Phase One has officially announced the release of Capture One Pro version 8 with a host of new features and a new purchasing model option. More than just minor enhancements, version 8 brings with it truly useful features that allow you to perform more of your work within it and not have to turn to Photoshop or additional plug-ins.
As you may already know, I recently made the switch from Lightroom to Capture One Pro for various reasons outlined here. Above all else the image quality is vastly superior and version 8 carries on that that tradition while improving one of the common gripes I heard from version 7 users which was speed and stability. Phase One claims significant improvements on both fronts with image importing, catalog loading and overall image processing times seeing cuts of 50%-75%. While my initial impressions of the speed are positive, I’ll leave my final verdict for a future review. Users with multiple graphics cards will see the greatest benefit as Phase One has introduced multi-GPU support for even faster processing. If you are an existing Lightroom user, version 8 also brings with it improved migration tools to help make the transition more seamless.
The user interface has seen a minor update with a cleaner and flatter look and feel in the buttons and toolbars as seen below. Overall navigation and customization remains unchanged which makes it simple for existing C1 users to transition from past versions. Despite my brief use of the product, the larger slider handles make it much easier to grab them and adjust them compared to the tiny ones found in version 7.
Overall Processing Engine Improvements
Given that one of the key reasons for using Capture One over other raw processors is image quality, the Phase One engineers have hardly opted for a feature over quality style update. A number of improvements have been made to the existing tools to maximize the potential of your raw files. Although the actual HDR or raw recovery options remain unchanged, the new version brings with it improved algorithms that perform better when pulling out detail in heavily under or overexposed areas. In addition to that, Moiré suppression, noise reduction and black and white conversions have been upgraded, as has the Clarity tool. The Clarity tool now offers a 'Natural' mode which gives the image added mid-tone contrast while preserving a natural and pleasing look. This natural mode works surprisingly well with portrait images that require a bit of punch while at the same time avoiding the crunchy look often associated with the tool.
New Cloning and Healing Tools
One of the most useful features in version 8 is that of repair layers. The local adjustments panel layers now take on three flavours: adjustments, clone and heal, allowing you to easily remove unwanted objects and maintain a cleaner more layer-based workflow in the process. While the clone tools are simple copies, similar to the clone-stamp brush in Photoshop, the healing layers use much more sophisticated algorithms to match image elements in a manner more analogous to Photoshop's healing and content-aware tools.
Intelligent Film Grain
A feature that I’m particularly excited about is the addition of natural and scalable film grain tools. With a variety of grain options as well as tailored control over intensity, version 8 produces a beautiful grain that emulates the feel of real film stock by "emulating the physical model of how light interacts with silver halide on film", going well beyond simply adding noise to your image. Having experimented with it across a few images, I can say that does offer a very pleasing and natural feeling result which was once only reserved for third party plugins or texture packs.
For product and still life photographers, version 8 takes camera control to the next level with the addition of Live View. The live view feature is supported by a variety of cameras from Sony, Nikon and Canon and not just reserved for Phase One or Leaf users. If you are a Phase One or Leaf user, the live view window brings with it a cool multi-point focusing option that allows you to define visual markers to verify when you've achieved optimal focus.