Back in December 2015, I wrote a blog piece entitled Yes Virginia - there IS an alternative to Lightroom. In it, I mentioned several alternatives to Adobe's Lightroom - particularly Phase One's Capture One. I mentioned that I liked Capture One, but thought its price was too high.
Well, I still think it's overpriced (about twice that of Lightroom outright), but I bought it anyway.
What do I think? It's a mixed bag. Like LR, C1 has both cataloging and editing capacity, and in that sense it's a full replacement. It also seems to play quite well with other products such as Google's Silver Efex Pro or PhotoShop by passing files to and from the other editor. It's better than Adobe's Camera Raw as a raw convertor (even pulling greater detail from shadows, which is something about LR that always impressed), which means that I'm actually less likely to need to use external editors.
It's also impressively easy to import LR or Aperture catalogues into C1.
Let's see what I mean. These are examples of the same Nikon raw file processed (minimally) in LR and C1.
Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Lightroom.
Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Capture One.
Put simply, I prefer the C1 version. It's sharper and more vivid in its colours - and I think, truer to the colours on the day. (I could be wrong on that - it relies on my dodgy memory after all.) To put it another way, in his recent podcast Going from Lightroom or Aperture to Capture One, Derrick Story said words to the effect that C1 produced images that were more like photographs than other applications. That might sound a little weird, but I think I agree with him.
Capture One is also not made by Adobe which is a plus from my perspective at least because I'm increasingly unimpressed with Adobe's attitude towards those of us who want to own software rather than rent it. (I never used Apple's Aperture, but I was glad it was around as it had the effect of keeping Adobe fair and reasonable.)
That's the good news. The bad news is that C1 is slow, and a little flakey - and that's running on a new, top of the range iMac. I often get the spinning ball, which is frustrating and time consuming, and surprising on a desktop computer with the power of super computer from just a few years back. It also occasionally crashes - which isn't a common experience on Macs. The catalogue isn't as good as that in LR. It should be - it seems to have the same feature set, but somehow it's just not as smooth or intuitive as LR.
It could be that I have all 35k of my images in a single catalogue. I do that because I need to be able to search across all my images. Given that LR handles that with no apparent effort, I don't think it's too much to expect CO to do the same. Clearly something for Phase One to work on.
However ... on balance, it's all about the image quality and on that basis, I'll persist with C1 for the reasons outlined above. But I hope there's a 9.1 on the horizon which addresses its problems.
If you're interested in trying it, Phase One offers a free 30 trial. Give it a go and see how it works for you. You may become a convert - or it might drive you mad! You may also like it, but not enough to invest the considerable time and money needed to convert from LR or Aperture.
As an aside: if you're relying on a "destructive" editor such as PhotoShop (i.e.: an editor which changes the file you're editing), I strongly suggest you try LR or C1 (for free). With either, you always have your original file, which means that if you mess up, you can revert, and since you're not "saving as" to big, lumpy TIF or PSD files, you'll save a lot of disc space on your local drive, and in your backup.
I'll stop now ...