Home Tech Applications Lightroom Creative Cloud meets Capture One’s free trial

Lightroom Creative Cloud meets Capture One’s free trial

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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.

Capture One

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.

More capable

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

More articles by John Shingleton on Macfilos


  1. There is a very small saving on the monthly cost if you pay annually In advance. There are also subscriptions covering additional Adobe modules.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, I much prefer the Capture One image: the Lightroom version is much ‘flatter’, with far less contrast and much less ‘vivid’, with fewer natural shadows or deep black.

    ..But of course, it’s all subjective and personal. Maybe because I’m rather colour-blind, I’m much more interested in contrast, texture and light & shade, rather than in ‘lightweight’ or ‘translucent’ colours.

    Sorry, John.

  2. John, have you considered Exposure X5? It appears to be close to Lightroom in use and offers a free trial. I still use LR6 which does all I need and more. But Exposre X5 would be the first alternative software I would consider if the need arose.

    • David , as you say it’s all subjective and personal. I cannot really see any difference but I’m not using your eyes or your computer monitor.
      If I could see it I could easily make the LR image more contrasty and vivid.
      As I say both LR and C1 are equally capable.

      • If you mean this David (David B.), John ..I’m astonished that you “..cannot really see any difference..”! ..But then my Beloved and I go to Valley Gardens, Windsor, each spring to see the azaleas and rhododendrons (..we-ell, she drags me..) and I cannot see the difference between the red flowers and the green leaves! ..She has to point out where the flowers are (amidst the leaves) and then I can mentally ‘switch’ the flower shapes to ‘red’, while keeping the leaves’ shapes green.

        But I, who am colour-blind, can certainly see the difference in what I’d call DENSITY, or depth of colour, between, say the boy’s shirt (in the centre of the pic) in those two photos: in the upper pic his shirt is dense and solid in colour, whereas in the lower pic – perhaps you see it as a different colour altogether – it’s more ‘washed out’, without the same density or darkness.

        His trousers, too, are far darker, or denser, in the upper photo, without much differentiation between light and shade, especially on his right shin, below his knee ..whereas in the lower picture there’s much more differentiation between light and shade in the folds of his trousers, but with much less contrast ..his trousers are much more ‘washed out’, as if the colour’s faded.

        So perhaps you’re seeing less contrast between these pictures ..the kind of thing which happens when one’s eyes (or the lenses in one’s eyes) become ‘cloudy’, as if with a cataract.

        All three children have much paler hair in the lower picture, than the more dense black hair of the upper photo.

        The background trees in the upper photo are a more dense, dark mass – to me! – than the more variegated, different shades of light and dark in the lower picture.

        I can’t name the colours in the two pictures – for example, the colour of the boy’s shirt – as I don’t have sufficient discrimination between colours, but I can certainly see darker shadows (on the ground), darker vegetation (in the background) and far denser colours in the upper photo ..so I’m really astonished that – to your eyes – you say that “..I cannot really see any difference”!

        My monitor’s the built-in screen of a ‘Mid-2013, 13″ MacBook Air’ (which I’ve checked with a Spyder colour analyser, and it seems correctly set up – as factory set) and also ..just to check things.. a plug-in Apple 23″ Cinema Display .. ..WELL! ..I’ll be *%@€*! ..the Cinema Display shows the brightness (or darkness) of those two images to be almost identical! ..Unless I turn its brightness right up as far as it will go!

        So maybe it’s something to do with the brightness of our (yours and my) screens. (Or, if you’re not using a Mac, then the ‘gamma’ – or ‘density curve’ – of your display ..Macs are set to have a different density curve from standard PC displays.)

        So on my Apple laptop – however far I tilt the screen back or forward – there’s a distinct lack of what I’d call colour ‘density’ and contrast in the lower picture – however bright or dim my screen is – but on my larger, external Apple display there’s a similar ‘density’ ..and almost similar contrast.. between those two photos, but with the upper picture just about retaining very slightly greater density and contrast. How weird!

        Now I’m beginning to see why you say “..I cannot really see any difference”.

        Wow! I am <really surprised! And both the inbuilt Apple laptop screen and the external Apple display are both being driven by the display circuitry of the one same Apple laptop.

        But there does still remain a difference – for me – of colour density (..I’ve no idea whether or not it’s colour accuracy, though!..) and some contrast difference between those two pictures, of which you say “..I cannot really see any difference”.

