#535. Lightroom vs Capture One in B&W

By pascaljappy | Review

Dec 08

Continuing my comparison of Adobe Lightroom and Phase One Capture One photo editors, here is a sequence on B&W conversions.

So it’s fitting to start with a colour image, right? Just to set the scene of the first conversion.


Capture One in colour, AdobeRGB profile


Capture One

This conversion used one of the built-in presets. The one below used a second. We can all agree the looks are very different, but neither is an overbaked caricature. Unlike some (fun but) exaggerated looks you can get from Nik Silver Efex, these two examples are very typical of what Capture One’s presets will give you: a very distinct set of aesthetics but with a strong dose of realism always present.


Capture One

Let’s do that again. I’m loving Capture One’s B&W conversion so much, I can’t resist inflicting more on you πŸ™‚ Not even sorry !


Capture One


Capture One, B&W profile 1


Capture One, B&W profile 2


Capture One, B&W profile 3

OK, two more, with Lightroom added for good measure.


Adobe Lightroom


Adobe Lightroom B&W


Capture One


Capture One, different preset

This is particularly revealing. By no stretch of the imagination a scientific test, but one that mirrors what was already visible in colour: there seems to be a better management of the luminosity channel in Capture One, which makes it sing in B&W.

It also shows how different presets produce different looks. Lightroom also provides a few “filters” that pretend to mimic glass or gel filters of traditional B&W film (or Leica Monochrom) persuasion. They look nothing like the results of actual colour filters, but the results are still worth your time.

More interesting results can be achieved in both software, by manipulating the hue, saturation and lightness of the colours in the colour mixer B&W conversion.

In both cases, sliders let you dial in more or less of each colour into the final monochrome (just like glass filters would) and a colour editor lets you alter the properties (as opposed to the quantity) of each of these colours. Capture One provides a Smoothness (and Uniformity in the pro version) slider that’s really helpful for tone control.

captureone-bwMost of this can be done in Lightroom as well, but the Capture One implementation seems to produce more visible, yet more sublte, results.



Capture One

Capture One

Capture One


Capture One

Capture One

Which conversion you prefer is a matter of personal taste, but on the two pairs above, it took considerable local retouching in Lightroom to come close to what was possible in Capture One with global adjustments alone.


Adobe Lightroom B&W

Capture One

Capture One

Here are a few random conversions on a bleak shot.


Adobe Lightroom


Adobe Lightroom B&W Profile 1


Adobe Lightroom B&W Profile 2


Adobe Lightroom B&W Profile 3


Adobe Lightroom B&W Profile 4


Capture One


Capture One, B&W Profile 1


Capture One, B&W Profile 2


Capture One, B&W Profile 3


Capture One, B&W Profile 5

My preference, in general, goes to Capture One. That’s not to say this is systematic. On the example below (Paris, not Berlin), Lightroom does a more pleasing job. A similar result can probably be achieved by altering the colours behind the B&W conversion, but I couldn’t replicate the LR look easily.


Capture One


Capture One B&W


Adobe Lightroom

So that’s it. There’s little more I can add to these samples. Photography is subjective and monochrome work even more so.

I’ve always been happy with Lightroom’s B&W conversions, particularly with the complement of Nik Silver Efex 2, and don’t want to turn this into a sterile match. My point here is merely that Capture One does a wonderful job and that Nik’s tools wouldn’t be missed at all given the range of controls Phase One have crammed into Capture One. And that’s without local adjustments.

To end this, here are a few more from Capture One, photos mostly from Paris and London.


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One


Capture One

What do you think?

Email: subscribed: 4
  • paulperton says:

    One sentence review; if you want dark, moody black and white with near solid blacks, use Lightroom, otherwise Capture One is a good option.

    On a similar note, I’ve just been printing my way through a terrifyingly expensive box of Hahnemuehle photo rag A3s. On screen the preview made me think that a coating of fine talcum has been blown across my images They printed colour with the same pale look, which I’m learning to compensate for and make more appealing (read saturated with darker blacks) and I’m still struggling to see how the price/sheet could be justified.

    Turning to black and white printing and suddenly, I’m seeing gorgeous dark, rich blacks, soft whites – prints I’ve been yearning for.

