What Is Going on With Capture One?

What Is Going on With Capture One?

The list of monthly subscriptions photographers are pressured to keep up becomes longer every year. From Dropbox to Pixieset, Adobe to Honeybook, and Shootproof to Fundy, photographers' monthly bills multiply annually. Now, Capture One wants a piece of the pie, and its community is not happy about the announcement. 

What Capture One Announced

Capture One has just announced changes to their licensing. C1 users received an email outlining some of the upcoming changes:

From 2023 we will no longer be tied to an annual cycle for major releases. As a result, there will not be a Capture One 24. Instead, we will continuously release new tools and features on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Alongside this, we will also be making changes to our perpetual licenses from February 1, 2023. Here’s what’s changing:

  • New perpetual licenses will include updates with bug fixes until the next version, but new features released after purchase will not be included.
  • Upgrade pricing will no longer be available and will be replaced with a new loyalty scheme. More details will be announced on February 1, 2023.

No specifics were given on what the details of this "loyalty scheme" will be. Instead, they will be announced by February 2023.

Image provided by Ali Choudhry

In an article on their support page, Capture One clarified:

Capture One offers perpetual and subscription licenses for users. The difference between those is the term of validity. A perpetual license is everlasting (for life, providing that you meet the minimum system requirements), while with a subscription plan you have to make regular payments to keep the license active - but you always have access to the latest version.

The overwhelming majority of comments from the community ranged from feeling mislead to outrage.

So, if I understand correctly, that means that those of us who used to regularly upgrade (upgrades that went from $99 to $199 over a few years already) their perpetual license will now have to buy a full license each time there is a partial release? That is a clever move to go to a subscription only model without saying it.

Many responded with comments about what they felt like was disingenuous marketing language:

I'm really disappointed by this move. Don´t try to sell it as doing what 'many of you told us'. This is strictly about optimizing your profit and NOT in the best interest of your customers! Rolling out constant updates only to your subscription-based customers and leaving the perpetual licenses as a choice would be the way to go if you really cared what your customers want or need.

Hi C1, This hurts and is clearly about to anger the community. Pls. cut the marketing speak and be honest of what is happening.

The readers collectively were impassioned.

This hurts...
I feel like I was mislead...

I'm very disappointed...

I feel betrayed...

I'm feeling super screwed at the moment...

I feel so f*cked...

Capture One in suicide mode...

They totally lost my trust...

This is deeply exploitative...

This feels and smells like blackmail and extorsion...

Merry Xmas, bye and all the best for your future...

A minority of commenters welcome the change and see it as an industry standard.

Personally I don't see what's wrong with this move. It's industry standard to withhold feature updates to the next major release. Many software companies do it the same way. If you don't need the new features, nobody is forcing you to upgrade. You only upgrade when you need it. So, I'm not sure what's the fuss. Please enlighten me if I miss something.

What Did Capture One Have to Say About It?

Capture One hopes this new subscription basis model will offer the upgrades when they are needed, not on a forced annual timeline. When I asked Capture One if they had a comment for the piece, Mariann Eliassen, PR and Editorial Manager, noted:

Just to be clear, we are not ending perpetual licenses. We know that this option is important to some of our customers, and we are committed to keeping this available for them. Anyone who has bought or will buy Capture One 23 before February 1, 2023, will still enjoy the same benefits as they would with any previous version of the software. After this date, everyone will still be able to buy a perpetual license and fully enjoy the features that come with it in perpetuity. 

My initial inquiry included the question, "Many users expressed feeling misled in the sales of the perpetual licenses, without any note or warning about the changes just around the corner. Would you care to share your perspective or contribute a quote on this?" This question was not directly addressed in the response. 

Why Are So Many Upset?

The readers' frustration came with the fact that they purchased the C23 upgrade but wished they would have been informed of the upcoming choices available to them. Skipping the end-of-line C23, they would have preferred to find out about the newly announced "loyalty scheme" and wait for that information before making purchases. One reader noted on the matter:

The current 30% discount to upgrade ends at the end of Jan. But they won't tell us what the new 'Loyalty Program' is until Feb 1st. So purposely denying customers the ability to know what is the best route. For all we know, the 'Loyalty' prize could be a box of bananas and a cheesecake. Hardly being transparent, is it?

