Capture One Pro Review

Capture One Pro Review ImageCapture One Pro Review Image

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Introduction

There are a number of good options available for those of you that shoot RAW. Your camera most likely comes with an application (like Canon’s Digital Photo Pro), and if you use Photoshop you already have Adobe Camera Raw. So, why would you be interested in investing in yet another application for processing your images? As photographers, we’re all interested in the absolute best possible image quality. That’s why many of us use RAW to begin with. After all, capturing in JPEG is less post processing work for us since so much of it’s done in camera. But, I haven’t met a photographer yet that was happy about giving up control over how their images are processed.

Capture One from PhaseOne (www.phaseone.com) has been around for quite a while, and has always been one of the stronger competitors in this market. Available in a standard version as well as Pro, this review looks at the Pro version which is likely to be the choice you’ll want to examine as it includes a number of features like lens correction, styles, selective color adjustments, and other workflow enhancements.

One of the major new features in version 4 of Capture One Pro is the ability to work on JPEG and TIFF files with all of the tools in the program, all as non-destructive edits. This is something that Lightroom and Aperture users have been enjoying for some time, and is a great option for anyone that shoots in JPG. You’re still limited to what a JPG file can do in some respects, and you have less image data available when making adjustments due to the 8-bit restriction in a JPG image, but it’s still considerably more powerful than typical image editing on this type of file would be.

Ease of Use

Capture One Pro sports a new interface using the now popular dark gray background (Figure 1).  The work area can be change to use different colors from the Preferences dialog. I prefer to work with a medium gray background to better judge highlights and shadows.

Capture One Pro Figure 1

File importing is where most people begin, and Capture One Pro does a very good job of handling this task (Figure 2). You can select the location you want to copy your files to, as well as create a backup copy.  The metadata tagging is very simplistic, only giving you Copyright and Caption fields.

Capture One Pro Figure 2

Folders that are created during the import process are automatically flagged as Favorites and placed in the Session Favorites panel to make it easier to work with current images (Figure 3). This brings us to one of the workflow features of Capture One Pro – Sessions. When you’re working in the application, you work with a Session – the set of images being edited at that time, including the layout of the workspace and any session related folders and albums you created.

Capture One Pro Figure 3

Capture One Pro also includes Albums, which are similar to Collections in Lightroom and Albums in Aperture – they contain virtual copies of your images and can include images from multiple folders. In figure 4, I have a Session Album named Travel 2009 that contains images from both the Utah and Oregon folders – deleting images from the album will not delete them from the folders because these are just virtual representations of the images. Where Capture One Pro differs is that albums are tied to a session and not a global album that will be there at all times (unless, of course, you use the default setting and never save a custom session). Sessions can save a great deal of time though by customizing the interface and the folders for specific needs – as an example, a photo session with Erin would be saved as a Session that contains all the favorites, albums, and other temporary folders.

Capture One Pro Figure 4

Image Editing

Capture One Pro breaks the image editing controls into logical groupings. The panels are docked by default, but you can drag any panel away from the dock to turn it into a floating palette (Mac only according to the documentation). The Quick panel (Figure 5) gives you access to the most commonly used adjustments – white balance, exposure, and high dynamic range adjustments for shadow and highlight recovery. There are also a number of Styles available which are preset adjustments to modify your images (Figure 6).

Capture One Pro Figure 5

Capture One Pro Figure 6

I find the histogram display in Capture One Pro to be the best of any image editing application I’ve used – it’s extremely responsive and does a very good job of conveying the color channel details in a small area.

The Color panel (Figure 7) gives fine tuning control over white balance and color adjustment. The Skin Tone adjustments work in a similar way to the white balance adjustment, but rather than neutralizing an image based on the selection, the Skin Tone lets you preselect a color value to adjust to, making it easy to exactly match a color as needed.

