Capture One Pro 12 review

Submitted on Sep 27, 2019, 1:15 p.m.
Riding the Elephant

Here's a brief review and wish list for Capture One Pro.

Like many former Adobe users, Adobe's aggressive subscription-based licensing policy sent me looking for alternatives to Adobe Lightroom, while at the same time I clung to my Adobe Lightroom v6 perpetual license. I tried nearly all of the open source options, and then after exhausting myself on those, turned my sights on Capture One Pro.

Capture One Express was always included with each pro-level camera purchase I made, including my latest Sony camera - but until now, both the price and the effort to switch were daunting to say the least. Phase One have since priced Capture One Pro much more competitively, and so I sat down and watched the tutorials and took the Express version for a test drive before upgrading to the full pro version. Here's what I discovered along the way.

The combination of superb raw import defaults, the great user interface, and the incredible speed with which I can cull and edit a session of several hundred photos convinced me to switch.

And so I began cleaning up, reorganizing, and slowly working my way through my image library of over 20,000 photos. I imported my Lightroom catalogue with Capture One Pro preserving collections, as well as basic crop, star rating, and color tags for all images. Image edit information such as levels, color, and any local editing (spot removal etc.) are not preserved, and so this is the biggest obstacle to migration, although in the end I decided it was worth it. I had a good collection of exports from Lightroom which meant I had reference images that I could use to guide my re-editing work.

After six months of heavy use, here's my summary of the good and the bad of Capture One Pro as a message to Phase One:

The Good

  1. The interface design is absolutely beautiful and perfect - don't change it and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
  2. The RAW editing features are hands down the best there are. This along with speed of editing convinced me to switch. Layers are brilliant. Watch all the editing tutorials and you'll see why.
  3. I don't mind the strategy of pre-generating previews, since when done you can fly through culling images. This is partly why the application can move through images so quickly.
  4. The Process Recipes are excellent. I'm able to create two recipes - a 2048px web/digital output, along with a full-size tiff export, placing them in an export folders, with sub-folders named 2048px and master. Another feature easily worth the price of admission.
  5. Batch rename with reset name increment is awesome for picking up where you left off in numbering images that have been added to an existing set.

The Bad

  1. Please, please with sugar on top - offer an option to overwrite existing files during the export of variants. A confirmation or switch so that a recipe can be re-run without appending file version numbers onto new exports when a file with the same name exists.
  2. I think the 'selected'  images border needs to be much clearer - yellow would be nice. I've accidentally applied changes (including once ALT-DEL) to an entire collection of images thinking that only one image was selected - when in fact they all where (I'd forgotten to press CTRL-SHIFT-A to deselect them).
  3. I would love to be able to zoom out in preview mode (Command -, or Ctrl -) Sometimes it's nice to be able to see the image in a smaller area with empty space around it. At the moment you can only zoom in.
  4. There should be a little pop up (toast or other) notification when images are added to a collection (CTRL-J).
  5. With about 20,000 images in the catalogue, on starting Capture One Pro there is about a 10-15 second delay before the application returns to the position in the catalogue it was in when the application was last shutdown. Having searched and searched to discover if there is an upper limit to the catalogue size, I've found oblique references to about 30,000 images max. The catalogue system needs to be upgraded - ideally using a beefy local database. This is really the only thing holding back Capture One Pro from becoming the ultimate RAW image processor, editor, and strong digital asset manager. For me - it's not stopping me or slowing me down - and I understand they've made progress - but this is the only missing piece of the puzzle at this point. A strong DAM/catalogue and you're golden.
  6. Please - please with sugar on top again, allow us to choose BOTH preview quality, AND thumbnail quality. The default settings for thumbnails are not good enough for HiDPI or Retina displays.
  7. The entire workflow of switching between the Viewer and a grid or thumbnail view needs to be ironed out. The previous thumbnail or filmstrip options should always be remembered when opening and closing the Viewer. As another example, when double clicking on an image to open in the Viewer, the focus needs to be set on the image so that 'previous' and 'next' navigation just works. I always have to click on the image again before I can start to move forward or backwards through the collection. When switching back to the Grid view from the Viewer, if the selected image is still within the screen area - the grid view should not change position, i.e. not jump up or down to place the selected image at the top - it's jarring when this happens.
  8. I would love to be able to separate the Library and Catalogue browser from the other tool windows - ideally having the Library always shown on one side of the application, with the tool/editing windows on the other.

And so there you have it. My short and sweet review of Capture One Pro. One last comment before you go - please for the love of everything that matters - always offer a perpetual license option. None of us are immune to financial hardship, and it's unfair bordering on cruel to expect anyone to have to pay to access their own work forever, for life.