Open letter from a digital technician to Capture One.
It’s simple, I pay for something, I get something of value in return.
I make the judgment of whether the transaction is beneficial for me. With software, like Capture One, the features added on with each annual release aren't a tempting value proposition, contrary to the marketing that comes along with it. More often than not they are seen as making it bloated and less efficient. I can almost guarantee that new features aren’t the driving factor for user upgrades when it comes to Capture One.
Performance, stability and camera support are prime targets for professionals. For many, as it stands, C1 updates are necessary for camera support or performance/stability improvement for new hardware or OS. New cameras are released and we are stuck waiting for an update to be able to utilize them. Believe it or not, features like improved panorama stitching isn’t exactly the key to get people throwing their wallets at you. It's not beyond your ability to offer camera support patches for older builds (at a cost) it would make many users happy and act as another revenue stream (like your style packs). This is especially true for users that are content with their current feature set and hardware while not being subjected to interface changes.
Stability and reliability are so crucial in a professional environment on set. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to capture images for the world’s largest brands and agencies and a bottleneck is the software, computer and camera pairing. We need it to work 100% of the time. We can’t rush out and be a beta tester for the new release with new HDR tools or immediately download the latest release to use on set to discover a crucial bug. We need a pairing of OS, C1 and camera firmware that is tried and tested to be as stable as possible. That being said, I will be the first to say that the stability has gotten so much better in the past few years on MacOS and it’s been a great quality of life improvement. Some of this might come down to vertical integration with Apple’s hardware/software making things easier on the back end. But improvements have been noted.
Many users, professional and hobbyist alike, purchase a camera and use it for up to 5 years or more while not needing to update any software. In this time they could have paid once for the software they need, requiring no additional features or support from the software company. Therefore there’s no strain or added expense from the software developer.
Over the past few years, as many others have done, you've slowly transitioned toward Software As A Service company and I don’t see the value proposition in that for many users. You’ve made it clear in the pricing structure which option users should choose. It’s not currently the case, but it’s safe to assume that your roadmap includes discontinuing perpetual licenses entirely in the not so distant future. At that point, if a user buys a new camera their only option to use the software they know and enjoy is to submit to a monthly or annual fee. They have to agree to SaaS. As a service you must provide the value associated with it. What value do you pose for users that aren’t upgrading their hardware annually? Professional digital techs value performance and stability so if those can be provided on a consistent basis SaaS isn’t as much of an issue despite the fact no one wants another subscription.
I truly think it would benefit members of the product and development teams to sit in on a top-level professional advertising campaign shoot. They don’t always happen in the studio by the way. This could be on a mountaintop, beach, swamp or alleyway. Many times we are moving constantly from location to location (even in a moving boat at times). While this is happening Digital Technicians or Digi Techs are managing a lot; tethering and untethering cameras, importing cards, backing up images to multiple locations, processing images to multiple formats, uploading images to various web services, streaming a screen share to remote clients as well as wireless broadcast images locally on set. There’s a lot on our plate. As it stands your software is really our only option for tethered workflows as it supports almost all cameras used professionally. It has cemented itself as a necessity in the industry. On a given day we could be asked to deal with cameras from a single or multiple manufacturers. It needs to be understood that we are often tasked with dealing with 10,000+ frames in a day, just to be back on set the next morning and do it all over again. We know all too well the things that would make your software more efficient and easier to use.
For years we’ve asked for features and fixes that are continually ignored. We’ve tried feature requests on the support forums. We’ve tried asking in emails. We’ve also seen features like Capture Pilot be completely ignored. It’s unusable in the real world. It’s not a hardware issue. It doesn’t matter what network setup you have or how isolated or bulletproof the network infrastructure is. It WILL fail and become unusable. It needs to be fixed. We have all had to rely on other solutions to make up for this failure. But I digress.
COVID came and we all scrambled to come up with solutions for real time review and sharing of content to remote clients. Capture One Live was introduced but in its current state this just doesn’t cut it. It’s a solution for certain situations but adds too much complexity to the workflows we’ve established over the years. I know it’s still early for it but it’s not ready for primetime on advertising and commercial photoshoots and doesn’t fill the void of Capture Pilot, but there’s potential.
Some of us have been using your software for close to 20 years while giving you untold thousands of dollars each. We have been your marketing team, we have led to more sales and subscriptions and convinced agencies and creative teams to buy licenses. We are growing your user base. We are the PROS that Capture One PRO was meant for.
Trying to please the investors at Axcel is the goal, and of course we get that. We understand the need to be profitable and keep your employees happy. However, this shouldn’t come at the expense of your most loyal user base. If you're comparing your performance financially to other SaaS or software companies you might be doing yourself a disservice. Exponential growth quarter after quarter isn’t sustainable. It can lead you astray and be detrimental to your user base. We’ve all seen companies run into the ground by racing to the bottom for the sake of quarterly growth. While there’s competition and overlap of feature sets in other software C1 has a distinct advantage for professionals.
Over the past few years it’s become increasingly obvious that those who truly need your software and rely on it daily are ignored and frustrated. This was made most obvious last year when you removed the Output Tool tab and Batch Queue tab. With this, It was made very clear the development team is rather clueless in how this software is used in the real world. It’s one of the most important tools. You heard from us then and it seemed like we would have a seat at the table. You brought it back after learning how important it is. We were grateful that you were able to take the criticism and respond positively.
You should know we aren’t the ones that will jump ship to other software at the blink of an eye. We are the ones that (maybe begrudgingly) will keep using your product and giving you money.
We get that there’s various types and styles of photographers and understand the needs of the landscape, architecture and wedding shooters of all levels. We know from experience. We understand the need to appeal to everyone that enjoys photography. We truly do, we’ve made it our lives… But we see you constantly attempting to appeal to them while simple asks from the most loyal of users are ignored.
If you really want to impress ALL users, spend an entire update cycle optimizing the software, prioritize performance. Fully utilize the hardware available. No new features, just performance. I can assure you not a single user would be unhappy.
There’s so many small improvements that we’ve asked for over the years and rarely does one make it to a final build. Many would benefit all users, unlike new style pack bundles. I do have to applaud the decision to stop fragmenting the software into camera specific variants. This has to simplify things for the development, sales and support teams.
Myself and many others fulfilling the role of digital technician as well as photographers alike urge you to listen to your most loyal user base. As mentioned earlier, we are working professionals. We can't exactly participate in beta testing or spend time on the support forums begging for fixes. So, unfortunately you don't always hear from our community. Because of this, we often have to just roll with the shortcomings or bugs and figure out workarounds.
It’s my opinion that if you truly want to benefit the professional photographic community you need to make yourselves familiar with the workflow and needs of those working on set everyday. Myself and others have been critical of C1 on social media as we see it as the only way to get your attention. Hopefully we can get past the point of screaming into a void while accepting the shortcomings. You should be aware that many users dream of greener pastures and hope for another option to utilize. You have a substantial advantage with some of your key features the software was built around. We'd rather not turn our backs.
Digital Technician, creator of Faini Made