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The heavyweight championship of the world resumes…

It’s that time of year again when the battle for the RAW heavyweight championship of the world resumes.

Yaaawn……for the most part, but also somewhat entertaining.

The battle is between the Americans in the Adobe corner and the great Danes of Phase One.

Lightroom and Capture One have become the de facto standards in RAW processing over recent years and it’s a seesaw of upgrades where one follows the other with the best ever, revolutionary and never before seen ueber-fantastic hype.

But it’s never quite the quality revolution as, for example, Phase One would like you to believe with their new version of Capture One Pro.

Instead it’s a bunch of marketing heads getting together to design ever more superlative language in an attempt to capture your attention and subsequently your dollar.

In a maturing technology the kind of revolution Phase One refers to in their recent advertising is rather hard to come by (although not impossible). What we tend to see instead is an evolution of quality that brings noticeably improvements which each major upgrade. The same applies to both of the heavyweight camps.

Immediately after a software release the web forums fill with the descipels of  a software trashing the qualities (or perceived lack thereof) of the other.

Sometimes there are reasoned voices but often there are not.

I never quite understand why there are so many people seemingly having the need to dish either of the above software.

The fact is that both software are really really really good. Never perfect…but damn good.

I’ve been using both Ligthroom 4 and Capture One 6 (and now 7), and to me they’re the same of a sort with different flavors.

Neither is better than the other, just different.

Lightroom 4 has great workflow and integration with other Adobe products, as well as Nik and onOne software integration. It’s effectively a workflow hub through which other software can be channeled and accessed.

Personally I love it and I never had any of the bug issues that sometimes get reported by others.

It’s also snappy for me and performs in real time.

I love the quality of the image rendering and appreciate the variety of tools it provides.

For me it has meant less and less round trips into Photoshop, and more quick edits that speed up my productivity.

Capture One Pro 7 is also a highly capable RAW processor, although it lacks the integration with other imaging software.

The recent hype over image improvements and the new processing engine are all well and good.

What is important to me is the way the images look when finished.

At the pixel level there is more detail that for whatever reason can’t be got at in Lightroom.

On the other hand I feel that Lightroom is somewhat more photographic in its rendering of colours, detail and micro-contrast.

I’m not suggesting it’s cleaner or truer, but to me it feels more textural, buttery and a bit filmy.

C1 7 has a cleaner look but – to be honest – the default process is plain awful.

Not sure what the lovely people in Denmark thought when they ramped up the defaults to make images look like plasticine. I know that we can create our own presets but a good auto starting point would have been appreciated.

The Danes must have had the plasticky skin look of fashion magazine covers in mind when they went to work.

Anyway, with a bit of tinkering the RAW files do look great.

The micro-detail is such that the Adobe engineers should take a close look at the Dane’s algorithms (if only they could) and the overall feel of the image rendering is ‚modern‘.

C1 7 in it’s 7.0 version still has a few annoying bugs, at least for me on my Mac.

For example, the software randomly goes on strike when 4+ adjustment layers get applied in the local adjustment tool.

Nothing helps when this happens and a file just spits the dummy each time the cursor moves, resulting in a locked software and the need to force close.

Then no more adjustment layers can be applied to the affected file while other files are happy with additional adjustment layers.

Who ever said that computers and software weren’t temperamental? Don’t believe them!

I assume that the guys at Phase One are busy writing the 7.1 update and I hope that it won’t neglect the little niggles that make a workflow feel like a hard day at the office. I want to enjoy my editing and not wonder when the next crash comes.

Apart from these new-version hiccups C1 7 behaves and achieves well.

It’s expensive compared to Lightroom, but outside of Europe you can save on the GST.

And let’s be honest, if you can afford a Hassy you can also afford a rather expensive RAW processor to go with it. The rest of the mere mortal photographic community will just have to suck it and see.

I’m using it with my Nikon and am happy with the results.

Personally though, I still prefer Lightroom 4 for much of my work.

I have been double editing all my recent images through both software and tend to favour the final flavour of the Lightroom version.

But as both software are quite excellent in their own right I’ll keep going with both, and keep picking and choosing one over the other case by case (and when time allows).

I’ll also be blending the renders of each software in Photoshop to achieve maximum image definition in areas such as micro-detail where I feel that C1 7 currently has the edge over Lightroom 4.

Who could have imagined 10 years ago the outstanding quality achievable today with modern cameras and mature software.

It’s pretty awesome really…

Back up yer files – Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac

A few years ago, when I was madly busy, I had a cathartic moment.

It was in my earlier days of photographing digitally and, to be honest, I never thought that anything truly bad could ever happen to my hard drive.

Call it the ignorance of youth or whatever, but I kept putting off making a backup of my disk for about 3 years.

I was using a Mac and Macs were reputed to be reliable. So what could possibly happen?

Somewhere there I could hear Murphy chuckling, but there were all these other things to do and achieve and, well, life was busy.

So the practical things like backing up my hard drive got put off so I could keep busy with the fun stuff.

Wind back to a cold winters day sometime during 2004.

I was sitting on my couch working on an image in a rather relaxed and laid back manner.

Grabbing the cup of tea on my side I didn’t quite catch the handle.

The resulting split seconds, as the tea slowly drew its arch towards my Mac, are ingrained in my brain as a slow-motion horror flick that made my heart stop beating.

My Mac wasn’t happy and I can still feel the cold sweat on my neck just thinking about it.

A lesson I learned a few years prior was useful here.

Back then I opened up my television after my cat peed in it.

I just wanted to know what a tele looks like inside and the tele didn’t work anymore, so I thought to satisfy my curiosity once and for all.

