I wonder if the Leaf files look as good as they do out of the camera due to their relationship with Kodak?
Please understand, I am not trying to take away from either the skill of the photographer or the capabilities of the equipment.
I just find it interesting that Leaf backs seem to be capable of producing more neutral skin tones with minimal effort than the Phase backs. Could Kodak have somehow engineered the Leaf backs to mimic the color and/or tonal characteristics of film (i.e., Portra)?
Also, I've found in my correspondence with sales reps from both Phase and Leaf, each recognizes the strengths of the other. For example, my Leaf rep, when talking about Phase, will always say something along the lines of, "well, the Leaf files look better straight out of the camera, but the Phase software does offer robust customization". Perhaps the two companies realize there are two distinct photographic styles and thus choose to focus their attention each on just one? This would seem to make sense in a niche market dealing in low volume. Makes me wonder why we haven't seen this sort of specialization in the 35mm arena.
This gets the to the heart of the OP's question. As noted by Morgan_Moore this is not a discussion on accuracy. A Phase back (one of the OP's many cameras) is going to produce extremely accurate color when using the default "flash" profile. The "flash" profile from P1 is so accurate that the vast majority of photographers will have no need to reprofile the camera unless they are consistently using light sources that are different than the generic HQ flashes used by P1 to create this profile.
The OP rather is concerned with getting a specific skin tone. His idea of what the "right" skin tone should be in the final product is (and I'm sorry gwhitf if I'm presuming to get inside your head) will have been formed from years of influences as wide as what his favorite film produced to what skin tones were printed in the magazines he most respected to the skin tone of his first love. This is all by way of saying that the specific tone that he wants skin to print as is completely subjective. All references to "Good Skin Tone" are subjective.
Both Phase and Leaf have "portrait" profiles intended to bend colors from "accurate" towards someone's definition of "pleasing". If you happen to like what Leaf's profile renders then Leaf files will look better "out of the box". Likewise if you like Phase's profile better then you will like Phase files better "out of the box". However, any photographer who is concerned with "skin tones" and has not both 1) tried different raw developers and 2) created their own profile is REALLY missing out. There is no need to start an argument over whether LightRoom or Capture One is "better"; it is enough to know that they are different and therefore you need to look* at each to decide which works for you. Here of course I get to brag about Capture One which uses the camera-specific profiles as a starting point and allows unlimited alteration of the underlying ICC profile through The Color Editor. As of version 4.5 this is now fully integrated into the program itself (it used to be a semi-autonomous program). With literally an hour or two of work you could easily have a Phase profile in hand which does a pretty good job of rendering skin tones where and how you like them.
While it's true that gwhitf has to make a new profile for each situation he is shooting the reason likely has more to do with the degree of specificity that he is trying to accomplish. He is likely (please gwhitf chime in if I'm wrong) using Color Editor to make changes to relatively narrow bands of color which make that profile more pleasing (to his eye**) for the situation he is adjusting but less able to hold up in changing conditions. The result is he's able to get 95% of the way there on the specific image he is working with, but has to redo his efforts for each image. A more general approach would be to make minor changes to broad slices of color with moderate-to-high smoothness. This will compress the colors surrounding the skin tones that you don't like towards the skin tones that you do like, but in a subtle way which will be more generally applicable. If the lighting situation changes the profile will still do most of the work, but rather than get to gwhitf's 95% by tuning to the specific image it would get you 80% of the way on most images (warning: numbers arbitrarily made up).
O and I AM unashamedly trying to sell our online training :-). We'll be covering advanced uses of the color editor in the Master's Level online screen-sharing-based classes
*We also have an intro class
if you haven't used C1 before. If you just downloaded C1, opened it, played with it for 10 minutes and decided "It's not like Lightroom; I don't like it" then you've done yourself a great disservice.
*and what an eye!
Doug Peterson, Head of Technical ServicesCapture Integration, Phase One & Canon Dealer
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