What's New in Capture One Pro 21, a look at the software after one month of usage

What’s new in Capture One Pro 21: my review after one month of usage

Posted on Dec 8th, 2020
Updated on Dec 14th, 2020

Capture One Pro 21, new features to improve the daily workflow

I’ve had the opportunity to try out the Beta version of Capture One Pro 21 over the past month. So the question may arise: what’s new in Capture One Pro 21?

So here’s my review after I used the software to develop many of the latest photographs, including those taken in the new Apple ProRaw format with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

So let’s check out what are the main features that have been introduced.

The biggest workflow change in Capture One 21: Speed Edit

This is a new way to edit your photos quickly: instead of going to look for the adjustment in any of the panels, hold down a button for a short time and drag the mouse left / right to change the parameter.

The default keys can be changed in the “Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts -> Speed Edit Keys panel”. For example, by default, holding down the “Q” key changes the exposure, the “W” key the contrast, the “E” key the brightness and so on.

This is a good addition, however, honestly does not revolutionise the concept of what was already possible to do with the previous Capture One Pro: in fact, I personally mapped a combination of keys that I used to change the exposure settings, highlight , shadows and so on.

However, from my previous workflow, when I was working with the fullscreen mode, I was missing a visual response to the commands I was going to give. Now with the Speed Edit in Capture One Pro 21 I can see the name of the command I am working on at the bottom of the screen.

A small video recorded, showing how the new SpeedEdit inside Capture One Pro 21 works.
A small video recorded, showing how the new SpeedEdit inside Capture One Pro 21 works.

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A much requested feature: the Dehaze slider

Following numerous requests from mainly landscape photographers, the “Dehaze” adjustment that is present in Camera Raw / Lightroom has been added. In practice, the “Dehaze” command allows you to remove the slight haze that can be found in some landscape photos (it can also work the other way around by adding the feeling of haze).

The algorithm works in an intelligent way by automatically identifying areas of shadow and light by separating them to apply the effect in a uniform manner. The panel has a picker that allows you to click on the shadow area (it must be taken in the part where the haze is) in order to improve the performance of the instrument.

In my specific case I think I have almost never used this feature in Lightroom and therefore also its presence in Capture One Pro 21 will remain quite unused for me.

Capture One Pro 21 New DeHaze tool, Before and After.
Capture One Pro 21 New DeHaze tool, Before and After.

Improved the import tool in Capture One Pro 21

Specifically, the changes that have been made, as expressed by Phase One are:

  • Picker functionality to easily make the import selection.
  • Bigger import window with high-resolution thumbnails.
  • Improved terminology and descriptions of import destinations in Catalogs.
  • Option to select multiple folders to import from at the same time.
  • Option to select images directly in the Folder Browser.
  • First-time import requires fewer clicks.


Personally I’ve noticed two bigger improvement in the importer in Capture One Pro 21: 

  • The first I can apply filters to the importer, in this way I can filter from the card only the raw images and not import the jpgs if i’ve set the camera to shot raw+jpg.
  • There’s an overall great speed improvement in loading the thumbnails and then importing the images to the catalogue! 

ProStandard camera profiles in Capture One Pro 21

This is a new addition from the already amazing color profiles that ship with Capture One Pro 21. As Phase One states, this ProStandard camera profiles render the colors more naturally. They have multiple purposes:

  • Better preservation of color across contrast gradients, resulting in more natural colors from shadows to highlights.
  • Better transition between colors of different hues.
  • Better retention of colors when applying image adjustments.
  • More standardized colors across different camera models.

Phase One states that these profiles are suited more for portrait photography and product photography. So let’s check it out! 

There’s a note to point: at the moment only few camera are supported for this ProStandard camera profiles! For example, all my Fujifilm camera are out from the selection!

So I could test it using back my “retired” Canon 5D Mk2 that is one of the camera supported with this new ProStandard camera profiles. I am a bit surprised that in this moment there’s no support for the recent Canon Eos R and Canon Eos Rp: I had some files ready to be tested with the extraordinary Canon RF50 mm f/1.2, but I will have to wait a bit more…

Other new features in Capture One Pro 21

The other features I would call “minor” but they are still welcome:

