Capture One Pro 7 is one of the biggest competitors to Adobe Lightroom and has always been an alternative option for photographers that want to work a bit differently. Back in the older days of digital photo editing, one of their biggest selling points was the ability to shoot while tethered to the computer--therefore allowing an editor to work on the spot. But Adobe quickly caught up.
The latest version includes new features such as better support for Fuji X series cameras and the X trans sensor, better high ISO noise reduction, a better image processing engine and more. But is it enough to dethrone the tried and true Lightroom?
Capture One Pro 7 can be purchased for $299.
For those of us not as familiar with the program, Capture One is what Adobe Lightroom is mostly based off of. The program allows the user to import images, apply metadata, organize and catalog shoots, manage multiple shooting projects, make edits to images (sans retouching), and export them for a specific use.
Capture One is very based off of and highly promotes having a workflow--which is a polar opposite of Photoshop, which instead encourages users to focus on a couple of images and gives you the tools to turn them into full art pieces. With this said, it is a program for that is highly targeted to photographers. If you shoot a lot and are mostly happy with your images but instead want to make lots of minor corrections to each, then Capture One is a solution. Most wedding photographers, studio shooters, or still life photographers will end up culling through lots of the images on the import process in order to make lots of minor edits. Only when retouching needs to be done will they move to another program.
Ease of Use
If you're a user of Adobe Lightroom 4 then Capture One will be a relative walk in the park, but you will have a little bit of a learning curve to overcome. To even begin start working on your images, you'll need to import them. Importing comes with a much smaller interface than Adobe's and puts more of an emphasis on what really counts if you're a professional: the files, the metadata, naming conventions, and where the files will be stored. This means that you'll have less work to do in the export phase--where Adobe puts most of the emphasis on metadata management, although they also do it in the editing process.
Beyond this, you'll be exploring panel to panel to see how your workflow affects the image quality. The actions that you perform in Adobe Lightroom 4 may not necessarily affect images in the same way as they do in Capture One. With that said, you'll need to develop a whole new way of editing.
During our tests, we ensured that our Apple MacBook Pro 13" Retina display laptop was always well calibrated. However, sometimes, we felt that Capture One allowed you too little editing space in its real estate. To counter this problem, we used Apple TV to mirror the screen to a 42 inch television (which also had to be calibrated to match the MacBook Pro.) This eased the problem--and we recommend larger monitors when editing.
We also recommend that you click on the workspace button and try to figure out which template works best for your setup at home or in your studio.
Editing and Workflow
Editing in Capture One has many different interfaces. The main ones for adjusting your images have to do with color, exposure, lens, composition, details, local adjustments, and metadata. Changing these parameters is fairly standard but there are some minor quibbles that make editing a bit tougher. For example, if you want to use the white balance dropper tool, you surely can. But when you're done, Lightroom lets the user click the original tool to turn it off. This isn't the case in Capture One where instead you'll need to click on the mouse button located in the mini interface on at the top of the screen.
Thankfully, manipulating your images is a simple process of moving a slider back and forth. Don't like what you did? You'll have to resort to the old Control + Z (or undo what you specifically did in some way or fashion.) The Adjustments Clipboard can copy settings from one image and apply them to other images. The clipboard allows you to apply either some or all of the adjustments to selected images. But locating this functionality is much harder to find in Capture One than in Lightroom.
Skin tone control in Capture One is far better than in Lightroom 4.
When you're all done culling through your images and editing them, you can select particular images to be exported and rename them as well--just like in Lightroom.
All done editing? Your catalogs will be backed up upon being prompted.
When your camera is connected to the computer, you can use a specific interface (that is otherwise still available) to make the most of the experience. When the images are shot, certain metadata characteristics can be applied and the images can be automatically stored in a specific folder on your computer or hard drive. While the images are coming in, adjustments can be applied to each file. The extra step comes with built-in flash control--where an attached flash can set to front curtain or second curtain accordingly.
If you'd like, you can control the camera's exposure from the computer itself using the according panel--this is best for line shooters with assistants to swap out products when needed. The fact that a Live View feed is also available continues to help photoshoot managers by controlling everything from their desktop. If clients are present, they can also peer over if they want to have input before the shots are even taken.
Capture One's tethering function also works with cameras that aren't totally supported. This function needs to be unlocked using the Hot Folder function. It is a bit of a pain and a slow process when it comes to actually shooting, but it works. We recommend that there be a dedicated editor at the computer when using this function.
Though Capture One has come quite a long way from what it was and includes lots of improvements, interface touches, excellent editing capabilities, and more--it can't convince this Lightroom user of many years to switch over just yet. Adobe has put emphasis on a more simplistic layout that balances power and efficiency. Capture One does the same, but with more clicks--and therefore less speed. However, it does make you think more carefully about how you're editing your images. For that reason, we can recommend it strongly to a photographer that wants to teach themselves the basics of color theory through trial and error. However, if you're still looking to get a speedier workflow with more overall support (such as more presets and plugins) then Lightroom 4 is the way to go.
If Capture One were to open up their software to more companies by allowing them to create plugins and presets, then they could probably be a more substantial competitor to the Adobe Lightroom software.