Sunday, March 22, 2015

Capture One Pro Ver 8 from Phase One - A Brief Review


Introduction

With the decision by Apple to cease the development of Aperture and the early reviews of the "replacement" Photos app not being very positive (in terms of not being a true pro users tool and in no way a replacement for Aperture) I decided to take a closer look at Capture One Pro from Phase One. I had dabbled last year with an evaluation copy of Lightroom but was not overly impressed with the application. It was not that intuitive and felt clumsy in comparison to Aperture. Further more its embedded integration with the rest of the Adobe suite and the subscription issue did not really excite me. 

I downloaded a 30 day trial version of Capture One and evaluated the app with a set of images I had recently processed with Aperture to do a direct comparison. A brief review is described below showing my thoughts on a real life workflow process.

Image Import

I tested the file importation from a recent SD card with 480 RAW images taken on a recent trip to Thailand. You can choose to import to the Capture One Catalog or another external file location so I guess similar to Aperture with it's Library or referenced file option. There are options to add in Copyright info or preset filters as well as file renaming conventions. You can save the preset filters and a variety of Copyright settings.

The first time I tried to import images I noted there was no way to just choose RAW files in the import dialogue box .... it would choose all the RAW and JPG files together so you would end up with duplicate RAW files and JPG files in your catalog. I eventually found a Global Filter that allowed me to exclude all JPG files then you had to choose all the RAW files in the import dialogue box so that only the RAW files would be imported. A little clumsy  - it would have been so much easier had the import dialogue box had options like Aperture for RAW only, RAW+JPG pairs, etc.



As the files are imported previews are built and like Aperture you can choose the size of these previews. It took just over 7 mins to import the images and then 2.5 mins to finish building previews for the 480 photos, so a total of 9.5 mins. You can however start to work on the images before all the previews are completed in a similar way to Aperture.

For comparison I imported the same card into Aperture and this took 3mins 48 secs to import the 466 images and then a further 3 mins  22 secs to generate the previews for a total time of 7 mins 10 secs. So a big advantage (approx. 25% faster) for Aperture for the image ingestion.

Preview sizes for both Capture One and Aperture were set at the same size (fit 1920 x 1920).


File Management 

Capture One stores images in a "Catalog" whereas Aperture stores in a "Library". You can set up this Catalog on a local or remote disk system and you can set up a number of differently named Catalogs. You can store files in the Catalog or in another defined folder so a similar setup when compared to the Aperture Library and Referenced Files.


Capture One also has the ability to set up Projects within the Catalog and inside the Projects set up Groups, Albums and Smart Albums. So a very similar hierarchy to Aperture, other than an additional level of Groups, just different nomenclature.

Filters allow you to sort your Catalog by star ratings or colour tag or location.

First Impressions

The layout of Capture One is fairly intuitive and familiar. A large Viewer window takes up most of the workspace real estate with a smaller browser or thumbnail viewer at the bottom. At the top of the screen are an array of tool tabs and cursor tabs. On the left is a panel showing information about the library where the images are stored and filter options including ratings, colour tags, date, keywords and location data.



Tool Tabs


There are a number of tool tabs at the top left of the window allowing access to a range of categorised tools :

Library (to view catalog and folder locations and filter on start rating, colour tag or location data)
Capture (shows exposure evaluation of the image and where it is being stored, also tethered capture setup tools)
Colour (colour tools including white balance, colour balance, black & white options and colour editing)
Exposure (controls for exposure, contrast, brightness, saturation, highlights, shadows, curve tool, clarity and vignetting tools)
Lens (lens correction tools)
Composition (crop, rotation and keystone tools)
Details (focus, sharpening, noise reduction, film grain, moire and spot removal tools)
Local Adjustments (local adjustments like the brush tool in Aperture for any of the adjustments)
Adjustments (adjustments clipboard)
MetaData (keywords and metadata tools)
Output (file output tools with sizing and naming facilities)
Batch (batch process facility)

You can also setup your own customised tool tab with all the tools you perhaps use on a routine basis within your image workflow. This is a very useful and powerful capability.

