenses, and now by making the whole package much smoother.
Here’s a test we ran with a D800, shooting an image for an advertisement called ‘Tools of the Trade’. Eschewing fancy light tents and studio flash (more on why in a moment), we set this up in the dining room, shooting with an 85mm tilt/shift lens onto a soft cloth background.
Why this particular setup? Partly to test out the real strengths of Capture One by making things as difficult as possible, and partly to be able to combine the illumination from an iPad with natural light — you’ll see why in a minute.
As per usual, we tethered the camera via a long USB-3 cable to the laptop. The USB-3 cable supplied with the D800 is far too short for any serious tethering, but we obtained a longer one from Lindy, which works just as well.
You see the tilt/shift lens, 85mm, with its odd set of controls. Actually, for this shot, we didn’t need to work with tilt/shift, but, if you’re doing studio work photographing objects, a tilt/shift can make an enormous amount of difference, giving you infinite depth of focus in a plane which is at an angle to the camera, and enabling you to control perspective.
However, the important thing about the 85mm t/s for this review is that it is manual focus only, and it is almost impossible to get right at the wider apertures without hours of squinting.
Here it is on the laptop. Thats a vernier calliper, and the really interesting thing about a vernier calliper from a photography point of view is that it only looks right if at least part of the scale is absolutely in focus. We’re in Live View, showing just a portion of the image. In fact, to get the focus exact, we zoomed in to about 800x, and then waited for the residual vibrations since the last time we touched the camera to die down. If you shoot with an autofocus lens, you can adjust the focus in Live View using fine and coarse adjustments. With a manual-only lens, we were still able to make the adjustments by hand and get it absolutely right.
An additional refinement of Capture One is that you can then use any web enabled device, or, with a special app, an iPhone or iPad to both review the images and to trigger them.
You don’t actually get Live View on this, and you can’t change the focus, but its very powerful when used correctly, and adds a lot to your ability to manage a complicated shoot, especially if you are working with an entire team. It requires wifi, which may not always be available in the field.
Once we’d got one image done, we needed to move on to a measuring microphone, an iPad and a fountain pen.
With the nib occupying a very small portion of the image — as we didn’t want to change the perspective by moving the camera — it was imperative that it was absolutely sharp. Here’s how sharp we got it.
More of the power of Capture One comes into play now. Because the captured images are displayed at the bottom of the screen, it’s relatively simple to match up the shadows so that everything points in the correct direction. There’s nothing like badly matched shadows to spoil the illusion, and you can’t do anything about it in Photoshop, unless you’re prepared to mask them all out and start again.
You can pre-match the white balance while you tether, so adjustments that you make to one image carry over to the others — neat.
Because of the way we set it up, and the adjustments we made while capturing, we didn’t need to do any further work in Capture One, though, if we had, there are controls for working with ‘technical’ lenses — i.e., tilt/shifts like our 85mm, which would have been invaluable if we were doing anything more extreme. We’ll look at tonal editing with a different image.
To complete the image, we needed to output to Photoshop for comping. Capture One is very strong in output. It comes with a standard set of ‘recipes’, and you can add your own, which allow you to prepare images exactly the way you want them and then do it consistently. I have a recipe for Nikonians which matches the image requirements. For this, we wanted a PSD full sized output. We could also have chosen DNG, PNG, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG XR, JPEG 2000 or JPEG QuickProof. Capture One saved the files as per our instruction and then opened them in Photoshop, ready for comping.
Here’s the final image:
The importance of available light should now be clear — if we’d used studio flash, the iPad display, coming from the measuring microphone, would have been black.
Total time from start of setup to finish: less than one hour.
Incidentally, if you try this at home, Capture One likes to wait a few minutes before first recognising a tethered D800. I don’t know why, but don’t think it isn’t working and start unplugging things, turning them on and off or restarting, as it will only slow things further.
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