Relatively hot on the heels of version 5, Phase One have just released version 6 of Capture One RAW processor. My work is predominantly monochrome at present, so I was very interested to learn that the developers have improved the black and white conversion workflow of this new release. For the first time, the release is a native 64 bit application offering faster performance with the aid of OpenCL/GPU acceleration, although some users’ graphics cards and drivers may not be fully compatible. In terms of new features the list looks like this:-
- Browser Filmstrip mode
- Smart Albums
- Search and Filter
- Full-screen mode
- A new Loupe tool
- Black-and-White conversion
- Local adjustments
- Support for Capture Pilot an iPad application
- Integrated Movie import and viewing
- Advanced file naming
- Multiple readouts
Many other features are improved including enhanced support for V4 ICC profiles. I was most interested in the new monochrome features. The interface has a new ‘Black and White’ workspace, shown below, which pulls together all the tools you need to make a rapid start. This version offers many new preset styles you can use to quickly produce a result, or to use as a starting point. There are 13 new monochrome presets, 9 split tone presets and 15 single color toning presets to choose from, in addition to the few basic presets provided in earlier versions. I was more interested, though, in whether the new functions would allow you the control needed to refine tonal balance, even if you start from a basic preset and then refine your result from there.
The filmstrip feature and navigation panel made it easy to find and review images, and I was easily able to make a virtual Variant of my selected image on which I could make all the ‘non-destructive’ edits in the conversion process. Within minutes, even as a novice user, I was able to produce the image below using the new controls. I did not use a preset, but instead started from scratch, using the colour sliders in the new interface to set up a basic conversion and worked from there towards a finished picture. Very easy, and very flexible; the color sliders allowing you plenty of subtle control over the resultant tonality. First, I set the viewer background to ‘light’ to make it easier to gauge the conversion, then all I used was the colour sliders, the levels histogram, clarity and vignetting controls to produce the final image.
I fancy that the resulting image looks more film-like than my other conversions of this shot, which were previously done in ACR6 and Photoshop CS5 using Silver Efex Pro. The results from this quick test were satisfying enough for me to want to explore this version of Capture One much more fully. I then made a preset style out of the settings used here and quickly experimented with that versus C!’s built in conversion options and some of JFI Labs BW film profiles. More on that particular experiment a little later, but rest assured that the features in this release are more than enough to achieve really good monochrome conversions.
The image was shot on a Leica M9 Rangefinder coupled with a Zeiss ZM 35mm f2 Biogon lens at f/5.6, 1/750th, ISO 160 (updated from the first draft; a second shot from the same session has now been included since the first image was incorrectly focussed – my thanks to the RFF forum contributor who spotted the error).
Here is another shot using the same combination of M9 and Zeiss 35mm Biogon lens, this time taken at a tricky 1/15th second hand-held at f/5.6, ISO 160. The girl boarding the gondola is almost a ghost as she steps nervously in to the boat, her companion totally unaware of her unsteadiness. The preset style I made of the haystack shot above was used as a starting point and I made just minor adjustments to the contrast, added a very small amount of capture sharpening at full size and I also darkened the right hand staircase wall using the new local adjustment layers facility.
As a comparison to the initial tests I did on the image above, here is a different conversion from the same RAW file, this time using ACR6, CS5 and Silver Efex Pro, which I had done a few weeks ago before embarking on this exercise.
Interesting comparison, don’t you think? Not sure which I prefer, they have detailed differences and the C1 conversion was deliberately made without referral to the Silver Efex Pro version – just from how I had remembered and visualised it. I compared them afterwards, so I can see differences in final sharpening and various detail’s tonal differences. Still, they’re quite close and I think it’s clear that even a novice C1 user can use the new tools to create credible monochrome images without difficulty. The Silver Efex Pro route took me much longer I recall, but SEP’s U-Point technology does give you much more control than the local adjustment tools in C1, which encourages you to fiddle more, although more practice with C1 would very probably lessen the differences between these two routes.
Here is another shot which was taken hand held in a very busy street, so not enough time to be especially careful without being bumped by passing Italians hurrying to lunch!
Finally, a creative rotated crop from the same image. It is taken from only 25% of the full frame and then reduced in size by 50% for the web Jpeg at quality 100 in C1. It is interesting how, when you’re experimenting with compositions from full frame cropped selections, you can sometimes be surprised by what’s possible.
This shot, and the one above of course, was taken on the M9 with a Zeiss 35mm f2 Biogon lens at f/4.0, 1/60th, ISO 160. It was converted in C1 using no presets, but just the basic tools in the black and white workspace. Pretty good, I think, and certainly this would rival anything I could achieve in Silver Efex Pro.
I’ve written a more detailed review using a case study which compares Capture One Pro Version 6 with an equivalent workflow in Camera Raw 6 with PhotoShop CS5 and the popular plugin Silver Efex Pro.