Rating, Tagging, Keywording & MetaData

Like Aperture you can rate photographs by a star system (0 to 5 stars) and there is also a colour tag system you can use to tag photos for your own personalised reason. Keywords can be added for images as well as location. 


I have not found anyplace as yet that you can manually enter GPS coordinates of the photo location - there is a place in the EXIF data for GPS coordinates but this will probably only work for cameras with built-in GPS. The map function in Aperture is great for adding in locations of your images.

You can add IPTC metadata such as description, category, location, city, state, country, etc and you can then copy this metadata from one image to a set of images in a similar fashion that lift and stamp works in Aperture. However one first testing the copying of key attributes seems a little more clumsy than the Lift & Stamp option that Aperture offers.


Image Editing


Image editing is very comprehensive and has all the usual suspects such as exposure, contrast, brightness, saturation and a useful highlights and shadows tool under the High Dynamic Range tool set which is similar to Aperture's Recovery and Blackpoint tools. 

There is a really excellent automatic button which can automatically adjust key functions individually within the individual tool or globally using the large A icon in the top right tool bar. The global automated adjustment covers exposure, white balance, levels, highlights, shadows, rotation and even keystone (you can choose which ones you want in the global auto adjustment). I tried this on quite a number of images and the results were truly impressive and offering a rapid adjustment for images.



There are local adjustment capabilities for any of the adjustments and this seems similar to Aperture's Brushes tool for adjusting parameters locally within the image.


There is the usual cropping tool but a useful addition over what is available in Aperture is the Keystone tool allowing you to straighten bending verticals or horizontals.


There is range of colour tools for adjusting white balance and colour balance with a basic black and white tool and colour editor


Comparisons to Aperture

Capture One certainly has all the tools you would need to store, keyword, tag, and edit your images. In terms of usability it is hard to judge at the moment being a novice user ..... it seems slower than Aperture probably mainly due to unfamiliarity of where all the tools are and the best workflow process to adopt. 

Listed below are some of the first noted advantages of each product ..... I'm sure I will uncover more as I continue to test Capture One.

Advantages of Aperture


  • Robust and comprehensive image management
  • Flexible and non-linear workflow
  • Stacks
  • Extensive plug-ins to retain post processed images in Aperture Library (round tripping)
  • Mapping functionality for photo locations (Places).


Advantages of Capture One


  • Keystone adjust
  • The automatic adjust which adjusts exposure, white balance, levels and highlights and shadows works very well


Costs

The cost of a 2 seat personal license is Euro 229. Not cheap and by comparison Aperture was a bargain.


Conclusions

If I had to abandon Aperture I would certainly be very positive towards capture One, and certainly more so than Lightroom which I really didn't like.

I would imagine that once familiar and you had set up your optimised workflow with customised tool tabs it could be very powerful and an excellent replacement for Aperture.

At present I plan to continue to use Aperture up to the point that the OS no longer supports it properly or at the time that hopefully the new Apple Photos app becomes more mature and with the additional functionality required by pro photographers.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Photos




Have just downloaded the beta release of OS X 10.10.3 with the new Photos app and benchmarking this on my MacBookPro. I pulled in a very small Aperture library which was residing on my MacBookPro which seemed to go ok although the app was working overtime doing something as it processed the images (not sure what as there is not an activity window like you get in Aperture).

Photos appears to be fairly rudimentary although eventually after a bit of tweaking and browsing I found the histogram window, levels control, white balance adjustment and definition, noise reduction and vignette controls. 

Other editing tools comprise the usual basic exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast and black point sliders and colour sliders with saturation, contrast and cast controls.
There is a black and white option and definition and sharpening sliders.


However sad to see no star rating system carried over from the imported Aperture library - rather just converted to a key word with the star rating. Given that this is a very early release I hope Apple can focus on getting some power functionality into Photos to appease the many disillusioned Aperture users.

