Adobe Lightroom vs. Phase One Capture One Review
Adobe Lightroom v 5.7 vs Phase One Capture One v 8.3.4 Review segment 1
It has been a long road along which many of us are still traveling along in the digital photography procession. I am currently shooting with Canon 5DMKIII and a Canon 100D, yet have files from many Nikon 810, and other bodies.
I was an early adopter trying to get the best quality for images going to press. That was the old days of scanned film, a drum scanner in my case, and off to printing after Photoshop editing.
Somewhere out of the blue came an Apple application called Aperture, ingenious and rebellious in its way of rethinking menu driven UI towards a visual approach. This pushed the few people at Adobe to move ahead quickly with a secret project of an application just for photographers and their new digital workflow.
The idea for such an application started many years earlier 1999 is marked on the Wiki page.
I started with the first public beta in 2006 and fell in love with what I could do making brilliant B&W images without Photoshop and better ways of doing so, completely within a visual UI.
It took a while to get used to a modular interface though over a menu driven interface.
I first heard of Capture One around version 3. I tried the application but could not understand the UI at all and there was no help to be found. In Adobe’s camp George Jardine had really promoted LR well, most questions were quickly answered on forums and a lot of tutorials followed.
Today LR has done everything possible to make information available with excellent help manuals, online information, and tutorials. Phase One have only recently achieved a similar level. Admittedly Adobe has the resources to do so, thus rounds of applause to Phase One as to what they have accomplished for users.
To be fair, I am certainly a power user of Lightroom. I have taught LR at Parsons, and still give private lessons. It will take time to learn to be as proficient with C1, yet the latest version along with the excellent tutorials has made it relatively easy to get up to speed.
The launch time of C1 is rather slow even with an empty catalogue. Once up and running Importing images and previews builds are fast enough relative to LR not that I noticed anything worth looking into. Here is the first major difference. You have to choose if you open a session or include imports into a catalogue. While LR is catalogue only, meaning database, it is extremely stable so much so I’ve only once had a slight problem easily fixed with a system level backup.
C1 sessions are a good way to do new shoots, being they are simply a folder structure where you file them into their appropriate slots. Certainly doing a tethered shoot is best done this way, no reason to shoot directly into a database. I have all my images in one LR catalogue as I go into the “digital darkroom” everyday and look at new ways of processing images old and new alike. This is why for me sessions would limit my vision and scope of such a vast catalogue of images.
I have 240000 images mostly raws in my LR catalogue. The draw back is slower performance. This is made more complicated when in the develop module as the more manipulations you have the slower the catalogue can become. Multiple catalogues are possible in both LR and C1, the better option being C1 as you can have multiple catalogues open at the same time.
I have the lrcat (LR catalogue database) on a separate SSD, and the scratch volume is the same. Images are all on RAID 0 hard drives ( backed up regularly).
For performance it depends on where you are in the edits. LR starts to slow down a lot when you paint a lot of local edits, yet C1 slows down with a lot of global edits. Some strange anomalies are LR has a fit if you use the clone heal a lot. C1 with the spot tool just flies. C1 though with a lot of local adjustment layers, the masks can slow down the display refresh rate.
In the end neither are great for a lot of manipulations, which is disappointing as it makes you want to return to Photoshop where there is never a delay in any operations.
If we go through the panels, comparing both, the LR library is exactly right. C1 is a mess with redundant obscure options making logical workflow very difficult for new adapters. Adobe made hard decisions to keep it simple, Phase One believe the market is more sophisticated than it really is.
Next panel in C1 is the all important tether module. There is no equivalent panel in LR, to tether you have to go into the menu or right click to start stop tethering. I stopped using tethering after LR V4. IT became way too slow for my pray and spray shooting style. It’s not that I am not getting the pictures without all that excess, it is just I am hoping for the unexpected to be captured that outdoes the intended expected picture. So I shoot fast and a lot. LR tethering has gotten worse over time. It crashes now on my computers so basically it is unusable for me. Capture One used to be slow, and less stable. That is no longer true, V8 is the way it should be. Just don’t let your computer sleep while connected. You will also find Capture Pilot which is very useful, so much so that the unique reason I bought V6 was for Capture Pilot. For the price of C1 if you use it for even a few paid shoots a year where the client can rate and review images on the fly, you can justify the cost there alone.
Color panel exposure , etc., are unique independent yet customizable in C1. You can move tools and panels around to a certain limit, yet hard to make sense of any of it. Some options in how images are displayed are just not possible anyway. Dual display with C1 is not very good for me. I do understand you can show hide the viewer but what is on the second display is not able to display things as I like in LR. Ideally I will have to put together all the tools in one panel in C1 and save that out as a workspace. Moving between panels seems redundant to me after being so comfortable in LR with just two main panels: either Library for sorting, selecting, and Develop for doing everything you want to one or multiple images. On top of that many things in Develop module are applicable in the Library with right clicks or short cuts. The controls however in C1 are really fantastic. The three way color grade is wonderful. LR has split toning, and curves to do similar things yet that is not at all the same thing. The three way color wheels are very unique, and using them a treat. There is a tool in the white balance that is also unique in that it is a skin tone picker that you can match color across different similar shoots.