    My Nikons are so titanically heavy that they ride with me in the car. The Fuji’s travel with me and the M9 and its lovely lenses get used on the streets.

    Software for a specific look/print style? Paper for colour and maybe rag for black and white printing? Big and heavy versus light and portable. So, it’s not necessary to seek a one-size-fits-all, we should perhaps opt for horses and the courses to which they’re best suited.

  • pascaljappy says:

    Hear hear !

    Printer profiles are the reason I gave up and love my commercial lab so much πŸ˜‰ I want to see those B&W prints, Paul. They might put me back on track. Paper, printer, pigments, the triple p of a photographer’s nirvana, are all waiting for me to get back on track. In monochrome at least.

    So yeah, horses for courses. I hope the pics on this page let readers get a feel of what kind of impact software has.

  • Fabrizio Giudici says:

    Since my question is not only related to B&W, feel free to classify it as off topic and drop.

    I’ve been thinking about C1 for many reasons, also because I see many reviews about better demosaicing and noise management than Lightroom. At the moment there are a few reasons for which I’m locked with Lightroom. For instance, the catalog part and the fact that I have a script that queries the database for exporting galleries. But it’s not a big deal: several years ago, before using Lightroom, I wrote my own software for photos. The cataloging and geotagging part was good; quality RAW processing was the showstopper, because it requires an expert of image processing, and it’s quite far from my experience. So, I think that in one year I could fix these problems by integrating some stuff for cataloging with C1 for image processing.

    The point is preserving the _exact_ RAW postprocessing that I have with my photos already done. That is: I’d like to be _sure_ that I can import my whole current catalog of photos into C1 and get _exactly_ the same colours, without the need for manually reviewing all of them. Unfortunately, my workflow never gets to a “finally processed” TIFF or DNG. Quite a few years ago I tried with other pieces of software than C1, and there were always noticeable differences.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Fabrizio. Writing your own software? That’s impressive! Maybe you can built it on top of Camera Raw or iOs’s RAW processor?

      As for your question, all I know is that you can import Lightroom files into C1 with their processing history. But since the RAW stage is different (and, most likely, some of the filters are as well), your pictures are never going to look exactly the same. If you like the look from LR, I would recommend sticking to that. The UI is more intuitive and a little faster.

      • Fabrizio Giudici says:

        Just out of curiosity, this was a demo presented at a conference (not about software for photographers, but about the technologies that I was using):


        It’s not excessively impressive that a single developer is capable of doing that… many parts were open source libraries and I just integrated them. The real hard things are: having a product that is of robust quality, supported, useful for many people and marketable. A demo or an app for personal use – where you can live with some quirks – is much much easier. Actually, for a few years I used to manage my photos with that piece of software. Then I started using it together with LR, with some tricky integration; in the end I definitely moved to LR. My catalog was more sophisticated than LR (even though most people not being a computing engineer would probably hate it!), but in the end LR is good enough.

        The demo used JPGs (BTW, I suppose you’ll reckognise a number of provenΓ§al villages), but I also had a RAW converter. Apart the RAW quality rendition (that was very poor), one thing is supporting just your own cameras, a totally different thing is to support many, with all the hell that the RAW world is (even though there were – and still are – a few famous developers, as Dave Coffin, that does an incredible work of reverse-engineer RAW formats and make his findings public). I tried to tack with the problem by open sourcing the thing, trying to involve other people, and actually there were a few dozen cameras supported, but being a good developer doesn’t imply being a good manager of an open source community. I failed the latter task. Also, at the time I had a paid customer that was using only the catalog part (not the UI) with some extensions. In 2008, the crisis broke in USA, my customer was based in USA, and funding stopped immediately. After I while, I had to abandon the project.

        Should I do it today, I’d rewrite it from scratch, because technology has evolved. Honestly, redoing that demo would be much, much easier (at the time I wrote the catalog part from scratch, while today I’d use some library almost ready to be used). I’ve also improved my technical skills.

