Revamped Capture One 12 takes on Adobe's Lightroom

Phase One has released a new version of its Capture One software with some features to try to match and beat its dominant rival for photo editing and cataloging, Adobe Systems' Lightroom.

Some of the big changes come to the critical task of masking -- selecting particular elements of a photo that you might want to change, for example to increase exposure or reduce noise. That's a key part of the kind of detailed editing needed by the power users the Danish company caters to, but Capture One's menus, controls and icons also to try to make it easier on newcomers and ordinary photographers.

Capture One is tightly integrated with the company's super high-end cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars, but it also can handle the proprietary raw-format images from more than 500 other camera models from manufacturers like Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Leica and Pentax. The software costs $299 for a version supporting more than 500 mainstream cameras or $180 per year through a subscription plan.

Phase One thinks it's got a better tool for photo enthusiasts and pros. But converting Lightroom users is a hard sell. Edits made in one program don't carry over to another, so people with lots of photos will end up with lots of library complications.

But for people disgruntled with Adobe's subscription-only pricing or its splitting of Lightroom into two quasi-compatible versions, Lightroom CC and LIghtroom Classic CC, Phase One offers a full-featured alternative.

Masking updates

Capture One 12 improves its linear gradient tool -- useful for dimming bright skies or brightening dark foregrounds, for example. That's something Lightroom can do fine, but Capture One 12 also can make the gradient asymmetric so its effects fade in more gradually or abruptly in different regions for fine tuning.

The software also matches Lightroom's ability to make an elliptical gradient, commonly used to brighten the exposure around the subject of a photo.

Also new in the update is a luminance masking, which lets you precisely select parts of a scene based on brightness. You can use it to warm up the colors in shady areas, for example, or brighten tones only in the darkest parts of a shot.

Capture One 12 also gets a new plug-in architecture so outside developers can add to its abilities. Initially, the technology is geared to help photographers export and publish photos, but Phase One plans to expand its abilities, said Lau Nørgaard, a Phase One vice president.

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