Capture One and

The Tangent Ripple ...

... a lovely control surface but needs what probably amounts to decent control software

If you're in even the slightest way attracted to digital photography then you'll know what we mean by RAW. Call it the digital negative if you wish. Very simply stated, it's a binary recording of the photons recorded by the image sensor, splashed straight into a file on the memory card, with absolutely NO interference or meddling of the image by the camera's internal processing and, to all intents and purposes, little or no compression. By comparison, if you take a JPEG picture with your camera it will have had one or more of at least sharpening, contrast, saturation and white balance adjusted to the taste of the guy over at Canon or Pentax who wrote the camera firmware. Most cameras will let you fool around with the default settings of these parameters, but, ultimately, a JPEG is a JPEG, and offers little in the way of efficient post-production of values. And anyway, a JPEG is compressed, and in that respect will never be as good as a RAW. As an example, I have my Pentax K-1 set to simultaneously record RAW to one memory card and JPEGs to the other. I discard the JPEGs soon after saving them to the computer - they're only used for a quick taster of what I've captured prior to getting to work with the RAWs. Compression? One of the preview JPEGs recently was 22.9 Mb, but its equivalent RAW was 47.6 Mb, so the JPEG was compressed by over 50%. I rest my case for RAW your honour.

So, RAW then is the digital negative, analogous to the exposed roll of film in "the old days". Both types of negative require processing in order to produce the finished competition winner. For the film you want a darkroom, an enlarger and dangerous chemicals; for the RAW you want software.

There are now quite a number of RAW software tools, increasing daily. Some are good, some are crappy; some are cheap or even free, and some are pricey. As a matter of routine I tend to try them all. You can usually get a 30-day trial. For a long time I used Adobe LightRoom (LR), and felt reasonably happy with it, but then I trialled Capture One (C1). I was immediately hooked; images developed in C1 seemed to have more sparkle tha LR's results; C1 offered more adjustments to the various parameters, and more logically, than LR did. And C1 was faster than LR, both in showing the effect of each tiny adjustment as well as the actual develop itself - the process of exporting a finished JPEG. I've never looked back, C1 for me, every time. Also, quite relevant at the moment (November 2017) Adobe have decided to do bad bad things to the LR model, including their godawfully ridiculous monthly rental rather than buy plan. The latest version is all about The Cloud. No thanks, I want my images on my own disks, safely copied and backed up. But I digress, this is not about how Adobe seems to be intent on making its users search desperately for replacement RAW tools. It's about Capture One.

Or - more specifically - about Capture One and how to drive it. I can't remember how I came across control surfaces, but I learnt of a control surface called the Ripple, made by a British company called Tangent. This is it:

So you see the Ripple control surface, with its three trackballs, three dials, and eight buttons. The device comes complete with some handsome software with which you assign purpose to most (not all - see below) of these controls. Eg, dial one adjusts exposure, etc. The idea is that you figure out which C1 adjustments you most frequently use and make the Ripple control these adjustments. Then on to fine tuning - as well as setting dial one to exposure you can then fix things so that dial one needs more or fewer turns to adjust its value. So, for example, sticking with exposure, you could decide that one full turn of the dial delivers one tenth of a stop of adjustment. Alternatively you could say that a full turn delivers a whole stop. The dials, incidentally, don't have start/stop points, they just keep turning infinitely. Each dial can have two adjustments, main and alternative; you select alternative by holding down the button seen between the left and middle trackballs.

This how I've set mine up:

»  Dial 1, top left in the picture above: main: exposure; alternative: kelvin

»  Dial 2, top middle: main: highlights; alternative: shadows

»  Dial 3, top right: main:saturation; alternative: clarity

»  The three trackballs are very logically assigned to the 3-way colour balance wheels in C1, of which more in a moment

»  The buttons. You can see a button each side of each dial. Here I'm going to level some criticism at Tangent as, quite simply, they are not programmable. The right-hand one associated with each dial defaults its associated dial value back to zero, ie, undoing whatever adjustment you made. The left does nothing, zip, zilch, bugger all. And you can't make it do anything no matter how hard you huff and puff. I took this up with Tangent and they confirm that the buttons can't be programmed to do anything at all other than the undo I just mentioned. Silly really.

»  Left button, between trackballs one and two: provides the alternative function - a shift key.
The right-hand button is programmed to process - hit this and your adjusted picture is exported as a JPEG.

So, what about the trackballs then?

