Gone are the days when Photoshop ruled the image editing field. Nowadays one can find several such applications that are more powerful than it and do not have a steep learning curve.
I've installed capture one about a year ago and removed it in 30 minutes. Actually I've even forgotten what was wrong. And now I've installed it one more time, tried to compare with Lightroom, and found that there is no HDR-merge tool. For me personally, it is one of the most important features.
The problem is that individuals searching for such programs find it difficult to decide, for instance, whether they should go for Capture One or Luminar.
Today, we shall compare Capture One vs Luminar 2021 to find out which one of them offers you the best value for your money.
- PhaseOne Capture One, Skylum Luminar & Aurora HDR, DxO PhotoLab are professional-grade photo editing software designed for pros and serious enthusiasts. All these programs offer exceptional RAW image file processing, image cataloging, layers, local adjustments, keystone adjustments, as well as just about all the features one would expect out of a pro image editing app.
- Aurora HDR 2019 is designed to open a wide range of file formats, including RAW files. This ensures compatibility with most cameras as well as common graphic file formats (PNG, JPEG, JPEG-2000, TIFF, HEIC (Mac-only), PSD). Aurora HDR 2019 RAW processing is based on our own powerful RAW engine.
- Aurora HDR 2018 brings you every tool imaginable to create perfect HDR photos. From HDR look controls and noise reduction to layers and luminosity masks. Over 100 tools and features, designed specifically for HDR photography.
Before I proceed with this Capture One pro vs Luminar review, let me inform you that I have set several parameters such as ease of use, the interface, the speed, and the additional freebies included with the software.
Is Luminar Better than Capture One?
This review is ideal for those who keep on asking the above question or those who ask if Capture One is better than Luminar.
Instead of mixing up both the programs simultaneously, I shall compare Luminar and Capture One separately so that you do not face any problems during the comparison. Therefore, let us go ahead to find out which one is better. I shall be using the `PRO' version of Capture One for this review.
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Capture One Pro Review
The latest version of Capture One Pro (21) was launched recently. This is a superb photo editing software from the stables of Phase One, the Danish high-end digital software and photography equipment manufacturers.
This is, basically, a tool for processing and organizing RAW image files. Capture One Pro is, unarguably, the number one image editing software for professional photographers (thanks to its promise of faster performance, better micro-contrast, and color, as well as more creative control).
The latest version offers lens profiles and compatibility for more than 500 digital cameras which include the Canon and Nikon mirrorless cameras as well as the Fujifilm GFX 50R.
Capture One Vs Luminar 4
In fact, for Capture One, Sony and Fuji camera owners have their own exclusive applications, which are less costly than the main application despite offering all of the same features and supporting 70+ Sony cameras and 35+ Fujifilm cameras.
Fujifilm enthusiasts will be enthralled by the inclusion of Fujifilm Film Simulation in version 21 of the software that allows them to add any of the 16 film simulations (they are available as photograph styles) in cameras manufactured by Fujifilm straight to RAW files.
After that, they can continue to fine-tune the picture employing all of the editing tools that Capture One Pro boasts of.
New Layer Masks
This image editing software has some major updates including new layer masking tools and a modernized and streamlined user interface. The manufacturer has also included luminosity range masks and a radial gradient filter.
Aurora Hdr Free Trial
An Interface Similar to Adobe
The menu system has been revamped with a migration tool, which reconfigures the interface layout so that it looks similar to that of Adobe.
If you are a regular Photoshop Camera LR or RAW plug-in user, you will be familiar with nearly all of the adjustments and controls in C1. However, do not expect a seamless switch from Adobe to Capture One Pro as there are a number of differences.
This means that there is a bit of a learning curve involved to understand the interface together with some of its more advanced controls.
However, you should still find it easy to use Capture One as there is a learning hub with plenty of tutorials available for you to go through.
About the Migration Tool
The new Migration Tool arranges the adjustment panels and converts the layout in an order that is more familiar to Adobe users.
This software also offers a new plug-in ecosystem, which allows the development of 3rd party extensions to broaden the usability and functionality of the software.
