We've all been there. We know the drill. If you are doing your post-processing of images with a program that you bought and paid for outright, that is you own it instead of opted for a subscription model (don't get me started), then you are inevitably faced with the decision to upgrade when a new version comes out, or not. The price of upgrading isn't the only factor, but it can be a big one. We'll get to that towards the end of this post. Of course updating is not the same as upgrading. Updates come as .x versions of software and should always be free (2.3, 2.4, 2.7.3, etc.) to owners of a program. They often include minor updates and performance enhancements. Full version upgrades (v2.0, 3.0, etc.) are usually reserved for bigger feature rich versions of your software, and those come at a price.
Now most who follow this blog know that when Apple discontinued development and support for its pro photo app Aperture, I moved my workflow over to Capture One Pro and had been very happy with the move. The dreaded learning curve many fear was no big deal for me. It was easy to port my Aperture libraries over to Capture One. In fact I once called Aperture "Capture One Lite" on a live C1 Webinar. These days I'm feeling a bit like Willy Wonka when he pauses and says, "Strike that... reverse it."
That said, I do have issues with Capture One to address. I started with version 7, and upgraded yearly from v8 to v11 (I did not upgrade to v12, or the newest v20 which we will get into.)
This is my current Capture One setup. So why didn't I upgrade to v12 when it came out (Nov. 2018)? I looked at the new features and UI tweaks that were included in that upgrade, and I just felt with my workflow, the kind of images I work with, the new features were not worth the $149.00 upgrade price Phase One was asking. Aside from some new masking features (I'll concede Luminance Masking is nice), and UI tweaks for the better, there were/are too many other features missing (I dare say long missing) that a program of this caliber should already have.
Case in point: Aperture (final v3.6) has a fine, dedicated Retouch tool available for easy Cloning or Repairing (Healing) meaning you don't ever need to go out to another program to accomplish these tasks. It works just the way it does in Photoshop. And to think Aperture was discontinued back in 2014!
Now by contrast, Capture One 20 (which hasn't improved this feature since at least v11, if not before) uses a very clunky means of creating a Clone Layer that requires you to first paint a mask and then click to set a point to be cloned to the masked area. It is so awkward, and the circles connected by the line feature is reminiscent of how Aperture first had a clone tool in its v1.0. Apple quickly figured out a better way to implement a worthy clone tool.
A similar feature still in Capture One 20 is the Heal Layer, though I found it even more awkward to use than the Clone Layer. Seriously Phase One, this isn't even a pro level feature! Here is a link to a video (not mine) that illustrates both of these quirky, clumsy features.
Even though Aperture never had a Layers feature, it did allow the stacking of multiple sets of adjustment tools (called Bricks) with the ability to "Brush In" or "Brush Away" the adjustments in masks, which acted in a similar manner to layers. I know, without blend modes or opacity adjustments, but you get the idea.
One of the features I've always loved in Aperture (which, by the way still works fine for me in OSX 10.13.6 High Sierra) is Apple's implementation of a floating loupe. Just like the physical loupe many of us wore around our necks or had next to our lightboxes to check focus on film or camera backs, Apple cleverly thought to make the loupe able to focus on any image in your filmstrip, even when you already had an image in the main viewer. This was brilliant because you could quickly scan through multiple images in a sequence, and chose the sharpest ones or ones with say the best expression to work on. Not only that, but within the adjustable loupe you have readings for the RGB and Luminance values of the precise area you are mousing over on the thumbnail.
And Apple made their Loupe highly customizable on the fly. I have mine mapped to the tilde key ~ which makes turning it on/off quick and easy, and always "parked" on screen where I last left it.
Even in the latest version of Capture One 20 the Loupe tool, while looking similar to Aperture's is nowhere near as capable. Simply mousing over thumbnails in the filmstrip (browser) shows the limits of the loupe's view (the green highlighted image is the one in the main viewer, the red outlined image is the one I'm trying to get the loupe to visualize.) This limitation occurs when you have the Browser set to Auto Hide like I do, and when you mouse over to reveal the Browser strip, the loupe fails. You can't "park" the loupe in an out of the way spot and just use the cursor to highlight an area on a thumbnail that then shows in the loupe. It is not an always on loupe like in Aperture. If you let go of the mouse/trackpad click - bye, bye loupe. This seems like it could be a really useful tool to use given Capture One/Phase One's target market of high-end studio and fashion shooters. If Capture One Pro would just copy Apple's features for this tool, it would finally be right as rain (I mean the Loupe tool, not the whole program.) 😉
Now one of the highlighted features that Capture One touts for its new v20 is the streamlined UI, in particular the space-saving re-design of the Color Editor Basic tool. Compare the latest version with how it is featured in v11 above.
While overall I do love the new UI tweaks over v11, they do not warrant an upgrade for the price to me. The new scrolling tools panel is nice, but both Aperture and Lightroom had this feature a long time ago. The look of the newly designed Basic Color Editor tool is on par with Aperture's design finally. Which brings me to the function of this Basic Color Editor tool. My biggest peeve by far with Capture One Pro has always been the inability to cleanly swap colors in the program. Meaning if someone for example is wearing a yellow shirt, you cannot easily make the shirt blue, or deep purple, or any other color beyond how far the limited Hue slider allows you to go. In v20, they improved to Hue slider range to go to 30 in either direction, up from a limit of 20 in v11. That said, the tool still functions in a very limited capacity, and I discussed this with the Capture One webinar host, David some time ago. He admitted it was a limited feature, and if you needed that level of color change, it was best to edit in Photoshop. As I said, for a tool of this caliber geared towards high-end professionals and studio photographers, it should be capable of this by now. I don't use Lightroom, but I believe even Lightroom can manage that.
