Like many other photographers, I’ve had it with Adobe’s subscription model. It’s time to jump ship! I’m done paying them a monthly fee for software that hasn’t really improved much in years. The newest CC iteration of Lightroom (not the classic version) is too basic, too expensive, and settings quite often get lost in syncing between devices. I spent thirty minutes working on a photo the other day on my iPad in Lightroom CC, but when I got to my computer, it lost all of the edits and overwrote them with an earlier version without the edits – boo!
Then there’s Capture One Pro. I’ve used it for a few versions now, and it does indeed do a nice job editing, but the catalog is abysmal! Good luck getting your tens of thousand of photos from Lightroom over to Capture One’s catalog without hiccups – yes, even with version 11 the process still doesn’t work properly. I own version 10, but after playing with version 11, I’m undecided as to whether or not I’ll pay for the upgrade as it doesn’t add that many features, and I still can’t use it as a DAM (digital asset management) solution for all my images.
Those are the two largest and most well known RAW editing and cataloging solutions out there, but I’m still on the hunt for something better. So, I reached out to On1 and explained to them that I would like to review their software for this blog, they were nice enough to provide me with a copy for use and to review. I’ll break this review down into my typical workflow – importing, cataloging, editing, and exporting. I’ll explain the pros and cons, features that I like, features that I feel are missing, and overall impressions of the software.
Part 1 – Ingesting, Culling, and Renaming
Ingesting / Importing of Files
On1 Photo RAW isn’t built to import photos. Importing just isn’t an option. There’s no import button at all! It seems like it would be such an easy addition, but it’s missing. In order to move files from a memory card to a folder, you need to find the card through the icons on the left of the screen (J: is the memory card in this example).
Once you select the memory card and have browsed to the proper directory containing the images, you can copy them to the folder of your choice within the app. It works, you can indeed do it from the application, but a dedicated importing button or feature would be appreciated. This is a feature that Lightroom, Capture One, and Photo Mechanic all have, and it seems like an oversight from the developers.
Culling and Browsing
I shoot RAW+JPEG the majority of the time. The only software that I have found that groups the RAWs and JPEGs together while browsing and culling is Photo Mechanic. Photo Mechanic also gives you the option to group them together or not depending on your need. It is such a time saving step when culling and browsing that I do not understand why other software companies haven’t implemented this. Sadly, On1 Photo RAW 2018 follows suit with the other competitors of Photo Mechanic and does not allow the grouping of RAW+JPEGs. Instead, it shows them as two separate files.
Renaming the Files
In Lightroom, Capture One, and Photo Mechanic, I have full control over how I name/rename images. My preferred method is as follows “Year-Month-Date Custom Name Hour-Minute-Second”. Thus, if a shot was taken at 8:05 p.m. on Christmas of 2017, the file would be named as follows “2017-12-25 Christmas 20:05:00”. For me, this is an easy way to sort images, select the specific one I want, and organize them. On1 doesn’t give you these options. Instead, you have only the options to use the current name, custom text, or a serial number (see below).
For importing, culling, and renaming, On1 is too basic for my needs. Luckily Photo Mechanic easily offers what I need, but it just means that I will need to use two separate programs.
Part 2 – Cataloging / Digital Asset Management
This is the first program that I have found that can almost replace Lightroom as a catalog for your images. One great feature is that it automatically updates the contents of cataloged folders! This is something that Lightroom and Capture One can not do. It’s fast too. You can search for various criteria like “jpg,” and it just works. The one glaring flaw I have found is that the program ignores video files. Pretty much all modern cameras shoot video now. In the last few days, I have shot nine video clips in addition to photos. Unfortunately, On1’s program doesn’t even display a placeholder for video files. I don’t want or need video editing within the app. Although less expensive and powerful apps like VSCO for iOS can apply edit videos, but I do want the videos to be viewable and playable within On1. I contacted tech support about this issue, and was informed that they do plan on adding video support (viewing that is) in a future update of the app. To me, this is a big problem that they didn’t launch it with video support, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they will support video playback and cataloging in 2018.
Part 3 – Editing
Before I go into any detail here, let’s take a look at my photo editing machine. It’s a home built PC with top of the line specs:
- Windows 10 – 64 bit Professional with all the latest drivers and patches installed.
- Intel Core i7-8700K Coffee Lake 6-Core 3.7 GHz (4.7 GHz Turbo).
- EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FTW3.
- ASRock Fatal1ty Z370 Gaming K6 LGA 1151 Motherboard
- G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 64GB (4 x 16GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400 (PC4 19200) RAM
- SAMSUNG 960 PRO M.2 1TB NVMe PCI-Express 3.0 x4 Internal Solid State Drive
- 2x in RAID 0 – Seagate 10TB BarraCuda Pro 7200RPM SATA 6GB/s 256MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Hard Drives
I feel it’s important to mention my computer hardware since I’ll also be talking about speed of On1 Photo RAW 2018 within this review. The machine I am using is no slouch, and things should run very fast. When they don’t, I attribute it to a coding problem. Now onto the list of Pros and Cons as it pertains to editing…
- More included presets than either Lightroom or Capture One.
- Film presets! I quite often use Alien Skin Exposure, but this has them built in. Yay – one less app to use!
- Localized adjustments, healing tools, gradients, etc.
- Layers – both in localized adjustments with separate opacity sliders, as well as in the traditional Photoshop sense.
- Pressure sensitivity for drawing tablets that really works! It even has opacity controls separate from brush size!