        But I’m ten years older (it _does_ matter) and … honestly the enjoyment balance between spending time in writing software and taking photos has dramatically shifted towards the latter. πŸ™‚

        Since my only choice for RAW would be to integrate with another commercial product, the fact that you confirmed that I wouldn’t be able to keep exactly the same rendition as with Lightroom doesn’t motivate me to go that way. At least for now… maybe at one point a new version of C1 could offer an improved import tool from Lightroom… C1, if you’re listening… πŸ˜‰


        • pascaljappy says:

          Fabrizio, I beg to disagree. That is VERY impressive, open source or not! πŸ™‚

          I do recognise some of the places, yes!

          Phase One do improve C1 quite regularly. Whether they have any interest in integrating with LR, beyond helping customers switch, is unlikely. But C1 seems to be using a closed architecture compared to LR, which allows plugins so that again points toward sticking with LR. Iridient developer maybe?

          Good luck πŸ™‚

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Ages ago, I came to the conclusion that what we really need is about half a dozen different software programs – except that it’d drive us nuts and cost too much.

    You guys are lucky – up to a point. Capture One is free for Sony users, but about $400 for Nikon etc. OUCH!! Still fooling around with it for the balance of my free trial period, but nothing in it has convinced me that it’s worth that much on top of all the other programs.

    And yes – the whole thing is subjective – as is most of the stuff in photography.

    But I can’t stay away from the printer – it’s genetic – I’m a 4th generation ‘tog, and we’ve always printed our stuff. Well almost – I couldn’t face setting up my own colour lab, so I farmed that out, but that was a small part of the total because at that stage I shot mostly B&W. When you have shots of someone else or their family, they ask for prints – my wife has taken heaps and shoves them in frames that enable her to change the picture of the day, at will – my mother in law LOVES my photos, but she has to have prints, she’s computer illiterate.

    And the worst of all – post processing other people’s shots, only to find they want to show them to their friends on a tablet or laptop – and the damn thing has no proper colours in the images. After all that trouble producing a decent JPG, the outcome is incredibly bad – unless you force prints on them. My computer is calibrated, so is the printer – but the general public has no idea of those things, and the result is awful.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Pete, we’re in complete agreement/disagreement πŸ˜‰

      What we need is not 6 pieces of software. It’s 1. We used to have one darkroom. We never had to run accross town to a different one because the trays were better πŸ˜‰
      I want one great tool. Not sure that C1 is it and could probably settle for 2. C1 in B&W and LR in colour. But lazyness would inevitable get the better of me and shrink that by 50%. Back to one πŸ˜‰

      Printing. It’s bad for the environment. And it makes my hair go grey faster than it should. But it’s the best conclusion any shooting experience can come to. A file that’s not printed is a wasted opportunity. When you make a photograph with a final print in mind, you’re so much more careful and so much more forward-thinking. To my eyes, the photography world’s hierarchy shouldn’t be based on gear, a manufacturer dictate it be, but by use of final image. Good teachers get top spots. Printers are princes, just below. Those who post process creatively deserve credit and consideration. The rest … Of course, I’m the dictator at the top πŸ˜‰

      Here’s the problem with printing. It’s bloody hard !!!! By the time you’ve figured out a good profile for the printer and best settings for an image, you forgot you had to go to work and you’re in serious debt. It took me a long time and much frustration to get to grips with my current printer and the results still don’t always look as pleasing as nice print from a pro lab. Would you be happy to share your thoughts on how to become proficient at the printing game? I’m sure hundreds of people would benefit and love reading that story πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      • Jens says:

        Pascal & Pete,
        I’m completely with you when it comes to maintaining that the ultimate aim in photography is to produce a fine print – if only for the satisfaction of holding a finely crafted piece of tangible material in your hands, possibly framing it or making it a part of a printed portfolio that you show your best friends after handing out pairs of cotton gloves ;-).
        Right now I really don’t see what should make printing so difficult/complicated. I got rid of my 10-year old trusty Epson R 2400 recently and made an investment in a Canon Pro-1000. The results are pure delight – and, believe me, I think I am very critical!
        In terms of advice there is not really much I can come up with that has not been repeated hundreds of times: I use a display that has been decently calibrated, I make sure I stick to a rigid predefined workflow and get all the basic settings right, have the right profiles for my papers installed and inspect the results under standardized lighting conditions. Therefore, what I see on my display is what I get in print – always allowing for the fact that a transparency/computer display will by definition give you more radiant colors, brighter whites and deeper blacks than any print. You have to allow for that thin layer of talcum powder that Paul mentioned.
        What do you like better in the print from the pro lab?