The Capture One Plugin SDK, available as a free download, will permit developers to create plug-ins as well as automate tasks like opening images in external editors such as Photoshop or sharing images to third-party websites.
This implies that the day is not far away when users of this software will have the ability to share images directly to websites such as Flickr or Instagram, or even open files directly into software such as DxO's Nik application.
There are even a number of other useful applications like the Helicon Focus for focus stacking, Prodibi for tagging images and uploading to a web gallery, JEPGmini to optimize jpegs for printing or web upload and format for the layout of portfolio galleries.
The manufacturer currently offers plug-ins for optimizing JPEGS, creating proof galleries and focus-stacking. The open-source SDK plug-in for developers means more plug-ins are likely to be available soon.
AppleScript Support for Apple Computers
The other new features in v21 include extended AppleScript support for advanced users of Apple computers who wish to automate and streamline their workflow, copying that ignores spot removal, intelligent adjustments, and cropping for faster batch processing.
The software also includes new bundle options with an array of film style and cinematic effects to speed up your processing.
How to Use Capture One with Luminar Flex plugin
NOTE: The new Luminar 4 is already plugin-enabled. So, you can easily use it with your host application.
Luminar Flex was needed, separately, for previous versions like Luminar 3.
You may also check the review on Luminar 4 compared to the new Luminar AI
There are two basic methods of using Capture One with the Luminar Flex plugin.
- From Capture One, open the image in Luminar Flex
- Right-click the image
- Choose ‘Edit with‘ (not ‘Open with') to reveal some options
NOTE: If you do not see ‘Luminar Flex', you can add it by going to ‘Plug-ins‘ under ‘Preferences‘. Under the ‘Open with‘ menu, click on or tick the checkbox next to ‘Luminar Flex' to turn it on.
- In the options that follow, select ‘PSD‘ next to ‘Format‘
- Select ‘16 bit‘ under ‘Metadata‘
- You can tweak or change the other settings to whatever you like or just leave them the way they are.
- Click on ‘Edit Variance‘
- The image will now open in Luminar Flex
- Choose ‘Export‘ under ‘File‘ to export the image back to Capture One
- Make sure it is in the same location as the file you are sending (Go to Capture One and check for the PSD file that was initially created)
- To do this, right-click on the image to choose ‘Show in Windows Explorer‘ or ‘Show in Finder‘ (if you are using a Mac)
- Go back to the previously opened Luminar Flex Windows by maximizing (opposite of minimizing) it.
- Just drag the image from the opened Capture One into the opened Luminar Flex Windows. This should give you the right location.
- Continuing from point 9 above, click on ‘Save‘
- Click on ‘Replace‘ if asked.
NOTE: The above method is the fastest method but if you follow this (first) method, you may not be able to go back to re-edit (destructive editing).
2. The second method is to use Photoshop as a go-between (Non-destructive)
- Righ-click on the image and under ‘Edit with‘ (not ‘Open with'), choose ‘Adobe Photoshop‘ to open the image in Photoshop
- Maintain the ‘PSD‘ setting next to ‘Format‘ and ‘16 bit‘ under ‘Metadata‘ in the options that follow.
- Click on ‘Edit Variance‘
- Turn the background layer into a smart object by right-clicking on it and selecting ‘convert to smart object‘ (this will help you to use Luminar Flex as a smart filter) and for editing to remain non-destructive.
- Open Luminar Flex
- Click on ‘Apply'
Luminar 4 vs Capture One Pro
This software is slightly more expensive compared to the majority of image applications. However, be prepared to pay a one-time fee for a Capture One Pro v21 perpetual license. You need not go for a monthly subscription plan.
You can also opt for the bundled options (purchase it now to get a special discounted price). These two bundles contain 48 and 94 processing styles respectively.
Capture One Hdr Merge
Luminar 2021 vs Capture One Pro 21
Uses Catalogs (and Sessions)
Capture One Pro, just like Adobe's well-known software, makes use of a catalog-based structure in which RAW alterations are updated and then stored in an XMP sidecar file that is saved inside the catalog.
