Pleasing interface. Fast import. Deep photo-adjustment toolset, including chromatic aberration and noise reduction. Cons Weak organization tools. Some usability quirks. No online sharing features. Bottom Line Capture One, from the makers of top-end pro digital photo equipment, is tough to beat when it comes to raw camera file conversion. But the software lacks workflow, organization, and output options found in Lightroom.
Also featured are tethered shooting, a live monitor view, and focus tools for shooting directly from the app. Capture One aka C1 is a strong competitor to the Editors' Choice winners Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, DXO Optics Pro, and others in the prosumer photo workflow space thanks to updates to the interface and export plug-in capability, as well as new masking tools.
You get three Capture One licenses for your money, up from two in past editions and more than Adobe's two-computer maximum. A free, fully functioning day trial version lets you test the software. I tested the Windows version. It's a bit application—handy for when you have many large image files open at once. One small complaint I have with the installation process is that it requires a reboot. I had to upgrade my image catalog on the first run, but doing so was quick. I also had to activate the software with my Capture One account as well as a serial number.
That's a fair amount of work to do to get started, but Adobe's validation process isn't much better. Updated interface with Resource Hub; Revamped menu system; Luminosity range, linear gradient, and radial gradient masking; Plug-ins for exporting and publishing; Extended AppleScript support; and Fujifilm film simulations.
Interface and Import On first run, the new Resource Hub pops over the main program window. This offers tabs for What's New, tutorials, webinars, support, and plug-in shopping. If you dismiss it, you can get it back up from the Help menu. Just about everything in the Hub opens a webpage in your browser, so I'm not sure why there isn't just a link on the program window to a web index page of all this. Phase One has tweaked Capture One's interface with larger menu fonts, some new icons, and reorganized menu options.
That said, it's still recognizable to longtime C1 users, and is in general far busier than Lightroom CC and Skylum Luminar 's interfaces.
The dark adjustable gray window features two large buttons for importing and tethered capture. Unlike Lightroom Classic's interface, Capture One's is not modal. That is, it doesn't present different workspaces for different functions, such as organizing, editing, or output. Instead, you do everything in the one interface. You use buttons to switch the left panel between 10 down from 12 in earlier versions views based on what you're doing at the moment—Library, Capture, Lens, Color, Exposure, Details, Adjustments including presets , Metadata, Output, and Batch.
You can remove any view you don't use frequently. Just as in Photoshop, right-clicking or click-and-holding these buttons opens a drop-down of more cursor choices, including Zoom and Pan. The Apply Adjustments cursor lets you copy and paste adjustments between images. New for version 12, this paste functionality is smart enough to not include spot removal and cropping. The program offers good right-click menu options, and keyboard shortcuts for example, C for crop, Ctrl-T to hide or show the Tools menu, and number keys for ratings.
You can even create your own shortcuts for any of the program's menu options. New for version 12 is the ability to search for shortcuts, by either the key combination or the command performed. Undo and Reset buttons are always at the ready to reverse editing goofs, something I like to see in an interface.
Question mark icons in every tool take you to the appropriate help entry—very helpful indeed. A simple roll of the mouse wheel quickly zooms your photo. Like Lightroom Classic, Capture One can't zoom to a specific percentage.
Instead, it stops at set amounts, such as 25 percent, 50 percent, and so on. There's no indication whether the photo you're viewing has been fully rendered. In my testing, photos rendered faster than in Lightroom Classic, which does, however, indicate when the photo is completely rendered. There's a full-screen view in Capture One that shows both the side panel and your image, but this is far less useful than Lightroom Classic's true full-screen view.
I also found that the basic action of switching between gallery and image view was less intuitive than it should be. Sometimes I would hit the multi-image button and the program would keep me in single image view.
In Lightroom, it's a simple matter of double-clicking an image. As an alternative to the large Import button, you can set Capture One as your default AutoPlay option when plugging in camera media. The import dialog is powerful. It lets you choose the source, destination, file renaming, and copyright metadata. Autocorrect is also a useful import option. You can zoom the preview thumbnails, view single images, and choose which images to import. You can't rate or tag them before importing, unfortunately.
The program's duplicate detection like that in Lightroom saves you from having unnecessary copies on your drive. Like Lightroom Classic, Capture One stores information including any edits for your imported photos in databases called catalogs.
