Are you considering switching to Capture One Pro from Adobe Lightroom? I’m a month into using Capture One Pro 11 after 12 years of Lightroom. Hopefully, I can provide some insight.
I kind of stumbled into Capture One Pro on accident. I had heard about. In fact, I had heard a lot of good things about it, but I’ve been comfortable hanging out in my Adobe bubble.
But I recently decided to try out Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. Many professional Fuji shooters have mentioned that Lightroom doesn’t do a great job of processing Fuji’s RAW format and that Capture One Pro did so wonderfully. So I thought I’d see what it was all about.
I was hooked within the first hour.
As you read this, please keep in mind that I hardly ever go to Photoshop. I prefer to do most of my processing from within a RAW converter. First, I don’t have gigantic layered TIFFs or PSDs taking up storage space. Second, my style is one of simplicity and speed, and working each photo one by one in Photoshop is much slower and more complex. I revisit photos often to make tiny tweaks, and doing this in Photoshop is like using a giant sledgehammer to put a small penny nail in the wall. Knowing my mentality will help you understand where I’m coming from here.
Capture One Pro vs. Adobe Lightroom: The Big Picture
Pricing & subscriptions
Adobe. As I understand, the current version of Lightroom Classic will be the final stand-alone version of Adobe photography products that you can purchase. Everything is moving to the “Creative Cloud” and requires subscriptions. Adobe’s Photography Plan includes Lightroom CC (great for mobile editing), Lightroom Classic (for desktop editing), and Photoshop CC. This monthly plan is $9.99 with 20GB of cloud storage or $19.99 with 1TB of cloud storage.
You can pay monthly or annually, but unlike every single other company offering subscription plans, there is no discount for paying for an entire year at once.
I have three versions of Lightroom on my computer for God’s sake, and they’re all current.
Capture One Pro. Phase One offers Capture One Pro as either a standalone purchase or as a subscription plan. The standalone purchase gives you that version of Capture One Pro only. The subscription plan gives you access to the current and all future versions of Capture One Pro. They do have a “downsized” Capture One Pro for Sony for $79. Go figure, I’m switching from Sony.
The full version of Capture One Pro can be purchased for $299 or you can subscribe for $180 per year if paid at once. A yearly plan paid month-to-month is $20/month ($240 total) but you’re committed to the year. Again, the advantage of a subscription is getting all future versions of the program, and they do make some significant improvements between releases.
This took some getting used, but overall I like the feel of working in Capture One Pro much better. It just feels more contemporary. Lightroom still feels like something from the old days of Windows.
It’s like Adobe built a darkroom in the early days of photography, and they’ve made some renovations and added some tools, but it’s still the same old building. They don’t want to raze it and start over. Capture One Pro is the contemporary hip place that just feels more comfortable.
If you want to do more advanced processes with your photos, you’ll have to leave Lightroom for other programs or plugins. Capture One Pro has integrated much of that into their program, and I’ll get into that later.
There is, of course, a steep learning curve.
Importing Lightroom catalogs into Capture One Pro
Capture One Pro uses catalogs much like Lightroom and fortunately made Lightroom catalog import very easy.
Aspects retained during catalog import:
- Basic exposure corrections including saturation, contrast, cropping, and white balance
- Metadata including ratings, color labels, keywords, and all other IPTC information
- Collections & catalog folder structure
Things not included during catalog import:
- Dust/spot removal
- Targeted adjustments
- Advanced toning & color corrections
- I noticed some, very few, photos imported with a color temp of 888K. No clue why but C1’s AWB works great.
So yeah, you pretty much have to start over with all of your RAW conversions. But this is where the fun starts! And I’m not even being sarcastic!
Where Capture One Pro shines in comparison to Adobe Lightroom
Color, color, color. And color. Did I mention color?
I’ll admit it, color casts have always been my nemesis. Like if you cranked the saturation all the way up to 100, the overall image would eventually appear bluish, reddish, greenish, etc.
I’d get as close as I could to removing these with Lightroom’s color temperature & tint sliders, go down to the HSL sliders and adjust the hue & saturation of individual colors, maybe try to adjust curves for RGB channels. These controls are limited and clunky. Nik’s Color Efex Pro “Pro Contrast” tool does a good job of removing casts, but then I’m left with a TIFF file, which kind of defeats my RAW-only mentality.
Capture One Pro has multiple effective tools for dealing with color.
A Color Balance tool with real color wheels will let you adjust the hue and saturation of the overall image, highlights, midtones, and shadows. Start with large corrections and then make smaller refinements in the right direction. It only takes seconds. (See above photo for a screenshot).
But it doesn’t stop there.
