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.