Aurora Software Hdr
Therefore, to begin, you have to create a catalog and save it to a location in your primary hard drive that you back up regularly.
Next, you can then import some images. You can do this by clicking on the import arrow icon in the top left side of the interface, or by simply copying and importing images directly from a memory card.
There is no doubt that this software is amazing, to say the least.
As this program accepts input from Fuji cameras, we shall have to check whether Luminar does so too in our Luminar vs Capture One Fuji in the second part of this review.
Luminar 2021 Review
Luminar is an advanced separate photo editing software. It ships with all the bells and whistles you require to edit an image from beginning to end.
Luminar 2021 boasts of a right-hand column wherein you can make alterations using sliders. In addition, you can also choose the adjustments you would like to show up in that column.
Great Picture Organizer
Luminar has included a DAM (Digital Asset Manager) with its latest update. This addition is perfect for viewing your images and keeping them well organized.
Artificial Intelligence for Fast Editing with Batch Processing
It also offers options for batch processing and quick editing. Combined with Luminar's exclusive artificial intelligence filters — designed to fix standard issues while optimizing the detail, tone, and color, it provides you with an outstanding amount of editing power.
You can do as little as move a single slider or get as complex as using multiple layers and masks, and even experimenting with some third-party plugins.
Luminar or Capture One
Luminar also contains a number of unique filters such as AI sky enhancer, top, and bottom lighting, sun rays, etc.
Obviously, they include all of the standard editing tools such as black & white, raw develop, shadows and highlights, and curves.
All of them combined offers endless chances for artistic editing as well as creative editing, and straight-up batch processing editing jobs too.
Adobe-type Features and More
Here is some good news for those wanting to switch over to Luminar as well as for first time purchasers of photo editing software. This program offers numerous filters, Photoshop type layers, blend modes, layer masking inclusive of luminosity masks, and advanced options such as LUT mapping.
Luminar 4 vs Capture One 21
Luminar As A Plugin
To use Luminar as a plugin, owners of this program can download a separate program known as Luminar Flex for this purpose.
The latest version of Luminar still permits 3rd party filters and works seamlessly with the awesome Aurora HDR software.
Luminar compared to Capture One works with all types of image files.
The manufacturer has also included an advanced Raw Develop module that includes extensive transform options as well as lens adjustments.
An Interface Similar to that of Adobe
The interface will look quite familiar & intuitive for seasoned Adobe LR users, and anybody will find it easy to get started and learn the basics. You just have to open an image, choose your filters and/or work-space, after which you can start adjusting with sliders.
You can customize everything infinitely, and once you discover a filter set or workflow that works for you, you can save the same as a preset to use with other images. You also have the option to set up a custom workspace to mimic the workspace of Adobe LR if you so prefer.
Editing works the same as in the previous version. You can create a custom workspace or choose one. If you prefer starting with an empty workspace (as I do because I need different things with different photos), a simple `Ctrl + L on Windows (‘Command + L' on the Mac) brings up the wide variety of filter options.
Here are the exciting new updates available in this new release:
• Ability to synchronize adjustments between multiple images
• A library for organizing, editing, and viewing multiple photos
• Numerous viewing choices (filmstrip, gallery, and single image view)
• A brand new, human-aware Accent AI filter
• Folders that always remain synchronized with what is on the hard disk drive
• Lost edits album… no more frustration over unsaved changes
• Smart shortcuts that facilitate automatically organizing of photos
• “On This Day” feature — see what pictures you took on this day in previous years
Skylum Luminar vs Capture One Pro
The Library, found in the latest version of Luminar allows you to place images in the center and front. The minimalist and sleek interface offers just a single as well as a narrow strip at the top for navigation purposes, to maximize viewing space.
Most of the action takes place on the right-hand sidebar, permitting users to toggle between a photograph's information, the library, as well as the editing filters.
Easily Manage JPEG and RAW Images
If you shoot in JPEG + RAW mode, you can now work effortlessly with the pairs. Select one or both types of files on import. Also, another view option permits you to select to view just the JPEG, the RAW, or both images simultaneously.