Here is a screen shot of the three-way colour balance department in C1:

For each of shadows, midtones and highlights you can move that little central circle in the direction of the colour balance you want to achieve. As you get closer to the edge, ie, increasing saturation of that colour, the marker to the right of each wheel goes upwards. The left-hand marker beside each wheel indicates the brightness of that colour.

So each trackball matches each wheel. Spin the left trackball to the right and the shadows get more blue. The further you go the more the right-hand marker rises. But then, hold down the alternative button and roll the trackball vertically and your selected colour gets darker or lighter. All deeply logical.

Therefore, so far, 4 out of 5 for the Ripple, with 1 being subtracted because of the silly and really useless extra buttons each side of the dials.

But stay tuned, as I have one more major criticism here, for which I'm going to deduct a further point. The mapping software, in which you, for example, say that dial two is highlights, gives you the ability to save your settings. This means you could, for example, keep an alternative set of settings. My main set is currently saved as AlanD-WMaster. A few weeks ago Capture One was updated - version 10.2 came along and replaced 10.1. The first time I went in to do some RAW work ... where the bloody hell are all my carefully devised settings?? Everything was default. I emailed Tangent for an answer to this. It appears that when you save a mapping it saves into a folder whose name corresponds to the version number. So currently AlanD-WMaster lives in a folder called Capture_One_Pro_10.2. When C1 10.3 comes along everything will stop working. I've determined that I'll need to run the new version once, with Ripple attached, in the hopes that a new folder called Capture_One_Pro_10.3 will be created. I'll then have to copy AlanD-WMaster.xml from the 10.2 folder into the 10.3 folder, reopen the software, and reload my mappings. 3 out of 5 I'm afraid. I'm tempted to take off another half here because Tangent said it wasn't down to them, but is something to do with C1.

I shouldn't have to do this!!

As noted above, Tangent said this was C1's fault. I think that's balls; I think it's a deficiency in the way Tangent stores its maps. Instead of all that versionised folder nonsense there should be a single Capture One folder instead of this tomfoolery:

But, notwithstanding my 3/5 opinion, it really is a lovely thing. Well made, shiny and pretty. It's a real pleasure to use C1 with the Ripple and, thanks to C1's efficiency, it's even more of a pleasure when you see the results of tweaking a dial a little appear onscreen instantly.

Verdict: really good, efficient and pretty, but some deficiencies which need to be seen to. For 300 quid I really don't expect 6 of its 8 buttons to do bugger all and can't be made to do anything. In fact, the more I think about this the more it annoys me, so I'm revising my score:

2 / 5

I'll be inviting Tangent to look at this page - I'll update it in due course when I see what they say.

I received a very nice eloquent reply from Andy Knox at Tangent a couple of days later, for which I'm most grateful. I'm reproducing the text of Andy's reply below, together with my comments regarding particular points:

Hi Alan

Many thanks for sending us the link to your website review of The Ripple panel with Capture One Pro. Apologies for the slow reply but I wanted to be certain that my information was totally accurate before responding. I'm glad to hear that you generally like the product and can understand your frustrations with the two issues which you discovered. I'll try and explain a little more of the history and technical reasoning behind the way which the system operates:

The Ball and Ring reset buttons
On all our products, trackerballs and their associated Rings or Dials have a pair of buttons next to them, one to reset the values of the Ball and one to reset the values of the Ring/Dial. On Element and Wave panels these buttons have a dot and a ring printed on them and on the Ripple the legends are part of the button mould. In the software these two buttons send ValueReset commands to the application and it is for the application to decide what to do with that instruction. Clearly, with Capture One, they have decided to do nothing with one of those reset commands which then does sadly mean that the relevant button is inactive. [Comment: I didn't, I must admit, know that one of the two buttons reset the value of the trackball - I thought it did nothing.]

As you say we could change our software to allow users to "break out" the reset buttons and apply alternative functions to them which are unrelated to the Ball/Ring/Dial parameters. However this would be a non-trivial task as the framework of our Hub and Mapper assumes that these buttons cannot be independently programmed. We have received a few requests to add this functionality, especially since the Ripple was released, so it's on our (long) list of features to incorporate. [Comment: At the most trivial level of utilising the buttons - as I've already said, in the unshifted state one of the buttons "undoes", ie, zeroes, whatever adjustment you made with the associated dial - it might be nice to make the other button maximise the associated setting. Highlights, for example: quite often you might dial in max highlight, particularly if there's sky involved. So, dial 2, adjust highlights; its left button zeroes highlights, its right button: highlights to 100. Trivial, but at least it doesn't "waste" a good button! Admittedly, you'd rarely want to maximise Kelvin (unless you like red/orange pics!)]

