There have been many articles been written comparing Lightroom (LR) and Capture One (CO) and favoring one over the other. I have been using Lightroom for years and have been using Capture One for about 1 year now. In my experience both have their merits and problems. In the following overview I like to highlight the strength (in no particular order or claim of completeness) of each application to show that both tools can complement each other.
Advantages of Lightroom
- The Library module in LR is great for organizing your images. I am currently having about 40k images in my catalog without any problems. There have been reports of people using several 100k images without any performance issues.
- LR Mobile is a great way of synchronizing your pictures from your mobile devices to your LR catalog. It is also a great way to having your portfolio in your pocket or doing some basic editing of your image when you do not have access to your computer.
- LR has a huge library of lens profiles that allows it to correct almost every lens you come across. If there is not profile for your specific lens, Adobe provides a free tool to create your own lens profiles.
- In LR you have the ability to fine-tune your camera profile and select between the ones which are already build into your camera.
- The spot healing brush in LR works like a charm. Especially with the possibility to draw custom shapes.
- Generally it seems that LR is a bit snappier than CO (note that my computer does not have a dedicated GPU) - Everything is stored in a single catalog. This makes backups quite easy.
- LR smart previews are a great way to store your images in an external HD but still be able to access them (also at a lower resolution) without having to access the external storage. This is useful for organization task or for simply experimenting with some new processing ideas on the road.
- LR built-in book module is extremely convenient. While it has less features than comparable tools and it is mostly tied to one publisher (unless you export a PDF version), the ability to quickly switch between the book module and the develop module is priceless. For instance when you notice that you have overseen a sensor dust spot and quickly switch into the develop module to fix it and jump right back out to the book module.
Advantages of Capture One
- The image quality of the RAW conversion in CO is definitively better than in LR. You might be able to tweak LR default conversion but generally speaking you will have a hard time to achieve the same quality that CO provides out of the box.
- Many adjustments in CO can (for better or worse) be pushed much further than in LR and generally speaking do not look artificial when pushed to the extreme.
- The color editor in CO beats everything you have in LR and even can compete with Photoshop functions. In particular the uniformity feature is quite useful when retouching portraits.
- Besides catalogs, Capture One supports also sessions. Sessions are a great way to organizing individual shoots and are self-contained.
- CO supports layers. While the layer support, in particular the healing and cloning support, is somewhat limited in CO, the possibility to group your changes into layers is very useful.
- The latest version of CO introduced a new tool that makes color grading a bliss.
- CO has a tool called Capture Pilot which allows you to see and rate your image on your mobile device. The way it works is by CO staring a server on your computer and Capture Pilot connecting to it via the local WIFI. Unlike LR mobile which needs to sync everything through the cloud this provides a serious performance boost. This is particular useful if your internet connection is slow or non existing. Additionally Capture Pilot allows you to zoom into the pictures at full resolution. LR mobile only synchronizes lower resolution files and you are stuck with them.
- CO has a manual distortion correction tools that require some manual intervention but generally are more precise than LR's upright function that either works or not. Best of all CO allows you to specify how much the distortion should be corrected. Sometimes a 100% correct distortion looks weird.
- CO lens correction tool. Wait was this not a point in LR favor?!? Yes, LR has more lens profiles but CO provides finer control how those profiles are applied to your image. For example you can control to what degree the vignette or the sharpness falloff should be corrected.
- CO vignette tool. It consists of only one slider for applying either a darkening or brightening vignette. Compared to LR, which provides 3 different modes and 5 different sliders, this seems awfully limited. Yet, at least in my opinion, CO vignette looks better, more organic and less artificially.
- Another great feature in CO is the loupe tool that allows you to inspect part of the image without having to zoom into the whole file. Best of all, this works on all thumbnails views and really speeds up your workflow.
- The tethering support in CO is outstanding and outperforms LR tethering support by orders of magnitude. Not only allows CO to control almost every aspect of your camera it also supports live-view to check your focus and composition. In particular I like the ability to fine-tune the focus within CO.
- CO noise reduction seems to produce better results than LR. This is especially true for extreme cases with lots of color noise and hot pixels.
As outlined above both tools have their merits and I keep using both of them. At some later point I will post an overview on when and how I use both them. If you need to choose between either you must weigh your personal preferences: which user interface resonates more with you, which features are more important for type of photography and workflow.