View just the JPEG or RAW if you want a less cluttered library. Good news for Fujifilm fans. You can view both RAW and JPEG and use the JPEG as a reference while you edit the RAW version. Quite sweet, eh? The edits of the separate formats are kept separately; however, if you want to apply them to both, just synchronize them.
Editing is Non-destructive
All of the editings are non-destructive. All changes or edits are stored in a separate .state file in the catalog. The original files remain untouched.
Luminar costs $89. If you want to purchase Luminar4 together with ‘Inspirational Looks' and ‘California Sunsets', you can also do so.
Is Capture One Better than Luminar?
I had hoped to choose one of the two programs as being better during this Capture One 21 vs Luminar 2021 review. However, I can safely say that during this Capture one Pro 21 vs Luminar 4 evaluation I found both of them equally good.
During my evaluation of the two photo editing programs… Luminar 4 vs Capture One 21… both are almost equal. It just depends on what you need to accomplish and the results you hope to achieve.
However, if you judge by the price factor, then Luminar is the clear winner. But apart from that, it is extremely difficult to say which is better.
In addition, those who have worked with Adobe LR will find switching over to Luminar easier. I have rarely reviewed two similar applications and be unable to give a clear verdict on which one is the outright winner.
My Comparison: Aurora HDR 2019 vs Aurora HDR 2018
Aurora HDR has become the gold standard of HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing. It’s latest incarnation and major update is Aurora HDR 2019. I’ve been using the previous version, Aurora HDR 2018 since it came out more than a year ago. I like it and gave it a favorable review at the time. When I saw recently that Aurora HDR 2019 was available I thought it only natural to give it a workout and see if Skylum was able to improve an already good product, enough to warrant an upgrade. Here’s what I found.
**Skylum offers a free trial of this software, there are links and discount codes at end of this article**
Bottom line first
Aurora Hdr Free
Is it worth upgrading to 2019 if you own 2018? I think so. Is it worth buying it outright if you don’t already own it? In most cases this a yes also. If you read my review of 2018 you’ll see I like using Aurora HDR for single image processing. I was pleasantly surprised that 2019 has improved significantly, not only for single image processing but also for traditional HDR processing of bracketed exposures. Skylum’s new Quantum HDR engine provides a more natural staring point for both and has all but eliminated noise as well. Although there are some new features and interface changes, the quality of the result and efficiency in getting there are the main reasons to own Aurora HDR 2019.
The best part
The most important and significant update in HDR 2019 is what Skylum calls the Quantum HDR Engine. Catchy names aside, it really works well. I tried several types of images shot under various conditions and the results before making any adjustments were outstanding. This held true for both single images and brackets. Furthermore I’m thrilled that Skylum paid attention to those of us that favor using single images. The starting points for either are very natural looking. In my book this is big because I don’t have to spend much time attaining a natural result and if I do want to go grunge or have an obvious HDR look it’s still very easy. In the previous version the initial result was less natural and it could take some work to get to get a natural feel. Another big benefit of the new engine is that results have far less noise than previously.
Coupled with the markedly improved processing engine are some newer and really useful presets. What this means is you can often get right where you want to go very quickly. If your image isn’t stellar up front, in many cases it can be nearly perfect with one click. As with 2018 you can just adjust the overall application of the preset with a slider (0-100%) to tweak it to your needs. Then if you still want to make some more adjustments you have a myriad of tools in the side panel.
Also new in this 2019 version is the LUT (Lookup Table) Mapping feature allowing you to create cinematic, black and white, vintage and numerous other looks simply by selecting a LUT from the pulldown menu with the option of adding your own LUTs you find online or create yourself. I also like the opacity slider for LUTs that are a little heavy handed or if I just want a light touch of the look provided by the LUT. Skylum has had LUTs in Luminar for some time and it exists in other software as well. So this feature is more handy than it is essential. Nonetheless it’s nice to have available if you want it.
My approach with using Aurora HDR 2019 is that I view it as a starting point and plan to hop into Luminar and/or other software as needed to finish my image. With 2019 the starting point is much better than the previous version so I’m more likely to use it in the first place and it saves me time overall. Although there may not be many folks out there that would have Aurora HDR as their sole processing toolset, Skylum takes into account that every user has different needs. So there are a lot of tools available in 2019 that give you the potential to get a final or near final image.
