Long Time No See

It was a very long time since I last wrote on this blog! Much has happened in my life, but perhaps not when it comes to photography. In the past, I have talked about photography software, and I was thinking that it is time for that again. Because I’m one of those photographers who doesn’t only enjoy the photography part of photography. I enjoy the process after the shoot just as much!

At the beginning of last year, Capture One decided to change the way perpetual licenses work, for the worse, I must say. The new licensing model and loyalty program is a disappointment for us who dislike (to say the least) subscription license models. If you want to buy a perpetual license, you can do so. But it is not as cheap to upgrade a perpetual license any longer. Moreover, you get bug fixes only up until the next feature release. Then there are no more updates for the version you bought. Avoiding subscription license models was actually one of the main driving forces that led me to Capture One from the beginning. To summarize it all; a perpetual license for Capture One is now way too pricey.

With that knowledge and the fear that my photo catalog with all metadata would sooner or later become unreadable, I went on a software hunt. I needed a new RAW converter and a DAM (Digital Asset management) system, so I tried out a number of them (no subscription licensing model in sight!):

  • ON1 Photo Raw
  • DxO PhotoLab
  • ACDSee Photo Studio
  • Affinity Photo
  • Darktable
  • RawTherapee
  • Luminar Neo
  • Exposure X7

Some takeaways from my trials are that ON1 Photo Raw had a catastrophic denoising result. It was completely unusable for me. ACDSee was packaging too much into their product, I think. They had a great DAM system, but their RAW converter was not great. Luminar Neo did a decent job as a RAW converter but I don’t like their business model with all plugins costing money. And they don’t have a good track record with me since they can suddenly just kill a product, rename it and sell it as another product the next year. Affinity Photo was doing OK as a RAW converter, but it didn’t have any DAM system. Darktable was pretty easy to use and I got good results but it had one big flaw. more on that in the next section. I liked RawTherapee, although it was not very user-friendly. The results I got from the program were great and it had lots of features. Both basic and very complex. I didn’t have much to complain about DxO PhotoLab. ON1 Photo Raw, DxO PhotoLab and RawTherapee had basic DAM systems that supported standard XMP sidecar files. Basically, I had made my mind up. DxO PhotoLab ticked all the boxes and would be my new RAW converter. I was just waiting for the next major release.

As you can see, I mentioned DAM a lot in the text. That was something that became more and more important to me the more I tested RAW converters and the more I thought about the Capture One licensing saga. It is very important to be able to work with your photo collection regardless of which other tools you are using in your work flow. So I decided that whichever RAW converter I use, it should be just that. A RAW converter. That led me to the next software hunt for the season. I needed a good dedicated DAM system.

  • Photo Mechanic Plus
  • IMatch
  • Photo Supreme
  • digiKam
  • ACDSee Photo Studio

Darktable used a non-standard naming scheme for the XMP sidecar files, which was unacceptable. Other than that, to be completely honest, I don’t remember the details. And unfortunately I didn’t take any notes of these. To conclude, after using the offered test periods (where applicable), I ended up selecting IMatch as my DAM. I purchased a license for the software and I am pretty happy about my decision. Since the next major upgrade of IMatch came less than 6 months after I bought the license I got that upgrade for free. The owner and main developer of IMatch shares my views on data integrity and privacy. That also made the choice easier for me personally.

So now I was just waiting for Black Friday to buy DxO PhotoLab. In time for Black Friday, the next major release of PhotoLab was released. And it had improved a lot since I tested the software. The dreaded equalizer controls in local adjustments were gone, finally! The color wheel tool was available in local adjustments as well. Great stuff! But there was just one thing that kept crawling back. I just could not get the colors I wanted. I think the greens were most problematic. The colors just didn’t feel right. The noise reduction in PhotoLab, as you know, is best-in-class. But it doesn’t help if I feel I can’t get the colors I want out of the photos.

In the end, I waited for Black Friday and purchased a perpetual license for the latest version of Capture One. I love using that software. I don’t really like what they did with the licensing model, but as I see it now, I just pay for the product after the fact instead of in advance. So it really doesn’t bother me that much anymore. They have actually given me a couple of updates already, so the version I’ve bought isn’t dead yet!

My adventures in the software jungle this time started and ended with Capture One. It was all triggered by the changes made to their licensing model. But thanks to that, I now have a nice shiny independent DAM in IMatch keeping track of all my photos. As a bonus, it is actually a lot of fun cataloging, sorting, filtering, positioning, and whatevering my photos in a real DAM.

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