The Color Editor tool, like Lightroom, lets you pick a color range to edit with an eyedropper. But here you have much more exact control of that color range. Drag the wire frame around the color wheel to precisely adjust the range you want to target. Click on the “View selected color range” box and the entire image will turn black-and-white, except for the colors that you targeted, giving you an easy visualization of the colors you targeted for adjustment. You can also make adjustment masks out of the selected color range. The Basic color wheel will let you adjust the overall hue of the entire image for removing color casts, something you couldn’t easily do in Lightroom. You can also work with just skin tones, removing variances in hues & saturation of what should be uniform skin tones.
I can get more accurate results in Capture One Pro, in a matter of seconds, than I ever could in Lightroom & Nik after a half hour.
If I just had to pick one reason to switch from Lightroom to Capture One Pro, I’d easily do it for the color control.
Lightroom has come a long way with their adjustment layers. Lightroom Classic now has auto-masking, and masking based on luminance & color values. But one thing that always bothered me was the limitations of adjusting color. You could adjust white balance & hue, but you didn’t have access to the other color controls in the Develop module. I never understood that.
Capture One Pro is much more like Photoshop when it comes to adjustment layers. Make a mask and then you have access to all the tools normally available on the background image. You can create masks out of color & luminance values, and adjust the opacity of each layer.
The clone & heal tools are very powerful in Capture One Pro. Its healing source is always waaaay off, but you can easily move the source around, and it does a great job of blending it in.
You can name your layers in the Layers tool for easy reference when you need to change one.
Capture One Pro, probably because it was initially designed for use with $40,000 cameras, deals with shadow & highlight recoveries much better. They retain color and have less of a “muddy” feel.
You can make much more precise curves adjustments in Capture One Pro. You can also adjust just a luminance curve (doesn’t adjust color saturation), the RGB curve (also adjusts saturation), and individual color channel curves.
The basic Contrast & Saturation sliders are a little less harsh too. They’re both “smart” sliders, much like the Vibrance slider in Lightroom. They’ll adjust the tones & colors that need adjusting, but ease off the ones that are already too high.
Capture One Pro seems to do a better job handling luminance noise. It’s a casual observation, I haven’t done scientific tests with it, but I’m very happy with it.
Capture One’s Clarity slider behaves much more like Nik’s Detail Enhancer than Lightroom’s Clarity slider. It does bring out more details but without the obvious edge halos present in Lightroom. You could always spot Clarity slider use in Lightroom photos.
Adobe has been consistently touting Lightroom’s improved performance. I didn’t see it. No one else saw it. I couldn’t even remove a few dust spots without my laptop fan sounding like it was going to break out of the casing. I’d make an adjustment and then wait to see the results.
Capture One Pro, like Lightroom, makes the changes to the preview image instead of the full image for improved performance. But they do a much better job in the execution. I see results almost immediately and my laptop doesn’t sound like it’s going to explode. This has major implications for me when I’m editing off of solar panels or no power sources at all.
Where Adobe Lightroom has the edge on Capture One Pro
This is a big one for travel photographers who don’t have a GPS-enabled camera. Adobe has a great Map module where you can load a recorded GPS track and then sync all of your photos to that track. Or if you don’t have a track, just drag the photo onto the map to write geolocation data. Right now I’m trying out some third-party programs that will sync GPS tracks to photo EXIF data. I’ll report on that once I find a winner.
Sharpen & dust masking
Lightroom does have some great tools to visualize sharpening and dust removal. It must all be done manually with Capture One, and this can make it more difficult to visualize overall sharpening effects. It also makes it harder to notice dust spots. I do like how Capture One’s dust removal tool works, but that’s assuming I can find the spots.
Integration with photo hosting services
I’m going to miss this. I host all of my photos on SmugMug, and they have a Lightroom plugin. Whenever I make a small adjustment to a photo, Lightroom will mark that photo for synchronization to my SmugMug account. One press of a button and the new images will automatically replace the old. For now, I’ll have to do all of this manually by replacing each individual photo I update.
I still haven’t figured this one out on Capture One. My folder structure hierarchy, much like many other traveling photographers, goes like this: Location->Year->Date. In Capture One Pro you can’t view photos in subfolders like you can in Lightroom. So I can only load photos into my filmstrip taken on one specific date.
Lightroom CC does have a great mobile editing app. And the photos sync between your desktop version and your mobile version, so you really can edit from anywhere.
In Conclusion: Will I stick with Capture One Pro or Adobe Lightroom?
They both have advantages and disadvantages. But the advantages of Adobe Lightroom over Capture One Pro are only those of convenience, and I can deal with those. What I can’t deal with are poor performance and limited processing capabilities. Despite the “inconveniences” that I’ve noted, I’m still able to work much faster and create images much closer to my vision in Capture One Pro.
I still have a lot of learning to do, but even at my basic Capture One skill level, I know that this is a much better way to process RAW photos than Adobe Lightroom.