The actual image files can be stored in a different folder location from the catalog, or right inside it. Keeping them separate means you can have the large image files on a separate NAS drive, for example. Unlike Adobe's app, Capture One lets you have multiple catalogs open simultaneously. The default is to open the catalog you're importing to as soon as the import starts. A double progress bar shows both overall import and current file-operation progress. See the Performance section below for a comparison of import speeds; long story short: You can start working on photos before the whole import finishes, which is handy.
Even with these, I saw more detail in Capture One than in the Lightroom's initial conversion in some photos for some camera models. With others, Lightroom's new Adobe Color raw profile provides the superior image.
Capture One raw conversion on the left, Lightroom on the right using the Adobe Color profile. In the top pair, the C1 rendering looks too saturated, and that's reversed in the second pair, shot with a different camera Canon EOS 5D at the top 80D on the bottom.
The first few modes are more saturated, and the last two give the most detail. As its name suggests, tethered capture is a strong point for Capture One—it offers more than just about any competitor, with its live-view Sessions feature. There's also an iPad app , Capture Pilot, that lets you show, rate, and capture photos using Apple's tablet as a remote. Organizing Photos Capture One lets you add star ratings via thumbnails across the bottom of the interface screen and at the lower-right corner of the main photo view.
There aren't simple Pick or Reject buttons for people with less-granular processes. There are, however, color labels, for those who organize that way. The Keyword tool accessible from the Metadata tab lets you add keywords to build a Library. The next time you start typing in the text box, any matching entry in the library is suggested. You can even import or export keyword libraries and add hierarchical keywords. The program doesn't, however, offer you a prepopulated keyword library.
I still prefer the treatment of keywords in Lightroom Classic, however, which offers exhaustive help and presets for organizing your photos in this most useful way. You can create your own albums including smart albums based on ratings, color codes, or search criteria , projects, or groups which can include any combination of the above.
But forget about integrated geo-tagged maps or people tags, such as you get in Lightroom. Capture One does offer good search options by date, filename, rating, and keyword.
One helpful organizational tool in Capture One is called Variants. Similar to Lightroom Classic's Snapshots feature, Variants let you create multiple copies of a photo with different adjustments and edits.
Variants are the only way to get a before-and-after view of your adjustments, and even that method doesn't work as well as Lightroom Classic and DxO's side-by-side views. Adjusting Photos Organization may not be Capture One's forte, but in its selection of standard adjustment tools—exposure, contrast, shadows, highlights, white balance, and so on—Capture One is up there with the best.
The program offers an adjustable histogram, white balance, exposure, HDR, and clarity. The last offers a few modes of its own, with Punch, Natural, and Neutral being more effective than Classic mode, which just seems to sharpen images. The latter has made its way into several competing applications, so its absence in C1 is now egregious. For the record, the haze-removal tools in DxO PhotoLab and Skylum Luminar worked better than the one in Lightroom, which added a color cast.
I can usually get a better-looking end result using Lightroom Classic's tools, even though Capture One gets more detail at initial raw conversion. A big A button above the side-panel buttons makes the appropriate autocorrect adjustments for the current window. You can undo the autocorrect changes of any given setting exposure, white balance, and so on individually, without undoing the others. The program's High Dynamic Range section offers just two sliders, for highlights and shadows.
Their purpose is not to deliver special effects, but rather to perfect an image, and for that they're useful. As for true HDR using multiple images of the same scene shot at different exposures, Capture One is completely lacking, with no such tool. The same holds for multi-shot panorama merging. The Levels and Curves tools in C1's Exposure panel are far more useful for making vivid images. But Capture One is all about image fidelity—though there are Styles that apply color and Black and White effects, as well as a Film Grain tool.
Capture One includes profile-based tools for correcting lens-geometry distortion, though the Canon lens for my Canon DSLR wasn't included.
Buy now Extended Set is the next step in creative work with color in Capture One for experienced photographers. In Extended Set you will find a lot of entirely new film styles and artistic variations of styles for the most popular films. Film Grain emulation styles is also an exclusive feature of the Extended Set. You will get unique film styles and 25 film grain emulation styles. All the color styles work with layers in Capture One Pro