Skip to main content

Capture One 20 is out: Phase One's Lightroom rival is better than ever

Phase One Capture One Pro 20
(Image credit: Phase One)

Capture One is Phase One's answer to Adobe Lightroom, an all-in-one image organising tool, non-destructive raw processor, photo editor and effects program. It can also work in 'Sessions' mode as a purpose-made studio tethered shooting tool, where it's held in high regard by many professional portrait, fashion and commercial photographers. It's also on our list of the best photo editing software today.

This latest version skips a few version numbers, leaping from Capture One 12 (the 'old' version) to Capture One 20, swapping to what we assume is year-based numbering.

Phase One says this latest version has been developed from user feedback but with a few ideas of its own as well. The improvements are based around the editing tools, both in terms of output quality and overall workflow.

Capture One Pro 20

Capture One Pro 20's Basic Color Editor panel is now far from basic, with eight color ranges not six and a new Direct Color Editor tool. (Image credit: Phase One)

What's new in Capture One 20

Noise reduction gets a boost, with claimed improvements to color and detail retention at high ISO settings. Capture One now tailors the noise reduction for every ISO setting for each supported camera. The noise reduction tool tackles both luminance noise and color noise, and with improved recognition of patterns and edges and improved color accuracy. The Amount slider now has a stronger effect and noise reduction is increased for higher ISO images.

Capture One Pro 20

Noise reduction is now improved, with custom optimization for every ISO setting and improved retention of patterns, edges and colors. (Image credit: Phase One)

Capture One has always had strong color editing tools, and in this latest version the Basic Color Editor now offers eight color ranges rather than six, and a new Direct Color Editor cursor lets you drag any area on a photo to shift the hue, saturation and lightness of a specific color range.

The High Dynamic Range tool now looks a little different too (the equivalent of the Highlight and Shadow recovery sliders in Lightroom). Now, the settings adjustments are zeroed in the center, so you can make both positive and negative adjustments to either recover detail from the shadows and highlights or exaggerate them and boost contrast. There's no much more control over the way shadows and highlights are recovered and boosted.

Capture One Pro 20

Capture One's new and improved Crop tool lets you rotate at the same time as cropping and use keyboard modifiers to constrain your crops. (Image credit: Phase One)

Phase One has also modified Capture One's Crop tool for easier crop visualization and transformation. You can crop from the center, rotate the crop/image and use modifier keys to lock the aspect ratio.

Capture One 20 brings sundry other workflow and interface improvements, plus support for some of the latest cameras, including the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, Canon EOS M6 Mark II, Canon EOS 90D, Nikon Z 50 and Ricoh GR III. It also adds support for the Panasonic Lumix S1H, Leica V-LUX 5 and (at last) the Pentax K-1 II.

Capture One Pro 20

The High Dynamic Range panel now offers much more control over how extreme highlight and shadow detail is recovered and rendered. (Image credit: Phase One)

 Capture One 20 pricing and availability

Capture One 20 is available now in several versions. The regular version, Capture One Pro 20, supports cameras from all major camera brands, but there are also cheaper Capture One Pro 20 (for Sony) and Capture One Pro Fujifilm 20 specifically for those camera brands.

You can buy a Capture One Pro 20 licence outright (unlike Lightroom) for $299 (upgrade price $159), while the Sony and Fujifilm versions are much cheaper at $129. Or, if you don't want the up-front cost, you can take out an Adobe-style subscription from $15 per month ($8 per month for the Sony and Fujifilm editions.

If you want to try Capture One 20 before deciding, you can download a fully featured 30-day Capture One Pro 20 trail to help you make your mind up. If you're an enthusiast or pro who puts a big emphasis on image quality, it's definitely worth a look. It's more expensive than Lightroom, but for many the results will justify the extra outlay.

Read more:

• These are the best photo editors for photographers
• On a budget? We list the best free photo editing software
• The best laptops for photo editing

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio. Previously he has been Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. 

Rod's near-encyclopedic knowledge of cameras both old and new makes him an invaluable resource, whether we need to ask a question about transparencies or the latest X-Trans sensor. He owns all manner of cameras, from Nikon DSLRs through Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm bodies, and on any given day you'll see him using kit from just about every manufacturer.