Capture One Pro Review

August 13, 2009 | Jon Canfield | Software Reviews | |


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 ( 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

Entry Tags

RAW, software, processing, pro, phase one, capture one, Capture One Pro Review

Your Comments

9 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Sashi

You discussed everything but the quality of the raw conversion.
I have Capture One Pro and as much as i feel more comfortable with Adobe or Aperture there is no denying that when you open a raw file for reasons unknown to me capture one’s conversion pulls out far more detail and more contrast.

4:56 am - Friday, August 14, 2009

#2 James

Capture One Pro is the current industry standard when it comes to high end digital capture.
And currently the only place in the U.S. that you can get 2 day hands on training for it is here.

6:54 pm - Thursday, August 20, 2009

#3 Donald Metzler

Great review, but you might also want to mention “tethered shooting”. It seems to work great with all the supported back expect their own. The IQ you get in the image window is the worst I have very seen and its usability for focusing is the pits.

2:48 am - Sunday, November 8, 2009

#4 Chris

This program is great in what it does, but the stability sucks. It freezes and drops camera connections so often that it’s just not worth it to use anymore. The only thing it does that a cheaper, faster, and more quality program like lightroom doesn’t is keep a crop and be able to transfer it in a workflow environment easier than the other programs. Once you pass the learning curve it’s a very outdated and useless program. Don’t spend the money.

8:42 pm - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#5 James

I have no way of knowing which version of C1Pro you have been working with, but the issues that you describe are more user and computer related than actual software issues. Sadly many people don’t read the READ ME file were it clearly states that V.4.x - V5.1.1 need to be run on a multi-core Intel processor.
And even then many of these machines are legacy and severely under powered.
Dropped connectivity is always user error, a 1394 cable that is damaged and needs to be replaced, camera ports that are loose because the user was too cheap to invest in a tether lock, users connecting to the front of a Mac pro rather than using the 1394 connection in back which is not sharing bus power.
All of these issues are well documented online and known to the high end power users working on commercial advertising and fashion shoots everyday.
It makes more sense to ask questions and find answers rather than slaging a software that you are unfamiliar with.
There’s certainly enough free information out there.

10:42 pm - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#6 Mike

That was a good quick overview but as someone else mentioned, the quality of C1 Pro RAW conversions is brilliant.  I’m on C1 v5 Pro now and the level of control is very good.  I can produce better images faster, before I had to go in to Photoshop (eg with DPP, ACR etc).

Only things that Light Room does better for me:  Auto hot pixel correction and the adjustment brush and ND style adjustments.  If C1 had those it would be perfect. 

I tend to use C1 Pro most of the time but switch to LR or even DPP sometimes.  My C2D 2.16GHz iMac is reasonably fast with C1 with 21 mega pixel images but am saving for something faster, LR is faster but not much.

5:58 pm - Friday, April 2, 2010

#7 Jas

I Try all of Major programs to edit my images (Aperture, Capture one pro, Lr, Br) I have Macbook pro with 8GB ram, i7 Processor and 1.5TB HDD, and also i am an IT engineer. But what i have found the Capture one Pro has the most poor GUI, which kill your System speed and create hundreds of files which overload your cache memory as well. Personally I found Adobe Bridge better and faster than anyone..It gave you more options but easy to use.

4:36 pm - Thursday, April 28, 2011

#8 Sean

Your commenting on a post from 2009 ??
You also need to be better informed on the product before posting.
Capture One Pro is a: ‘Professional digital capture program’, it is not, nor has it ever been intended to be used as an image editing program.
That may be why your having problems with it.
Reading the Manual will also help.

4:46 pm - Thursday, April 28, 2011

#9 Linda

Sean, don’t be such a wanker!! It hasn’t stopped anyone previously commenting on a thread that is from 2009 ... hence why people have commented on it in 2010 and now 2011.

Jas’s comment is relevant and a lot of people experience this very problem with Capture One freezing and completely slowing your computer to a stand still. I recommend that people read this post ...

as I also experienced this problem and following this it seem to have cleared the computer freeze problem and cache filling up .... Capture one pro 6 is still so unstable, it crashes at least once a day on me.

Great read!

1:27 am - Sunday, July 10, 2011