In the Advanced tab you have more features, the same ones available in v11. In the lower left of these two images above you see the "before/after" color shift created from moving the Hue slider to each extreme based on the color range in the image made by the color picker tool (I expanded the range in the second image a wee bit.) Having to go to an outside editor for something I consider a pretty basic feature that should be here, and should be implemented elegantly given the care and finesse that is Phase One does not inspire confidence in upgrading.
Over the years I have gathered quite a few plug-ins that I used with Aperture, and all of them are still compatible with it for extra editing features. The fact that Aperture is essentially "frozen in time" means I don't have to worry these plug-ins will become incompatible with it. A simple right-click on an image brings up the menu choices.
Many, but not all, of the same plug-ins are available to me in Capture One 11. Right-clicking an image and choosing Edit With brings up a dialogue box to set some parameters for Capture One to create a new file from the RAW to be edited, and a drop-down menu gives the choices of programs.
Even more elegantly implemented in Capture One 20 is simply right-clicking an image and mousing over the Edit With dialogue to reveal the choices. After selecting your program a new dialogue box comes up with the title of the plug-in and the same parameters to set to create a new image to edit. By choosing "Open With" instead, you'll get some different program choices based on your file format. For example, none of the Nik Collection plug-ins can open a RAW file directly, so those are not shown in the Open With choices, unless your file is a Tiff or Jpeg.
One final pet peeve with Capture One Pro, whether my current v11 or the new v20, is the crazy weird way they implement turning on/off an adjustment, or even seeing a Before/After (like here in Aperture showing the Original Image, and the Adjusted Image). In most (all?) photo editing software, a simple, easy toggle on/off button (lower right in this Aperture image) or a check/uncheck box for individual adjustments is standard. Affinity Photo & Photoshop have on/off visibility for layers. Industry standard stuff. Capture One Pro makes you use a modifier key (hold Alt/Option) while clicking a tiny back arrow at the top of each adjustment to see it before/after, or use the same modifier key while clicking the larger back arrow in the tool bar to see all adjustments on/off. If you don't hold the modifier key while clicking the arrows, you reset your adjustments to 0, losing all your work.. That is just SO crazy, inelegant, and goes against every other photo program on the market!
For all that it gets wrong, it does have some very good features for certain types of photographers that no other program offers. For it's tethering feature, Live View, and overall ability to capture and organize shoots in studio settings, and allowing you to use overlays to match client layouts, it is unsurpassed. If you like how it renders your particular RAW images straight out of camera compared to other programs, that's great. I highly recommend it to studio shooters. As for me and my workflow needs, I think I have come up against its limitations. One area I will be exploring very heavily going forward is a mobile workflow for images and video, and it is highly unlikely Capture One is heading to a mobile platform. It's carved its niche on the high-end of supporting the Phase One camera system. And with that, we come to the end argument about whether to upgrade... or not: Price.
I said it's not the only factor, but it can be a big one. I look at things for what they do, for what they don't do, or don't do well, against their price. Does it significantly affect the work I do and want to do? Do I have other choices I like as well, or more? Is it worth it? I said earlier why I didn't upgrade to Capture One 12, and because I didn't, to now upgrade from v11 is steeper than from v11 to v12. In fact the yearly upgrade pricing has steadily been going up, with the price from v11 to v12 up 40% over the previous upgrade! (more if you are in another country.) Capture One did say if I had chosen to upgrade to v12 after a certain date before v20 was available, I would've been eligible to get v20 for free. So technically I could've upgraded to v20 for $149.00. But herein lies a problem I have with Capture One: Once v20 was teased announced as coming out, there was cryptically little to no information as to what the new version would include feature-wise. It was actually off-putting to not know anything about what to expect, and thus maybe get excited about new features and actually want to upgrade. I wasn't willing to take on faith that v20 would be worth $149.00, let alone the $199.00 it would now cost me. Looking at the new feature set listed above, looking at all the videos about the new features from the website and other users, and finally playing with a 30-day free trial of v20, I'm confident in my choice of not upgrading past v11. I know Capture One has a subscription model, and it does seem like they are pushing perpetual license owners in that direction by pricing them out of upgrades, but I don't fancy renting my software, and really, because of all the things I wrote above, I'm just not that taken with Capture One like I used to be. This really short "What's New in Capture One 12" video illustrates my point, and the comment section and Capture One's responses show I'm not the only one. I do have plans for my current version, so stay tuned for what comes next!
*Oh, there's just one more thing (pacing while wearing Steve Jobs' turtleneck and jeans): Looking at the list of Upgrade Features above, you'll notice something called "Expanded High Dynamic Range Tool." Now before you get excited, there has been a High Dynamic Range Tool in Capture One since at least v11. However this tool has nothing to do with true High Dynamic Range images as the industry knows it. It does not incorporate a tone-mapping feature which is the hallmark of images worthy of the name. It is simply a tool for recovering highlights and shadows in single individual images, not bracketed stacked images, and with the "Expanded" feature in this upgrade, it includes Whites and Blacks sliders as well for additional tonal adjustment. I know a lot of people are confused by this. Phase One knows what it's doing in a marketing sense, but the tool is not deserving of the name "High." Just call it Dynamic Range Tool. So ends our broadcast...