Phase One's updated image editor throws Apple Aperture users a lifeline

The death of Apple's photo-editing software offers lots of new customers to Capture One Pro. Version 8 gets a migration tool, new editing options, and a subscription pricing option.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read

Phase One's new Capture One Pro 8 software gets better at  editing and cataloging images, correcting lens flaws, and attracting people using Apple's now-dormant Aperture.
Phase One's new Capture One Pro 8 software gets better at editing and cataloging images, correcting lens flaws, and attracting people using Apple's now-dormant Aperture. Phase One

COLOGNE, Germany -- Phase One has released a new version of its Capture One Pro image-editing software, adding a host of features and throwing out a lifeline to users worried about the demise of Apple's Aperture.

Capture One Pro 8 includes the ability to import photos from Apple's software, maintaining organization into projects, folders, and albums; crop and rotation settings; metadata including captions, colors, ratings, and keywords; and perhaps most important, editing changes for brightness, highlights, shadows, definition, saturation, and black-and-white conversion.

It's a smart move for Phase One, letting the Danish company expand its customer base by attracting Aperture refugees. And the company's tool has arrived before any similar option from Adobe Systems, whose Lightroom software dominates the market for photo editing and cataloging software. Phase One has to be smart if it's to avoid Aperture's fate -- though to be fair Apple has shifted to iPhones and iPads, whereas Phase One's core job remains photography, meaning it's less likely to throw in the towel in the struggle against Lightroom.

All these programs use a technique called nondestructive editing that means changes don't perturb the base image. Instead, modifications are layered on top, calculated each time when the photo is displayed or exported. However, the different programs don't offer the same editing options and technologies, and the Phase One doesn't promise results will be identical.

Phase One, which also makes high-end medium-format cameras and lenses, announced the move here at the Photokina show. The show caters to the higher-end photo set -- professionals and enthusiasts willing to buy more than just point-and-shoot cameras and spend serious time editing and organizing photos.

Subscription offer

Phase One also followed Adobe in adding a subscription offer for Capture One Pro, with an introductory cost of $10 or €8 per month (about £6/$AU10) with a 12-month commitment. Unlike Adobe, though, it's continuing to sell the software for $299 or €229 (about £180/AU$325) via traditional perpetual licensing. Upgrades cost $99 or €69 (about £55/AU$100); those who bought the software after Aug. 16 get a free upgrade.

"With version 8, we have created an alternative to buying the software outright. For a modest recurring monthly fee, a subscription offers access to the latest and greatest of Capture One Pro, across minor and major updates," said Jan H. Christiansen, chief marketing officer, in a statement. And in a dig at Adobe, whose Creative Cloud subscription program angered many users, he added, "No matter if you buy or subscribe to Capture One Pro you always have full local control of your images and the enhancements you make to them; there is no cloud complexity with Capture One Pro."

Subscription plans are handy for businesses since customers steadily pay recurring fees and don't have to be persuaded to shell out for periodic upgrades -- as long as they see the subscription as worth it. Adobe continues to sell Lightroom through traditional perpetual licensing, but using Lightroom Mobile on iPads or iPhones requires a Creative Cloud subscrioption.

To help convince those users that the software is worth paying for, Capture One Pro 8 offers a number of new features. Among them:

  • A feature to add synthesized film grain to images for a more analog look.
  • Better clarity controls to make images punchier and high dynamic range controls to deal with bright highlights and dim shadows.
  • Automatic corrections for lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting.
  • Sliders to fine-tune the reduction of both color and luminance (brightness) noise.
  • A skin-tone enhancer to smooth out skin.
  • Catalogs, a new organizational mechanism that's independent of how files are actually stored on disk.
  • Local adjustments that let photographers edit specific parts of an image, such as warming the tones of a cool-blue shady area, instead of just making global changes.
  • A new black-and-white conversion process that lets photographers fine-tune each color channel's contribution to the finished image.
  • Faster performance through support for OpenCL technology that lets computers tap into the graphics chip horsepower.
  • Fast tethered capture so photographers who link their cameras to a PC running Capture One can instantly see the shots they've taken.
  • Focus meter, a tool to avoid blurry shots when shooting tethered.
  • "Hot folders," locations on disk from which Capture One will automatically import photos.
  • Metadata improvements that can be used to automate actions in photography workflow.
  • Hierarchical keyword support, which enables photographers to create "bride" and "groom" keywords that are part of a higher-level "wedding" keyword.