Its previous version was by no means a slow application, but version 8 of Capture One has been updated with a new processing engine. I got my hands on a fresh copy of Capture One Pro 8 and found several improvements that make it difficult to choose between the latest versions of Capture One Pro and DxO Optics Pro, especially when it comes to noise reduction. I’m still undecided, with a slight preference given to Capture One because of its more neutral demosaicing.
The new processing engine of Capture One Pro 8 makes for an even faster processing, even on somewhat older machines like my three years old iMac. Faster is good, but as tradition demands, the Capture One engineers have once again set new quality standards with their professional RAW image editor.
Improvements that caught my eye include a better image quality when using the HDR (High Dynamic Range) tool. “HDR” is perhaps a misnomer, as this tool tries to restore detail in shadows and highlights, instead of combining differently exposed images into one. Capture One 8’s HDR tool is capable of restoring details while successfully suppressing noise.
Why you would prefer Capture One 8 over other RAW editors
Another quite impressive improvement in my opinion, is a much better image quality when working with high ISO images. The noise reduction champ currently is DxO Optics Pro’s PRIME algorithm. It still is, but only marginally so. I tested the new luminance noise reduction with an image shot at ISO 3200 and compared the results with a PRIME reduction. Much to my surprise, there was hardly any difference, whereas with Capture One 7 the difference was clearcut.
PRIME seems to maintain a little bit more of detail and sharpness than Capture One 8, but I needed to switch between the two test files repeatedly to see it. The improved luminance noise reduction algorithm is one of the reasons why you will want to upgrade.
The “Natural” Clarity method comes on top of three methods already available. The name says it all, but impressive I could find it not. Impressive and absolutely my personal number one reason to get a copy of Capture One Pro 8 — certainly if you consider the rest of the product — is the expansion of the number of corrections, edits and effects you can apply to local areas using the Layers feature.
There are now three types of layers: the Adjustment Layer (the one we know from previous versions) and two Repair Layers: the Healing and Cloning Layer. You can freely switch between the three, which have been made discernable by an icon next to the name. The two new ones offer the same sort of functionality as the clone and heal brushes in Photoshop, but they are more user-friendly for someone who has never worked with Photoshop before. The Adjustment Layer has been improved in that you can apply more local effects, including local White Balance (!), HDR, Noise Reduction (!) and Purple Fringing.
Film Grain — a backgrounder
Film Grain is new too, but that’s the one feature I would have expected to have been either left out or be given a more “pro” treatment. Film Grain in Capture One 8 is a simple affair. It’s not comparable to the film grain you can have with DxO FilmPack or Alien Skin Exposure. Far from it. But Phase One has an elaborate explanation on this issue.
The company does not try to emulate a specific film (e.g. Kodak TriX 400), but only draws inspiration from them. There are simply too many variables. For example, a film from the fifties will look different from the same product in the seventies. There’s the question of how it old it was before it was used, how it was developed, etc. Hence the more generic approach by Capture One Pro of adding “cubic grain”, “smooth grain”, “silver rich”, etc. Also, there are some legal issues surrounding the usage of specific product names.
Most plugins base their grains on scanned film stock, usually a small tile (like 256×256 pixels, which can sometimes look terrible), and sometimes huge scans (the software ‘TrueGrain’ does this). This can be made to look pretty good, but it has some limitations.
A few programs — Silver Efex, Lightroom, now Capture One, etc. — generate synthetic noise and “massage” this to look more or less like film grain. To truly match film grain, there is an awful lot of parameters you need to take into account, like varying silver halide size, sensitivity, density, excluded volume effects, internal scattering, multilayer processes, etc.
Some of these will mostly influence the contrast of the photo, some the sharpness, some the coarseness of the grain, etc. Phase One has tried to pick out what it believes are the most important effects and then created a handful of different looks by varying the underlying algorithm parameters. The presets are purely examples of the different grain looks that can be obtained. For a full “film stock emulation”, one should create a creative style, and fiddle with B&W conversion sliders, the Curve tool, and (of course) the Film Grain tool.
DAM and Sessions in Capture One Pro 8
The Digital Asset Management (DAM) part of Capture One Pro 8 is slowly maturing. You can now import your Apple Aperture Libaries straight into a Capture One catalogue. Catalogues can have hierarchical keywords. Catalogue folders can be synchronised. Collections can be exported as Catalogues, and you can create templates for Catalogues, as well as for sessions. Finally, Catalogues can be populated through a Hot Folder.
Sessions are still available and the import functionality has been differentiated between Catalogues and Sessions. Metadata editing has improved and metadata can be edited in the Filters tool.
Capture One Pro 8 has vastly expanded tethered functionality, which is another major reason why you would want to buy this software over others. A large number of cameras is supported — tethered support for select Sony cameras has been added — but obviously the most sophisticated support is still to be had with Phase One cameras, such as a Live View Focus Meter for Phase One IQ and MamiyaLeaf Digital Backs, a Live View Direct Capture, Live View Depth of Field preview, Live View Force Orientation and Customizable Live View window.
I’ve not covered everything that’s new, only the most important improvements and novelties. If it were just for noise reduction and lens-related corrections, I would go for DxO Optics Pro 9. However, there are reasons why Capture One Pro 8 would be a better bargain. The RAW conversion is slightly more neutral, with DxO Optics Pro 9 auto-setting the white balance slightly too blueish. The metadata support is unparallelled for any RAW editor, including Apple’s. The DAM part is great and I kept comparing it with Photo Mechanic 5 — it still is lightyears less powerful than the latter, but I can see it closing the gap.
But in the end, all the above combined with the many superior editing capabilities and quality of results make it the better app. Capture One Pro 8 costs €229.00. An upgrade costs €69.00.
With version 8, you have an alternative to buying the software outright. Photographers can now choose to subscribe to Capture One Pro. For a recurring monthly fee of €8.00 for a 12-month plan, a subscription offers access to Capture One Pro, across minor and major updates.