Will This Make Them Lose Their Edge Over Adobe?

Both pieces of software boast impressive performances; however, many Capture One subscribers have favored not having to dish out monthly money if they were content with their software. Now, keeping up with the software upgrades will require a subscription to their Loyalty Scheme.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Is Capture One simply falling in line with the industry standard, or are they losing their customer-pleasing point of differentiation? 

Michelle VanTine's picture

Michelle creates scroll-stopping images for amazing brands and amazing people. She works with businesses, public figures, sports & products. Titled “Top Sports Photographers in Miami” in 2019 (#5) and 2020 (#4), she was the only female on the list both years. Follow the fun on IG @michellevantinephotography @sportsphotographermiami

Log in or register to post comments

My biggest concern are the bug-fixes and the support for new cameras and lenses. It looks like those won't be backported to older version when a new 'feature' release is available. According to EU regulations there should be a 2 year warranty on software but Capture One thinks they can charge for bug-fixes.

I thought about the same thing. It will be interesting to see how the transition unfolds

This is my main concern as well. I'm quite happy with C21, and C23 looks like a great package with serious quality of life improvements for my style of shooting. The fact that a perpetual license exists at all is a good thing. Not trying to be a C1 apologist, I'm irked by the move too, but I'm not surprised by a move that pushes more people towards a subscription model. The problem for C1 may be how sticky they can make their subscription compared to Creative Cloud - I'd say that Adobe has them licked in terms of pure dollar value out of a monthly subscription.

This is what I'm also curious to see. If they're going to come in at the same price point as Adobe Cloud they're setting themselves up for some serious competition. It'll be interesting to see the details of this "loyalty scheme" and how it compares in price to Adobe Cloud which includes more than one software

I would expect that, for perpetual license users, it will be similar to what they currently have in place - a nominal discount for existing license holders, except now they will offer less with respect to feature updates throughout the annual development cycle. It should serve to nudge perpetual license holders to upgrade more frequently, or to switch to a subscription model.

As others have mentioned, if you are happy with the equipment you have and the software features, there is still value to holding out 2-3 years for an upgrade. If you are at the bleeding edge, frequently upgrading to the newest bodies, glass, and C1 is no longer dishing out those correction profiles for free, the subscription becomes essential.

Here in the US, as far as I know, C1 have never updated previous versions. For bug and camera/lens fixes, you had to upgrade to the current version.

Yes that's correct in my understanding as well

Good point, Eddie. Since what you said is correct, I wonder why in the world Edison Wrzosek downvoted your comment. Doesn't Edison want all of the facts about this topic clearly stated?

Haha, that's because he has issues. He's been stalking my posts and downvoting them. My guess is his feelings are still hurt from a past internet argument. :D

That would make him a butthole if he downvotes your comments just because it is you commenting, instead of actually downvoting based on the validity of the comment.

I have the license to Version 20, it is still doing great . I haven’t seen the need to upgrade yet.

Thats great! It seems like if your gear stays the same it might be a great fit to keep using what is working. If its not broke...

The need will come if/when you upgrade the equipment. New cameras are not supported and converting raw files to dng with converter is not a good option since you are missing camera matching profiles and render engine will do a poor job ( in regards to real colors and noise). But until then..you're not missing much.

For companies to survive the subscription model is the way to go. It’s either this or buying new yearly versions, there is no one off payment as all software gets obsolete without updates. If you like the software and want it to survive a once off payment isn’t enough. It needs a constant cash flow. Adobe are very difficult company to compete with. I would like the EU to bring in a law that if you’ve subscribed for a certain period the software should continue to function after subscription stops (no upgrades/ bug fixes but also no deliberate disables).

I read that suggestion also by many users in the comments on the announcement blog post

Sadly a subscription model ultimately reduces the quality of the software, and incentivizes gimmicks. For example, look at adobe before creative cloud. New versions were heavily based on improving enhancements to as many different workflows as possible, along with focuses on performance improvements, and multithreading enhancements.
The reason is likely that to convince people to purchase an upgrade version, they had to see am improvement in their workflow. If there was no workflow improvement and no performance improvement, then they would skip the version, and Adobe would have lost a sale, thus performance improvements were a strong focus.

