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Phase One Capture One 6 Pro Review

The latest RAW workflow software from Phase One adds native 64bit support as well as a slew of other new features.

| Phase One Phase One Capture One 6.1 Pro in Other Software
Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review: So it seems Phase One have settled into a yearly update schedule with their popular RAW workflow software, Capture One. Only a year previous Capture One 5 built on the success of their fourth version adding new features such as customisable workspaces, focus mask, individual RGB colour controls, a dust spot remover and a lens correction tool.

Although the interface may look familiar, this sixth version is a complete rebuild, offering dedicated 32 and 64bit versions to allow more efficient use of memory (if you have it) and support for graphics card acceleration with OpenCL compliant GPUs.

As always, two flavours of the software are available. For those on a budget, the Express version is available with a slightly cut down feature set for around $129 US Dollars (which converts to roughly £80 at current exchange rates). Those who require more advanced features will require the Pro version, which retails at $399 US Dollars (roughly £250 GBP). Features that are present in the Pro version, but absent from the Express version are as follows:
  • Sessions - Store raw files, settings files, library files and output files as a complete project
  • Styles and Presets - Apply styles and presets during import
  • Capture Pilot - Use your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to wirelessly view, zoom and pan images
  • Tethered Capture - Instantly import and view images as you shoot
  • Live View - Compose shots from your monitor with Live View
  • Focus Mask - Fast verification of image sharpness in thumbnail browser
  • Black and white conversion - Adjust colour channels and create split toning effects when converting to greyscale
  • Keystone correction - Reduce or eliminate perspective distortion
  • Lens correction - Adjust chromatic aberration, purple fringing, geometric distortion, sharpness and light falloff
  • Levels and Curves - Adjust luminance, RGB or individual colour channels
  • Local adjustments - Edit selective parts of an image
  • Noise reduction - Remove luminance and colour noise from images with easy-to-use sliders
  • Overlay - Advanced composition assistance
  • Skin tone enhancer - Achieve perfect, smooth and soft appearing skin tones
  • CMYK Conversion - Output to any RBG and CMYK colour space
  • Multi monitor - Support for multiple monitors
  • Customisation - Customize your workspaces, tools and tool tabs to match personal preference
As you can see, the difference between the two versions is quite substantial, and many users may miss features such as individual colour channel support in levels and curves, keystone correction and the advanced noise reduction, which are all sadly absent from the express version.

Minimum System requirements
Capture One 6.1 appears to have been designed to take advantage of the latest advances in computing hardware, which may leave users of older systems left behind. The minimum computer hardware recommended is as follows:

  • Intel Pentium 4 or better
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 10 GB of free hard disk space
  • Calibrated colour monitor with 1280 x 800, 24bit resolution at 96dpi screen ruling
  • Windows XP SP3 (32bit only), Windows Vista SP2 (32 and 64bit), Windows 7 (32 and 64bit)
  • Microsoft.NET Framework version 3.5 Service Pack 1 Re-distributable package (In case you do not already have this installed, Capture One will initiate installation of this)
  • A PDF reader is needed to read the Release Notes
  • Flash is required to view the video on the Welcome Screen
Apple Macintosh:
  • Intel-based Mac
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 10 GB of free hard disk space
  • Calibrated colour monitor with 1280 x 800, 24bit resolution at 96dpi screen ruling
  • Mac OS X 10.6.4, 10.5.8 or later
  • Flash is required to view the video on the Welcome Screen
Although these system requirements don't seem so powerful, they do come with a caveat, and for optimum performance Phase One recommend at least the following:
  • Use processors with multiple cores, e.g. Intel Core Duo or better
  • For Windows systems with more that 4 cores use Windows 7 64bit version
  • Have 4Gb of RAM or more
  • Leave plenty of hard disk space free for your images
  • A fast hard disk e.g. a Solid State Disk (SSD)
For this review I will be testing the software on Windows-based machines, as that is what I have available. Compared to older versions of Capture One, this package does seem quite reliant on good hardware. On my older Core2Duo E6300 that has two cores running at 1.86GHz, 6Gb RAM and Windows 7 Professional 64bit, performance is quite sluggish, with each file taking just shy of a minute to process. On my newer AMD Phenom II X6 system that has six cores running at 2.8GHz, this is reduced to about a second or two per file, as it seems the software is well-equipped to take advantage of all that extra computing power.

