What is Capture One Express? Simply put, it’s a totally free and simplified version of the Capture One editing software that still offers the same superior raw handling ability as the Pro version.
There are more versions of Capture One than many people realize, including Capture One Pro, brand-specific versions for Sony and Fujifilm, and Capture One Studio. Since the release of Capture One version 8, users have had the option to either purchase Capture One outright or use a subscription model, but Capture One Express can be used without limitation for as long as you like, no purchase required.
*If you don’t have Capture One, this is the perfect time to try it, and you can click here for a 30-day full trial of Capture One Pro or click here to download for Capture One Express for free so you can follow along.
How Is It Different?
There are currently two variants of Capture One Express, and thanks to mutual cooperation between Capture One and the manufacturers, there is one for Sony and one for Fujifilm. Each version will be able to read and display images from other camera brands, but will be able to edit only those from the respective brands, but that includes their latest models, like the Sony a6400 and Fujifilm X-T30.
While any version of Capture One offers a veritable cornucopia of benefits over other post-processing software, it is how it works with raw files that is chief among them, and that includes how it renders and how the basic processing tools work.
While Capture One Express has a scaled-down toolset, how they function, their power, its color accuracy, and all the rest remain true to the full-fledged version. So, while it may have limitations, it still provides industry-leading raw processing, flexible photo management, essential adjustment tools, and fast performance in one integrated package. (Click sample edits below to enlarge)
Capture One Express Breakdown at a Glance
Photos in Express and managed through a catalog system, which is a way of storing images using a database to track the location of image files and track image adjustments and metadata. Users can import photos into a Capture One Catalog with tools for organizing and searching your photo library, or images can be left in their current location (such as on an external drive) and referenced there.
A powerful feature of Capture One is the ability to use "Sessions," which is a unique and extremely capable and flexible way of organizing images, and that is reserved for the full versions.
The export process of Capture One Express is both powerful and easy. Express lets you configure your images for social media, printing or sharing with friends, family, and clients, while Capture One's RAW processing ensures images retain optimal image quality.
“Apply Capture One Styles for instant creative inspiration and impact — with little fuss.” Capture One Styles are made by professional photographers and reflect a variety of aesthetic visions, including looks that pros like Pratik Naik are known for. You can see the full list of styles here, and it's worth noting there are major discounts to be had on Styles at this time.
Fujifilm Film simulations
Fujifilm users will have the best experience with their X-Trans files inside of Capture One. Developed in tandem with Fujifilm, Capture One offers the in-camera Film Simulations you have available in your camera, such as Classic Chrome, Acros, and Provia.
What Are Some Features That Can Only Be Found in Paid Versions of Capture One?
Here are some:
- Luma curves and luminosity masks
- Advanced Color Editor and Skin Tone tools
- Local adjustments
- Focus Mask
- Film Grain
- Color Balance Tool
- More customizable
Are you going to want these features? Of course, but you can get amazing images and learn to navigate and understand Capture One with Express when you are starting.
Who Is Capture One Express For?
There’s a case to be made that it’s for everyone, and while that’s a bit of an oversimplification, it’s absolutely worth trying if you currently shoot Sony or Fuji. Even with its scaled-down toolset, you are still getting Capture One’s gold-standard raw processing and a streamlined workflow at no cost. In fact, if you are looking for the best rendering of your Sony or Fuji raw files to see what your cameras can really do, this is a good place to start, even more so if you are contemplating switching to Capture One.
Of course, Capture One Pro has a full 30-day trial and I encourage everyone to use that, but the simplified user interface of Express and the "Q" tool tab, which provides most tools you’ll need, has its benefits. The focus on the core basics makes Express a perfect training ground to become familiar and fluent in Capture One without being distracted by all the Pro features which can be learned after. Give it a try, and it may be just what you’ve been looking for.
Check back here often, as we will continue to share Capture One content every week. In the meantime, you can learn more in the Capture One Learning Hub, and you can download the latest version of Capture One here.
How to Install Capture One Express?
Click here and hit any of the "Download" buttons on the page. You will specify which version of Capture One you are activating when you open the file.
To make it even easier to download and install Capture One Express, see the graphic below for the process and dialogue screens:
If you're looking for a quick and effective way to learn all the nuances of Capture One, check out The Complete Capture One Editing Guide.