I've been using Capture One as the core of my architectural photography workflow for about a year and a half now, and having started out with 7.0, like many of us I have my fair share of scars and scrapes from climbing up the learning curve (and in 7, oh what a learning curve it was: early C1 7 builds were so buggy that as a new user, figuring out whether something didn't work because you didn't know how to use the tool or the tool was just plain broken put me in the habit of keeping forum.phaseone.com open in a browser on my second monitor most of the time--and don't get me started about seeing the crash dialog more than my photos!). Despite the pain, suffering, and frequent restarts, the results were definitely worth it. Later 7 builds got better, and I settled into a solid though sometimes frustrating workflow assisted by a small pile of shim scripts. One of the side effects of having a computing science degree is the tendency to say "if this isn't working exactly the way I want it to, pull out your editor and hack scripts until it does", and I've done a lot of this over the last while. It's a general rule (right up there with 'expose for the highlights') that Thou Shall Not Deploy A New Capture One Release Into A Critical Workflow, particularly when the release ends in zero. As luck would have it, the C1 8 announcement hit my mailbox a week or so into the start of September, which was the start of the most horrifically busy shooting season of the year, thanks to the Georgie Awards and a number of my clients having late-finishing projects. So I called the folks at Capture Integration to ensure that I could install 8 alongside 7, giving me a good safety net in case things went off the rails. With a mix of anticipation and trepidation, I hit the download link and installed 8, hoping for the best and fearing the worst.
Within a couple of hours, I'd spun one of my projects through it, giving it a good workout and exercising a number of new features. To my surprise and delight, the only crashes I experienced were due to it not having a proper license code, so a few hours later, I was on the phone with CI once again to snag one and call it an upgrade. Having been working with C1 8 for a few weeks now, there's a lot to love, and a few things that of course need improvement:
- Speed and stability. I edit on a mid2011 27" iMac with 24gigs of RAM and a 250gig SSD, and capture tethered on a mid2011 13" MacBook Air with 4gigs of RAM. Both run Mavericks. That's two ends of the spectrum, and 8 is both a lot faster and more importantly, more stable on both machines, Over the past few weeks, I've had maybe 10 crashes tops in near-daily use, and several of those were due to a glitchy Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter on the Air. Rendering and a lot of interface actions feel snappier, and exporting JPGs and TIFs, especially on the iMac, really scoot along. In fact, I've ended up hitting the Process button twice a few times before realizing that a single file export happened faster than C1 could throw up a progress indicator. Awesome. (Now I have to script a 'ding' on process completion, as Lightroom does, to keep me from doing this)
- Better support for sessions on network drives. When I'm done delivering a project, I throw the whole session onto my QNAP NAS. In C1 7, for reasons known only to the boys in Denmark, sessions on network drives were horribly unstable. So much so that I got into the habit of downloading sessions back onto my local hard drive and then RSyncing them back up to the NAS, lest C1 hose completely. This is now almost unnecessary. There is one case where it seems to be necessary still, and that's when migrating from a 7 session and regenerating previews. More on that later. But once you have an 8 session with previews built, you have the luxury of being able to edit on a session without having to pull it onto a local drive first.
- New highlight/shadow recovery processing. When shooting interiors, I often end up using highlight recovery to pull skies and window areas on interiors into a range that looks reasonable but doesn't require me to do exposure fusion and sky replacement. If I'm shooting on the Phase, there's so much dynamic range available that what would often require multiple shots and exposure fusion to pull off can be done with a flick of a slider. 7's algorithms for highlight and shadow recovery were...touchy, to say the least. It was often a matter of a few points on a slider between 'great' and 'weirdly fake'. 8 is much better in this regard in most places, though there are a few places where the old algorithm gave better results. I'd hope that there will be a 'classic' vs 'new' setting on those sliders in some future version, just like the ability to select your Clarity algorithm.
- Adjustment layer improvements. This is HUGE. The ability to do highlight/shadow recovery on an adjustment layer, at long last, convinced me to pull my wallet out and finger my credit card. The ability to change white balance on an adjustment layer was worth the price of the upgrade, and the risk of causing myself pain by, uh, throwing a Phase One .0 release into a critical workflow. These two features have saved me enough time and frustration to pay for the upgrade right there. Local white balance and local recovery are the two things that would often have me creating multiple variants, processing to multiple Photoshop layers, and using layer masks to bung the whole thing back together. That was of course slow but often necessary. The new Repair Layers I've found to be of limited usefulness, but I also haven't explored them much either yet. If I need to do that level of work on an image, chances are I'm going to be taking a round trip into Photoshop anyway.
