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…

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