Capture One 6 Pro is Phase one’s latest version of the venerable Camera RAW conversion and editing application. New features include local adjustments brushes, expanded support for metadata, a Keystoning tool, and better RAW demosaicing. A new B&W conversion takes into account the relevant RGB channel settings to achieve specific effects, and a Capture Pilot app lets customers or art directors give instant feedback. There’s also a filmstrip view, videoclip support, and a nice file renaming tool.
Capture One 6 Pro isn’t a revolution. The interface is familiar and most of the functionality that was already available in the previous version is still available in the newest release. Photographers will certainly appreciate the ability to immediately show image on an iPad as they are shot. Capture Pilot was one feature I couldn’t test lacking an iPad or iPhone, but the underlying concept is very tempting. If Phase One managed to get it working well, it will be a strong selling point.
What I did test was the Capture One application itself, and I must admit, Phase One did a wonderful job with the new features and the improvements. For starters, they may have improved on the RAW conversion, but luckily they kept the high quality, colour-accurate conversion intact in the process. Especially for landscapes and portraits Capture One manages to convert photos with a large dynamic range and subtle colours. Having said that, the new Aperture 3 is now on par in this area with Capture One 6 Pro, making things more difficult (which will you choose?).
The RAW conversion of Capture One 6 Pro is perfect. Its metadata support is near-perfect. Capture One 6 Pro now synchronizes with those fields that are also supported in Adobe XMP, e.g. your star rating. This is quite important for photographers who hand off their photos to layout designers.
When you go through the Capture One 6 Pro workflow, the first thing you’ll probably do is adjust colours. In this tab of the interface, photographers now have the opportunity to create monochrome variants of their shots. The controls are pretty self-explanatory and you’re very much on your own with regards to how the B&W conversion will ultimately turn out, but if you want it you can start with a preset. Split toning is possible too, so you can mimic cyanotype photos, etc.
I personally found the B&W conversion to work just a bit less intuitive — or shall we say pleasurable — than the Aperture 3 monochrome feature, but it worked well and it will allow you to get the same results in about the same time.
Capture One 6 Pro’s full screen functionality is what it says: it allows you to view photographs full screen, without any interface clutter. At the top and bottom of the screen triangles show you where to hover the mouse for access to the toolbar and the filmstrip, but that’s it. No niceties like HUDs that disappear when you press a modifier key while dragging a slider as in Aperture 3.
One of the big new items in Capture One 6 Pro is the ability to apply effects and adjustments with a brush locally just like in Aperture 3. The approach in Capture One 6 Pro differs from Apple’s approach, and is better in that it allows you to go further with the supported local adjustments than with Aperture 3 — unfortunately, you can adjust less with Capture One than you can with Aperture (but I think adjustments can be added easily by the developers, so I guess it will depend on market demand whether we’ll see more appearing under that tab).
Capture One 6 Pro uses layers for brushed adjustments and that is a lot easier to work with than the brushed adjustments in Aperture 3, where everything happens at one single level. In fact, in Capture One 6 Pro you can turn layers on and off, just as in Photoshop. This gives you a lot of flexibility and it also feels familiar as most photographers will know Photoshop…
My personal favourite amongst Capture One 6 Pro’s improvements and new features is the Keystone Correction adjustment. It allows you to get rid of perspective errors that will make architectural photographs shot with a common lens less than nice to look at. Especially when tall buildings get shot at human height, the vertical lines of the photo will suffer from perspective warping. Capture One 6 Pro’s Keystone Correction tool does a fantastic job at correcting those errors. When applied with common sense, the photo looks much better and has a natural feel about it. To achieve the same look with Photoshop’s Perspective tool took me more time than with capture One 6 Pro.
The disadvantage is obvious: in order to “de-warp” the image, Capture One has to manipulate the photo and this has its effects on the sides. In order to keep the whole photo natural, it must be cropped, and the cropping factor may be quite high with some photographs.
Capture One 6 Pro now also gets a loupe, a nice one with some settings and less interfering eye candy than other loupes I know. The Loupe has replaced zooming in my workflow. Exporting capabilities have been strengthened as well. There’s more to choose from, a nice web contact sheet that lets you quickly and very easily output photos to a web page, as well as a nifty file renaming dialogue that works with a sort of tag like text box. Phase One calls them ‘tokens’ and they have several preset tokens (combinations of naming element tags) available so you can just drag them and forget about them.
Smart Albums is another nice new feature, but one that I find a bit underwhelming because Capture One 6 Pro still lacks a fully capable cataloguing module.
Summing up my experiences with the new version: I am impressed by the new and improved features. It is very obvious they have been chosen with care and with the professional photographer in mind. You won’t find GPS maps inside Capture One 6 Pro (it’s a link to Google Maps loading in your browser that you’ll get) and face detection, but I don’t think many studio and commercial photographers will miss these features (although it’s always nice to have them, of course). The Keystone feature, the Loupe, and the local brushed adjustments are all spot on. Capture One 6 Pro remains at the very top of RAW conversion and editing applications, for any dSLR camera.
But Aperture 3 comes close, and that makes choosing a lot more difficult… Capture One 6 Pro costs 299,00 Euros.