As of last week, I have been transitioning my post-processing workflow from Lightroom CC to Capture One Pro 10. To a great extent, I was motivated to make this move after reading and listening to a series of blogs and podcasts by Martin Bailey regarding his migration from Lightroom to Capture One Pro. While I have been generally pleased with Lightroom (LR) since I moved to it from Aperture several years ago, I am finding some aspects of Capture One (C1) compelling. The main reasons I have chosen to move are:
- Reportedly better raw file processing for Fuji X raw (RAF) files from C1 versus LR
- Faster importing and file handling
- The availability of layers for image adjustments, ala Photoshop
I cannot yet say whether I am seeing true evidence of improvement in the first two issues that support my move. I am happy with C1 raw file processing for RAF files, but I cannot honestly say I was dissatisfied with how LR handled the files. For that matter, I do not see a notable difference in file processing quality from C1. This is not based on scientific testing or pixel-peeping, just my general impressions as an amateur photographer working in both programs. While many report improved color rendering and less pixel smearing in C1, I would say it is a wash in this area, for me.
I do see an apparent increase in file import speed with C1 versus LR. I also like the import dialog that C1 presents during the import process; for me, it is clearer on how it names and places files into the catalog upon import. One point against C1, however, is a weaker keyword protocol during import; in C1 keywords must be added after import and is not done as part of the actual import process. Since I mentioned the catalog, I find that in C1 this works similarly to LR; I use referenced image files stored on an external drive, and this same source works for both LR and C1, with the same folder hierarchy. While the catalog user interface differs a bit between the two programs, I see no real impact in using one versus the other. C1 does not follow the module architecture that LR employs; C1 lets you jump directly from catalog management to image processing to exporting and printing from one toolbar as opposed to LR’s separate modules. Again, this is not better or worse, just different, and I feel comfortable with both approaches.
While I do not see an apparent improvement in raw file processing, C1 takes another approach, and I am making some adjustments in my workflow to address the differences. I think that C1 has more powerful color adjustment and level adjustment tools versus LR, but is not as polished as LR in some effects, such as vignettes, image transforms, dehaze, etc.. While less powerful tools than standalone products, panoramic stitching and HDR functions are now available within LR while C1 lacks these features. The main area where C1 shines over LR is its use of layers for editing, similarly to Photoshop (PS). The advantage layers offer is that in addition to global image edits, you also now have the ability to break up different image editing tasks, such as dodging and burning, color editing, sharpening, etc.. This permits you focus edits on local area changes, and to later change or even delete that one particular type of edit without impacting the entire image with its global edits. The layer tools and functionality are not as powerful as those in PS, especially regarding blending modes, layer transparency flexibility, masking, and grouping, but it is nonetheless a significant capability improvement over LR. Both programs allow the use of plug-ins to edit in other popular image processing applications, but C1 does not currently offer direct publishing to social media options as LR does. Further, C1 does not offer an equivalent mobile application option as LR does with Lightroom Mobile.
The following images show the same RAF file as processed in Lightroom CC and Capture One Pro 10. I did not attempt to follow the same precise workflow of corrections in both files; instead I tried to use the available tools in each program to best process the image to suit my taste. I think both results are satisfactory, and that each program does some things better and worse than the other. Ultimately, and as usual, it comes down to personal preference.
The bottom line is that if you are interested in one of these applications you will need to try both and see which you prefer. Trial downloads are available for both software options, so you can see which is a better match to your workflow and provides a more satisfactory final product. Adobe only offers Lightroom now in a monthly/annual subscription model (can be bundled with Photoshop), while Capture One Pro 10 is sold via quarterly/annual subscription or a one-time license.
For more detailed info regarding reasons and procedures for transitioning from Lightroom to Capture One Pro, I recommend visiting Martin Bailey Photography and watching or reading the related blog/podcasts.