        (‘Scuse me: goes and puts head under cold tap, and looks for a drop of ‘Southern Comfort’ to assuage disbelief!)

        ..Well I.. .. ..!

        • David, does any of this matter? I just tried out C-1 on a rainy day and wrote my impressions up on my blog . Mike suggested that it would make a good Macfilos story and after expressing some reservations I gave him the copy.
          My reservations were justified so I won’t be going near any subjects like this in future – I’ll stick to just taking photos.

          • But we’ve all learned a lot from the discussion. It’s one of those instances where a quick impression – and we made it clear this was all it was – has produced a bank of experience and information that’s useful. Perhaps we need more fliers like this, rather than fewer.

          • Sadly, this thread of responses has been attached to the wrong David, leaving my query regarding Exposure overlooked. This is a pity because I feel the Alien Skin product looks more like a LR clone and should appeal to readers suffering the downside of OS upgrades.

          • Hmm, it has occurred to me for a long time that almost everyone commenting is called David. We’ve had TWO David B’s, one David A, one David V. Perhaps we need a pseudonym or two, like Le Chef!

  3. Just to let you know, you can buy Capture One Pro and the Fujifilm & Sony versions outright as an alternative to the subscription model.

    • Capture One is available as a perpetual license for all variants – Pro, Fuji, Sony. Subscription models are available for those who prefer that method. My practice after initial purchase with CaptureOne 6 has been to skip every other version and upgrade my license at the second upgrade cycle which is always made available at a reduced price. If one waits until the 3rd upgrade cycle, then they must pay full price again. Videos are available that illustrate porting over existing Lightroom catalogs to C1 catalogs. I prefer C1 using the Sessions workflow which makes each session fully encapsulated and portable from one computer to another without breaking a catalog.

  4. Interesting trial. Like David B, I think the Capture One image is very much better…but then I am very anti Adobe (because I hate subscription) and use Capture One Fujifilm myself, so perhaps I am biased!

    Cant understand your remarks on pricing, since on the Capture One website there are options for both perpetual license £129 and £16 per month subscription Fujifilm version, More expensive purchase and subscription prices are also available for the full version which handles cameras other than Fuji (or Sony). Maybe the offer is more limited in Australia?

    • David, yes I have looked at another page on the website and you can buy a perpetual license.
      It’s not exactly a bargain though. And when you are as old as I am you don’t want to be making expensive long term commitments….

  5. As others have mentioned, you can purchase a perpetual license for Capture One Pro.

    Another option for Mac users, maybe something of a secret, is that Hasselblad Phocus is available to download for free and can utilize the Mac native support for various raw formats other than Hasselblad’s own. A few of the Hasselblad-specific editing features are unavailable for other raw formats.

    https://www.hasselblad.com/phocus/

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210191

    Also interesting are the free open-source options darktable and RawTherapee.

    https://www.darktable.org/

    https://www.rawtherapee.com/

  6. Meanwhile I am not in this ball-game. Dare I say I really enjoy jpegs and apple Photos with Leica and Sony APS-C ? I find that my results have all the “zing” I want.

    • In line with John N here.
      Undoubtedly there’s a place for careful processing of Raw for special images.
      But jpegs SOOC can provide well acceptable output, especially if produced with a good modern camera which has been menu set for desired results. And sometimes a couple of clicks with Apple Photos are all the extra that they need.
      As a Macfilos Regular ((he knows who he is) indicated to me recently, generally better to be out there shooting images than sitting in front of a computer.

  7. Hi John,

    So I resonate with your predicament, I had been a Lightroom 5 user forever (well it felt like that). It was my go to processing software for all images, out of any camera. Mine however went west with the cowboys at a OSX update, whereby it ceased to function overnight.

    Initially I returned to my processing root’s in GIMP (yep the freeware, not a dodgy face mask for the bedroom). But I liked the way Lightroom operated, and its ease of use for 90% of my need, yes I had occasionally switched over images to GIMP to do more complex work, but its like Photoshop – you only need it once in a while.

    Anyway a friend offered me the use of a free licence code for luminar 2018, which was okay, and some of its features are very lightroom once you get used to it. And more recently the was a freebie download for Luminar 3, with a full unlock code direct from the luminar development team (Skylar). So I downloaded the full Luminar 3 for free.

