Phase One Capture One Pro v6 Review

January 21, 2011
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Phase One, Danish maker of medium format digital backs and cameras (with a little help from Mamiya), recently updated their flagship image processing application, Capture One, to Version 6. Phase One was one of the first camera makers to transform their image processing software package from a niche product that only supported their own brand to a general purpose image processing solution. Capture One comes in three flavors: DB – used exclusively for Phase One Digital Backs; Express – a basic edition; and Pro – a version geared for professionals and advanced amateurs who want all of the bells and whistles. You can see a feature comparison here. Phase One graciously provided me with a copy of Capture One Pro v6 for review.phaseone-c1.png

For the record, I have been drinking the Capture One Kool-Aid since version 3, so when Phase contacted me with an offer to review v6, I jumped at the chance. To be honest, I was squirreling away cash to pay for the upgrade when this came along so I consider myself very lucky.

What’s New?

Version 6 of Capture One brings a whole raft of new features and improvements making this powerful photo manipulation tool even more versatile. Here’s a rundown of the new and improved stuff and my take on each one.

Local Adjustments

Non-destructive local adjustments let you edit selective parts of an image for unlimited creative control and results. You can handle the most common retouch jobs in a few simple strokes to control Colors, Exposure and Sharpening in targeted areas of an image. Capture One Pro 6 also uniquely enables localized control of moiré.

 

Capture-One-Pro-6-local-adjustments-16x10.jpg

This feature is a huge time-saver. In previous version of Capture One, you had to save a copy of the image (usually as a TIFF file) and then switch out to Adobe Photoshop to perform these edits. Unless you have a honkin’ big machine with buckets of RAM (and if you are serious about your photography, you should), firing up Photoshop along with another image manipulation software package will usually signal impending doom for productivity. As Guy Mancuso from GetDPI.com stated, “we are getting further and further away from going to CS5 to get work done and in my book that is very very welcome.”

Keystone Correction

This powerful tool can quickly transform warped captures into natural looking images with a photographically correct perspective. This tool is particularly useful for correcting the verticals of a building that has been captured at a low angle.

 

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Often photos taken with super-wide lenses suffer from keystone distortion that can be tricky to correct. I tested this feature on a photo i took of the Miami skyline using a Carl Zeiss 18mm ZF.2 lens with my Nikon D700. Here is the original image processed in Ligthroom 3:

 

Up the River

I applied Lightroom’s lens correction feature to the shot and could not make sufficient corrections despite the fact that the lens is already profiled.

 

Here is the same image corrected using Capture One Pro v6’s Keystone Correction Tool:

 

Light Up the Night

You can clearly see the vast improvements in the second image. I also think that Capture One did a much better job preserving the details.

 

Black-and-White Conversion

Convert your images to black-and-white with powerful sliders that let you precisely adjust the color channels and create split toning effects when you convert to grayscale.

 

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This is a very nice feature that saves you the excuse of heading over to Photoshop to use Silver Efex Pro or a similar product. Custom user presets can be saved for ease of reuse. In fact, the version I got had a bunch presets developed by Capture Integration (my local Phase One dealer here in Miami).
Here is a quick demo. First, the original shot:
Theater Troup - Color
Now the black and white conversion:
Theater Troup - B&W
And now a split-tone with sepia applied only to the shadows.
Theater Troup - Split Tone

 

As you can see, the one package provides a lot of control over the black and white conversion process. I know many photographers who were very pleased with the addition of this feature.

Capture Pilot

Use your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch to view, zoom and pan high-res DSLR and medium format RAW, JPEG and TIFF images while you shoot and get instant feedback from clients and colleagues.

This is a very cool feature that Phase One picked up when they acquired Leaf Imaging. Clients can install the FREE Capture Pilot application on the iTunes App Store and with a couple of clicks (taps) and permission to log into your local Wifi network, they will be able to see shots from the photo shoot as they are happening. Your camera must be tethered for this to work. Be aware that the speed at which your clients can see the images depends greatly on several factors. The size of the images (medium format shots take longer than DSLR shots), speed of the network, processing power of the host computer (an 8-12 core machine with lots of RAM will crank the images out faster than a dual core laptop) and number of clients all have a great effect on the performance of this tool.

Metadata

The Metadata tool enables you to read, update, and modify valuable information at any point within the production process. The latest version adds XMP sync and Auto Load as well as a GPS link to Google MapsTM. Capture One provides wide support for exchange of metadata between applications.

