Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop became my go-to photo processing and cataloguing software about 16 years ago. Over the years, I have built up my expertise in using Lightroom through a mixture of online and physical courses and a lot of hands-on user experience.
Until recently, I was using Lightroom 5 which I had purchased years ago and which was running very satisfactorily on my nine-year-old Mac. However, about six years ago, Adobe changed their Lightroom business model and introduced what they named Creative Cloud – which incorporates Lightroom and Photoshop – in a subscription model based on a monthly fee. The option of purchasing the software outright was discontinued at that time.
Classic for codgers
So, to update my Lightroom and Photoshop to the latest editions I would have to pay Adobe A$12 (£9.98, $9.99) per month1. Included in the subscription is what Adobe call Lightroom Classic – the latest version of what I had before – and Lightroom which is cloud-based. Adobe obviously considers that the Classic version is for old stagers (that’s me).
That’s because, quite clearly, the whole package is geared towards the cloud-based Lightroom which allows you to edit across multiple platforms including mobile devices. As a minor irritant, if you habitually launch Mac applications by using the Command-Space option, typing “light” brings up the cloud-based Lightroom. To access the old version you have to type “classic”. As I say, a minor irritant but one which puts Abobe’s marketing plans on full view. However, you can uninstall Lightroom (as opposed to Lightroom Classic) if you wish. It’s easy enough to reinstall it from Creative Cloud.
Because I was content to continue with my old paid for Lightroom 5, I stayed away from Adobe’s revenue-maximising subscription model for as long as possible. However, when I came to upgrade my Mac to a current model a few weeks ago, I found that the old Lightroom 5 is incompatible with the latest Apple OS. As a result, I was forced to go to Adobe’s subscription package – Creative Cloud.
I have been using Lightroom Classic from the Creative Cloud package for about five weeks now and I have had a few issues with it. But it is essentially an updated version of what I had before in Lightroom 5 at a higher cost.
There are several alternatives to Adobe’s Creative Cloud on the market, the most popular of which seems to be Capture One, developed and marketed by a Danish company. Initially, Capture One was designed primarily for studio photographers using large-format digital cameras. In recent years, however, it has evolved and has grown in popularity.
A photographer acquaintance has recently moved over to Capture One after many years of using Lightroom and this caught my attention. Now, in the Covid-19 lockdown era, I have more than enough free time. So when I found that Capture One was offering a 30-day free trial, I decided to give it a go. I should say that Capture One is also only available as a subscription model and that it is even more expensive than Adobe’s Creative Cloud. But I decided to overlook this until I had tested it thoroughly.
I should emphasise that I have been a happy Lightroom user for years and a major part of Lightroom’s appeal to me is its cataloguing capability which is not Capture One’s forte. Capture One does have the capability to import my existing Lightroom catalogue(s) which I have not explored, but it lacks the customisable organisational and storage facilities which come baked into Lightroom.
After downloading the Capture One software, I spent quite a few hours getting up to speed on how to use it through the excellent Capture One learning hub. It has many similarities to Lightroom but also many differences. Capture One is a more complex program and it has more capabilities than Lightroom although most of these will really appeal only to professional photographers in areas such as fashion and portrait work.
After satisfying myself that I had a good handle on the basics and some of the complexities, I decided to do some back-to-back comparisons with DNG ( RAW) files which I processed in both Lightroom and Capture One to the best of my ability. After years of learning and use, my competence with Lightroom is obviously significantly better than my abilities with Capture One at this point. So it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison.
Two examples of the test photos are below. The top image is Capture One and the second image is Lightroom processed.
On this showing, Lightroom maybe just has the edge to my eye. However, that is a very subjective call and one which, perhaps, I should not make.
Old dog, new tricks
In summary, I see no benefit for me personally in switching to Capture One. There is no doubt that it is, in common with Lightroom, an excellent programme. Probably, with a lot of user experience, it is a better application – but this old dog has made a substantial personal commitment into learning Lightroom and can see no point in winkling out Capture One multiple tricks.
Besides, I have a big Lightroom catalogue and Capture One is a helluva lot more expensive than Adobe’s Creative Cloud – although it should be recognised that Capture One has different prices for Fuji and Sony users who pay substantially less (US$9.99 per month) than ”other” users (US$20).
It has been an interesting exercise and a challenging way to pass a few hours in lockdown. Thank you Capture One for your free trial. It is appreciated, but I’ll be sticking with Adobe. I should make it clear that this is not a comparative review of Lightroom Classic and Capture one. It just covers my first impressions and, of course, it is first impressions which are important in reaching decisions. I could undoubtedly learn to love Capture One, but the motivation isn’t there.
You can find more from John Shingleton, at The Rolling Road. And on Instagram.
- There is a very small saving on the monthly cost if you pay annually In advance. There are also subscriptions covering additional Adobe modules. ↩