Capture One 8 Complete Review


Capture One Pro 8 Review

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After a two-year hiatus without major updates followed by a sales marathon spanning a few months, Phase One have released Capture One 8.
There’s no doubt about it, 8 version release promises to be the greatest update in the history of Capture One, with a new processing engine, improved HDR, new catalog features, retouch tools, new layer abilities and film grain imitation. Capture One has now become faster, more powerful and much more stable.
Capture One 7 was a really good RAW converter, but with the release of version 8 it has now become brilliant.

Let’s take a look at just what is so exciting about Capture One 8.

New Design

The user interface on offer in Capture One 8 has become flatter, and that’s nice. It’s looks pretty good and it’s very comfortable to work with.

Capture One 8 Review

The tool’s sliders now are crisp and clear and, on the whole, the new appearance is effective.

As with previous versions of Capture One, users can completely change the whole workflow to suit their preferences.

Capture One Pro 8 Review

One new offering in the Capture One 8 customization is Templates, which are saved preferences of catalogs/sessions structure and settings. Albums, favorite folders, naming rules, Capture Pilot settings and other general preferences can be saved as templates. If you prefer to create new sessions or catalogs for each project, this will be a really helpful feature.

Capture One 8 Review

Improved processing engine

Capture One 8 offers new improved processing engine. This means that users who would like to work fully with old RAW files that were edited in Capture One 7 will need to upgrade their engine.

Capture One Pro 8 Review

Capture One 8 have a plethora of new functionality and effects as well as offering the user increased speed and efficiency. We all love Capture One for its great color and now, in version 8, color has become even better and more “natural.”

Capture One Pro 8 Review


In fact, Capture One 8 is all about image “naturally” and the best example of this is the new HDR tool.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

The HDR tool has been completely upgraded in Capture One 8 and it now doesn’t affect the mid tones at all. The main problem with the High Dynamic Range functionality in Capture One 7 was the “dirty” picture that emerged when high HDR values were applied. Now that’s gone and the new HDR effect is very accurate and clear.

Capture One Pro 8 Review

With Capture One 8 you can’t create “hard HDR”; however, you don’t need it in the way of natural image.

Shadow recovery has definitely become more natural too.

Capture One Pro 8 Review


Clarity tool in version 8 now offers a new work mode – Natural (surprise!).


With this mode, Clarity is even more accurate then Neutral, especially with the color and the dark parts of the image.



Natural mode works well in the majority of cases, but you can alway use the old Neutral, Punch (for hard effects) or even Classic modes from Capture One 6.

Auto Curve

Also engine’s update have added Auto Curve option in Base Characteristics.


This isn’t a new Curve in itself, as you might think, it’s simply an automatic selection of the most relevant Curve for a certain image. This usually takes the form of the Film Standard Curve; however, as the developers point out, Auto Curve was made for future updates, at which point it will perhaps become more useful.

New Catalog Features

The Catalog functionality was a chink in Capture One’s 7 armor. Until version 7, Capture One didn’t offer catalogization at all and the release of the Catalog tool was a first step in the right direction. The new features of Catalog in Capture One 8 fixes a few of the main problems associated with the old version.

Synchronization of Catalog Folders


This is a very useful feature that allows the user to synchronize files in folders on HDD with a Catalog structure. Now you no longer need to manually import new files from HDD to catalog. You can just add HDD folder to catalog and all the files inside it will automatically be imported (or deleted if you remove files from the folder).

Hierarchical Keywords

Hierarchical Keywords represents another significant update. With Hierarchical Keywords you can easily create and manage keywords for all your images, something that is critical for complex catalogization.


Capture One 8 also offers users the ability to export collections (albums, groups, projects, imports and captures) as separate catalogs and import them again if they so wish. This is great for users who need to access and use their collections on the fly and don’t need the whole Catalog, just part of it. When you return home you can simply import the edited catalog back into the main archive.

For Aperture-widowers Phase One have made Aperture Library Import ability. Due to technical limitations, only part of the image settings and catalog structure can be imported, but that’s better than nothing.


