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Phase One Capture One 5 PRO Review

Here we take a look at whether the fifth version of this popular RAW workflow software will capture our hearts.

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Information on supported cameras and digital backs can be found on Phase One's website here:
Phase One Capture One 5 camera compatibility

Phase One Capture One 5 layout
The new version is described as a workflow tool over an editing tool.
Ever since version 3, Phase One's Capture One RAW workflow software has been a popular choice among photographers combining simplicity with powerful editing tools that have helped to build the software's solid reputation.

Part of this software's past popularity has been, in part, due to an offer in conjunction with Sandisk where free serial numbers were included with their range of Extreme III memory cards. So for many, this will be the first version of this software that has had to be bought as a standalone product.

There are three versions available ranging in price from around £90 for the basic version to around £270 for the Pro version. Substantially reduced upgrades prices are also available for both Mac and PC versions of the software. For this review I will be using Windows 7 Professional.

Features absent from the standard version that are included in the PRO version include:
  • Tethered shooting with Live Preview
  • Focus Mask
  • Multiple monitor support
  • Customisable workspace
  • Enhanced Colour Editor
  • Individual RGB colour channel controls
  • Skin tone Enhancer
  • Dust spot removal
  • Lens Correction tool

Phase One Capture One 5 PRO: In Use

Although this is a new version and seen as a major upgrade, version five shares many things with Phase One Capture One version 4 which I reviewed in January 2009. The installation process, activation and user interface is pretty much identical, with only a few teaks here and there to allow for new features. If you have version four installed and upgrade the activation software asks if you would like to use your old license to complete the process, which I find a little strange as old serials for version four are not valid on five. Apart from this, the process is straightforward enough to be completed in just a couple of minutes.

Phase One describe their Capture One packages as 'workflow' software, rather than editing software and those who have used previous versions will understand why. Each job that needs to be done from import, through editing and finally output is taken care of as efficiently as possible, without sacrificing options for in-depth adjustments when you have the time.

Phase One Capture One 5 autoplay Phase One Capture One 5 importer
The importer works in the background and allows you to work on images already sent.
You say what is imported, where it goes and what it's called.

Starting with importing, version five is nicely integrated into the Windows shell, asking you whether you wish to import images into Capture One in the Autoplay dialogue when a flash card is inserted into a reader, or a camera connected via USB. Selecting this launches the importer program where you can select what you want to import, where you want it copied, how you want it named and it will even tell you when it's done.

Almost as soon the import has started, previews are generated and you can begin working on your images while it works in the background. A new progress bar feature has been added in version five which provides information on how preview processing is going as well as how quickly your final edits are completed. I found this especially useful on my laptop, as I could hold back on setting some images processing to save overloading my computer. Saying that it's a shame there doesn't appear to be a way to dock it within the Capture One interface, or minimise it to the taskbar as it can be as much of a hindrance when screen space is at a premium. It can be closed completely if it becomes too annoying though.

Phase One Capture One 5 colour editor
Colour editor
Phase One Capture One 5 exposure panel
Exposure panel
Phase One Capture One 5 quick adjustment panel
Quick adjustment

Those requiring a just few options for speedy edits are catered for by the Quick Edit panel, which is unchanged from Capture One 4 and contains all the most commonly used controls for white balance, exposure, contrast and higher dynamic range. Having all these tools in one place is a boon for those wishing to make minor adjustments to images and turn them around quickly. As with previous versions, Capture One 5 allows you to continue working on other images as your final edits process in the background, greatly reducing the time spent waiting around for images to process.

Capture One also allows to to save the settings from one image with one click and applies them to another image just as easily. This greatly reduces editing time when your set of images have been taken under similar lighting conditions. Multiple images can be selected and the settings applied. Another handy time-saver that are largely unchanged from version four is the straightening tool, where you trace a line across your image to rotate and crop automatically.

New features introduced in this new version include a focus mask tool, an enhanced colour editor, a creative vignetting tool, a dust spot removal tool, enhanced lens correction tools and levels adjustment for each RGB colour channel. The focus mask is a very welcome addition. In use, this feature highlights the areas in focus with a colour of your choice (default is bright green) to save you having to zoom into individual images to check focus. Although the threshold of focus can be adjusted, I did find this feature less useful with images taken at apertures wider than f/2.8 and with noisy images taken in low light as the mask would highlight so little of the image that I would end up zooming in anyway to check. It's a shame as this is where a feature like this could help the most.