Landscape photographers often geotag their images in order to find that spot again in the future. By recognizing and linking this metadata, Capture One Pro allows the user to inspect where the shot was taken without having to leave the application, saving you round-trips and overloading your system.

Loupe Tool

The Loupe Tool is a powerful magnifier that enables you to zoom into an image from 25% to 200%. It can be used to quickly check focus or view close-up details of a selected image or any thumbnail in the Image Browser.

 

Capture-One-Pro-6-Loupe-tool-16x10.jpg

 

This tool, similar to the one in Apple Aperture 3, allows you to quickly zoom in and out of your shot without having to blow up the whole image. I use this most for checking small details and to quickly check thumbnails which is something I didn’t realize at first that you could do.

Other Bits of Fun

There are several other new features that I did not have a chance to try out (or did not fit into my workflow) but I will list them here for the sake of completeness.

Advance File Naming

Capture One provides a powerful renaming tool that enables you to create customized, token-based naming systems with ease. Choose your own combination of text and tokens to create a bespoke naming system and apply it to an individual photograph or a group of images. Save your naming selection as a preset for future use and to ensure naming consistency.

Smart Albums

Album folders are virtual collections that offer an easy way to organize images from different folders, without having to create duplicate images in the same folder. Smart Albums are populated automatically by images that match the album’s criteria. Capture One comes with a selection of Smart Albums that are already set up in the library. You can also create your own Smart Albums.

Integrated Movie Import, Viewing and Handling

Import, browse and play back video clips, including HD video, from digital cameras. (Movie files are not editable).

Search and Filter

Search and Filter makes it easy to find, sort and organize images from a selected collection in a folder, session folders, album or smart album. Resulting images are displayed as thumbnails in the Image Browser.

Print

Showcase your work in creative formats using customized print layouts. Customize the margins, crop to match the aspect ratio of your paper, and add borders in custom widths and sizes. Take advantage of the color- managed print engine for reliable color rendition. Include watermarks and add metadata to prints.

Slideshow

Create a slideshow and showcase your images in a single keystroke. This feature can integrate both still images and video files and it incorporates a selection of slick fades and transitions.

What’s Not There

Nothing is perfect, and the same goes for an excellent piece of software like this one.

  1. Capture One does not have a plug-in API, so don’t expect any third party add-ons like in Aperture or Lightroom
  2. The Print Module is a welcome addition, but it still needs a bit of tweaking. I use a software RIP to print to my large format printer and I have the workflow for that down pat. This tool was not earth-shaking enough to make me switch. It is, however, quite good if you have nothing already in place.
  3. The file import dialogs take some getting used to. I would recommend viewing the knowledgebase articles on the subject at Phase One’s website.
  4. Documentation. The online user guide is thorough, but dry. Your best bet is to read Capture Integration’s excellent Pro Tips section of their website, or better yet get some hands-on training with them or your local Phase One dealer.
  5. Export to Social Media. Until Phase One decides that social media sites (Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, etc) and other online galleries should be incorporated into the app, plan on using external tools to move files to those sites.

Conclusion

Capture One Pro v6 strengthens an already strong product. Even if you are not a Phase/Leaf shooter, your photography will benefit greatly from the software’s amazing ability to process images quickly and produce incredibly sharp photos. I have used Aperture 2 & 3, all versions of Lightroom (and even before it became Lightroom), Bibble 2 through 5, Adobe Photoshop + ACR + Bridge, Capture One 3, 4, 5, & 6 and I can say with confidence that Capture One has consistently produced the sharpest images with the best color rendition. Period.

If you want to take your photography to the next level, you would be doing yourself a favor by giving Capture One Pro v6 a whirl.

Capture One Pro v6 is available from the Phase One Online Store and your local Phase One partner. Capture One Pro retails for $399 USD and upgrades from previous versions are available for $99 USD.

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2 Responses to Phase One Capture One Pro v6 Review

  1. Jerry on January 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I’d like to see the Capture Pilot feature to include ability to trigger camera from iDevice. Also COLOR split toning.

    C1 Pro 6 is phenomenal.

    • Carlos Echenique on January 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      I think that the idea for Capture Pilot is to keep the fashion designer attending the shoot to keep his/her mitts off of the main computer.

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