Capture One Pro Figure 7

The Exposure panel (Figure 8) has the exposure and HDR editing controls as well as a Level and Curve tool. Using levels you can set the black and white points of your image by using the eyedroppers. The midtones can be adjusted as well by dragging the marker. Curves can be set by dragging at any point on the curve, or you can fine tune the area you want to adjust by clicking with the eyedropper on specific areas of your image. Capture One Pro will place a point on the curve at that light value.

Capture One Pro Figure 8

Capture One Pro Review ImageCapture One Pro Review Image

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Lens Correction (Figure 9) is only available when working with RAW images. These controls allow you to correct for chromatic abberations, finging, vignetting and other lens problems.

Capture One Pro Figure 9

The Crop panel (Figure 10) has controls to set crop ratios and sizes, as well as rotating the image to correct for unwanted tilts. There is also an Overlay control which will be useful when you need to composite images or artwork and need to have precise positioning of the elements in your photo.

Capture One Pro Figure 10

Next on the list of panels is Metadata (Figure 11). The list is a basic one of your EXIF exposure and camera data. Only the Caption and Copyright fields can be edited in this panel.

Capture One Pro Figure 11

The Details panel (Figure 12) has the standard Unsharp Make controls as well as Noise Reduction, Clarity, and Moire controls. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the noise reduction tools actually worked. I’m used to ACR and Lightroom where the correction is minimal and luminance adjustments normally lead to image softness. With Capture One Pro, I was able to clean up a significant amount of noise without using a third party application like Noiseware. The Clarity control works like the similar controls in Aperture and Lightroom – it does localized sharpening to avoid giving an artificial look to your images. Here I wish Capture One Pro had implemented this control differently. I often use a negative clarity adjustment in Lightroom on portraits to give a small amount of softening to skin tones.

Capture One Pro Figure 12

The final panel is the Adjustments Clipboard (Figure 13). In this panel, you can select which adjustments you’ve made to the selected image to save as a new Style.  All checked items in the list will be incorporated into the new style.

Capture One Pro Figure 13

Capture One Pro also supports soft-proofing of images, letting you work with the profile that you’ll be outputting to, whether it’s a printer, screen, or CMYK device. This is one area where Lightroom is lagging in support and could take a cue from Capture One Pro on how to implement this feature.

Processing Images

Along with the image adjustments you’ve made, Capture One Pro supports Variants – essentially virtual copies of an image with different processing parameters. For example, in Figure 14, I’ve created a color and a black & white version of the image – there is only one physical file, but I can now output both versions.

Capture One Pro Figure 14

Once you’ve made your adjustments, you’re ready to process them – this entails applying the adjustments made and outputting a file in the selected format. Here, Capture One Pro gives you a great deal of control. Files can be saved as TIFF, DNG, or JPG with any color space you wish – all your system profiles are available. If you frequently use a setting, it can be saved as a Recipe – a preset with all the current options including file type, color profile, and size, for future use.

Capture One Pro Figure 15

Capture One Pro also supports batch processing of images, so you can queue up a set of files to be output and either start processing them immediately, or wait until you’re finished with all your editing, then start the batch and walk away – very useful when you have dozens or hundreds of images to process.

Another output feature is the Web Contact Sheet (Figure 16) that can quickly create a web gallery with your selected images. You don’t have the layout options of some of the other programs, but the pages are clean and work well for a quick client showing.

Capture One Pro Figure 16

Conclusion

Capture On Pro 4.8 is a very full-featured application. It’s not going to be the only app you need – unlike Lightroom or Aperture, you can’t do keywording, but for the editing tasks, especially with RAW images, the output quality is top notch. The High Dynamic Range controls work better than their counterparts in the other applications, particularly with recovering highlight detail. The ability to create custom styles is powerful and timesaving, and the processing recipes are ideal for anyone that needs to output the same image in multiple formats. Finally, if you’re working with large quantities of images, the batch processing option can be worth it’s weight in gold. Although it’s a complex program with a number of advanced features, Capture One Pro is one of the easiest RAW converter programs I’ve used. At $399 US, Capture One Pro isn’t going to fit into every budget, but for the pro photographer, it’s a very attractive option when workflow and output quality equate to time and money.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Value for money 4

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