It appears to be very much an iPhoto type app rather than the serious pro Aperture app in its present guise.... .we shall see as this develops - let's hope Apple get a little bit more serious with this app as otherwise it is going to leave a lot of serious Aperture users eventually (if not already) to jump ship to Lightroom or Capture One.

I will continue to evaluate this new Photos app in the coming weeks and alongside this I am also evaluating Capture One from Phase One. More reports to come in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

i-Mac 27" Retina 5K vs MacPro - A Performance Analysis


I recently bought a new i-Mac 27" with the Retina 5K screen to replace my 6+ year old MacPro which although still going very well I thought it was time for an upgrade. The new i-Mac 27" 5K model appealed to me as a photographer as the screen resolution would be very valuable when editing and post-processing large RAW images.

I was interested to benchmark the performance of the new i-Mac against my MacPro and was very pleasantly surprised by the results.

Machine Specifications

The specifications of the two machines were as follows:

MacPro (Early 2008)



CPU : 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad Core Intel Xeon
Memory : 18 GB 800 MHz DDR2
Graphics Card : NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2048 MB
Storage : 1 x 4TB system disk, 2 x 3 TB RAID disk for photo archive and 1 x 4TB disk for system backup
Monitor : 30" Apple CinemaDisplay

The MacPro had been upgraded over the years with higher capacity storage disks added, memory upgraded to 24 GB and the graphics card upgraded from the original graphics card.

i-Mac 27" Retina 5K (Late 2014)



CPU : 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5
Memory : 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
Graphics Card : AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2048 MB
Storage : 1 x 3TB Fusion Drive, 2 x 4 TB Thunderbolt Western Digital RAID disk for photo archive, 1 x 6TB disk for system backup
Monitor : 27" Retina 5K (5120 x 2880)

The 27" i-Mac was ordered via the Apple online store and upgraded from the base model with maximum memory of 32 GB and a higher capacity 3 TB Fusion drive instead of the standard 1 TB Fusion drive. I did not upgrade the CPU to the i7 as I felt that there would not be a significant performance improvement for the photo editing and processing that I routinely use the machine for.

Benchmark Tests




I tested out 4 different benchmark tests using identical procedures to measure the difference in performance between the two machines. These tests represented standard processes I carry out when editing and post-processing my photos. The tests used different post-processing apps and were as follows:

1. Aperture - Export of 100 full resolution jpg images
2. PhotoMatix Pro - HDR processing of a 7 bracketed sequence of images
3. AutoPano Pro - Processing and blending of a 15 image panoramic sequence
4. FotoMagico - Rendering of a 4.35 minute long 720p movie from a slideshow

The same software versions and the same test images were used on both machines and times measured for each process.

Benchmark Results


The results clearly demonstrated the improved performance of the new 27" i-Mac ..... over 50% faster for most processes compared to the speed on the MacPro. Even given that the MacPro has 2 quad core CPU's it was no match for the newer CPU and probably the extra memory on the i-Mac 27".

Screen Resolution

The new 27" Retina 5K screen on the i-Mac was simply stunning and for my photography editing and post-processing this will be a major benefit. Also for showing off images and slideshows at high resolution this will also be a major improvement. When you use a high mega pixel DSLR it is nice to be able to take advantage of this resolution rather than having the final image on the screen downgraded to the lower resolution of the screen.





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Butchart Gardens - Brentwood Bay, British Columbia


The Butchart Gardens is a group of floral display gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada, located near Victoria on Vancouver Island. The gardens receive close to a million visitors each year. The gardens have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada due to their international renown.



Robert Pim Butchart (1856–1943) began manufacturing Portland cement in 1888 near his birthplace of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. He and his wife Jennie Butchart (1866–1950) came to the west coast of Canada because of rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production.

In 1904, they established their home near his quarry on Tod Inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island.

