#305. Totally useless post! Capture One v8 Vs Capture One v7 (Vs. LightRoom)

By philberphoto | Review

Dec 30

My shoot-out post Capture One Vs Light Room was an eye-opener. Quite a few readers agreed that Capture One was the better software. And each of them indicated that he wasn’t going to change. Nobody challenged my assertion that making my pictures better for 110€ was the best deal in photography. And nobody took me up on it. The post became one of the most widely read on Dear Susan, and it made no bloody difference. Even though DS readers are interested in high-quality photography , not one wrote back to say that he (she)’d changed over to Capture One. Basically, they couldn’t be convinced. Or rather, the burden of changing over was just too much to make it look worthwhile.

Suddenly this “I couldn’t be bothered”, or “it’s just too long and hard” attitude goes a long way to explaining why compact camera sales are dead, and why all camera sales are falling off a cliff. This is because people are taking pictures not with cameras but with smartphones and even tablets. Once more, the iPod, portable and easy to use, wins despite its screechy sound quality over audiophile sound systems.

Thus my report on the new version of Capture One is totally useless, because nobody is going to change over to it. Since my previous post, Sony and Phase One did a major deal. Anyone buying a A7 camera gets a free full-featured-but-Sony-only version of Capture One Pro. Sounds exciting for both Capture One and customers. Except if buyers are already used to another brand of software, because, then, they won’t be arsed to change.

On with the comparison

OK, enough with my surly attitude. If I really believed that you aren’t interested, of course I wouldn’t write what you wouldn’t read. So, on with it! How much improved is version 8 over version 7? The answer is: much! More than the 69€ I had to shell out to get it.

Capture 1 v7 vs Capture 1 v8

There are 3 differences that in my view easily justify the upgrade. One is a “heal” tool to complement the “clone” tool. The latter lets you clone out something that ideally shouldn’t be there. But cloning out rarely works perfectly, because it is rare to have a zone of the right size, subject and luminosity to perfectly replace the unwanted one. The heal tool, comparable to the similar one in PhotoShop, takes care of a good portion of the problem by adjusting luminosity, making the replacement much more even and seamless. Score 1 for the good guys, even though this is hardly earth-shattering.

The second difference, more important in my view, is that the HDR tool is much improved, even though it already was much better than LightRoom’s, as per my previous post. In version 7, if you tone down highlights, or if you lift shadows, beyond a certain amount of adjustment, you get an effect on the mid-tones, which goes toward giving them a washed-out look. Meh! In version 8, you can push the shadows all you want, or mute the highlights, and it has no effect on the midtones, which remain punchy.

Which brings me to the major improvement: advanced layer management. In Version 7, you could do masks and layers, like in PhotoShop, which you can’t do in LightRoom. In my view a major feature. But you only got a limited number of adjustments in the layer you’d just created, basically the various parameters for exposure, sharpness and clarity. In version 8, you get much more, because you get pretty much the same as for the whole picture. Now you also get white balance, and HDR, clarity, noise reduction, etc. Which means you can selectively adjust white balance if your picture incorporates mixed lighting, such as artificial in one are, and natural in another, beacuse it is close to a window. Or you adjust highlights and shadows selectively as well. Which means, if the improved HDR tool is not powerful enough for you, you can design a layer and double the effect by using the selective HDR tool on the layer only. Super neat!

There are many more improvements, including in the user interface, the loading speed, the stability, the RAW converter (this you can see for yourself and form an opinion). That is, if Capture One are to be believed. I ran a single test on speed, and C1 v7 was quicker by some 25% over v8 when it came to importing 23 pictures.

But, as I said previously, none of this ultimately matters, because none of you are going to make a change. So why write the post at all? Just to rain on your parade, so that you know what you are missing out on. Not very nice, is it? Well, that’s the sort of guy I am. Enjoy your LightRoom, fellows!

Show me !

Now, enough prattle, to the pictures! C1 V7 vs C1 V8 vs LightRoom!



What you have above is the same RAW picture, processed first with C1 v7, then with C1 v8, but left totally without post-processing. This gives one a comparison of both RAW processors, since C1 claim that it is improved. Note: the file size is exactly the same, so there is no increase in information. The choice of this picture is because it has a very light sky, part of it burned, which begs for highlight recovery. And the beams provide an opportunity to judge colours and contrast.



In the pictures below, the same sequence, but with the HDR tool used to the max. Look at the impact on the sky, and on the building. Top picture in V7, then V8. I rest my case. In my opinion, Capture One deliver on their promise, highlight recovery is indeed much improved. More information is recovered from the clouds, yet the midtones remain less impacted.



Now here is the same RAW processed in LightRoom.  Picture n°1 is the RAW without any processing, and n°2 the same with maximum highlight recovery. Interpretation of that needs to keep in mind that LR could have more or less recovery, and that wouldn’t necessarily be better or worse than C1. What matters is what impact that has both on highlights, and on the rest of the picture.