  • Improved performance: this is maybe the first and main reason that I’ve decided to pay for the update. I’ve notice a massive improvement in the importing speed on Mac Os and a general performance boost. I think that the program is however still far from the performance from the new Lightroom CC (that was written from stracht in 2017) but Capture One Pro is for sure a more complex software compared to the new Lightroom CC.
    My biggest wish is a deep commitment from Phase One to port Capture One to the new Apple Silicon architecture and a full embrace of the Apple Metal Graphic API that would boost the performance from night to day!
    I haven’t tested the performance on Windows (even if I have a quite capable workstation for 3d works) ’cause isn’t my favourite work’s environment.
  • Heif Support: Capture One Pro 21 now support HEIF 8bit file. It means you can import photos you have shot with iPhone and edit inside Capture One without having to convert in JPG. Now, even more and more camera start to support HEIF, the latest Canon R5 and R6 is an example, so it will be interesting to see how it perform this editing compared to the jpg version.
  • The “Photoshop way” of adjust the Brushes: now in Capture One Pro 21 you can adjust the size and the hardness of the brush in the same way and with the same shortcut as Photoshop. On Mac for instance, I keep pressed Option + Command and then I drag with the mouse to the left to increase the side of the brush to the right to make it smaller. Up and down will work for the Hardness.
  • Some improvement with graphical tooltips that will help the new users of Capture One Pro 21.

Developing Apple ProRaw Photos

Here are some photos taken with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in the new Apple ProRaw format. Not only Capture One Pro 21 interprets perfectly the file, but like usual, it render better colors compared to Adobe Lightroom.

I’m also working my own personal color presets to develop easily these Apple ProRaw files in Capture One Pro and Adobe Lightroom.

   I suggest you to give a look at the smartphone review page where you can find other articles about smartphone photography :

Is it worth to upgrade from Capture One Pro 20?

Well from my point of view, this year the number of upgrades and new features have been quite marginal. I feel like that more than a new version, this is a small upgrade from the Capture One Pro 20. 

I decided however to buy this new version mainly for the overall speed upgrade: time is always money when you work with the images, so this improvement in speed will gain in my daily use of the program. 

On the other side I really hope that Phase One will address a new update later in the year bringing to the table some more interesting features.

My wish for new features in Capture One Pro 21.1? A better and automatic prospective correction tool, like the “one click” that is available in Adobe Lightroom CC, a much more easier and faster way to copy – paste selective part of a correction in a photo (with an overview window), keyboard shortcuts to styles or to correction presets (wait! I’ve discovered a workaround on Mac Os!). 

Would be lovely to see also a Capture One Pro running on iPad or iPhone like Lightroom CC does, but Capture One is not targeted at the moment to “casual photographer” as Adobe is doing, so I think we will have to dream this feature for quite a long time. 

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  • Jay
    Posted at 12:02h, 24 September Reply

    Hey Alessandro,

    i am a bit confused due to that fact that the c1 21 forum says there is no ApplePRO RAW support but you say it is… I bought the PRO Version and imported some RAW Files but they are WAY (!!!) of.

    Any idea what i could do to work with APRAW?

  • Johanna Schaefer
    Posted at 18:25h, 30 January Reply

    HI Alessandro
    Could it be that only the Pro version of C1 is working with DNG files?
    I can not edit Apple DNG files in C1 and even can’t rate them with stars or tag them with keywords. But I’m working with C1 for Sony.

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 16:02h, 09 February Reply

      Hello Johanna. Yes, unluckily you have to purchase the full version to be able to edit the DNG of other cameras other than Sony with the Capture One software you have. Would be nice if in the future Phase One would release a free Capture One Express for DNG, in this way you gave the possibility to users for basic raw editing on a lot of smartphones and camera (like Leica that shoot Native DNG files)

  • Jan van Holten
    Posted at 13:05h, 31 December Reply

    Thanks a lot for this review.
    Speed is a thing with COP. I’ve imported my images into the COP library (was used to with Aperture). That slows opening the program really a lot (terrible).
    Program developers should be aware that their programs must nog get to complicated to work with!!

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 14:20h, 04 January Reply

      I hope there is going to be a big change in the software this year with more speedup and a redesign of the UI! Let’s keep our finger crossed!

  • Victor Ciurus
    Posted at 15:29h, 21 December Reply

    Ciao Alessandro and thanks a lot for the inspiring review of the news in C1 PRO v21.

    I have been using C1 fort quite a while but I have eventually given up on it because of its cumbersome interface and workflows. My humble opinion, based at least on working with v12, v14 and v20, is that PhaseOne just tries too much to be different and sometimes in a destructive way (incoherent workflows, cumbersome layering techniques, heavy and cluttered interface, etc.)

    The thing that actually drove me to write here is that I have been testing comparatively both LR and C1 PRO v21 for personal evaluation of Apple ProRAW format and I have found the C1PRO results to be extremely underwhelming from image details / sharpness recovery perspective. On default settings in both LR and C1PRO, the results of C1PRO are a mess, with smudged details and … really, really bad. I was wondering if I’ve done smth wrong in the workflow (though I doubt) and also curious about you take on it. I am discussing here about a dog portrait where LR is able to extract all the dog fur’s details where C1PRO really fails badly.

