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Software Reviews

Capture One Pro 6 review

Martin Turner (Martin Turner) on March 15, 2011

Keywords: capture, phase, software, capture_one, phase_one

I'm not going to go through all of the features of Capture One — you can look at them on the Capture One website if you want. Most of them also exist in other packages, though the 'Keystoning' is something which you don't see on Raw developers, and is highly useful.

Here's an example of an image shot with a lot of 'keystoning' — incidentally showcasing the way Capture One is optimised to run on one or two screens, and also supports previewing with one or more iPhones and one or more iPads at the same time:

Capture One 0003 2
Example of a setup

As you can see this image has been shot with a wide-angle, and is strongly angulated.

Now here's the 'keystoned' version:

Capture One 0003 1
"Keystoned" version

You lose a bit from the edges, but it gives a very smooth way of sorting out verticals.

If you're buying on features, the Lightroom has the most, followed by DxO and Nikon Capture, and Capture One has the fewest. Capture One doesn't have very many presets, and it has no built in support for specific Nikon lenses (though you can set up your lens/camera combination semi-automatically, and also sort out the barrel/pincushion distortion without difficulty). By contrast, Lightroom supports most of my lenses with a specialist profile out of the box, and DxO even supports the combination D3 + 85mm 1.8, which is something I really wasn't expecting.



All that is by the bye, though, if the software you have won't deliver the result you need in the time you have to do it. I originally did the post-processing for the diplomatic reception on Lightroom, and it took me about two hours to get a set of email resolution shots to send to the organiser. It would have taken a lot longer to output shots even for the resolution for sending to a newspaper. By way of comparison, I also ran one of the shots on DxO. Now, DxO has a fundamentally different purpose — it's trying to wring the absolute maximum quality out of every image. But, like Lightroom and Capture One, DxO was not able to correctly set the white balance automatically. Setting it manually took a couple of minutes. Once set, DxO will happily process an entire folder of images in batch mode but, crucially, to process just one image for a 12 MP sized JPEG took 9 minutes 24 seconds. For forty images, that's more than six hours. When I tried the job in Capture One, it was averaging from start to finish — after I'd set the original image — about one minute. So here's the table: 40 images, processed and ready to go:

Capture One — 40 minutes

Lightroom — 2 hours (but at a much lower output resolution — higher would have taken considerably longer)

DxO — 6 hours (estimated by multiplying up from one image)

That's just one test, and if the makers of Lightroom and DxO would like to show me how to speed things up, I'd be happy to learn. However, even if the length of time working were less different, Capture One feels so much more responsive. I feel completely in control of the images — able to zoom right in, right out again, try a different setting, go back to the previous one, clone an image and keep working on the clones, export it to Photoshop to play with, anything I like without having to sit back and wait for the computer to do its work.

What I also like about it is that all of the tools are available all of the time, no matter what mode I'm working in. Lightroom and DxO make you work in one mode or the other.

So where do I come down with this?

I really didn't like the lack of support for Nikon. The absence of specific lens profiles I can live with — it's very quick to set up your own lenses, and the result is better than any factory out-of-the-box profile, because it is based on the optics of your actual lens and camera. I'm less happy about the lack of support for Live View when shooting tethered. You can get Live View via your iPhone when using OnOne's DSLRemote, so there's no real problem with it. With Capture One, you can't even set the aperture or trigger the auto focus. These features are available for Phase Ones and Leafs, just not Nikons. On the other hand, it does let you set everything on the camera without arguing about it, and the results are incredibly fast, and very nice. Here's one, a marketing image for a book:

marketing image for a book

I'm not so bothered about some of the other 'missing' features, such as upload to Facebook. Likewise, I'm not troubled by the fact that this (like DxO, but unlike Aperture and Lightroom) doesn't have any Digital Assets Management functions. It doesn't do a database. For that, Phase One recommends Microsoft Expressions, which used to be iView, and it has specific Expressions integration features. I used to use iView all the time, partly because it was a lot quicker than Lightroom. It was only the fact that I could install Lightroom onto every machine in my office for a fraction of the cost of iView + Photoshop that I moved my team onto Lightroom.

All that notwithstanding, I probably will now increasingly abandon Lightroom for pro work, though I might well hang onto it for databasing and for hobby photography. When faced with a deadline, I am vastly more comfortable working with something like Capture One, which reminds me a lot of QuarkXpress and the venerable Ventura Publisher — very selective when it comes to what features are included, but very strong on speed and reliability. Also, the features are generally better implemented than anything I've seen before. With Capture One I feel directly connected to the media. And that's more important than any number of bells and whistles.


After I wrote the initial draft of this review, I went to talk to one of the Capture One programmers, who set me straight on a couple of things. I have to say I've never met anyone as passionately engaged with the software they've written. He showed me no end of additional, undocumented features and tricks: "you can't include everything in the manual", he said. He was particularly keen on the local adjustments, which is a layers based (yes, that's right, layers!) local adjustment which not only covers exposure and sharpening, but also skin uniformity and local moire. You can also do local adjustment to specific bands of colour — something going even beyond Nikon Capture NX's interface in terms of usefulness, and very substantially beyond Lightroom.

Test Machine:
MacBook Pro dual core 2.6 Ghz with 4GB Ram running OS X Snow Leopard with extension Apple Cinema Display.



 UPDATE by Hendric 04.29.2011

With release of Capture 6.2 the set of controls for tethered capture has been increased. Here is a list:

  • Tethered support for Nikon D-7000
  • Support for Nikon D5100 (preliminary)

Capture One now supports the following Nikon camera controls:

Camera / Capture Control



raw, raw+jpeg, …

ISO sensitivity


White balance mode


Set custom white balance


Exposure mode


Shutter speed




Exposure compensation


EV step


Camera orientation mode


Sensor+ mode


SensorFlex mode


Aspect ratio / Image area


Shutter latency mode


Safe mirror-up mode


Power mode



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Martin Turner Martin Turner (Martin Turner)

Expert professional PJ & PR photographer

Bidford on Avon, United Kingdom
Moderator, 4874 posts

1 comment

David Medina (davidmedina) on March 23, 2011

Great Capture one review, but tour comment about Aperture demonstrate that you don't know nor have used Aperture 3. Aperture 3 has much more features and it is more responsive than Lightroom 3 and Capture One. Aperture 3 local adjustment are superior than both Lightroom as well as Capture One. in Aperture 3 you can about apply locally every adjustment you can do in the program. and you can be selective as far as how you apply it - shadows, mid tones or high lights. Aperture 3 curve is as good as what you find in Photoshop and Capture One. And you can create multiple curves because they can be applied locally by a brush. Plus in Aperture 3 you can design books and work with video. So as you see, to say like you said, that Aperture has less features than Lightroom is totally innacurrate and demonstrate that you don't use it nor have taken the time to tested. Aperture 3 has more feature, more controls and better results as well as more responsive overall than Lightroom even in a 5 years old Mac Pro.