Phase One Capture One 6.1 Pro: In Use
The installation process is as simple as any piece of software I've used. Once you have downloaded the software from Phase One's website it only takes a couple of minutes from start to finish to complete the installation. Those who have a previous version installed will want to follow the update link from within their version of Capture One, otherwise the new version will not replace the older one, and all your settings will have to be transferred manually. I made this mistake and it was a pain to sort.

As Capture One 6 is a major update, a new licence key is required to activate the software. Activation takes a matter of seconds over the internet and requires your Phase One login and password. There is provision for activating the software without an internet connection not that it will affect many reading this.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review: Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
(Left) Capture One 6 is well integrated into the Windows shell, and can be set to load automatically whenever a card is attached containing compatible images.

(Above) The importer has been tweaked slightly from previous versions, adding extra features for naming and tagging of files.

The process for importing, editing and processing images has changed little since version 4. Upon inserting a memory card into a reader Capture One shows in the Autoplay options and clicking the link launches the software and import window, which has been tweaked slightly in this new version, giving a bit more control over how files are named. Just like with previous versions, once importing has begun, you can start working on your images right away, without having to wait for all of them to transfer, which can speed things up considerably, especially when working with large batches of images. Just as with version 5, progress of any activities, such as copying images is shown in a translucent floating window. If not working on a dual screen setup this can sometimes get in the way, but at least it can be hidden quickly by selecting Activities under the Window menu.

Apart from building on the foundations already laid by previous versions of Capture One, version 6 adds many new features that will speed workflow and give greater control when editing. The workspace can be completely rearranged to suit your particular way of working, plus there are templates for working in Black and White, for those with Dual screen setups, simplified versions of the tool layout and a legacy version 5 template for those who liked things the way they were.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
(Above) The full screen viewer and full screen modes allow you to take advantage of every bit of screen space available, and is especially useful on a dual screen setup.

(Right) The loupe can be hovered over thumbnails, saving you from loading up each image to check focus.
Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:

Tools for checking and viewing images whilst editing have been enhanced. A full screen mode has been added, which hides all the toolbars and menus in your operating system to allow you to take full advantage of your entire screen. A full screen viewer is also provided, which is ideal for working on a dual screen setup. The new loupe tool enables quick focus checking and the great thing about this feature is that it also works on the thumbnails, saving you from having to open each image up full screen to check focus.

Of the new features available, one of the more interesting ones is the local adjustments tool. This allows you to mask an area and adjust certain elements independently of the rest of the image. This is great if you have an area that could do with being brightened, or darkened without applying the settings to the whole image, and should save the time that would've been wasting outputting the image twice with different settings.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review: Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
(Above) Areas that you wish to edit separately can be masked off and adjusted.

(Top right) The image before adjustments made to the sky.

(Bottom right) The sky has been darkened and the blues have been enhanced.
Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:

Another very useful one is the keystone correction tool. This tool provides a very simple and straightforward way to quickly correct the effect you get when the camera is tilted up towards the sky, or downwards towards your subject. To make a correction, simply line up the two guides with something that should be vertical and Capture One will apply the appropriate amount of correction, cropping the image to the same aspect ratio as the original. This crop can be adjusted as you see fit after the correction has been applied.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review: Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
The keystone correction tool works by lining up two guides with lines that should be vertical. Once the correction has been applied, the crop can be adjusted.

