Capture One Pro 20 Review

With Capture One Pro 20, Phase One has once again created an upgrade that smoothens your workflow, makes image cataloguing and editing more fun and more efficient, all the while adding some much wanted improvements.

First of all, Capture One Pro 20 has a toolbar that enables you to move your most commonly used adjustments to the top of the list. In addition, the ones you don’t promote that way can be scrolled. The stress indeed lies on the “your”; it better supports the way you work, not how it’s usually done or how some software engineer thinks it should be done.

My personal favourite is the Basic tab of the colour editor. At first sight, it puts less power into your hands as the controls are now sliders and everything is smaller, but if you look around a bit more closely, you’ll find that two additional colour ranges have been added. That splits the spectrum into eight ranges instead of six. The sliders now show gradient colours, indicating their effect. Finally, the Basic colour editor now works on Layers. If you want to get back the spectrum colour wheel with its ability to pinpoint colour ranges for editing, you can have that in a floating window with the image itself automatically converted to black and white with the colours you select revealed as you go forward. Any changes you make to the spectrum wheel will be reflected in the colour patches and gradients on the sliders.

In addition, the Direct colour editor is the new cursor tool in the Basic colour editor. It allows you to click and drag anywhere on your image and have the corresponding colour change. The direction of your movement when dragging determines which slider you change and the third option is available using the ALT key. The sensitivity can also be adjusted.

Capture One 20 gets a new cropping tool that looks much like that of other editors. The visible edges of the crop and new handles are easier to work with and new modifier keys allow cropping from the centre and locking the current aspect ratio. Freehand rotation is as easy as moving the cursor outside the corner of the crop or by using another modifier key and you can now easily switch to the Pan Cursor Tool and show the image in its cropped state.

The features of the existing Crop Tool are still available, in that the new one still allows you to do things such as setting aspect ratios and specifying crop size by value, but it now also allows you to Crop to Path. If you do, Capture One will embed the crop outline and dimensions as a Photoshop Path when using a PSD file. It will auto-crop for lens distortion and change the crop grid from the standard to specialised grids like the Golden Ratio, Fibonacci Spiral and so on.

One of the least appealing new tools — to me, anyway — is the High Dynamic Range tool. This targets primary areas of detail recovery and contrast along the tonal range. It used to work only on the Highlights and Shadows and was controlled with sliders that could strictly move in the direction of recovery without a way to amplify either the shadows or highlights. In Capture One Pro 20 there’s an expanded feature set to the High Dynamic Range tool with the addition of White point and Black point sliders and with all sliders zeroing out in the centre and movable in both directions to either recover detail from the shadows and highlights or exaggerate them and boost contrast.

It’s better than the original tool, but I still think you can do the same by combining other tools already available like Levels and Curves which for seasoned users will, I imagine, suffice. For newcomers, though, I can see an added value but the name of the tool is now even more confusing than it used to be; it has little or no relationship to the effect you get from overlaying several images shot each with a different exposure in, for example, Aurora HDR from Skylum nor — luckily — with the fake effect of HDR using only one shot.

In Capture One 20’s reviewer’s guide, it states that the Noise Reduction Tool has been re-engineered for improved performance. It tackles noise on two fronts: luminance noise and colour noise and has improved pattern and edge recognition. Although I can’t say it’s not been improved — it has — it still fails to impress like DxO’s PRIME noise reduction algorithm does. Of course, you can’t see the latter acting upon your image in real-time but its results are vastly better than anything else I’ve ever seen and that includes Capture One Pro 20’s noise reduction. The tool is intelligent, though. The default setting will provide noise reduction results based on your ISO setting.