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hi Jens, my printer is a Canon Pro 100. And some times it outputs gems/ But most often, what I get are “almost” gems. Close but no cigar. My guess is that, because I view a lot of super high-quality prints in exhibitions, my expectations are possibly too high for my abilities. I suspect that you minimize the amount of know-how and technique you have assimilated, which lets you make the right decisions when it comes to printing. But since I print very little, I’m probably not as good, or patient πŸ˜‰ I will give it another go. Because one very important variable is the paper. And the labs use much nicer paper than I do. So I’ll buy the same paper and run a few trials πŸ™‚

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          I agree that digital printing isn’t as much fun as the dishes in the darkroom, and watching images miraculously appear on the paper. But when I realised that no matter what pre-wetting agents were used before developing, there were always tiny air bubbles or something causing spots – and I had to learn the gentle art of retouching, with a range of different coloured “blacks” and an ultra fine brush and a huge magnifying glass with a built in light – then spending ages painfully spotting out the blemishes – no, that was tedious too. It was even worse in colour, because it’s quite bad enough matching different blacks, but glorious Technicolor (or Agfa or Kodak or whatever) and you could go spare, doing it. One false move, and a 16×20 you’d just paid heaps for had to be binned – at least you can go backwards in digital.

          Calibration is relatively easy – takes about half an hour to calibrate the screen and, if you want, the printer. Profiling is another matter. I was going to explore that further before I gave you a serious answer to your question – “Would you be happy to share your thoughts on how to become proficient at the printing game? I’m sure hundreds of people would benefit and love reading that story”.

          Profiling is supposed to be done for you. Epson printers come with all the Epson profiles – for the others, go online and download the profiles for the papers you want to use. And off you go.

          But it isn’t that simple. I was recently told by a local named Glen (a brilliant ‘tog – I have two of his photos hanging on the wall of this room, and I adore them both πŸ™‚ ) that NONE of the profiles produced by the paper manufacturers – Epson, Ilford, Hahnamuhle or any of the others – is actually correct. And that what we need is profiles produced for us, which are based on OUR printers and the papers WE use. Since I only use two papers normally, I’m going to spend that $400 on getting profiles done for my printers & papers, and try it out for myself. So answering your question is a bit premature at the moment. Glen HAS tried it, and swears by it – and has a sound technical knowledge of the subject.

          Once I have my new profiles, I’ll send you a proper report.

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          Jens, I’m glad you love your Pro-1000. When I bought my new Epson SC P600 recently, I also looked at the Canon, but found it a bit daunting for my needs. It has plenty of pluses though and if you look after it well and drive it properly, it will produce outstanding prints. Comparisons of print quality between the two don’t really give the guernsey of “outright winner” to either of them, though – so I am also happy with mine (and if you keep up with the exchange between Pascal & me below, I might yet be even happier, shortly πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ )

          You suggest that the computer display will by definition give more radiant colours, brighter whites and deeper blacks than any print. Some of that yes – but surely not all? Here’s a comment from Ming Thein (I’m sure he won’t mind me posting it – he might have a newer view though, because I swiped this from something he posted several years ago). I think it’s very thought provoking in the context of this discussion.

          “Then we have the issue of dynamic range and color gamut – the best inkjets will be able to beat the best monitors on the former, and match or exceed them on the latter – you have to remember that an image on a monitor is effectively backlit (transmissive) and a print is reflective. It’s almost impossible to get the same level of deep shadow gradation on a monitor, which is why prints tend to look much richer – especially those of low-key black and white images. There’s also the question of texture; you can select paper texture and warmth to compliment your image. Color images of course look good on glossy, smooth paper to give them density and sparkle; fine art B&W tends to work best on fine, matte fibre papers. (I’ve yet to see a screen with adaptive surface texture.) The final argument in favor of printing is interpretative: you can easily show the same print to a number of people, even simultaneously, and they’ll all see the same thing. It’s a finished end product, in every way. Unless you want to carry your monitor around and ensure everybody has precisely the same viewing angle and brightness, you can’t do the same with a monitor.” MT

          This is what I intend pursuing, as I’ve explained to Pascal. Starting with a focus on profiling, rather than any more post processing systems.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        ROTFL etc πŸ™‚

        I’d also love to be able to rely on one post processing system – the fact is, I can’t.