    This is not a flame war topic, nor a product shaming just my awe at the results. I wonder how could I publish the links to the actual results for reference.

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 20:20h, 22 December Reply

      Ciao Victor,

      yes I agree with you about the Capture One Interface and workflow: on one side it gives total freedom to personalise your work environment, on the other the workflow is a bit more messy compared to Lightroom Classic. I’m now working with Capture One for almost three / four year and still I can’t get the same feeling of Lightroom Classic. Although for me the general quality of the color editing in Capture One is much better than Lightroom, so for this I’m sticking with the Phase One software! 🙂

      About your point of Apple ProRAW and Capture One: I suggest you to go in the detail panel and disable all the noise reduction that i automatically applied there! Imagine that the Apple ProRAW has already the Noise reduction done in the file itself so it’s like you are applying it two times! Then you will have to tweak a bit the Unsharp Mask and you can get very good results, even better than Lightroom.

      I am now concentrating to release some presets for Raw file captured with the smartphone. The first release will be for Lightroom, then for Capture One too!
      If you are interest, you can sign for more information here.

  • Brad Schmidt
    Posted at 01:34h, 21 December Reply

    Thank you for this one month review, the best details I have seen so far. I really appreciate your points about speed. I am working with C1 v.20 on a 2015 iMac I7 with 32 gigs of memory and files that are from a Nikon D850. All in all performance on v.20 is not bad, making sure all other programs are shut down and trying to maximize the iMac’s performance. Thank you for the specific detail on speed improvements when importing. Question: do you feel the overall performance to editing, layering, exporting, saving, etc is noticeable, say 20% faster? Your point with Apple and its dramatic changes with its own processor should be the real game changer for the near future and perhaps this explains Capture One’s minimal improvements in v.21 and is doing a complete rewrite partly due to Apple silicon. Thanks Again!

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 10:29h, 21 December Reply

      Hello Brad, thanks for your message. At the moment I would say that the biggest speed up is on the importing procedure and the time the program take to generate the preview.

      Capture One 21 is much faster in this regard, and this is already a big advantage since with the v.20 I’ve to wait sometimes more than 30 minute to start to work on a 32 Gbyte photo import (with iMac 27″ 2019, i5).

      I would say then that the general performance during editing and exporting is a bit faster but I haven’t do a stopwatch test to proof if it’s a 10% or 20%.

      Overall, I think we have to wait for the big step over that will be an update for Mac Silicon hardware and a full embrace of Apple latest technologies as Metal graphic API. That could boost the program so much! I hope they are working in that direction! 😊

  • Rich Powell
    Posted at 18:22h, 10 December Reply

    I have Capture One 20 and am trying to decide whether to update or not. I still use Lightroom for cataloging and lighter editing and the ability to use it on my iPad Pro is something I am starting to use more and more. If Capture One were to come out for an iPad, it would probably replace Lightroom with it going forward.

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 22:44h, 10 December Reply

      Hello Rich, thanks for your opinion. Like I said in the previous comment to Romain, I think Phase One is certain that sooner or later this work of conversion to the ARM architecture had to be done in a good way.

      Not only Apple Silicon is a reality, but also Microsoft had already the Surface X with an Arm processor. The future will go more and more in that direction.

      I’m not saying that having then the code native for ARM architecture, means would be an easy thing to get an iPad App since all the graphic layout and the way that the App works has to be re-design to work well with a touch interface.

      For this Adobe has for sure a clear advantage since they have started this process already in 2017 with the new Lightroom CC, a program re-wrote from scratch to be fast and to work on modern architecture. It’s no a surprise they were able to get out already in these days (8/12/20) the full native Apple Silicon version!

      Let’s wait and see what the future will bring!

  • Romain Malet
    Posted at 22:22h, 09 December Reply

    Thx a lot for your Work !

    I used to love capture one but i really miss a mobile version for ipad i m almost using my ipad to édit my photo in sofa bed relax and with Lightroom ans affinity photo it work pretty well.

    I m waiting your article about pro raw Before to buy it ! I hope you will propose us raw sample and about it If you can take somepicture with tripod to see if there is a différence and sunset i know i demand a lot ☺️

    Any way thank a lot your blog is super 👍

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 10:49h, 10 December Reply

      Thank you so much Romain for your feedback that gave me strength to go on with this work on the blog!

      I agree with you that a mobile version of Capture One Pro is much needed.

      But honestly, as someone else has pointed, the lack of “big” features on this 2021 release is maybe to read in the prevision of a deep re-write of the code from Phase One to adapt Capture One to the Arm architecture.

      In this way it would be possible then to have also an iPad version of the program! Let’s wait and let’s be optimistic about it!

      About the Apple ProRaw: yes, I’m working and yes, there will be downloadable files! 😊

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