By the way, the Lightroom Catalog Import feature is also available in Capture One 8, albeit in beta version.

New Local Adjustments tools


HDR in layers. White Balance in layers. Yes! We have been waiting for this for many years and we’ve finally got it!

This update will completely change your workflow.

HDR in layers

Look at this dog.


She’s so happy, because she knows that with Capture One Pro 8 her hair has been masked and is now truly exposed in all its beauty with HDR.


Sometimes a user may need to make clouds on an image more interesting. HDR + Clarity in layers is the best way to achieve this.


Another interesting thing about HDR in layers is that with each new layer you can create an more aggressive HDR effect.


Also in Capture One 8 the mask on the Adjustment Layer can be easily moved, although unfortunately it is only possible to move all the masks on the selected layers together.


White Balance in layers

White Balance with the ability to use layer masks on up to 10 different layers (UPD – 16 layers in Capture One 8.1); it’s a really fantastic feature. With just a few clicks you can change the color temperature of any part of a given image.



For interior, report and concert photographers this is an indispensable tool!


And as with Capture One 7, with version 8 it is only possible to change the brush opacity, not the whole certain layer.

Retouch with the new Repair Layers

No one can’t compete with Adobe on the retouch field and Phase One is sadly no exception. However, the new Repair Layers shows promising signs that Adobe may have some serious competition in this area in the future.

In Capture One 8 we’ve got two new retouch tools: Clone layers and Heal layers. They are located in Local Adjustments tab and work as a standard layers.


Clone layers is a simple copy and paste tool, similar to Photoshop’s Stamp functionality. Heal layers are much smarter; they analyze your image and make appropriate retouches to certain elements of the picture.


In practice these tools do the job quite well. They are by no means suitable for sophisticated retouch requirements, but for simple work tasks they are pretty effective.

Improved Black & White


In Capture One 8, Black & White working algorithms are much less destructive on high values. In some situations this is quite useful; however, in the majority of cases it’s highly unlikely that you will notice any difference from the previous version.
That’s fine; after all, it’s very difficult to come up with something totally new for Black & White conversion.

Film Grain


Meanwhile, Capture One’s Film Grain tool really is a new word for digital film grain imitation.


This functionality incorporates six different work modes with two setting sliders (Impact and Granularity), which are used for imitation of any type of film grain.


What’s particularly interesting about Film Grain tool is that it incorporates its own mathematical model for film grain creation, while the original film grain depends not only on the film structure but also on the exposure settings and many other factors.

If you love film grain, you will love this tool!



The new Curve tool is the most disputable part of the Capture One 8 update.

First of all, the ability to move black and white points on the Curve is undoubtedly a great decision of the developers, but it’s just done wrong. The Curve tool window is small in the same way it was in Capture One 7 and if you set a new black or white point on the Curve its working histogram will not increase in size.


For this reason it’s better to work with the old Levels – after points correction, you will get an actual histogram for Curve correction.


By the way, why does setting points in the Levels tools affect the Curve histogram, but Curve correction doesn’t affect the Levels histogram?


Apparently, inside the Capture One engine the Curve and Levels tools work as two different “correction layers” and the Levels “layer” is treated as a higher priority.

Also, some users have noticed that it has become harder to set a new correction point on the Curve without affecting it.

In summary, the new Curve tool is by no means a finished product and it needs more work. Hopefully users will see some improvement in later releases and hopefully it will be upgraded.

Stability and speed

Another improvement in Capture One 8 is working speed and stability. That’s why the new Capture One requires Mac OS 10.9 or higher – older versions of Mac OS just can’t provide such results.
Now Capture One works effectively, efficiently and stably on Mac OS and Windows. Of course there are some bugs, but that’s to be expected with any new release.

New licensing and Sony exclusive mode

Capture One 8 comes with a new licensing mode. Users can subscribe for access to the software and all its functionality for 8 euros per month (current offer price, will shortly increase to 12 euros). Users who prefer the old-fashioned approach can also purchase a regular full-time license.