    I have to say my free software combination of Luminar 3, Aurora HD 2018, and GIMP mean I can do almost anything with an image – and I have set up cataloguing in my Mac – so it does store my images in annual batches of RAW files, and processed ones. So my back catalogue is easy to work through.

    These three packages, were free, GIMP gets regular updtes, and the other two are decent pieces of software – its worth noting that you can pass images between Luminar and Aurora in the same way you can with Lightroom and Photoshop.

    Anyway thats my ten pence worth on the subject.

    Keep safe folks.

    Dave

  8. Interesting article John. I’m with you with the lightroom image. Sure the capture one image is more punchy but there seems to be a slight magenta cast on the capture one image. The lightroom image is more muted but more Leicalike. I’m pretty sure that you can make a pretty more punchy image with lightroom if you wish so.
    stay safe
    Jean

  9. I’ve did some serious evaluation of the ‘Lightroom genre’ of tools in early 2019 and in the end decided on Capture One. I didn’t have a large Lightroom catalogue to worry about. The deciding reasons for Capture One:
    * it has the concept of sessions vs catalogue, so I can easily work with remote disks and there is zero risk of a catalogue to become corrupt (because there isn’t one) or have the paths broken (sessions are all relative)
    * it has a decent layer system (many other programs in this genre did not)
    * the cost after two years worked out cheaper than Adobe and it doesn’t stop working if you don’t keep paying. I then was given the full Adobe Suite for free, but still chose Capture One for the session concept.
    * the cost of other tools were lower, but some needed extra plug-ins to do things I may want and over the course of a few years, the fixed prices aren’t that much different with all the add-ons

    I’ve been with Capture One for a year now and I’ve been very happy with it especially if covering an event that needs several images to be processed.

  10. The perfect answer to a problem currently in the Chef’s “procrastination” folder. I’m also a user of LR5 and do my post work where LR5 is installed, namely my wife’s iMac. It can no longer be updated to the latest OS so we’re caught in the Rocky Horror Show of time warps that we can only escape by buying a new iMac, taking out subscriptions to MS Office and a subscription to LR/PS and InDesign which my wife uses for typesetting, design and proof reading.

    That’a chunk of change! We may just sit this out until she either stops working or the iMac gives up the ghost. The frustration is knowing the improvements to LR are worthwhile, but installing them on my MacBook Air 13″ seem to be potential exercise in frustration.

    So where should I/we go, or should I stay to misquote the song.

  11. You are all on a software threadmill run by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Adobe and whoever else throws their hand in. Then there is 32 bit and 64 bit and ‘what have you’ (an old Cork expression from my mother). I have a subscription to Lightroom and it is probably too expensive, but I keep it as it keeps itself up to date. I also have my own way of using Lightroom that gives me the output that I want. I use an older stand alone version of Photoshop and will continue to do so as long as I can as the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, which I have in my package, is awful. I have used Capture One in the past, probably about 10 years ago, and I found it clunky at the time. I am sure it has improved a lot in the meantime, but life is too short to be hopping around between software packages. I used Iridient Developer with Lightroom for a while to make decent Fujifilm images, but it is no longer necessary and Fujifilm users get a much better package out of Lightroom these days than Leica users.

    We have all bought into the digital thing and we are in thrall to the ‘majors’ who change things around without consulting users because it makes for a better ‘business model’ rather than as a ‘user benefit’. There is no sign of this changing anytime soon. Perhaps, change will come with the ‘new normal’ post-Covid. Meanwhile, you can still process film the same way that it has been done for decades.

    William

    • You are right, William, but you have to also see things from the point of view of the producers of computers and software. How long is it possible to build in backwards compatibility without sacrificing reliability and usability for those customers who buy the latest equipment? At some stage, there has to be a cut-off, as with the change from 16-bit to 32-bit and now 64-bit. There is also the question of the continued development of a software package – in its simplest form the provision for all the latest cameras in the processing software. Someone has to pay and I think it is unreasonable to, for instance, buy a copy of Lightroom in 2010 and expect it still to work with modern computers and modern cameras.

