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Phase One Capture One 4.6.2 Review

Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at whether the latest RAW processing offering from Phase One is good enough to capture one's attention.

|  Phase One Capture One 4.6.2 in Other Software
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Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: Microsoft Windows System Requirements

  • Phase One Capture One 4.6.2 Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent
  • 1Gb of RAM (2Gb when working with digital backs)
  • 10Gb of free hard disk space
  • Calibrated colour monitor with 1280x800, 24 bit resolution at 96dpi screen ruling
  • Windows XP, service pack 3 or Windows Vista, service pack 1
  • Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.0
  • A PDF reader is needed to access the help file

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: Apple Macintosh:

  • Intel-based Macs (G processors are not supported)
  • 1Gb of RAM (2Gb when working with digital backs)
  • 10Gb of free hard disk space
  • Calibrated colour monitor with 1280x800, 24 bit resolution at 96dpi screen ruling
  • Mac OS X 10.5.5 or later (Tiger, etc is not supported)
  • An internet connection is required for activating the software.

Capture One 4.6.2 is Phase One's latest RAW processing package that builds on the improvements made in version 4. It's also a major upgrade to the older, but very popular version 3.7.x LE which found a place on many photographers hard drives, partially thanks to a free give-away with Sandisk Extreme III memory cards. Luckily for those people, Phase One decided to grant them a free upgrade to version 4 as well.

Capture One is essentially a cross platform package, being compatible with both Windows and Macintosh computers. For this review I will be using a PC with Windows XP installed. A PRO version is also available, providing extra features such as tethered shooting, and finer colour control, this review is of the standard version costing around £90 (thanks to the weak pound!)

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: In Use
Installing Capture One 4 is as straightforward as with any other piece of software, with the exception of Windows users who are a little behind on their updates. Capture One 4 requires .NET framework version 3.0 to function at all, so if this is not installed, you will need to update your computer before using the software, which can be time consuming, but should really be done anyway. Once the software is installed, it'll need to be registered on Phase One's registration server. If you already have an account for your registrations, it's simply a case of typing in your details and activating the software. For those with no Phase One account, you will be prompted to register, which is a fairly straightforward process.

The phrase "workflow" is very apt when looking at how Capture One is designed. From import to export everything is arranged in steps to make working through large batches of images easy.

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2
A simple workflow is the ethic from import to export.

For importing images into version 4, an import program is built into the software, which is nicely integrated into the Windows shell by being added to the list of options Windows presents when a card reader or camera is connected. The import window is clear and simple to follow and you can set the program to rename files, only import certain files or even erase the images from the card once they have been copied. I'm not sure I'd be happy using that particular feature, just in case there was an error during copying, but I'm sure there are people out there who would use it.

Now to image processing and for those in a hurry, Phase One have grouped all the most common controls such as exposure, contrast, brightness, white balance and dynamic range under the Quick Tool menu. In-depth versions of each tool can also be accessed, providing exactly the level of control you need, when you need it. I really am a fan of the Quick Tool menu, it simplifies working through a large batch of images that don't need much special treatment and reduces the time spent flicking through different tabs and menus.

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2
The quick menu gives a fast access to often used tools such as exposure, contrast and dynamic range.
Phase One Capture One 4.6.2
More in-depth adjustments can also be made if you need more precise changes to be made.

The in-depth tool menus give a broader range of control in most of the ways you would expect from a package of this kind. A few stand-out features include the High Dynamic Range tool, which allows you to retrieve detail lost in either the shadow or highlight areas of the image. Unfortunately, Phase One decide to remove the ability to edit the levels on each individual colour channel in Version 4. This was a tool I used to use quite a lot in version 3.7.x.

Another useful feature is the straightening tool, which not only levels the image, but crops off the dead space around the image, saving you from having to perform the action in your image editing package later on.

The Focus Tool tab gives access to sharpening and noise reduction. Phase One have made the noise reduction much more aggressive in this version than in 3.7.x, so aggressive in fact, it can make fine detail like hair look like out of focus candy floss, even with the default settings enabled. Care needs to be taken to check for this on each image.

Last but not least is the Process Recipe Tool, this allows you to adjust certain aspects of the image process including the colour space used and where they will be saved.

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2
Batch processing is possible which is useful if you have a high flow of work going through.

Another feature I particularly like is the ability to edit several images at the same time at the click of a mouse. If more than one image is selected at once selecting or deselecting the edit primary only button will determine whether you edit all of the images or just the latest selected. This could be invaluable for photographers shooting under controlled conditions, such as a studio. The white balance, contrast, exposure, etc, can be set on all images at once, minimising the amount of time spent repeating actions and without having to shift-click every image in the batch.

One of the major strengths of Capture One for me is the programs ability to process images in the background whilst you work on adjusting another image. This saves waiting around for a whole batch of images to process. I generally find that an image is processed just as I've finished adjusting the next one, so I am never waiting for the program to catch up. The speed of version 4.6.2 has been improved over earlier releases of version 4, and on my machine, the difference is clearly noticeable. Previews generate extremely quickly, and processing an image takes only a few seconds.

One of the few issues I encountered when using the software occurred when I loaded it onto my laptop. You see I have an ultra-portable 12inch notebook, with a screen resolution of 1024x768, which is lower than the minimum specification. The program still works, but it can be difficult to get to all the controls near the bottom of the tool menus. Tools have to be opened and closed as they are used, which is an inconvenience I'm sure Phase One could have taken into account. Many of the smaller laptops like this available today still use this resolution, and are very popular with photographers like myself who use it in the field frequently.

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: Output
Overall, I've been very impressed with the quality of images outputted by Capture One. Part of this could be down to the intuitive controls allowing me to get the results I want more easily, the rest is down to the RAW processing engine, which renders tones and colours just as I want them, with great detail. Attempting to get the same results out of Photoshop's Camera Raw tool is possible, but takes much more time and a effort as the images cannot be queued in the same way and I don't find the controls as intuitive.

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: Verdict
For those who want a streamlined approach to their RAW workflow, Capture One is most definitely worth investigating. Not only could it save you valuable time when compared to other RAW processing packages, but the results are every bit as good as I've been able to get from any other software. I would happily rank this amongst the best RAW processing packages available.

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: Plus points:
Intuitive interface
Quick and simple approach to processing large amounts of images
More aggressive noise reduction than version 3.7.x
High Dynamic Range tool
High quality of output
Process images in the background whilst you adjust other images, saving time
Quick Tool

Phase One Capture One 4.6.2: Minus points:
Screen resolution specs are too demanding for many ultra-portable laptops.
Ability to adjust levels on each colour channel removed since version 3.7.x





Capture One 4.6.2 Standard costs approximately £100 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Phase One Capture One




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ducatirider 13 5 1 United Kingdom
16 Jan 2009 4:27PM
Thanks for the review, nice and quick and to the point. How does Capture one rate again Capture NX2?
theorderingone 16 2.4k
18 Jan 2009 11:56PM
I'll add a note when Nikon get round to sending me the copy of NX2 they owe me for buying a Nikon D700 before Christmas Smile
Nick_Hilton 15 599 2 United Kingdom
19 Jan 2009 11:40PM
Where is this update? I can only find 4.6.1 on the website that addresses P45 issues?
theorderingone 16 2.4k
21 Jan 2009 10:45PM
It's strange, the website still says 4.6.1, but the version I downloaded and installed says it's build version 4.6.2.

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