For now, the Express version of Capture One is no longer available, with the exception of the free Express version that is only on offer to Sony camera owners. For Sony users, the Pro version is also available at a reduced price. And yes – Capture One Pro Sony version is the standard Capture One Pro without any additional abilities. Just marketing and nothing more.
Removing Express from the store is truly right decision. Without many “pro” features Capture One Express is a simple RAW-converter that offers good color management.


Improved Skin Tone Editor

The Skin Tone editor in the previous version was great and in Capture One 8 it is even more accurate. Great!

Tethered Functionality

The tethered shooting is now faster and for Phase One digital backs in Capture One 8 there are a few new features like Focus Meter.
Good news for everyone – Live View mode now support capture ability.


Now you can rotate an image in the crop mode: a simple, but very useful, update.

Noise Reduction

With every major update, the Capture One Noise Reduction tool becomes better and better. Keep it up!

Purple Fringing


Purple Fringing correction tool now operates on a stand-alone tool and it now also works in layers.

Styles and Presets

In Capture One 8 you will find many more built-in styles with different color and B&W settings.

For more Capture One styles, take a look at our article, where we have collected the best styles and presets for Capture One.

Application Scripting

Application Scripting (for Mac only) is much more powerful in Capture One 8. Users can now create custom automated scripts for almost any processing tasks.

Final words

With a new processing engine, improved tools, WB and HDR in layers, Catalog features, better processing speed and stability, Capture One Pro 8 is undoubtedly worth every penny.

According to the developers: “With the release of Capture One Pro 8 we intend to release updates with new features every three months” – and these updates are really needed. The layer opacity feature, Curve tool upgrade, more Catalog abilities and of course Before/After button (Dear developers – it’s really needed. Not New Variant, not Alt+Reset on the tool, just the simple Before/After button).

But Capture One 8 is already a great app that offers fantastic capabilities—it’s the best professional RAW-converter on the market.

In future articles we will continue exploring the new Capture One 8 features. To keep abreast of the latest news and blog posts, join our Facebook group or follow us on Twitter.

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Author: Alexander Svet
All images by Alexander Svet

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About Author

Alexander Svet – Professional photographer and photography instructor. Phase One Certified Professional and Capture One beta tester.

  • Cameron Davidson

    Excellent overview. I learned a few new tricks. Thank you.

  • Wonderful overview.

  • shadowfoto

    yeah, they greatly improved stability (esp. compared to 7.0 release), to a point that it just won’t quit on my win7 laptop. the CaptureOne.exe will remain in process list until killed by hand.

  • Sakaphoto Graphics

    Thanks for the overview.

    I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, since it uses (Mac) OS X 10.9 but something more stable would be great. I’ve had so much crashing, I thought that it was an Adobe or Microsoft product at times.

    However, regardless, the image quality is so great, nothing else matters to me. I look forward to trying all these new features.

  • Totally agree with your statement about the before and after button, it just makes sense. That’s literally my biggest gripe, not being able to immediately see before and after…. so crucial

  • Rhys Moore

    Looks like I can’t upgrade as my Mac is running 10.7.5 (can’t get any higher). Shame as I really like Pro 7 and 8 looks even better.

  • MauRusso

    thanks..just moving from LightRoom (i’m a fuji X)

  • I love the way CO8 works with my photographs. it’s like little magic. But I hate browsing experience, I hate the catalogues and sessions. Why not allow users simple the explorer style, just folders with no limitations and extra work? I don’t get it and I hate it. Tho I try to ignore this negative part of Capture One 8 and force myself to enjoy only good stuff.

    • You can create a single session once and then use it all the time for any images without even importing them. Just use the build-in (for sessions) file manager to open a folder with the images on your HDD.

  • James Robins

    Well done hitting the major points in this review. I’ve been mostly away from C1 since v5, working more with LR since v3. Now with v8, I believe C1 has again surpassed LR. Your analysis pretty much reflects my observations in two weeks of extensive trials. Please, Phase One, address the concerns Alexander has raised – including the terminology changes – as he has pointed out the very few aspects left wanting with this big step forward. The very good far outpaces the relatively minor shortcomings.

