Capture One VS Lightroom

Capture One vs Lightroom

Adobe’s Lightroom has been the software of choice for photographers for a long time now. There is definitely no question regarding the abilities of this photo editing software. It is great at editing photos, supports a very wide range of cameras and lenses, and is equally good at organising the images.

While Lightroom has had a fair share of success, there have been a number of software solutions cropping up and challenging it for the top-crown. Having used Capture One by Phase One for quite some time now, I can now confidently say that Capture One does come very close to knocking Lightroom off its horses. And that’s a really great thing for us end users. After all, the competition will force innovation and we are the ones who will benefit.

Each of these editors fare quite well against each other and work absolutely great. However, there are certain areas where one has a slight edge against the other. Today, I’ll run you down a quick comparison between Lightroom and Capture One and discuss the major differences between the two.

Comparison between Lightroom and Capture One

Layers

Users of Photoshop must be quite acquainted with the concept of layers. Using layers, you get to make any sort of adjustments in a separate “space” rather than on the image directly. This allows you to stack multiple adjustments on top of each other. So, in case you need to re-adjust a particular adjustment, you can identify and work with it quite conveniently.

luma range capture one

Capture One employs a layering system for adjustments, however, Lightroom does not. While Adobe has mastered the layered workflow in Photoshop, I’m not sure why it hasn’t employed the same system in Lightroom as well. While layers come in quite handy when using Capture One, it should not be a big difference if you find yourself switching between Lightroom and Photoshop when editing your images.

layers in lightroom

With no concept of layers implemented in Lightroom, you switch between adjustments by clicking on the grey dots. Unless you click on those dots, there’s no way you can tell the masks associated with them.

Exposure Blending and Panorama

If you find yourself taking a lot of photos using the exposure bracketing function in your camera to merge them later in the post for that high dynamic range effect, you’ll be surprised to know that Capture One has no native way to do so. However, a third-party plug-in is available from Photomatix to get the job done.

Lightroom on the other hand natively supports merging files to HDR. If that’s not enough, there are also a lot of third-party plug-ins available for Lightroom for the same job.

Exposure Blending and Panorama

The same is true if you are looking to stitch your shots to get a panorama. While you can do so quite easily with Lightroom, Capture One cannot do panoramas.

Colour Editing

When it comes to editing colours, Capture One has an extensive set of tools that help you achieve the desired result. The Color Editor and Color Balance tools in Capture One hand you a powerful set of tools that let you manipulate colours to your liking. The colours wheels in the colour balance tool let you adjust the colours in the shadows, mid-tones and highlights individually – something that you’d find in video editing software.

color editing in capture one

For me, the Skin Tone tab on the Color Editor panel of Capture One alone hands it a huge advantage. Using the colour picker tool, you can select the colour range that closely matches the skin tone of the subject in the image. To add to the convenience, you can even convert the selection into a mask and have precise control over it. This is not possible with Lightroom.

For the following image, it took me two clicks to select the skin tone of the model and the colour of the flower. I could then easily manipulate both of them individually using the colour editor panel. Just too easy!

color editing in capture one

With Lightroom, you still get a certain level of control over colours using the HSL panel. It is just not as elaborate as in Capture One. Again, you can jump between Lightroom and Photoshop to tweak the colours to your liking, but Capture One is a clear winner in this regard.

Eco System

Adobe has successfully evolved as far as putting things in the cloud is concerned, all thanks to Adobe Creative Cloud. This has benefited on-the-go editors quite a lot. For instance, you could be editing your images in your mobile device, and when you jump to your more powerful desktop with Lightroom signed-in with the same account as your mobile device, all the adjustments will have seamlessly synced, all ready to go. The ecosystem is just perfect – so seamless.

Capture One at the moment is just available on a desktop version and does not feature any cloud-syncing option.

Tethering

When Phase One came out with Capture One, the software was designed to work tethered to their sophisticated medium format cameras. This gave the company a head start on designing software that works seamlessly with tethered cameras. And the expertise shows in Capture One. Working tethered with Capture One is seamless, the connection is more reliable, and you even get a live preview of what the camera is seeing on your computer’s larger screen.

tethered shooting in capture one

With Lightroom, one major setback that I have is the fact that you do not get to see a live preview. You need to wait until the image is taken to see a larger preview. And as far as the reliability of the connection is concerned, Capture One is definitely the winner here. I’ve found myself restarting the camera, Lightroom, and the computer several times because it would stop responding for no reason. I really hope Lightroom works to improve the overall tether experience.

In the following instance, I waited for over three minutes until I decided to quit. Lightroom could not simply detect my camera. While with Capture One, it was as simple as plugging the camera and turning it on.

tethered shooting in lightroom

Catalogues vs Sessions

Lightroom and Capture One both store the files in the form of a catalogue aka a library. Essentially, a catalogue is a centralized repository of all your images. Catalogues come in really handy when you are working with long term projects. It is database driven and stores all the information related to images like adjustments, metadata, ratings, flags, and so on.

In addition, Capture One also features another way to work with files called Sessions. Contrary to catalogues, sessions were designed with short term or single projects with fewer images in mind. Originally, sessions were used when shooting tethered, but it works equally great for smaller projects. Simply put, a session is a simple nest of folders viz. Capture, Output, Select, and Trash within one master folder. You can carry the master folder of a session around in an external drive, and start working on it in any computer that runs Capture One.

capture one catalogs

I simply love the ease of use that comes when working with sessions. So much so, that all of the editing work that I do, I do it as sessions and not catalogues.

Purchase Model

Well, although I have included this point towards the end, this is probably the most important difference between these two photo editors. This is also one of the core reasons why users are considering making the switch from Lightroom to Capture One.

The most basic plan for Lightroom is available at USD 10 per month. You only have the option to subscribe to the software and cannot purchase it. Capture One, on the other hand, can be yours with a one-time license fee of USD 299.

lightroom prices capture one prices

If you’re sure that you want to stick with one software for a long time to come, Capture One definitely seems to be the better deal. But again, considering that you can get Lightroom on a Photography plan that includes Photoshop too, Lightroom can be a great fit too.

Final Verdict

Both Lightroom and Capture One are absolutely wonderful software. They get the job done perfectly and the only difference is the slight edge that one has over the other.

With Capture One, I absolutely love the way I can handle colours. Working with skin tones is also such an ease thanks to this tool. Then there’s the session way of doing things. I cannot think of why I should go back to using catalogues whether when working with Lightroom or with Capture One itself.

With the latest version of Capture One 20, Phase One has made it clear that they are after Lightroom. There have been some great overhauls that make the software so much more intuitive and easier to use. It functions almost like Lightroom while bolstering its unique selling propositions.

Lightroom, on the other hand, has an even more extensive database of camera and lenses that you can work with. Even the third party support in terms of plug-ins is much greater for Lightroom than it is for Capture One. And if you find yourself working between Lightroom and Photoshop, the results can be equally as good as with Capture One.

While both this software do the same work, they have their own unique value propositions that you may find handy. If you are still undecided about which one you should use, you can download a trial version of Lightroom and Capture One. The trial for Lightroom works for 7 days while for Capture One works for 30 days. In case you’ve decided on what to use, you can either subscribe to Lightroom, or purchase (or even subscribe) to Capture One from their official websites.

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