Now one more series. 3 pictures, each processed with its software, based on each software’s capability. So the processing is not the same, because the software isn’t. First, C1 v7, then C1 v8, then LightRoom




If you compare them, you see that, in order to get some “life” from the burnt-out clouds, I need to darken the picture with C1 v7 and LightRoom, to the extent that, in LightRoom, the corridor in the bottom center is almost totally dark. And if I then pull up the shadows, the overall impact is negative because the lower contrast makes the picture less “alive”. For my taste, C1 v8 gives me the lightness and warmth I like without resulting in burnt-out, informationless clouds

Now I have refrained from passing judgement on what is “better”, because that may be a function of our sensitivities and priorities. Besides, methinks you are able to make up your own minds, and decide for yourselves. I may be able to help by showing the result of certain tests, but you don’t need to be told what to think and choose. So, friends again?

Oh, and because you have suffered enough through this post, a couple of other pictures from this Frank-Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation

DSC00957 DSC00965_1



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  • Canco says:


    Not so pessimistic !
    I agreed C1 is better (for me) than LR and I …switched to C1.
    But mastering C1 is more difficult dan mastering LR, but it works.

    • philberphoto says:

      Hi Rob,
      I am not sure that C1 actually takes more time to learn that LightRoom. It is more complex, and sometimes less intuitive, but on the other hand, the tutorial videos are so helpful that I would say it is a wash. And they are free, too. Actually, before LR I was using the Canon software, DPP, that is included with the cameras, and I learned that easily enough, but I is far from as powerful as the other two. Then I messed around with LR for months, until I decided to bite the bullet and read a couple of books. So I had to invest a fair bit of time for LR as well. Now I find that I spend pretty much the same amount of time to process my average picture on C1 as I did on LR, with a basic treatment that takes more or less one minute per shot. Then, of course, if I need to adjust more parameters, crop, straighten, etc… it can be more, even much more…

      • Canco says:

        Hello Philippe,
        My experience with photosoftware is about the same as yours : DPP – Bibble – LR (+ PS and DxO) – C1. I worked in LR from version 1 till version 5, so I know the software well and maybe that’s the reason things are going faster in LR than in C1 (for the moment). Especially the more complicated masks work easier in LR for me. I think the “auto mask tool” in LR works better than in C1.
        By switching from LR to C1 my workflow changed dramatically. Before C1 it was : DxO (for the lenscorrections) – LR. Now I can’t use DxO anymore because it does not export real DNG-files (the linear DNG-s from DxO are in fact TIFF’s) and so the rendering from the RAW-file happens in DxO and not in C1. So now it is : C1 – PS (with lenscorrections – C1 doesn’t support my lens yet) or LR and then, like Pascal says, plug-ins from Nik (at least for Sharpener Pro and D-fine). So Pascal it’s possible to work with C1 and plug-ins but you need a work-around. But I agree that it would be much easier if C1 would accept plug-ins.
        But in the end there’s only 1 thing that matters, the result and here shines … C1.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hi Rob, how do you use Nik with C1 ? Do you have to export from C1, edit in C1 and re-import or can it be a little more integrated than that ? Thanks for the precious input.

          • Canco says:

            Hello Pascal, it goes like this : import RAW-file in C1, make all the basic adjustments and then export the pictures to or LR or PS as a 16 bit TIFF-file. From LR or PS I use the plug-ins (Nik or others). Not the most easy way but it works and the results are good. So I agree with you that it would be much easier if C1 would be able to accept the plug-ins. In version 8.1 it’s already a bit more easy then before because you can send a batch of pictures immediately to LR or PS. So I’m using C1 mainly as a pure converter and some basic adjustments, the final touch happens in LR/PS. Hope this helps for you, anyway it works fo me.
            Happy newyear !

            • pascaljappy says:

              Thanks a lot Rob, and a very happy new year to you too.
              What you’re describing about v8.1 is very interesting indeed. Best of both worlds, possibly ?

  • Brian Nicol says:

    Based on your first post I immediately purchased C1 v7 and then cheerfully upgraded to C1 v8. I should have let you know that I am extremely appreciative of your post as I am fanatic on quality in my images. I love the blog and use the Sony A7R system and the Leica M240 system. I also purchased an m apo 135/3.4 because of a post on this blog and love the compactness and rendering of that lens. Keep up the great and practical posts. Thanks, Brian

    • philberphoto says:

      Ah, Brian, what better way to finish off the year in style than a comment (and praise) like yours! It strokes my ego to the point that I will have to do even better in 2015 to earn and deserve more of the same. Thanks, and best wishes for the New Year. May you enjoy Endless Good light!