With creative cloud, performance improvements took a back seat to tiny addons that never escaped the stage of tech preview. While they can have their uses for some individuals, for the vast majority they will go unnoticed or unused, but thanks to the subscription, they will still continue to pay out to maintain what they have.

With a model having to convince customers to upgrade, then there is incentive to invest heavily in R&D with a focus on benefiting as many workflows as possible.
With a subscription model, any development money spent on someone who is willing continue paying just to maintain their current functionality, is money wasted, profit optimization shifts to minimally viable product where you find the bare minimum to keep the old customers paying but stagnant, and gimmicks to attract new people, where development is quickly abandoned as soon as it stops heavily attracting people.

I hope thy will support new versions of MacOS and if they do I will be fine. If not I will either pay or stop shooting tethered :)

Capture One is taking a risk, I think a lot of amateurs might stop using there software. It’s as expensive as there camera gear. That’s for dedicated Pros with high end requirements.

Best way to make more money is to charge more. Worst way to go bankrupt is to totally price yourself out of the marked because you are getting to greedy:)

This seems to be the sentiment of many users

Pretty shady they make the perpetual license so unappealing as to push folks to a subscription model. The perpetual license with no new feature updates wouldn't be so bad if:

-- 1. they'd update the camera profiles in a modular manner so it's not necessary to purchase the entire app. Especially, since they're taking away the upgrade path. It's silly that one would have to fork out $299 just because they have a newly released camera. From what I can tell, it's basically just the .icm file. If I'm not mistaken, I *think* one of DXO apps was doing that. It would download/update specific modules specific to your raw files.

-- 2. they'd provide bug fixes for the current and the previous version. C1 has a habit of breaking things that weren't broken before so this should give plenty of buffer time to iron out issues.

Silver lining is there's always Black Friday/Cyber Monday, or any 40-50% discounts opportunities. :)

That seems like a sensible request

It's funny how even they call it a loyalty "scheme"

I thought the same thing!!!!! The word scheme has a very deceptive connotation to it. I wondered why not "loyalty program" or something less loaded.

I have used Capture One for many, many years - The product is truly an excellent one - However, the fact that there have been 2 financial firms, Silverfleet and Axcel, involved in the company for a number of years at this point had me concerned from the very beginning of their involvement.

I am not a fan of the subscription model in general. Having said that I do believe at the end of the day subscription models are a valuable tool for R&D in the software industry. My issue with Capture One is the way they have handled the announcement and the terms of business involved.

For whatever reason many, many people feel they're entitled to software upgrades at no charge. I personally don't think that is a viable way to conduct business but I do understand the opinions of others.

My primary concern is when financial firms get involved in these scenarios it doesn't necessarily bode well for the future of the company. Time will tell in this example but the lack of transparency is remarkable in this example.

There are a number of other facts involved here but I'm not going to address them. I only hope Capture One remains a quality-focused, viable product, aimed at serious enthusiasts and/or professionals in a tough business. If it takes a higher MSRP or higher monthly fees to enable that I'm ok with it. The quality is of primary importance to me as opposed to how much the software costs.

Very well written.

Capture One may be excellent in some regards, but it does have its disadvantages, e.g. poor handling of larger catalogues, limited keystone adjustment, no optimization for Apple silicon, poor customer support, just to mention a few things. And this at €29/month, while the Adobe Lr+Ps package is €12/month.

I love C1. But I don’t see them being around for long, unless they can quickly pivot to servicing the growing “content creator” class like Profoto is trying to do. The risk is they alienate their pro users by adding features that are useless for pros (which it seems they are starting to do). And like you stated, getting financial forms involved is never a good sign. Like it or not, the pro photographer is not the gatekeeper to making images like it used to be (as in they were not only creative but also knew how to shoot film, load it, expose for it, develop it, light it, print it, etc.). The market and tech has broken down those walls. So a company whose main cash flow is pros is probably getting squeezed nowadays in our market.

On a side note, I don’t like subscription plans, but I don’t understand the complaints about paying $10/month for Lightroom & Photoshop. Those are two powerful pieces of software. If you can’t afford $10 a month you may be in the wrong industry or may need to get a new hobby.

