Capture One Pro 6 is the top of the tree as far as Raw Developers are concerned. Aimed principally at the medium format market, Capture One is extended in version 6 to give more support to pro Nikon and Canon dSLRs. The software is lightning fast and feels more like handling prints than any other photographic software I have used. Although it substantially outperforms Adobe Lightroom
, Apple Aperture 3
and DxO Optics Pro
on the functions it supports, it does not include Digital Assets Management, and PhaseOne recommend Expression Media
to fulfil this function, which is also integrated with the Capture One product.
There are three key things which make Capture One Pro 6 stand out from the crowd.
The overall responsiveness on a 2.6 Ghz Intel Duo Mac with 4 GB of RAM is essentially instantaneous for most tasks -- very significantly faster than any of the competing software on the same machine. This means that you can zoom in and out, move the picture around, adjust levels, make local adjustments, set white balance, deal with sharpening and noise reduction all without having to wait for the screen to refresh. On outputting a series of files, our tests suggested that Capture One was more than 10x faster than Lightroom, and 100x faster than DxO. In other words, it does in seconds what Lightroom does in minutes and DxO does in hours.
Although Capture One has fewer controls than most of its competitors (no 'Vibrance', for example, though it has saturation), all the controls present are much more refined than their counterparts elsewhere. The Levels control, for example, allows you to set slanting level sliders for differing input and output levels. The local adjustments have layers. The white balance also has skin colour correction. Users can quickly define and correct their own lenses, including setting lens distortion and light variance (which means you can deal with the dust on your sensor), rather than waiting for profiles to be developed elsewhere. Capture One also has a powerful keystoning control, which deals with the converging verticals as well as using a Shift lens in many cases.
Capture One is highly customisable to fit around your workflow, rather than making you follow its workflow (in the way that Lightroom or DxO do). Virtually every element of the interface can go virtually wherever you want it, and all the key tools are available in all the modes. Capture One also has a powerful tethered capture function, though this does not support camera controls and live view for 35mm dSLRs such as the Nikon D3. Further, there is highly optimised support for the iPad and the iPhone as display devices, ideal for working in a large photoshoot with an art director, lighting specialist and so on each of whom wants to see the pictures within seconds of them being taken from wherever they are standing.
Capture One has fewer features than most of its competitors, and little in the way of 3rd party software. For example, the extensive web output options present in Lightroom are matched by just a couple of options in Capture One, though these are highly professional and effective. Likewise, there are no Facebook upload options. On the other hand, if you use ProPhoto lights, these can be controlled directly from within Capture One.
If you are looking for the pinnacle of speed and optimisation in working with Raw images from high end dSLRs or medium format cameras, Capture One Pro is the best currently on the market. However, if you are looking for a more general tool which, at a cost of speed and refinement, does all of the cataloging and databasing in addition to raw development, then Adobe Lightroom may be a better option.