- Templates. I've always liked the ability of Workspaces to put your palettes and tool tabs where you want them, and it's nice to finally have the same ability for stuff like tether settings, folder layouts, and naming rules. (But why can't I use the image number as an element in a Processing naming rule? I'd love to be able to change IMG_2755 or TQ-west13-2755 into MKPhoto_2755 on delivery.)
- Tethering improvements. I shoot almost entirely in a tethered workflow on location, so this is pretty critical. My P45 has always been pretty stable tethered, but C1 has had occasional weird issues tethering my Canon 5D Mark II. C1 8 seems to be a lot better in this regard, but the longstanding bugs in magnifying in live view seem to still be outstanding. If you don't need live view, C1 8 is a lot better than 7, but I still find myself using EOS Utility for tethering and dumping the files into the Capture folder, letting C1 merrily generate previews in the background. EOS Utility's live view support is far and away better than C1, still, at least on my 5D2.
- Masking. The masking tools are less laggy than the ones in 7, but I keep running into weirdness with Auto Mask working inconsistently, and the flyout that lets you choose draw/erase mask, well, not flying out. If you're using the speed keys to move between these tools, this UI weirdness is not such a big deal. However, about every third 7 maintenance release, the eraser on Wacom Intuos-series tablets no longer toggles the erase tool as it should. Guess what? 8's is broken again. (Yes, I know you can set up a macro in the Wacom control panel to work around this, but then that breaks when C1 fixes it. You just can't win.)
- LCC generation is still single threaded. I shoot with a tech cam, which means creating an LCC for just about every shot. Unless I absolutely need one on location, I end up generating all my LCCs en masse when I load the session onto my editing machine. It's mildly annoying that I have to watch one CPU get pegged while I'm forced to go get tea or surf the net while I wait for a couple dozen LCCs to build before I can really get down to work on a session. Unlike C1 7, you can generate LCCs en masse without corrupting your session, which used to happen so frequently in 7 that I'd do the LCC generation on a backup, throwaway copy of the session.
- 7 to 8 session migration. I've tried opening a lot of 7 sessions in 8, and I can count the number of times it's actually worked on one hand. That's not too surprising given the number of times I've had a session file break between 7 maintenance releases. I no longer bother, since all the critical metadata and editing decisions are outside the session anyway. I'll just blow away the .cosessiondb and regenerate it. Which forces a regeneration of all the previews, but at least I have a stable, and fast, session at the end of it all.
- Regenerating previews en masse on a network drive. I've had mixed results with this. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes regenerating previews will hang in the middle of the job and never complete, in which case copying the session onto a local drive before rebuilding will do the trick. I haven't benchmarked, but I suspect that copying, rebuilding previews, and RSyncing back is potentially faster. This seems to be better on AFP-mounted shares, which means there might be some weird network compatibility thing going on.
- Running externally edited TIF files through a C1 process recipe. Because C1 process recipes are so awesome for setting metadata, resizing, and ensuring consistent colour profiles on the fly, I usually prefer to edit what I can in C1, then work files in Photoshop, select the edited Photoshop TIFs in C1, rate them accordingly, and process them using C1. There is a bug, acknowledged by Phase One, that causes the previews to get out of sync and Regenerate Previews to not work correctly, causing exports of edited TIFs to fail with a Code 19 or other oddities. If this bites you (and it bites me all the time), close C1, fire up a Terminal window in your Capture folder or wherever you're processing from, and run: rm CaptureOne/Cache/Thumbnails/*tif* rm CaptureOne/Cache/Proxies/*tif* then reopen C1, and once it regenerates the previews for the files you want to export, process and you'll be good to go. This video shows how it breaks (and it still breaks in 8.0.1)
All in all, apart from a few niggling complaints, I'm the happiest I've ever been with a C1 release, and I'm very glad to have take the risk of upgrading at the busiest time of the year.