So after 7 years (roughly) of being in business and using Lightroom, last week I had a bit of an epiphany. I imported a recent client session of my Nikon NEFs into Capture One and was thunderstruck by the difference in quality. Put simply, the Capture One raw converted images are simply light years ahead of Lightroom's conversions which are by comparison bland and flattened. Hell they don't even begin to come close no matter what camera profile I use.
And so this is then a tale of heartbreak and woe. Back when I was starting out I abhorred the extra .xmp files and I was terrified of losing sync and all the work I was doing on my images in Lightroom. Quickly seduced by the term "Digital Negative" I was as it appears to be turning out, falsely struck by the seeming brilliance of Adobe's solution. Convert to a DNG file they said (as did a bunch of other photographers online some undoubtedly shills, others equally as confused as me). They'll last "forever!" they said, "and will be read by all as they're an open standard! Plus all updates are written into and contained in the same single DNG file. Never have to worry about those pesky .xmp files again!
Well that sounded *really* good to me back then and so for seven long (and sad) years I have been converting all my .NEF files to .DNGs and tossing away the originals. Nothing to worry about, I thought. I've got the Digital Negatives. Except... They're not actually digital negatives. Not by a long shot. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. These files are Adobe's interpretation of Nikon's (what I use mostly plus a Sony a7s2 and briefly in the past an FS700) trade secret .NEF format. It's their best guess. It's acceptable... sort of (actually no, not really :o/ ).
Ah well, live and learn. I've always maintained that education is costly no matter what the coin. And so this week I start again by importing my entire Lightroom collection of well over a quarter million images into Capture One. The "damage" (if you'll permit a dash of melodrama ;) is done as they're mostly DNG's but as of 2017, going forward they will all be original format raw files (so mostly .NEFs).
Now to be absolutely crystal clear about all this it's not all as devastating as I make it out to be above. Lightroom has served me well these past 7 years and it does have some pretty decent image management tools. The raw image image converter isn't bad, it's just not the greatest. It's acceptable. But when you start out in photography and you spend the kind of $$$ we do searching (somewhat mistakenly actually, but that's another post altogether) for the best possible image quality, "Acceptable" is not what you're looking for and to find there's a level of detail processing above and beyond where you've been working that is now denied to you for your past body of work... Well it just pisses me off.
I will still be using Lightroom for some image management and for smoothing moving images and client selections back and forth with Zenfolio but my processing will henceforth be done in Capture One.
Here's some links to a few more well (better) written articles that land on both sides of the subject if you include the one from Martin Evening that (almost) lands on Lightroom's side which is definitely worth a careful read:
A link to martin Evening's take on the matter: http://lightroomkillertips.com/brilliant-article-martin-evening-lightroom-vs-capture-one-pro/
Eight reasons capture One thinks they're better: http://blog.phaseone.com/eight-major-reasons-to-choose-capture-one-as-your-raw-converter/
And finally, 10 more reasons (from Capture One) as to why they're the better choice: http://captureoneblog.com/my-reasons-to-switch-to-capture-one/
As for me, the choice is quite clear and the only thing I'm left wondering is if Art Streiber might come knock on my door.