  • Somebody asked for before/after button…you can use keyboard shortcuts after your adjustments. Ctrl+R (reset all sliders to “0”) = before ctrl+z (undo your reset) = after 🙂

    • Yes, it works, but it’s a little scary thing. I mean when you’ve done complicated editing it’s very uncomfortable to use “reset” button – if there will be any bug or something you can lose all your work.

  • Michael Woloszynowicz

    Great review Alexander. Definitely hit all the key points!

  • Hi Alexander,
    thank you for the nice report considering the highlights.
    Weeks before I switched over from LR due to COP’s performance regarding sharpness and color editor……and some other points.
    But what I really miss is the side by side pictures before and after.
    It should not be so complicated to add it…..
    Hopefully it will be considered in the next update.

  • Lee Harris

    Hi there, I am an Aperture user and having seen what the Photos App will be like I think I will have to look for something new.

    I have played a little LR but of course it feels strange after Aperture and also there is a part of me that would not rather aid Adobe in its Monopolisation of the creative arena! So I am here to ask if anyone can offer an honest opinion as to wether I should go with C1 or LR, Things to consider are that I do like to batch process a lot of images as a starting point for most jobs and I tend to keep multiple libraries. Tethering is not an issue for me.

    Another very important issue is a set of Aperture Libraries going back about 7 years that need to be converted, I just saw a video about CR1 offering a decent option for this, I do tend to star rate and sometimes flag images and use a lot of keywords etc.

    I will download CR1 promo to try but I would rather not spend too much time messing around trying out LR, CR1 etc if I can avoid it; i would just rather get on with the work!

  • Chris

    Capture One sounds like it’s worth a look so I downloaded it today to try out. Of course, I’ve done this before and then gone back to ACDSee Pro and Lightroom. I would really like to avail myself of Capture One’s reportedly excellent RAW engine, but I never seem to get past the usability essentials. Allow me to explain…

    As I understand it, Capture One is both an image processor and a digital asset manager. For me, the first step in post processing is getting the images off my camera and onto the computer. Both ACDSee Pro and Lightroom do this with aplomb; In the case of ACDSee Pro, I simply connect my camera via USB cable and ACDSee provides me with an import dialogue. With Lightroom, I click “Import” in the app and set the parameters. Easy with either application! In the case of Capture One, and despite viewing numerous videos and reading through various support documents, I still see no way to accomplish this “first step”. Yes, Capture One supports tethered shooting but since I pre-shoot all my images, I just want to attach my camera to the computer and copy from the memory card to the target folder, adding metadata and such as I go. I don’t want to have to pull the card from my camera to do this. Should be simple, yet all my attempts to accomplish this with Capture One result in error messages. Am I missing something here?

    • Yes, Capture One doesn’t support direct import from camera.

      I think there are two main reasons for this:

      1) In many cases card reader transfer speed will be much faster than camera import. For example with my Nikon D4 I can use only USB 2.0 and with card reader – USB 3.0, which is more than ten times faster.

      2) Usually after a full day of shooting I’ve 2-3-4 cards loaded with photos and it’s much convenient to use card reader.

      Anyway you can suggest such a feature to developers here

      • Chris

        Thank you for your reply.

        I understand that importing directly from a card is faster. Having said that, there are always times, when you have less to import than you have described. Also, quantity has a lot to do with your approach to photography, or the type of photography you are focusing on. For the landscape shooter, especially if you subscribe to the theory of the “intentional image”, less is often more. I am often importing less than twenty images after a day of shooting. Keeping the card in the camera reduces wear and tear and is simply more convenient for me.

        Finally, since the other RAW processors I mentioned can import from the card, or the camera, it remains a mystery to me as to why C1P doesn’t match this.

  • Holger Reich, Der Wupperfotogr

    I bought Capture One several years ago, but it never became to my tool. 2014 I got my first Phase One and an introduction to Capture One by there seller. Today, 1 year later, there are 90% of my steps in my workflow made by Capture One. It´s the greatest RAW-Converter I have ever seen.

  • James Music

    You mentioned ‘application scripting’ near the end of the article. Can you point me to a resource for this?