- Clean interface.
- Nice output.
- Ability to tone down the vibrancy effect on either shadows or highlights – quite useful for skin tones.
- Lens corrections are there, but not a substantial list. For example, it doesn’t recognize my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM nor does it recognize my Leica 75mm. I’m not even able to manually select them.
- Proper curves – take that Lightroom!
- Skin retouching controls.
- slow, Slow, SLOW!!! Egad is it slow when changing between modules! Now, I can deal with it, but when I compare it to Capture One when switching between browsing, local adjustments, etc. there is no delay. Lightroom also has little or no delay now. In On1, switching from browsing to developing takes three seconds (see specs above). There’s no excuse for this! Now, that might not seem like a lot of time, but when browsing and developing multiple images, it’s quite tiresome.
- Going between images in the develop module is also painfully slow.
- No levels control. Now, you can get around this like you can in Lightroom with the white and black sliders as well as with curves. However, many editors like myself like using a levels tool like you can in Photoshop or Capture One.
- Needs more lens corrections.
- Cropping and rotating is totally wonky. It works – kind of, but sometimes it flat out won’t allow you to drag the crop bars. It definitely needs work.
- Mouse wheel does nothing, they could have used this for zoom control or something.
- Undo doesn’t work always, and there’s no undo history like Lightroom.
- The slider controls are too small. Quite often I found myself clicking and dragging nothing. The actual slider control point should be larger and in the middle of the line instead of the triangle underneath it.
- You should be able to double click on the triangle of the develop sliders and reset the control, but you can’t. However, you can reset the control by double clicking on the word though.
- Skin retouching controls should give you the option to mask out parts of the image. It’s a good tool, but this would make it great.
- Cutting and pasting develop settings between images is slow. You right click on the source image, wait for it to load, then you can click “copy settings.” Then you right click on the target image, wait for it to load, then you can click “paste settings.”
- Many of the develop settings are hidden under “show more.” There’s no way to have them all available by default involving many trips up and down the develop scroll bar.
- Hitting “w” should be a shortcut for white balance like it is on other major software solutions. It does nothing in On1.
- Can’t delete an image from the develop module, you have to go to browse, then delete it, then back to develop. This adds at least six seconds for no reason.
Part 4 – Exporting Images – Oy Vey!
There are quite a few problems and varying degrees of weirdness when exporting images. Here’s my typical exporting scenario:
- Folder full of RAW photos with edits on them.
- I want to export the finalized images (JPEGs) to the same folder as the originals with the same name. The point of this is to have RAWs and JPEGs with the same name. Lightroom does this easily. There’s no issue from an operating system standpoint since they have different extensions.
- All metadata should be intact – especially the capture date. That way when viewing in other programs like Photo Mechanic, Amazon Photos, Google Photos, etc. you can sort by the capture date.
Now here’s what really happens:
- The JPEGs do not have the same name as the RAWs. The image name is as follows “same name as original” followed by the word “copy”. It’s not a copy! It’s the only JPEG in the folder at this point. It’ll work if you tell it to overwrite files without warning. This is silly because there’s no files to overwrite, but it works properly if you do it this way.
- Exporting the JPEGs is slow. Very slow! Slower than both Lightroom and Capture One. Even without local adjustments it’s still slower. Again, this just seems like poor coding (see specs above).
- The capture metadata isn’t there, well it is sometimes, not all the time. Photo Mechanic shows some with the same capture metadata and some with the JPEG file’s creation time metadata.
So here’s how here’s the workaround to exporting images properly with the correct name, correct metadata, etc.
- Select the RAW files and export the JPEGs telling it overwrite files without warning..
- Click on the “photo” menu on the menu bar.
- Click the “embed metadata” option. Sometimes this works, most of the times it works, but not all of the time. The fact that it messes up the captured metadata time is ridiculous.
I like it. It’s a good program, but it’s a few steps short of a complete workflow, and quite a few items need polishing like the crop tool. In addition to which, for now you need at least two other types of programs to use this as your main photography software tool:
- Photo Mechanic or similar software for renaming files and to browse/cull RAW+JPEGs.
- A cataloging / viewing solution for your video files since On1 ignores them.
On1 needs to work on their application’s speed, proper and seamless embedding of metadata in exported images, video support, and file renaming.
Would I recommend switching from Lightroom and Capture One? That’s a tough call. How much do you hate Adobe? Do you use Photoshop some, all the time, or never at all? Do you already own Photo Mechanic (a good combination with On1)? For me? I hate Adobe, I haven’t been happy with their colors or interface in many years. I like Capture One Pro edit wise, but it’s lacking a scalable and usable catalog. Personally, I have high hopes for On1 Photo Raw 2018. I like it, but they really need to fix quite a few things before I can wholeheartedly recommend it. You can get decent images, but you have to fight with the software on too many key points. It’s not worth the time, effort, or level of frustration at this current time. I honestly don’t see how this software made it out of beta testing. So back to the question at hand. Would I recommend it? Not yet. Maybe after an update or two, but the developers need to get back to work.
How are the image results though? Image wise, the results are good. Although the noise reduction compared to Capture One Pro is lacking. Finally, let’s look at some images from this holiday break. By the way, the images below were supposed to be sorted in chronological order as most of my blog posts are, but since they were edited in On1 Photo RAW, the images are kind-of in order. Like I said, sometimes the metadata is correct, other times it isn’t. Sigh…