As Mr. Butchart exhausted limestone deposits, his enterprising wife Jennie, made plans to create something of beauty in the gigantic exhausted pit. From farmland nearby, she had tonnes of top soil brought in by horse and cart and used it to line the floor of the abandoned quarry. Little by little, the quarry blossomed into the spectacular Sunken Garden.





They named their home "Benvenuto" ("welcome" in Italian), and began to receive visitors to their gardens. In 1926, they replaced their tennis courts with an Italian garden and in 1929 they replaced their kitchen vegetable garden with a large rose garden to the design of Butler Sturtevant of Seattle. Samuel Maclure, who was consultant to the Butchart Gardens, reflected the aesthetic of the English Arts and Crafts Movement.



In 1939, the Butcharts gave the Gardens to their grandson Ian Ross (1918–1997) on his 21st birthday. Ross was involved in the operation and promotion of the gardens until his death 58 years later.

In 1953, miles of underground wiring was laid to provide night illumination, to mark the 50th anniversary of The Gardens. In 1964, the ever-changing Ross Fountain was installed in the lower reservoir to celebrate the 60th anniversary. In 1994, the Canadian Heraldic Authority granted a coat of arms to the Butchart Gardens. In 2004, two 30-foot (9.1 m) totem poles were installed to mark the 100th anniversary, and The Gardens were designated as a national historic site.






Ownership of The Gardens remains within the Butchart family; the owner and managing director since 2001 is the Butcharts' great-granddaughter Robin-Lee Clarke.

In 1982 the Butchart Gardens was used as the inspiration for the gardens at the Canadian pavilion opened at Epcot Centre in Orlando Florida.

In December, 2009 the Children's Pavilion and the Rose Carousel were opened. The menagerie includes thirty animals ranging from bears, to horses, to ostriches, to zebras and mirrors the world from which The Gardens draws its visitors. The designs were hand picked by the owner, in consultation with an artist from North Carolina. The carvings were done by some of the few remaining carvers of carousel art. Each animal is carved from basswood and took many months to complete. There are also two chariots able to accommodate disabled persons.










Monday, October 20, 2014

Napa Wine Train - Napa Valley, California




The Napa Valley Wine Train provides a relaxing three-hour, thirty-six mile round-trip journey from the historic town of Napa, California, through one of the world's most well known wine valleys to the quaint village of St. Helena, and back.

Guests aboard the Wine Train enjoy a freshly prepared lunch or dinner inside a fully restored 1915-1917 Pullman Dining Car or 1952 Vista Dome car as they pass the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley. They also have the option of pre-purchasing a winery tour.


The Napa Valley Wine Train's tracks were originally built in the 1860s to bring guests to the hot spring resort town of Calistoga. While the track to Calistoga no longer exists, much of the rest of the route of the Napa Valley Wine Train is unchanged. The tracks run through the heart of the world famous wine region. During the three hour journey, guests can see five towns; Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena; and numerous wineries through the large picture windows on board.

The Napa Valley Wine Train begins its journey at the McKinstry Street Station in Napa. The Train then travels north to St. Helena, where the locomotive disconnects from the north facing side of the Train and reconnects to the south facing side of the Train in preparation for the return journey. Currently, the Napa Valley Wine Train stops at different locations depending on the day of the week. Guests are only allowed to disembark at these locations if they have pre-purchased one of the Winery Tours.


The day we went on the Napa Wine Train trip from Napa to St. Helena and back was special for two reasons .... it was my wife's Birthday and it was also by chance the 25 year anniversary of the Napa Wine Train. So there were speeches, passengers dressed up in period costume, a 93 year old ex-engineer who came along and a gift of commemorative wine glasses for all passengers. The atmosphere was therefore very good to start with and after a few glasses of wine onboard was even better!

Luke, 93 years young, was an ex-engineer on the train so he showed up to celebrate the 25 year anniversary. He reminded me of TV series character Casey Jones. There was also a group of 3 ladies dressed in Victorian style dress and speaking to them I found out that they used to do fashion shows on the train. These characters really added to the nostalgic atmosphere on the train.