After washing down the tv with the garden hose, and having a good snoop around its innards, I put the tv in the garden shed to be taken to the dump.

Now wind forward a few months.

With the summer approaching I came across the tele again while looking for a spade.

Being curious again I plugged it in and – bingo – it went like a new one. This thing just couldn’t be killed.

This valuable experience helped me with my computer situation.

After the tea went into the Mac – and sloshed around a bit – I quickly pulled the battery and placed the dear thing on my underfloor heating to wait an agonising two weeks for it to dry out.

Long story short.

The thing started up, the hard drive worked and I managed to get all my valuable files onto a backup disk that I purchased during the days of waiting for the verdict.

Now bring in Carbon Copy Cloner software, which is a thing of beauty.

CCC will make a doddle of backing up your files.

It can do so many things that Apple’s ‚Time Machine‘ can’t that the full price of naught is – in my opinion – fully justified.

That’s right, $0 dollars if you are still on Snow Leopard (like me) or before, and you like to use the free  3.4.6 version.

Lion or Mountain Lion users pay in the range of NZ$38 bucks for the latest version (3.5.1) that is fully certified for the latest operating systems.

The really useful feature is CCC’s ability to make bootable backups, which Time Machine can’t.

You’ll appreciate the difference when you get a critical systems failure and can’t afford the days or weeks for it to get fixed.

So get a copy of CCC and spend an entertaining afternoon backing up your hard disk (or if you have a life do it over night while you sleep).

Then wake up in the morning feeling relaxed, cleansed and free of worries.

Feel relieved that – knowing in your mind and heart – your next cuppa won’t be quite as menacing as the one in my distant past.

(Download link: http://www.bombich.com/download.html)

ColorMunki Photo – doesn’t want bananas but performs ok anyway

I’ve had a go with the ColorMunki Photo monitor/print profiler and must say I’m happy (so far).

The first monitor calibration of my MacBook Pro looks good.

That’s something I’ve never achieved with the last profiler I used, an older profiler from x-rite with the i1Match software from about a few years back.

So the ColorMunki did well.

The contrast and colour looks good and it seems that the profile is a decent (although not perfect) match for the sRGB colour space.

The profile clips the greens and reds a bit – compared to sRGB – but extends the blues.

I think the clipping is due to the screen limitations of the MacBook Pro rather than the ColorMunki’s capabilities.

So overall the match is fine for non-critical work and to publish to the web.

I uncaged the munki using the NEC SpectraView Profiler 5 software (made by BasicColor) and the profile created is a slight improvement with better gradients and a slightly flatter gamma.

SpectraView Profiler 5 offers a decent report with lots of information re targeted and achieved colour values. It also gives good information re achieved delta e values.

The software uses far more colour patches than the munki software to create the profile, so I assume it would have to be slightly more accurate.

According to the SpectraView Profiler software the munki hardware did well as a measuring device.

The ColorMunki software is too limited to offer much post-calibration and profiling information. But it’s a consumer product, not a full professional device, so that’s to be expected.

It’s targeted at the kind of user who wants a nicely balanced screen, but doesn’t have enough technical knowledge to understand much of the data that gets generated during monitor calibration.

I’ll probably upgrade to the BasicColor Display 5 software (same as the re-batched NEC version) and live happily ever after.

I might also get something like the NEC Spectraview 241 monitor – with extended color gamut – for colour critical work. This has the (re-batched BasicColor Display 5) software supplied as part of the package.

To sum it up.

Happy with the tool as a monitor calibrator as is, but still happier when combining it with more sophisticated software.

If it does this well when creating printer profiles than it’s a worth while investment for the photographer who needs a good match between display and output.

As a bonus, the device is roughly NZ$600 here in Germany and that’s a lot cheaper than what it goes for in NZ.

So in this case, paying peanuts and getting a munki is a good thing.

Video showing the use of Lightroom 4

I have ordered the ColorMunki Photo colour management tool from x-rite photo yesterday.

While I was brushing up on my colour management skills I came across a good webinar series dealing with colour management using Lightroom 4.

The series is on the x-rite website and offers, in my opinion, a really good intro to the general use of Lightroom 4.

Check it out at:

http://xritephoto.com/ph_learning.aspx?action=webinarsarchive&eventid=1266&eventdateid=5152

It’s an hour+ long, so make yourself a cuppa and settle down to learn a few new Lightroom tricks.

Android remote controls for Nikon

To all the Nikon users who until now felt a little aggrieved by the absence of a decent Android remote control app for your dSLR cameras…rejoyce.

In recent months two apps have become available through the ‚Google Play‘ market that allow cabled control of most camera settings.

The apps even offer live view.

Both apps rely on the tethering of a mobile phone, or tablet, to your camera via a USB-on-the-go-cable. That is basically a small adapter cable that connects your mobile phone with the USB cable of your camera.

‚dSLR Dashboard v0.26.5 beta‘ is a free app that seems well supported by the developer and is actively progressed towards a full release.

Currently not all advanced functions work and the interface is a bit clumsy.

‚RYC USB Pro‘ is also a beta release and costs less than a cheap bottle of wine.

Not all advanced functions work but the interface is currently a lot more attractive than that of ‚dSLR Dashboard‘.

Both apps seem well liked by the Android user community.

I have used both during recent excursions and have managed to maximise image sharpness by not touching my camera before exposures.

With my longer lens it makes a significant difference.

I use it for landscape photography in conjunction with delayed exposures.

This flicks the mirror out of the way and any vibrations dissipate before exposure.

Check it out. A cheap alternative to the very pricey Nikon remote options.