Location of User Map files
My colleague in Support gave you slightly incorrect information regarding the file structure used to store the mapping files. Applications can optionally pass a folder location into which the user map files must be stored. This is used for applications which handle multiple users internally - not relying on the OS to do this. COP is not one of these applications so the folder structure is generated in a slightly different way:

When an application connects to the Hub it passes a Name string to identify which application has connected. This Name string is used for a few things, one of which is to allow the Hub to identify whether the user has created their own Map files for that application. Applications are supposed to identify themselves with a plain string e.g. "Capture_One_Pro" however, unfortunately Phase One chose to include their software version number in the string e.g. "Capture_One_Pro_10.0". This means that when a new version of COP is installed and first contacts the Hub it identifies itself using a different Name to last time and the Hub therefore assumes that it's never spoken with this application before. Unfortunately this is the only way which the Hub can tell which application it's talking to and therefore which User maps to use etc.

So, normally, the folder structure would look something like:

     /My Map 1.xml
     /My Map 2.xml
     /Best Map Ever.xml
[Comment: Point taken. However, sice Capture one is, with respect, one of the few apps which very specifically cater for Tangent products, and vice versa, I would have thought that the Tangent software itself might say to itself 'Ah, right, this is Capture one; I'll just use the string "Capture_One_Pro" and thus behave exactly like Speed Grade does, ignoring the version string received from C1'. Eg, look only at the left 15 characters.]

Having a single folder for the application, regardless of the version number.

Since it was noticed we have explained this to Phase One and they have said it will be fixed in a future release of COP. Sadly they don't seem to have got around to making the change yet. [Comment: I once picked up a C1 bug and reported it to them. There was a new sub-release just a few days later which corrected the bug, so I think they're reasonably responsive. However, what Tangent have reported to Phase One is not a bug but a maintenance matter, so they may not respond as quickly. But this folder structure matter is really the most vexatious thing about the product.]

Please do let me know if you'd like to discuss anything further. We're always keen to improve our products in association with ideas from users.

Best regards,
- Andy

Apart from my niggles,it really is a delightful product. I think I've probably been over-negative in my scoring, and have found no other issues with the Ripple. One of the issues only rears its head if there's an update to C1, and now I'm aware of it and expect it, so I can handle it. The other matter, the under-functional buttons, is already known to Tangent, and I'm evidently not alone in raising it with them. We shall see what the future brings.

My thanks again to Andy and the guys over at Tangent for listening to me and replying so fully and eloquently.

25 November 2017 - a further update:

Yesterday afternoon I received a very welcome email from Andy at Tangent:

Hi Alan

I'm pleased to report that the latest Beta of Capture One 11 (Beta 5, released yesterday) includes the fix for the User Map File location problem described below. Now your user maps will be stored in User/Library/Application Support/Tangent/Hub/Capture_One

Although you'll still need to copy your custom maps over one last time after installing COP Version 11 you won't need to do this again in future. There's no need to update the Tangent Hub.

Best regards,

- Andy

Andy's email advising me of the news, plus the version 11 beta, together make my previous 2/5 score for the Ripple hardware extremely incorrect. Apart from the buttons issue, discussed above, the other major downside has simply vanished and thus I'm now tentatively, pending getting my hands on V11, scoring the Ripple:

4.5 / 5

I can live with the under-functioning buttons. Looking forward to test driving C1 V11.

And in a further final addition to this page: just above I said "pending getting my hands on V11" and "Looking forward to test driving C1 V11". I should admit at this point that I was a little untruthful there. I already had V11, and had confirmed that what Andy said was, of course, perfectly correct. I couldn't say so at the time because I was testing the Beta version of V11, and as a Phase One beta tester, I was already checking out the software. However, under the terms of their non-disclosure agreement I couldn't say anything.

Just one additional advisory from me regarding the custom mapping: when you first open C1 11 with the Ripple attached you'll be presented with entirely default mappings for the Ripple controls. I took a look at the /Hub folder and didn't spot the expected Capture_One folder in there. What you must do is open the Tangent mapping software and simply Save the current default mapping to a throwaway map - I saved as Initial. The action of this save created the new expected folder, whereupon I copied my main mapping XML file from the version 10 folder into the new folder, opened it within the mapper software and, lo and behold, we're there, my familiar button and dial settings are in place!