The color editor is where C1 shines for beauty and portrait photography. In the skin tone editor tab the all important Uniformity slider goes beyond the best intentions in LR. Uniformity actually picks other similar adjacent tones and smooth them into the range of skin tones selected! You simply cannot find anything like it in LR, nor in Photoshop. Feels like I’ve been missing out for years of trying hard in anything else. I strongly suggest for print and quality portfolio work you give C1 a try.
Exposure panel, here you’ll find the other controls which can and should be combined into the color controls panel. Pretty much straight forward. The brightness slider is strange, something they had a long time ago in LR but it was dropped in favor of white and black end points and dark and light content sliders. This is covered again in the gamma and end point sliders in C1 which is a very nice way to do it. There are curves in both LR and C1 both are good. I do miss the highlight slider in LR which I use all the time. I haven’t found anything in C1 so fast or easy to use. The Highlight and Shadow recovery sliders though are well done, LR doesn’t do a great job with extreme moves. C1 can save some images without of normal range contrast, and do so with grace. There is an additional slider in C1 that allows control over where the clarity is going, useful and perhaps a higher level of control achieved over LR. By default better watch out for C1’s excessive sharpening and clarity if you don’t reduce sharpening first.
Lens panel in C1, another redundant panel, and this one is where C1 fails badly. Come on how can a company sell a pro app with such pathetic built in camera profiles? Surely the ones for Phase One cameras must be well done! LR works seamlessly with a long list of cameras. Any decent DSLR and lens will produce fabulous autocorrections by simply clicking on the profile and aberrations check box. The upright tool works well too, and if it doesn’t then you can hand do the corrections. In C1 it is more or less manual everything. And for every lens every focal length used. Of course the Sharpening panel should have been in this one, where you’ll find the rest of the controls. Pretty much what is needed for sharpening, LR and C1 are good slightly different. The masking option in LR is an exceptional control when need it and understand it. Film grain in C1 is very nice, it was redone to assimilate real film. LR is very generic in this respect, efficient but not quite right at times. C1 has a look that makes it right.
Adjustment panels is where you’ll find the biggest differences between LR and C1 while editing RAWS. You can add up to 16 layers of edits with abundant controls on each layer. You can then toggle each layer to see the results of each combined layer. You cannot really do this in LR. Yet in LR you can add as many pins with whatever corrections you make and continue adding pins with different settings until you fall off your chair. So the controls in C1 are fabulous yet quite limited. Auto mask works well in LR yet in C1 the mask brush tool generally is less precise. LR the brush is fast and easy and the shortcuts the same as Photoshop (feather, size opacity). Yet strangely enough C1 use window view shortcuts 100% and fit the same as Photoshop, why LR doesn’t is very curious.
The other panels are a bit complicated for what they are. In LR you simply choose export, and there you can tailor your own presets easily. I have many develop presets, and all the output presets saved out to make them easy to export to what ever the destination and or edit and return I need. Integration in LR is by far the way to go. Exporting in TIFF is something I am not going to do. Exporting in PSD from C1 then cannot display PSDs in the viewer. TIFF can have lossless compression but it is complicated to use. PSD has RLE encoding and in general it lossless compresses the file layers, vectors and masks which not only save quickly but open quickly. I could go on but it is simply frustrating when coming from the ultimate app in compatibility Lightroom. I do a lot of tweaking of the PSDs in LR after clean up. Photoshop is made for pixel level editing.
I did just completely revamp the panels and saved this as a workspace. It would be better if Phase One had some good workspaces almost like when InDesign lured over Quark users with workspaces and shortcuts similar to new users past experiences.
The only thing about presets and styles which are user settings saved out, is the huge draw back of not having a rollover showing a vignette in the navigation window in the Develop module. There is the drop down in styles and presets yet they are very slow to respond. You can view them in C1 as browser or viewer images and they do actually apply the preset as you roll over but it is not fast, rather painful. This is the fun window, and for that LR will remain my go to application for just that; having fun. When I need more serious work where I need to maximise image quality C1 will be the place to make it happen.
Here is one image from raw (cr2) taken from default to my normal tweaks which include a logical exposure through color correction then ending with local brush and gradient tweaks. Since all local adjustments are not repeatable, both images have freehand modifications, they are not scientifically correct as they have artistic interpretations that are not at all identical in each program
That said I have no allegiance to Adobe nor Phase One, and have in no way tried to make one look better than the other. I find that the default sharpening with C1 too much yet I did not reduce it this time. The C1 image is lively, and not just because it has more sharpening. It is the realness of the image that maintains a pop that LR doesn’t. In LR if you over sharpen it will haunt you ( I know I have way too many images where it shows). The skin uniformity is truly a gift for beauty and portrait photographers. The shadow detail already is extraordinary with C1, and highlight recovery equally great.
Yet speed wise LR sings, is more fun, and if you need to batch images with integration C1 is not even in the same league.
How can I say, you can use a straight screwdriver in a Phillips screw, but choosing the right tool for specific types of work will get you there faster. And sometimes you’ll avoid those rough edges by using the better tool in the first place.