All you hear about is how much better Capture One is than Lightroom, but is this true for every brand of camera? Does capture one handle X-Trans better and are Capture One’s colors better?
I will summarize since I can’t get too deep into all the features of each program in a written review, it would take forever, but mainly we are going to look at some straight out of camera samples and compare the default RAW converter process.
Capture One vs Lightroom | Best Raw Converter
I’ve been testing the two programs back and forth and I have to say the better program really depends on what you want. Both programs have very different strengths and weaknesses. Capture One has color wheels, color curves, color levels, Lightroom just has one set of curves but it has camera calibration tools which are very powerful. Lightroom has that sweet super easy to use Catalog, although Capture One’s catalog isn’t so bad either. Lightroom does Collections, Capture one does Albums.
Lightroom does HDR merging and Panorama Stitching, Capture One does not.
They both do luminosity masks.
If you like grain (I do) Capture One gives you way more control over the grain style.
Lightroom gives you access to all the cameras color profiles, Capture One only gives you access to Fujifilm film simulators.
It used to be that Capture One did some things like highlight recovery better, but Adobe has improved here over the years.
What Is Capture One Better At?
Fujifilm X-Trans files mainly.
Since Fujifilm uses the X-Trans sensor, you often get a strange noise pattern to the images. Capture One corrects for this noise pattern a little better and pulls out slightly more detail. It comes at the cost of slightly waxier skin tones but it does look a little nicer. You can tune Lightroom and Photoshop to get almost as good of an initial image here, but Capture One is doing some sort of noise reduction trick for the X-Trans files, I would say it’s not game-changing, but it will make your life easier and save you time if you’re shooting high-end work with Fujifilm X-Trans cameras. Keep in mind their GFX cameras are not X-Trans, neither is the X-T200 or X-A7 so they will perform well in Lightroom.
I don’t see the difference as much with other camera brands and actually Capture One sometimes looks worst to me, but it depends on how much noise is in the image and what ISO you’re at. Capture One typically does a better default noise reduction with some nice sharpness applied. In Lightroom, you almost always have to tweak just a little to match results.
Capture One also will allow you to load the camera profiles for Fujifilm, but not for the other brands.
Some say the Capture One default look is better. Debatable of course.
What Lightroom Is Better At?
Lightroom gives you the camera colors for every brand. Lightroom also automatically loads in all the camera settings for the Nikon Z cameras.
I think that Lightroom is more intuitive and I like their catalog design more and I like the different developer modules, for Library, Develop, Print, Web etc. The Lightroom bundle with Photoshop is also priced very reasonable and the Lightroom + Photoshop bundle is more powerful, although Capture One standalone is more powerful than Lightroom since Capture One has more color controls.
I feel like Capture One applies this noise reduction to everything which can make the images slightly softer sometimes, but it does seem like the noise reduction retains a little more detail by default. You can get Lightroom matching pretty close, but you do have to noodle sharpness and noise reduction.
Let’s look at some comparisons between each brand. I’ll post these straight out of camera RAW samples for those of you who are interested in batch processing.
Canon EOS R – Lightroom vs Capture One
Here is a straight out of camera RAW samples at 100% crop.
The Capture One default noise reduction looks too aggressive and the EOS R image with Lightroom on the left looks much better. Keep in mind, this is just one sample.
Since that above sample was strange, here is another one in perfect lighting.
Nikon Z6 – Lightroom vs Capture One
Lightroom will automatically load your Nikon camera settings.
Here is one more using Nikon’s Camera Standard vs. Capture One defaults.
Here is a sample using one of the default Adobe Color profiles (what I usually use) vs. Capture One defaults.
Fujifilm XT3 – Lightroom vs Capture One
Here you can see a slightly noisier image and a little bit better detail with Capture One on the Fujifilm file.
One more sample in good lighting with a better lens.
If I noodle for a while I still can’t get Lightroom to give me the same level of detail. I get close, but there is a noise reduction that Capture One is doing that is just better. You will only see this at a 100% crop.
Sony A6400 – Lightroom vs Capture One
Here on the Sony A6400, there is almost no difference between Lightroom and Capture One. Maybe Capture One is just a touch sharper.
Capture One Vs Lightroom Conclusions
Is Capture One better than Lightroom? It depends, it is more powerful but more complicated. If you bundle LR+Photoshop then Capture One loses that advantage. But again, you could always use Capture One with Photoshop.
The default output of Capture One, in my opinion, is just a hair better by default with some of the camera brands. I like the Capture One colors a little more with Nikon, with Canon I prefer the Colors of LR, with Fujifilm I prefer the Colors of LR and with Sony they are very similar. At least in these samples, but this is going to be a matter of taste.
Images come in a touch sharper with a touch more detail usually with Capture One, except for that Canon sample for some reason. Again, this is just default settings you can always batch adjust the shots to look however you want.
Even though I mostly shoot Fujifilm, I still personally use Lightroom just because it comes with the whole Adobe package that I subscribe too and for me those slightly more detailed but waxier skin tones Capture One produces isn’t enough of an improvement to justify switching especially when you can get very close to the same results if you noodle the noise reduction and sharpness settings just a little bit. I also heavily color most of the stuff I’m doing so the default look isn’t important to me. But, if you batch process photos for clients or something, then Capture One might be a better option with some camera brands like Fujifilm. Wither others like Canon, I’m preferring Lightroom.
It’s been a few years since I’ve used Capture One before this comparison and I do have to say, I’m impressed. It’s come a very long way and looks like a great program now. But I guess the same could be said about Lightroom now that it does Pano stitching and HDR merging.