I stagger 2 keys every other upgrade, I ended up skipping 20-21 but snagged a 22 for about $100, it was honestly a downgrade with the new UI. What they are trying to pull now is a straight money grab. Kind of sad how this is playing out but but my tether machines are older macs and I'll still be able to get years out of my standalone copies.

It will be interesting to see if the community response will affect the initial plan in any way.

It was funny and well written, my favorite combo!

Your question at the end is not an either/or type. They are falling in line with industry standard AND hence they lose their customers' sympathy. I was a long-time Lightroom user and - like many others - went to C1 since Adobe's subscription model made me puke for the apparent disrespect of their customers. Disappointing to see that C1 is now falling for the short-term profit as well.

That is unless they did a terribly poor job of selling this - in which case they should probably look for a new Marketing Director....

And what do you expect you will be using moving forward now that you have used both softwares and they will both be on subscription basis?

Good question... I do own an Affinity Photo license, but that is more like Photoshop, so not really a replacement. Also tried Luminar Neo, but I'm not yet convinced - and with their latest additions they become rather pricey, so the honest answer is: I don't know yet...

DxO PhotoLab. DxO have really improved the repair tools and control point (now control line too) local adjustments in the last couple of versions. The noise reduction which was class leading has gotten even better (DeepPrime XD) for photographers who like enhanced detail on their high ISO images. DxO isn't perfect but they haven't gone so far provoking their customers as PhaseOne. Like Billy Walker, the sale of CaptureOne to two VC firms is what started this spiral down in terms of squeezing customers ever harder for ever less.

Lightroom + Photoshop + 20GB storage, app integration across various platforms. €12 per month.

Capture one subscription €30 per month for just capture one. iPad App is an extra €5 per month.

Enough said. Going all in on subscription and forcing it's users to decide between the two is commercial suicide unless they at least half the price. It maybe the better solution for some - Fuji users for example - but the price has to be right and users don't like feeling that they are being ripped off. It's never been worth upgrading every year with C1 as their upgrades and improvements have always been rather mediocre. Just what is there to get excited about to encourage users to subscribe to get the latest updates. I always thought capture one holds back upgrades so it can release one "major" thing per release to encourage upgraders. I'd expect a good 12-18 months or regular updates to hook users in before their reduce back to a trickle of minor changes that certainly are not worth €360 per year.

And if there will be no capture one 24 or any more yearly releases, yet perpetual licences will remain available, just what perpetual licence will users be able to buy? Just 23 forevermore? The build that reflects all the features on date of purchase? I upgrade every two years. Don't care about updates during the cycle of 23. I care about ditching upgrade incentives. Now a 5 year+ upgrader. Congrats C1.

This note about the range of software you get for a monthly fee is an important one. I've heard good things about Capture One as an editing software in general. However, if people dishing out a subscription fee I wonder how C1 will hope to compete with the whole suite of tools that you have with Adobe. Both are great softwares, but what will now be C1's point of differentiation?

Hmmm, I haven't received that email from C1 just yet. But I switched from LR b/c I like the "Sessions" feature they offer, as well as a Catalog option.

Im a LR user as well. They have really impressed me with many of their upgrades in the last two years.

I wish Adobe would offer the ability to use Session - I think I would go back, but maybe that's a C1 Proprietary feature?

The non-availability of sessions always kept me from using LR. But after a while I realized I could just create a catalogue for each shooting session so I did just that.
This might not work for everyone who still wants to use catalogues in a grander scheme. But since I don't use catalogues at all I find this workaround ok for me.

I started with C1 22 and will stop here again. I am a longtime LR user. C1 inspired me in the area of color management. But as a Nikon Z9 user, waiting almost 10 months for compressed RAW file support and the C1 not having to respond to countless complaints is beyond weak. A Z9 is not a cheap consumer camera it‘s Nikon's current flagship. This new subscription model is a rip off. It is well known that greed eats the brain. Just yesterday I deleted a video app - Filmic Pro. Without warning, the app was converted to a subscription model. $2.59 weekly, $60 annually. The app cost in the past $16. This is highly disgraceful.

I'm curious, maybe it will be 2024 - C1 - RIP at the latest.

This seems to be the sentiment of many. I'm curious about what their point of differentiation will be once they move to a subscription model

More comments