Capture One 7 has been released and it was interesting to be on the Beta test crew. At the same time, I had been putting Photoshop Lightroom 4 through its paces. I confess that I fully expected Lightroom 4 to out perform Capture One 7 when it came to noise reduction and sharpening, but still retain an edge in terms of colour and contrast. However, I was quite wrong and Capture One is doing some amazing stuff. In fact, in my preliminary tests I think Capture One equals Lightroom if not actually surpassing it in noise reduction and processing high ISO files. My testing continues...
Most readers use Adobe Camera Raw to process their raw files. ACR is a part of Photoshop, Elements and Lightroom - it's the same engine in all three programs and it works really well. Lightroom itself is a masterful program, sensibly designed and containing everything a photographer needs to process a shoot: filing, editing, outputting. And Capture One sees Lightroom as the program it wants to beat!
From my perspective, I want a raw file converter that produces the best out of my files. Although I use a Phase One camera a lot of the time, I also use Canon and Nikon DSLRs and their raw files need careful processing too. So while Lightroom has some creature comforts that I really love, I continue to use Capture One simply because it gives me the best output file quality. This is a personal preference and a subjective comment because I know other photographers who prefer the look produced by Lightroom. I wouldn't be rushing out to buy Capture One if you already have Lightroom or Photoshop, but then again, you can download a 60 day trial and test Capture One for free (www.phaseone.com).
Both Capture One 7 and Lightroom 4 have introduced some significant improvements in the way they handle highlight and shadow detail. As Nick Rains pointed out in the workshop earlier this month in Bunbury (for South West Light), Lightroom 4 (above) can bring back highlight or shadow detail, each with a single slider, and seems to do it almost seamlessly, meaning the rest of the image remains unaffected.
Capture One (below) also brings back highlight and shadow detail, but after making these adjustments, I find I need to increase the contrast to keep the midtones looking natural. I could argue that I like doing it this way as tweaking the contrast slider afterwards allows me to review my handiwork, but the simple fact is that I don't usually need to make additional changes in Lightroom if I had the contrast right to begin with.
When you compare the interfaces, you'll notice that Lightroom (top) also offers Whites and Blacks, and when you are tweaking the highlights and shadows, you can go both ways (make them lighter or darker). In comparison, Capture One only allows you to darken the highlights or lighten the shadows, and you need to use the Levels control to adjust the black and white points. So the control is available in both programs. You can argue Lightroom has the edge by putting all the controls together in the one panel, although Capture One would argue you can customise your menu design to achieve a similar result.
From my perspective, all I am interested in is the output quality because both interfaces work very well once you get to know them. But when you add in the way Capture One 7 processes high ISO files and reduces noise, it has become a really interesting contest. I am lucky I can run both programs and I'm looking forward to spending some time with the Capture One experts this week finding out what else is new!