        Mostly I use a combination of LR, DxO and PS. And mostly, that does it, for me.

        Except every now and then . . . One shot I have not been able to finalise well ONLY worked on Luminar – and because it was one of their pre-sets that finally solved the problem I’d been having, I haven’t even the benefit of knowing what the correction it needed was.

        So now my tally is 6 – one LR, two different DxO programs, two different versions of PS, and Luminar.

        God forbid that I end my 30 day trial deciding that I must have C1, and – because I don’t shoot Sony – I have to stump up with another $400 for something I use only occasionally! Do they charge for updates, or do they provide them within that price?

        I am drawn to printing. Somehow, despite best endeavors, the real test of the quality of a shot is not the digital image, but the print. Tantalisingly close though we may be with our digital images, that final stage is the acid test – is it, or is it not, a “good photograph”? And IMO it is only when we print it that we find out.

        Yes it can be hard. I have boxes filled with “almosts” that didn’t make the cut. It’s like raking through the dust, searching for diamonds, on a bad day – but the rapture of producing one flawless stone in all that much is what makes it all worth while and pushes me to doing it, over and over.

        I take your point on going to work, or being in debt.

        Fortunately, when I was producing masses of B&W analogue prints, a friend of mine funded the enlarger – he could afford to buy it, but had no idea how to use it. It was one of those “marriages made in heaven” – at the time, there was no better B&W enlarger on the market, and I had free use of it! Now, most of the add-ons are more modestly priced – I could never have set up a color lab, but now I have one on my desk. πŸ™‚

        Work? – not at my age – earlier, I used to process photos & print them at night, with a complete disregard for mundane things like going to bed. And now, having gotten through three quarters of a century, I don’t work – I keep house, maintain the garden, walk the dog, cook, play the piano and do my photography. Life couldn’t be better – I even have a wife who is a lot younger, still works, and is perfectly happy with this arrangement, as long as I do all the cooking and all she has to do in the evenings is open a nice wine to go with dinner. So unlike some, I have hours every day that I can make available for fooling around with these programs, or with the printer.

        As for becoming proficient with the printer . . . Pros seem to use external processing labs, and that tells me it’s hard to master the art. If it was easy, they’d have the soft option of producing their own prints, but it seems it’s not a good use of time for them to divert from photography to processing. Personally, I find it’s a rather hit or miss process. I am generally content with what I produce, although I wouldn’t expect it to blister the eyeballs of too many other people. I guess I see myself as “above average” but “below the top” and probably feel shy about sharing my stuff anyway, for that reason.

        That said – my final abandonment of analogue is comparatively recent – and without any false modesty, I was quite adept at B&W analogue prints. Now I have to catch the tiger by the tail and come to grips with color printing in digital. It’s all good fun, but like anything else, it’s all a learning curve. I’ve departed from the starting line – but I’m still a long way from the end of the course. πŸ™‚

        • pascaljappy says:


          my understanding is that Phase One charge for every major update (v8 to v9) but not intermediate ones (V9.2 to v9.3).

          I was very fortunate to be able to use someone else’s darkroom too (my university no longer needed it). What a great arrangement. Except, as you mention, for sleep πŸ˜‰

          Printing vs lab. Pros have to think very differently. As a freelance consultant, it makes much more sense for me to get others to do part of my work better and cheaper than I would do it. Pro photographers probably have that relationship with printing (and makeup and …). An amateur has to factor in fun and learning, and can’t justify the added expense with increased income.

          Who wants to be at the end of the course? What’s the fun in that? πŸ˜‰

          My real issue with printing is that the analog darkroom was a lot of fun and digital printing simply isn’t. The learning curve doesn’t bother me, I learn for a business and love learning. But I really find no pleasure whatsoever in calibration, profiling … Now, printing digital negatives and exploring alternative printing processes, that’s something else altogether. My first batch of negative is on its way from Germany. Can’t wait to get started. Best of both worlds?

          • artuk says:

            you can use a trial license of the full pro version for 30 days, or as a Sony user you can use the Express version for free

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