Wednesday 14 April 2010

Review of Capture One software

I have been a fan of Capture One for many years.  It is, in my opinion, THE best RAW processor out there bar none.

I have used it since V3 and now through to V5.1.1  I use the standard version not the PRO version, as I personally do not need the extra features for a substantial price hike between the two versions.  You can check out the different versions here for yourself to see if you NEED the PRO version or not.

For the pricing of the two variants and upgrade paths,  in Euros or Dollars, check out the link here.

A set of twenty five tutorials can be found here for the standard and PRO version 

So I thought I would share a set of screen grabs with you with a image I recently shared on the blog.

If you double click on the image, you will be able to see more detail.

The first image shows the opening screen as I have set it up, with the browser on the left and the tools menu on the right.  You have the options  under the 'View' tab to put these where you want.

I will now take you through the important parts of it - the tools menus.

If you see anything that is blurred or blanked out, that is just private data of mine that I wasn't prepared to share with the world - it is not a fault of the software.  The following images also tend to focus in close up on the right hand side of my screen as the main image and the left hand side remain as the first image above.

Here you can see the first tab on the tools bar, the Library tab, has a similar ring to Lightroom there.  Essentially your filing structure.  On this grab, I have the Info tab at the bottom right open, which just shows some very basic image data.  Anywhere where you see an icon or symbol in orange, that is the area that you are working in or that is selected.  

So on here for example, I am in the Library, the April Garden 2010 folder is selected, and at the top right I have selected (for some reason?) the rotate tool on the tools picker.

This next tab is the Quick edit section.  Here you can do most of the edits on one tab, from the base characteristics, through white balance, exposure, shadows and highlights via the High Dynamic Range section, and then the process summary.  I usually tend to pass this one and use the next set of tabs.

This tab shows the options on the colour editor.  This is a pretty powerful set of tools.  I have to say, from a wildlife perspective, I tend to just set the Colour temperature to how I think it best reflects the light at the time of shooting.  I generally use auto WB in camera, and then use this tool to take care of the colour temperature.

You can either use 'As shot' or custom.  It is an easy job just to use the slider to adjust.

You will note that the histogram is repeated on this from the first tab, and remains so as we go through the next few tabs, so you can always see the effect you changes are having on the histogram.

On to the next tab, and we have all the key Exposure information.  Again from the top, the histogram is there, followed by the standard exposure, contrast, brightness and saturation sliders.

Next up is the High Dynamic range sliders, repeated across from the Quick edit.  These two tools are very good for controlling the effects of the highlights in particular

Then you have the Levels and Curves options. There are some particularly good presets on the curves that give you a number of choices, on Contrast and midtones.  Finally here the clarity slider has the effect of spreading the histogram across a wider base range of tones, at either ends of the scales.

The next tab shows the cropping and rotation options.  So you can pre-determine the crop that you want in a range of dimensions.

This image shows the navigator tab, with the importsnt items of sharpening and noise control.  The sliders are used in conjunction with the enlarged zoom window so you can see the effects at a local level, while still seeing the entire image in the main window.

On this image, I have clicked the sharpening down arrow, which brings in these presets.  I didn't used to do any sharpening at the RAW stage until V5, but I tend to use the Pre-sharpening 1 option, just to apply a little pre sharpening nowadays, as it seems to give me a better response.

This is the meta data tab - all pretty self explanatory there.

Once you have worked through to this tab, you are onto the final bit now - the processing.  Here you set out the output you want.  So you can see I have asked for a 16 bit TIF, in Adobe RGB colourspace, at 300ppi.  I have enabled the presharpening by not ticking the Sharpening disable box.  If you dont want any sharpening at this stage, then just tick this box.

Here you also can set the output file destination in your system and the name of the the image.  You can also see how long it takes to process once you click the Process button.  With the new PC, this is now done in a couple of seconds, even with a 100mb 7D file.

The final tab is the batch history with the options of reviewing your history, or your process queue.  Here you can see a recent process queue, with images blanked out for the first four images.  Spot the 7D file - 102MB

The last image just shows you a page from manual, a 150page PDF that is on the Help tab.

Now I will do a bit more on some of the other features in a follow up post if there is any demand from you for it.

For me as I said at the start of this blogpost, this is by far and away the best RAW procesor that I have used over the years, particularly when compared to some other mainstream offers.

Canons DPP is good, and I find is always a useful option if you get a new camera and Capture One or Adobe haven't launched the updates for that camera.

But while I have found DPP good, it is just nowhere near as slick and accomplished as C1, in my opinion.  Adobe have been a long way off the pace, again my opinion, although the new RAW engine in Lightroom 3 beta 2 does look very good on early tests, and I would also therefore expect that this is in the newly announced Photoshop CS 5.

The good news for us photographers is that we should be spoiled for choice once the Adobe products hit the shelves.



  1. Interesting post Martin.
    One thing you don't say is why you think Capture One is better than say lightroom, is it ease of use, quality of the final image or a combination of both.
    A few years back when I started shooting in RAW I trialled Capture One along with a few other converters and finally settled on Rawshooter which then took me onto using lightroom, which I have used ever since.
    Maybe it's time I started looking at converters again.

  2. I am using C! version 5 because it seems to render better colour than either lightroom or DPP .

  3. I've been using C1 since v3.7.6 and through v4 which I still use. Your screenshots look very similar so I guess not much has changed in v5 from a user point of view. The jump from v3 to v4 was a bit of a learning curve. Your workflow seems very similar to my own.

    V4 creates a new CaptureOne directory when you browse/edit your photos. Does V5 still do this? And can V5 read the adjustments you have made using V4? Still toying with the idea of upgrading.

  4. Hi Martin, sorry, I wanted to ask your thoughts on the focus mask.I have all my lenses with canon at the moment being calibrated so I havent really been able to assess it.