      I don’t much care for the subscription model and, when I tot up all the £2.99s, £5.99s, £9.99s I get a shock. But it is the way things are going, unfortunately. In view of the amount of use I get out of Lightroom (and my expectation that it is regularly brought up to date to handle all the cameras that come my way, I don’t think it is ridiculously expensive. And the fact that it updates itself automatically does make for peace of mind. I fear that the days of one-off software purchases that are future proof are long gone.

      • David, You should have got in before Steve McCurry shot the last roll. Some lads have been looking at reviving Kodachrome, but nothing has come of it.

        On the subscription thing, while it is for each one to determine what is good value, chaps running around with 10K worth of camera and lens won’t get much sympathy from most people over 9.99 per month software bills. It is not so much the price that gets me, but rather it is the blatant market manipulation.

        William

  12. I turned off auto update on my Mac and use it with an old iOS that still allows Lr and Ps to run (Non subscription model). Not only for my photography related tools but also Logic Pro (which I paid a lot for and that I would have to buy full price again if I would like to update my iOS). It is the same with all apple products. They want you to update and pay again and again for stuff you already own. I already switched to an android smartphone and my current Mac is probably my last (which is a shame because iOS for me has been the most user friendly GUI).

  13. I’m a bit confused about the comment relating to C1 lacking “ the customisable organisational and storage facilities which come baked into Lightroom”. I moved from Lightroom to C1 primarily so I could retain a cataloguing ability. I’ve found C1 to be extremely customisable in this regard, quite apart from the ability to use a session based workflow instead (or as well as; you can pick and choose on the fly).

    The main difference I’ve found is that the C1 catalogues are much larger than Lightroom’s, as the default is to store a high resolution preview image all the time. I’ve not really found a way round this, but I’m now using a new catalogue for each year and storing these on a hard drive (backed up of course) with the images. I’ve had absolutely no performance issues doing this. As long as the software has access to the catalogue, it doesn’t seem to care where it is stored.

    I’m really happy with Capture One and having bought the latest full release outright, I don’t plan on changing for at least 5 years, fingers crossed!

  14. I migrated over to Lightroom when Aperture had its life support switched off and left to slowly die. I looked at Capture One at the time. Lightroom’s file management system was much better then. For me the attraction to stay in Lightroom is the addition of built in tools like panorama stitching (virtually never use Photoshop or PTGui now), HDR merging for images where I have captured a set of differing exposures to handle the range, and the good integration with Blurb books. The recent improvements to the book module now pretty much gives you complete freedom over page layout, text placement and text scaling etc and if an image needs an editing tweak, just open the develop module, make the change and the book is immediately updated (no need to export another JPEG to an book editing package). Yes I hate the subscription model, but as Jean points out it seems like a tide King Canute can’t turn back.

    One way or another if you buy a new computer, printer, sometimes even a camera, it forces you to upgrade software until you have little choice to either pay the subscription or start again with a whole new suite of software and a brand new learning curve. I haven’t yet gone to the cloud version of Lightroom (not sure why I would want to store my images in California) but I am sure its only a matter of time before Adobe tries to shoe horn its user base into that space. At this stage for me that would be enough of a catalyst to change and bid farewell to Lightroom. The death of Aperture has taught me that no matter how much you rely on software, it is transient and moving to something else is a pain but not insurmountable.

    • Like John Shingleton, I use Lightroom Classic without the cloud version which we have both deleted. In fact, since I seldom use Photoshop, Lightroom Classic is the only Adobe module I use, thus making the monthly subscription seem a bit on the expensive side. Pity we can’t have a sub that excludes Photoshop and the other included modules. It seems that Adobe’s policy is to get everyone to transfer to the cloud version of Lightroom but, for me, this brings no benefit.

  15. I prefer- hands down- the C1 image! Full disclosure, I’ve used C1 for years, and, yes, I also have the Adobe subscription. I find the C1 file handling WAY, way more reliable than LR when moving catalogues (or sessions) from a traveling laptop to a desktop. The only thing I miss in C1 is the pano stitch, which requires the PS round trip. For what it’s worth, the main reason I settled ‘mostly permanently’ on C1 were for the prints (remember those?). I always found the LR printing output to be flat, and sometimes bordering on posterized (yeah, that’s an overstatement, but that’s the idea). For me, prints were no contest.
    So, to sum up, the reasons I stick to C1 are: image quality just seems so much nicer, the reliability of moving files / catalogues / sessions from remote laptops, and the print output.
    Cheers!
    Bob

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