Capture One is regarded as one of if not the best pieces of raw-developing software available for professional photographers. Image quality resulting from Capture One processing is undoubtedly among the industry leaders, but the software itself could use some updates to make it the absolute gold-standard for raw developing and digital asset management.
Before we begin, I would like to mention that I am a long-term Adobe Photoshop Lightroom user. However, this is not an article directed at portraying one software solution as better than another or suggesting that we have yet another argument over everyone’s personal choice. This article is to point out some areas of Capture One that I feel could benefit from change or updating in order to make it an even better software package than it already is. To that end, let’s keep the comments focused on that!
Better Asset Management
This, I feel, is where Capture One could use the most improvement. Simple things like moving a folder of images from one catalog to another (a common task I perform at backup time) or synchronizing the timestamps of multiple cameras are not possible. Selecting multiple folders from your library to view simultaneously is also not possible. Small features like this would take Capture One from being an excellent raw developer to a piece of software you can rely on to manage your assets as well.
Even when importing a Session into a Catalog, which is another common task, Capture One is unable to physically move the images on disk; it simply imports references to them and leaves them where they are. For my personal use case, this would be extremely helpful at backup time. I could select a Session to import into my archive Catalog and have Capture One bring all the necessary files into a folder I select before importing their details, rather than the two-step process of me copying the Session folder and then importing it myself at the new location.
Let’s talk interface. This is no doubt a personal preference. Some will love it. Some will hate it. I love that each tool in the program can be hidden or shown and moved about to your heart’s content. This is excellent, as it means you can hide the tools that you never use and keep the ones you do right in front of you. However, that’s not all it takes to make a comfortable user experience.
From a simple visual standpoint, it is almost as if we’re stepping back in time. It’s almost like MS DOS with vector fonts. Nothing is clearly separated from anything else, and it’s a constant battle to find the tool you want, even after organizing them in your preferred way. Clear separation of the tools and panels would make the experience of finding and making use of them so much more comfortable. Even something as simple as slightly varying the shade of gray for adjacent panels would suffice, I feel.
Sessions and Catalogs
At first, I thought I would be annoyed by the distinction between presets and styles. But I can see how these two, although essentially the same thing, fit differently into the interface and offer easier ways to make small changes on a per-tool basis. However, in the end, the split between Sessions and Catalogs has become my pet peeve about Capture One’s organizational structure.
I feel that merging these and adding the Session functionality into the Catalog structure would make for a much simpler program to use. When it comes down to it, adding watched folders for the importing of images into the catalog would make its functionality almost identical to that of a Session.
Perhaps this is not something that would work for you. How do you make use of the distinction between these two?
Some additions to Lightroom over the years have become so ingrained in the way that I work that I feel myself missing parts of the program when I work in Capture One. The biggest example of this is actually the radial filter. Having the ability to essentially place a vignette anywhere and draw focus in your image is extremely useful. In Capture One, this must be painted by hand. I’d love to see this added.
File Merging (HDR and Panorama)
Honestly, I would also love to see some sort of subtle HDR merging included in Capture One as well. Capture One's highlight and shadow recovery tools are excellent, but sometimes, the data contained within a single raw file isn't quite enough. Lightroom’s HDR functionality was a great step in the right direction for the uses I would like it for and meant that I didn’t have to step into a dedicated HDR program that would then stop me from having access to a raw file for editing afterwards. I use HDR for the purpose of subtly expanding dynamic range when I need to and would love to be able to do this within Capture One as well. Of course, Capture One is a raw developer, and this may be beyond the program's scope, but one can always hope!
These are just a few of my wishlist items after working with Capture One. It is an extremely complex program with a lot of options to benefit many different use cases. For me, these are the things that would improve my experience. How about you? What would help make Capture One a better solution for your uses? If you don’t use Capture One, why not? If you think it’s the perfect solution for you, why?