Options for editing monochrome images have also been overhauled, with an advanced editor being included allowing you to adjust the sensitivity of each colour used to make up the tones of your image, almost like a more advanced version of the channel mixer found in Photoshop. The six sliders provide control over Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Magenta channels and look a bit like a graphic equaliser on an 80s stereo once adjustments are made. Adding features like this mean less time will need to be spent working on images in other software packages afterwards, which will ultimately save you time.

Printing options have also been overhauled, with the ability to make custom print templates and to export to .PDF file format being added. Contact sheets labelled with either the filename, or a caption of your choice can be made in a couple of clicks, and a watermark can be added automatically to prevent clients popping down to their local high street photo lab to make poor quality copies of your images on the scanners they have there. The whole process is very simple and straightforward to get to grips with, and plenty of options for dealing with colour management are also included.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review: Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
Advanced Black and White Editing tools have now been added to Capture One 6, giving control similar to that found in Photoshop's channel mixer. Prints and contact sheets can now be exported and printed straight from Capture One.

The way in which Capture One manages and organises your files has been tweaked and improved too, with advanced file naming and search features being added. A new Smart Albums feature also allows you to sort images into collections, making them easy to find when you need them. A Slideshow option is also included, so it you need to show off some image whilst working away on a laptop, you have a more elegant solution than simply flicking through the images in Capture One.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:   Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
A batch renaming tool makes it simple to rename large groups of files.   The Slideshow feature provides an elegant way to show off your images.

And finally, along with all the features already mentioned, the Pro version has a few more tricks up its sleeve. When shooting with a camera tethered to your computer an Apple iPad, iPhone or iPod touch can be used as a high quality image viewer for evaluating images. An App can be downloaded from the App Store which can then be linked to your computer. I can see this feature being quite useful in a commercial environment, where it may be necessary to show images to a client as they are taken for evaluation purposes, as the images show up on screen very quickly. As there is no way currently to calibrate the screens on any of these devices, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable using it to properly evaluate and select images.

Continuing the theme of wireless connectivity users of Intel-based Macintosh computers who also have Profoto lighting can now be controlled from within Capture One 6 via Profoto's Air USB  Transceiver. As I didn't have access to either an Intel-based Mac, or the Profoto lighting garb require, I was unable to test this feature. Details of how this feature works, and what is compatible can be found here.

Phase One Capture One 6.1 Pro: Verdict

Once again, Phase one have added a decent range of useful features in this latest update, most of which will be very useful to many, such as the loupe, local adjustments and keystone corrections tools. All of these have been implemented in a way which is very easy to get to grips with and that will save valuable time when editing.

As with previous version of Capture One, version six outputs images of excellent quality, partially due to the tools provided being very direct and easy to use. To me this really helps when attempting to extract everything you can from a file.

Priced at around £250 for the Pro version, it is only a few pounds dearer than Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom 3, and so I believe it is a very good alternative, well worthy of consideration. Those on a tighter budget will do well to take a look at the Express version of Capture One 6.1 as although this lack some of the more advanced features found in the Pro version, it is appropriately keenly priced.

Phase One Capture One 6 Pro  Review:
Capture One 6.1 Pro is a worthy upgrade adding plenty of useful and novel features.
Phase One Capture One 6.1 Pro: Pros

Customisable interface
Local Adjustments tool
Loupe works very well
Tethered shooting options
Keystone Correction Tool
Excellent Black and White Editing mode

Phase One Capture One 6.1 Pro: Cons
Quite demanding on computer hardware
Profoto lighting feature may only appeal to a limited number of photographers


Capture One Pro 6.1 costs around £250 for the full version or around £60 as an upgrade from versions 3, 4 and 5 and is available to buy direct from Phase One here:

Phase One Capture One Pro 6.1

The Express version costs approximately £80 or £45 as an upgrade from Capture One versions 3, 4 and 5 here:

Phase One Capture One Pro 6.1 Express
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