Saturday, September 10, 2011

Capture One Raw Processing (6.3)

The other night I went out to do some black card shooting. Because my 5Dmk2 is out for repairs, I decided to give my Olympus Pen a chance to do some landscape shooting. Knowing that there are limits to using an EVF in low light shooting was something I am used to dealing with but one thing I kind of forgot about is long exposure noise.

On a sensor like the Olympus E-P3, it is very sensitive to long exposure noise, but not only is it sensitive to that specific kind of noise it's also sensitive to something far worse, hot pixel noise.
Crop of full image: Red, Green, Blue spots everywhere. Hot spots throughout as well.
Long exposure noise is usually corrected by the camera doing a dark frame removal process. As habit I shut off those features in my camera because I hate the fact that it doubles the time. On the 5Dmk2 it's not really a big issue. I've only seen issues at the 2-3 minute mark and even then it's pretty minimal. It seems that Lightroom is pretty good at dealing with it there, but when it came to the Olympus Pen files it failed. As in the example above you can see the tell tale signs of long exposure noise. I was pretty disheartened that this happened, and tried to fix it best as possible.

It came down to using every program I have in my arsenal and not a single one could deal with it. This included: Lightroom 3, Aperture 3, Noise Ninja, Nik Soft Dfine, Noiseware, Olympus Viewer 2, Photoshop and SilkyPix. In the end, on a whim, I tried PhaseOne's Capture One 6.3. I had actually resigned myself to the fact that these shots were ruined, but after running it through that processor I was amazed!

All long exposure noise and hot pixel noise are gone.
I was very delighted to see the results, and although I did lose a little detail, I actually found that Capture One was really good at sharpening things and recovering dynamic ranges that none of the other applications seemed to do well with. 

What I found most interesting in this exercise was just how fast Capture One was (almost as zippy as Lightroom and leagues faster than Aperture) but it seems to be more beneficial with a lower end camera than it is with a higher end camera in the form of the 5Dmk2. Discrete control over noise and dynamic range seems to be the forte of Capture One, and when I reviewed version 5.0 a year ago, I found there wasn't much difference to justify the cost of it.

Now of course, it's pretty hard to justify the cost to an enthusiast as well because the software does cost $399. However it does come with a stripped down version for $129 which covers most features that matter to an enthusiast. 

Regardless, I'm very pleased I was able to recover what I thought were ruined photos, and for now, I will play a little more with the 30 day trial that you can download here (account sign-up is necessary).

Olympus E-P3, 25mm, F/8, 15 sec 
Olympus E-P3, 25mm, F/8.0, 20 sec

UPDATE:
One of the programs that was not mentioned was DxO Optics. At this time, RAW support for the E-P3 is not available, but conversion to a TIFF file allows me to attempt to correct the noise. Unfortunately, like the other Noise Reduction only programs it did not remove the noise satisfactory or completely. Anything higher lost too much detail and even at the highest settings there was still a fair amount of spots left behind. I'm a huge advocate of DxO Optics and certain a forthcoming update will improve things, but at this point, Capture One is the only one that works with a file this damaged.

DxO Optics with settings before too much detail loss (L:12 C:167)

3 comments:

  1. Tried DXO on these photos? DXO is IMHO the king in noise removal.

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  2. I own DxO Optics as well and it doesn't support these files in RAW format yet. Converting to TIFF allows me to apply basic noise reduction, but it doesn't remove all the long exposure noise (leaves lots of tiny spots all over) and when cranked to maximum there's still some spots with massive detail loss.

    I'm a big advocate of DxO Optics but in this case it doesn't work (yet). I am hopeful when they do release the next version that supports ORF files that it will be better.

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  3. It will probably never work. DxO seems to have decided that there is no benefit in supporting Olympus users.

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