Capture One Express: Straightforward, Powerful, and Free

Capture One Express: Straightforward, Powerful, and Free

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)

Raw image on the left, SOOC, and B&W and color edits on the right of it. All edited in a minute in Capture One Express for Sony.

Capture One Express Breakdown at a Glance

Organization

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.

Sharing

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.

Styles

“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
  • Sessions
  • Local adjustments
  • Focus Mask
  • Keystone
  • Film Grain
  • Tethering
  • 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:

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31 Comments

Studio 403's picture

I downloaded the free version for my Fujifilm camera. I have color graded two images so far. I hope there is a capture one for dummies. I am struggling to “get it” Taking a free one hour course with Capture one on Thursday.. I am so in bed with PS had to see I could change over. But Adobe pricing schemes may be somewhat arbitrary in the near future. Thanks for the post about capture one. Love to buy “whole bundle”, my budget wont’t support this.

Hi there, and thanks for the comment and interest. There will be continues Capture One content on here from which to learn over the coming months, but in the meantime I think the hour with C1 will help, and I'd also direct you to Capture One's learning hub and YT channel which is full of great info. In addition feel free to ask specific questions here and I will do my best to answer them for you, or guide however best I can. Cheers

Studio 403's picture

Thank you kind sir, hope I can learn

Dennis Bater's picture

Studio 403, I had Capture One Pro for months before I finally took the plunge. I would try it and grumble about "well Lightroom does it this way". I finally just jumped in and moved everything over to Capture One and took it one step at a time and didn't compare it with Lightroom. That was four years ago and I would never, ever go back to Lightroom. Capture One tethering is unbelieveable, no hangups, crashes.... just smooth sailing. The color rendering engine is the best in the industry... you will not be disappointed!

Marius Pettersen's picture

"Capture One Express: Straightforward, Powerful, and Free* (*If you shoot Fuji or Sony)"

Seriously. I thought this was a new free version for everyone given it is/was described as “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”. Had the author (or editor) written “There are full-fledged versions of Capture One (Pro and Studio, each available as a one-time or subscription purchase) and Capture One Express free for Fuji and Sony owners,” it would have made way more sense.

Hi guys, I see there's some disappointment with the wording. I'd ask you to grant me a little latitude there as it needed to be expressed that the reason there are those versions is due to cooperation between the manufacturers and Capture One - and not one sided. That is expressed in the first line under the first heading. Would it be great if Nikon, Canon, Olympus et cetera also had one? Of course, and speaking with Capture One that is not off the table, but those manufacturers would have to support. Laboring on the behalf of users like you who want this is something I will do, and perhaps the more requests the more likely it will happen. So, I encourage anyone to have a go at them. Also, give the 30-day trial a try if Express isn't an option for you to see how you find it. Cheers

That's literally 4 paragraphs into the article. I think that would be qualified as 'burying the lead."

My excitement turned really fast into disappointment once I read that it's for Sony and Fuji only.

From the article: "Who is capture one express for? There's a case to be made that it's for everyone..."

Uh no. It's only available for Sony or Fuji cameras.

Hi Matt. To be fair, near the top of the article it is laid out that it is for Fuji and Sony.

Rob Davis's picture

I think you should just take responsibility for your writing and stop suggesting it’s the readers fault for being confused.

Marius Pettersen's picture

I'm sorry, but that paragraph is very vague.

"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. (...) but Capture One Express can be used without limitation for as long as you like, no purchase required."

You do not connect the dots between the brand-specific versions and Capture One Express, so that last line reads as the software is open to anyone willing to use a stripped down version of the Pro.
If you'd added behind "no purchase required" another sentence about Fuji- and Sony users, then it would come across much clearer.

This is an unbiased article, right?

bury-the-lead
Verb

bury the lead

(idiomatic) (news writing style) To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts.

Scott Haddow's picture

*pedant alert*: it's "bury the lede"

I wouldn't normally respond but I'm not impressed - how much did you get paid? It's not free. It's a 30 day trial and camera specific.(https://www.captureone.com/en/store?utm_source=profile-tool&utm_medium=e...).

Elio Rivero's picture

That's the C1 Pro and it's not what the article is referring to. This is the link to C1 Express for Fujifilm
https://www.captureone.com/en/download/express-fujifilm
and this is the one for Sony
https://www.captureone.com/en/download/express-sony
Both are free to use.