Phase One Capture One 5 focus checker
Focus checker masks the image in green to easily find areas in focus.
The new colour editor allows you to select a specific colour range and change it's appearance in a way that doesn't look unnatural, (unless you want it to!) which can be very useful for changing the overall look of an image. For example, if reds in a particular image are too saturated, you can isolate and adjust them simply by clicking something red.

Enhanced lens correction and vignetting tools allow for quick and easy correction of common lens aberrations, such as distortion, purple fringing and light falloff. Presets provided are a little limited only covering a range of Carl Zeiss and Hasselblad optics. More would be welcome, even though you can produce your own settings.

A creative vignetting tool then allows you to undo all the good work the lens correction tool has done by adding either a light or dark vignette to your image, aligned to a crop, or the entire image. The vignette effect created is good enough for many not to have to resort to an external program or plug-in to create this look.

For sensor dust, the spot removal tool behaves exactly as you may hope it would. Dust spots can
be defined and removed in a couple of clicks and your settings can then be applied to multiple images. With spots and blemishes in the image, it's a different story with the tool seeming to be limited to sensor dust removal.

Finally, thank you Phase One for including control over individual colour channels for levels and curves. This feature was present in version 3 of Capture One, but was dropped in version 4 and I missed it. The way the controls are laid out lends it to making adjustments quickly and easily.

Version five is the first Capture One to officially support Windows 7 and to me it seems much more responsive on this operating system than the previous version. Previews are generated much quicker and, processing times are quicker too. On an Intel Core2Duo E6300 1.87GHz based system version five took 10 minutes and 38 seconds to process a batch of 48 images, whereas version 4.8.2 took 12 minutes and one second, not a mind-blowing difference but every minute is appreciated.

Phase One Capture One 5 PRO: Output
As with version four, I've been impressed with the results I've produced so far with this software, which I believe is largely down to the very well thought out interface and controls, allowing me to make the adjustments I desire quickly and easily.

To get the best results, some of the default settings do have to be changed, for example I find the default noise reduction settings too aggressive for my tastes. As they are set, the program favours smooth images at the expense of detail and sharpness. Setting your own default for this is easy, as is the case for many of the other tools at your disposal in Capture One.

Phase One Capture One 5 PRO: Verdict
Capture One's strength is in the way it allows you to edit your images how you want to quickly and easily, with the minimum of fuss. The new features included in version five only serve to make it even better with controls that will satisfy even the most advanced users. When compared to other RAW processing packages I find the simple user interface and well thought out controls allow me to get the results I'm after faster.

Phase One Capture One 5 PRO: Pros

Great user interface.
Quicker than version 4.
Focus Mask can speed up editing process.
Individual RGB levels and curves.
New background processes information is useful on less powerful computers.
Very well designed colour editor.

Phase One Capture One 5 PRO: Cons
Default settings may need tweaking to get best results.
Focus Mask struggles to help when used with noisy images, or those taken at very wide apertures.


Phase One Capture One PRO 5 costs approximately £270, or £60 as an upgrade from version 4 PRO and is available to buy direct from Phase One here:

Phase One Capture One PRO 5

The standard version costs approximately £90 or £60 as an upgrade from version 4.

System Requirements
Microsoft Windows Apple Macintosh
Intel Pentium 4 processor Intel-based Macs (G processors are not supported)
2Gb of RAM 2Gb of RAM
10Gb of free hard disk space 10Gb of free hard disk space
Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2 or Windows 7 Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or Mac OS X 10.5.8

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LucyPP 10
12 Jan 2010 5:31PM
Capture One 5 is great and very powerful - if you are looking to buy it, you can get 15% off from

Thought I would share the discount!
15 Feb 2010 8:13AM
Capture One is definitely the best RAW processing software out there today if you are looking at the quality of the final images. While it may not be as user friendly as Lightroom or Aperture 3 Link removed by ePz staff with it's glut of new features, Capture One certainly scores highest when it comes to pure image quality.

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