  • Jens K says:

    Actually, I found your post on C1 v7 very impressive – and persuasive. I nearly made the switch from LR to C1 based on what I read and what I saw in the results, but two things made me stop to think:
    – Leica (remember: the quality fanatics) used to give away C1 with every Leica bought; they changed to LR some time ago and my new D-Lux came with LR yet again.
    – The new D-Lux (aka LX100) isn’t supported by C1 (as yet?).
    I’m quite willing to splash out on EUR 229, but not if it means having to use both LR for my D-Lux and C1 for all the rest. So hopefully the guys at Phase One are working on the Panny and the D-Lux this very minute …

  • pascaljappy says:

    This post is utter nonsense, obviously.

    Not the very informative C1 vs LR comparison, but the part about Philippe being a nasty fellow 😉 Those who know him also know he is one of the most generous and selfless people around. And, occasionally, just a tad provocative 😉

    With this corrected, let me plead guilty. I recognize the superiority of C1, the much improved loading time (is anything out there slower than LightRoom to import files ???) and impressive feature set (layers, structure slider, RAW converter …) and yet, here I am still working the old LR, version after version.

    Two reasons for that:
    (1) Unlike others, I find the UI very logical and intuitive. LR fits my natural way of processing files. But that’s a very minor detail and C1 probably would as well.
    (2) The big one : complete integration with Nik Software. As brilliant as they are, I think the guys at Phase should reconsider their position of “going it alone”. Yes, their product is really great, but integrating with your particular flavour of post-processing drug (auto pano, photoshop, Nik) really increases the appeal of LightRoom tenfold for some types of photographers.

    I think Philippe would probably agree Capture One is a more mature (as in evolved) tool, for grown-up storytellers. Whereas LightRoom gives the experimentalist more avenues to explore.

    People of Phase, we love you, we really do. Please give us an affordable MF monochrome back and interface C1 with third party software and we’ll crown you King of the photo hill.

  • Tellef says:

    Switched – probably – to C1 for better quality and editing possibilities – but what do you use for keeping order in your collection of photos? LR is fairly good at that, and by far better than C1, and C1s DAM – MediaPro – does not work together with C1 v 8. And there is no good workflow between the catalogue part of LR and C1. I find the situation frustrating!

    • Canco says:

      Hey, Before I used Idimager as my DAM, recently changed to IMatch and it’s many times better and faster than LR. Tried LR also but is to slow and not so practical as IMatch. An other advantage : IMatch works good together with … LR and MediaPro. So the changes youn make in IMatch also show up in LR, MP and C1. It’s not the most easy DAM-software but probably the best. Just try it !

  • Chris Luxorphotoart says:

    Hi, I recently bit the bullet and upgraded my free Capture One Express for Sony to the Pro for Sony version for the immense amount of 27 Euros.
    The convincing thing for me that C1 just gives the pictures by default more pop, clarity and contrast which I found hard to replicate in Adobe PS. Another thing was the low price and the fact that I am unhappy with Adobes general approach towards the customer (only lease model for PS). And that the Adobe colors for the A6000 tend towards green/yellow, whereas C1 leans towards magenta as the older Nex cameras did.
    I found the layers thing through one of those youtube videos and think that features like automatic masking are great.
    Still, when LR6 comes out I will at least try it out since I am not married to either SW.

    • philberphoto says:

      Hi Chris
      You hit the nail on the head, as I see it, when you say that C1 pics offer more pop, clarity and contrast, and that this can’t be made up in post. My feeling exactly.

  • Ralf says:

    i too upgraded from the Sony Express edition to Pro.
    With my Sony cameras images look more natural in C1 compared to LR5.7.

    So I finally switched over to C1

  • Curtis says:

    I have recently begun playing with C1 Express for Sony that came with my a7II and haven’t come to a final decision regarding C1 vs LR6. My biggest concern with C1 is: What do you use to replace the custom ColorChecker profiles that we can create in LR6?


  • Chris Stump says:

    Hello Philippe,

    I read both of your C1 vs LR posts with great interest, and have followed everyone’s comments over the last 3yrs!

    Like many I tried out a trial of C1 when LR went to the subscription model, and like some I vowed to change over when I had to due to a new computer or hard drive.

    Well, I feel that coming soon, and wonder about *my* big concerns: 😉

    1) Has the catalog/thumbnail/image browsing side of the house been improved at all? I found navigating my 130k images quite manageable in LR and would hate to take a major step backwards in that regard.

    2) Does C1 at least catalog [if not allow you to edit] JPG or DNG files yet? Back when cameras were expensive I had models that shot only in JPG. Back when storage was dear I converted all my CR2 raw files to DNG to save space. Since my C1 trial I’ve left everything in CR2 in anticipation of the switch, but would not want to be forced to keep and open LR or Photos to look at older work…although I could I guess.

    3) Did the announced LR > C1 import tool ever materialize, and does it work well? It would be great to import my current catalog with edits intact, and tackle re-editing at my leisure.

    Thanks for any advice you can offer!


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