Errol McGihon's picture

It's not very clear on C1 website but the free express version for Fuji (and I'm assuming Sony) are inside the bundle that you download for the camera specific version. You just select the free version afer downloading package.

JetCity Ninja's picture

call me pedantic, but if the blogger insists on rationalizing their misrepresentation of C1 Express and blaming the reader, the truth is that C1 Express is not free. it's included with the purchase of a Sony or Fujifilm camera. therefore, the claim of "no purchase is required" is fundamentally wrong. a purchase of a camera is required.

I agree with the commenters that the title and much of the tenor of the article is misleading regarding Capture One Express. The implication is that it is available to all, but only when diving deep into the article and doing research online does the reader realize that the Express version is only for users of Sony and Fuji cameras. This feels like false advertising by omission.

Further research on the author shows that he works for a marketing firm representing Capture One, and that all of his articles for Fstoppers are about Capture One. I am left with the impression that these articles are a marketing campaign dressed up as tutorials. This seems similar to the deception (albeit on a much smaller scale) to the recent controversy regarding The North Face using photos of their gear on Wikipedia entries.

Perhaps the author could be more direct upfront and disclose his relationship with Capture One at the beginning of his articles. Capture One is known throughout the community to be an excellent product, and having articles with tips and ideas is a great way to show it off. It is disappointing that they and/or their agents feel the need to resort to rhetorical tricks in order to sell their product.

Wow, really? I think that Fstoppers might want to drop the author.

Marcus Joyce's picture

Direct and up front? Like the ultra vague way he didn't say it's only for Sony/Fuji at the start of the article? I wonder what word salad might be used to convey his purpose to influence people to buy c1

@Joel Jaffe, thanks for sharing your research. I agree with your thoughts about being more direct about the author's relationship to Capture One.

Welcome to Capture One World. This company would never produce a version for the Pentax 645 cameras, since they were in competition with their much more expensive Phase One cameras. I too seem wedded to Photoshop, since I got my original low cost version years ago when I studied it at our local JC. but I loathe Lightroom, old or new. I am told by several of my teachers and mentors that the RAW developer in Capture One is , perhaps, the best.. But I have had great difficulty in mastering the steep learning curve in learning it. And the tutorials haven't been, for me, very helpful. So, if my Pentax ever dies, or I inherit (unlikely) I would consider switching to the bigger Fuji. If you are just starting out in photography, and haven't spent too much time with other programs so you're not fixed in how you process, it might be a good thing for Sony and Fuji owners to start with a simpler version of this, as offered to owners. I'm probably just too old to learn many new tricks, like my dog, who is also old and was not ever interested in anything but treats, not tricks.

Paul Topol's picture

Can I use Capture One Express with Canon CR2 files?

Bob Shurtleff's picture

First, I started using C1Pro a few months ago and love it, although i wish there were more written tutorial. To say the learning curve is steep is an understatement. While it’s complex set of editing controls are not as intuitive as Adobe counterparts, C1 is powerful. I now use this as the starting point in my workflow and I’m never going back to Lightroom.

Sadly, this article is “click bait”. The free version of C1 Express is only available for Sony and Fuji. The headline and leadin’s are misleading. It’s not clear from the article, the headline or the introduction.

One nice thing you’ll learn here is the introduction to all the offered color grading and editorial styles. Yes you can create and customize new ones on your own, but for speed, these styles are glorious.

If it's so darn good, why do they limit it to only Fuji and Sony?? Don't they want to entice the far larger population of Nikon and Canon shooters too? Makes no sense.

Question:
Can I shoot tethered & display a slideshow of the images full screen? If so, does the slideshow automatically updates by adding the new photos as I shoot?

Raoul Coscia's picture

Always HAS to be a catch! No room for Nikon shooters here!

I read the whole article, and it wasn't until the comments section that it was made apparent, by commenters, that the "free" versions are only for Sony and Fuji. (I had been wondering what the difference was between the "free" version, and the brand-specific versions.) I see other folks were confused as well. To Fstoppers...I spend a lot of time reading your articles...I enjoy being here on the website, but please PLEASE pursue a wide berth from titles and sentences that flirt with click bait...click bait is rampant and sickening across the internet. Yes it's sometimes hard to balance between titles that get a persons attention and what can be construed as click-bait, but please try. P.S. I have an A7II and an X-T30, so Capture One Express is a good option for me.

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