The new normal most of us are faced with is Digital Camera Based Photography which relies on a computer for processing and file storage - the digital darkroom. Soon after my switch from film to digital I quickly learned shooting in JPEGs format would not support more advanced image “tweaks” later. Once I realized that fact I immediately went into the camera settings and changed the format to “raw” format. That simple change meant – I needed more advanced specialized raw editing software that could read and edit RAW files, at that time I turned to the Nikon Software Store and bought Capture NX-2 for about $199.00, the software could do magic with raw files – Capture NX 2 was everything I needed - at that time. NX-2 was simple enough yet had enough features to make my photos look better QUICKLY without me spending hours processing images. Then Nikon announced it was halting raw support for the NX-2 software. I choose what “everyone” else was doing by popular vote “Light Room” and I hated it. Years later, all my images are in LR catalogs and I still dislike using Lightroom mostly due to its import/rendering speed. Over time I learned to use Lightroom out of necessity.
This brings me to this point in time - should I convert to Capture One? You might just be asking yourself that same question. This article is not a technical comparison between two products, but more of why Capture One could be YOUR first editor rather than migrating from Lightroom like I am considering.
New Features and Upgrades:
Lightroom has many benefits! Like free upgrades and added features for the CC subscription. Also if you subscribe to Capture One you too get free upgrades and features over time. Lightroom offers more than editing such as tools for producing Books, Slideshows, Printing, and producing Web Galleries.
LightRoom Classic CC latest updates include:
- Depth range masking
- Single-step HDR Panorama merge
- Faster tethering for Canon camera
- Process version improvements
- HEVC file support (macOS)
- Support for new cameras and lenses
For those new to Lightroom – LR offers non-destructive editing: meaning the edits to your photos are an LR modification not applied directly to the image itself, basically a config file for the image which Lightroom reads and applies those settings for each image and renders it in Lightroom, If you want those changes outside of Lightroom you need to export with changes so other editors see the edits.
- Asset management! Lightroom has a good asset management toolset which allows you to tag and catalog and create mini-libraries of your images within catalogs. This feature makes it extremely easy to retrieve just the images you are looking for from the thousands you may have within Lightroom. Example: I did a 2-year project of photographing wildflowers as a volunteer, while I had no idea what the scientific names were, I simply tagged the images by project name, and then added specific attributes about each flower, color, number of leaves/pedals, etc… LR has excellent cataloging capabilities - later when asking about a particular flower I could quickly pull up the flowers that matched the attributes. Keep in mind if anything happens to the LR database/catalog you are screwed – all that information is stored external to the image in a special file associated with the reference image. Cataloging does require some discipline- but by default, Lightroom knows what lens was used an what camera and settings, and of course the date time of capture + a few other attributes depending on how you have your camera set up.
Lightroom the editor: I find this part for me as being the most important reason for Lightroom but yet lacking and limited in what and how it is delivered - in my opinion. When you first import your images from your camera – Lightroom applies a default Adobe RGB profile settings, this is annoying. You can change this behavior by setting a new default but it is frustrating - to have your images re-graded as a flat Adobe Profile rather than the camera profile - especially if you use different camera brands like I do (Nikon and Fujifilm).
The Lightroom editor called develop is logically arranged with the most common settings at the top and you work your way down to modify other attributes of the image as necessary. I find the LR editor adequate and somewhat intuitive and flexible, but it is far from fun to use and like I said – I normally export the images into Photoshop for further refinement for those I want to post or use. You may get a sense that I do not like Lightroom - correct I do not, but I have stuck with it for many years now - but I want to take my photo editing to the next level - am I wrong to want that?
Are other Editors available now? Several – Capture One, which I have been using now for several months. I have had a much better experience with image editing than any other RAW image editor that I have used to date. In fact, I took some of my Lightroom images and re-processed them in Capture One – and achieved better results with less than 3 weeks of experience in Capture One VS years in Lightroom. Wow! Capture One is GOOD.
The Great Things about Capture One in a nutshell: It is an image editor first and foremost, the UI focuses on editing workflow placing you in the driver’s seat right from the start – rather than you trying to find the steering wheel it is in your hands when you load Capture One. Just like Lightroom you need to import images into a catalog or a “session” the process is fast and simple, faster than Lightroom. During import Capture One reads the images and applies the correct camera profile - so the images look closer to what you originally shot and that is the way I like it!
In addition to my two Nikon cameras, I also enjoy and use my wonderful Fujifilm XT-3. Capture One software understands the camera your images were shot with and applies the Fujifilm look – giving you a heck of a head start with editing – because it is closer to what you saw in the camera when originally shot. Optionally Capture One offers camera specific versions of their software, I bought the Pro Version of Capture One which includes all the cameras. The benefit to purchasing a camera specific model is a slight price reduction. The Capture One Pro sliders behave differently than what most of us are accustomed to – in a good way. Like the HDR shadows. It appears the software understands the dynamics of the image and does not “destroy” the image if you choose to slide to one extreme or the other.
Capture One Highlights:
- Capture One is a HIGHLY customizable image editing tool workshop, although I have yet to make changes to the default layout – it is very easy to do through drag-drop, add/remove toolbars, or just re-arrange the defaults to your liking. Totally awesome!
- Layer support in version 11 – similar in concept to Photoshop layers, If you apply a layer to an image you can use a brush to paint the areas you wish to modify – such as adding more exposure to a darker area without affecting the remaining image area.
- Layer “annotations” – Great for others who you collaborate with, allowing you to mark up the images with notes on a layer.
- Skin Feature – a Nice built-in feature that you can use to pick an area of the subject and use the area as a reference to smooth/tone the skin – diminishing blemishes and smoothing the skin overall quickly.
- Multiple ways to modify color – and you can do it with ease.
Consider this, Currently, Adobe's Creative Cloud "entire package" is $53.00 A month - for all Adobe products. So, if you are also a Vlogger guess what? Adobe has video and audio editing software included in the package price. Let's just say you do not want the entire Adobe CC package the Photography package including Lightroom and Photoshop is just $10.00 monthly and I don't know many photographers who do not use Photoshop. Additionally, Adobe allows you to add apps to your package for as little as $20.00 per month. What I am getting at is Adobe is a good deal.
Capture One has a similar Subscription setup starting at about $20.00 x 12 monthly payments for an annual subscription that you can not back out of, or you can opt for a perpetual license at about $299.00 for the PRO Version. I went with a subscription because it offers FREE minor and major upgrades.
So what have I decided?: I decided to opt in and buy a year subscription of Capture One to give it a chance and further discover the features it has, and maybe at the end of a year Capture One will be my editor. The 30-day trial is good but not nearly enough time to draw a firm conclusion.
Do I think Capture One is a worthy editor - you bet I do! Check it the demo.