The layout is better organized now with HDR Enhance, formerly a single slider under HDR Basic in the previous version. It is now a dedicated panel with 4 sliders including HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure, and HDR Microstructure. I also find the results of the new implementation to be a little more refined and aesthetically pleasing. In 2018 you could enhance detail and sense of depth using HDR Structure and then intensifying that if wanted, by using the Boost. In 2019 it’s a little easier and user friendly with the HDR Smart Structure slider essentially replacing the 3 previous sliders. Then if you want more of a sense of depth you can use the HDR Clarity slider. This isn’t so much a game changer but certainly easier, more logical and enough of an improvement that it warrants mention.
Balancing noise and detail
I ran into some pretty large differences in noise between the two versions. With the night shot of St. Pierre church using 2018 I couldn’t bring the shadow noise down without severely smearing detail in other, more important areas of the image. I didn’t have that problem with 2019. Of course I could have created more layers with masking and try to selectively reduce the most offensive noise or take it into another program to work on the noise. And this doesn’t address the issue of the speckled sky which would also require more layers and masks to get it back to black. But the point here is that using HDR 2019 I have a very nice image without doing much of anything when I opened this challenging photo in 2019. All I had to do was bring down blacks for the sky and bring up shadows for the dark areas, all without bothersome noise.
• New HDR engine called Quantum HDR yields better results than 2018
• Noticeably better initial processing/starting points than 2018 including single images
• Substantially better noise reduction
• More useful presets than 2018 allow for one click adjustments for many types of images
• Sunsets handled more naturally than in 2018
• Stark contrasts handled better than previous version
• Lags: When applying sliders or moving the image around at 100% it takes 2-3 sec. to redraw the image. This is nothing major, but an annoyance.
• Lack of ability to have more than one image (single or combined bracket) open at a time
• Masking needs to be fleshed out or perhaps just removed: No auto-edge masking and you can’t view grayscale. Also no ability to see luminosity masks without switching to another masking tool first
My goal was to try Aurora HDR 2019 and make a direct comparison with the already worthy 2018 version and see if there are enough differences to warrant buying the new version. If you’re upgrading it’s definitely worth $49/49€/42£ (with code WOLFSON). For those potential first time buyers I can’t think of anything else out there that comes close to the quality and ease of use for $89/89€/82£ (with code WOLFSON) Already the standard by which other HDR processors are measured, Aurora HDR has become a refined product with 2019 incorporating big improvements over the previous version. The greatest enhancement is the new Quantum HDR Engine yielding much better and more natural looking starting points, major noise improvements, and better handling of large disparities in exposure, especially areas adjacent to each other.
With all the images I tried I only ran across one where I liked the starting point better in 2018, but only slightly. I should note this was a daytime shot at ISO 100 on a tripod so not as challenging as many of the other images I tried.
Even though there are some new features like LUTs and improved interface and controls, the real reasons to upgrade are simply the outstanding quality, reduced noise, and great presets that will help you obtain a beautiful final image and spend less time than without it, or even with 2018.
You can try before you buy with a free trial. Click on this link and then hover your mouse pointer over the Aurora HDR menu at the top and you’ll see the free trial option.
Happy Shooting! (and processing)
Joel Wolfson is an internationally published photographer who loves teaching as much as shooting. He shares his 30 years of experience as a working pro with other photographers and enthusiasts by way of his workshops, 1 on 1 training,webinars, articles, blog and speaking engagements. His technical articles have been translated for use in more than 30 countries yet he is best known for his artistic images of nature’s fleeting moments and unexpected views of everyday places around the globe. He is one of the pioneers of digital photography having conducted digital photography seminars for Apple and other corporations starting in the early 90s. His roster of notable clients includes numerous publications and fortune 500 companies. He currently works with great affiliates like Arizona Highways, Topaz Labs, ON1, and Skylum to have more avenues for working with those wanting to pursue their love of photography. His goal is to make learning and improving one’s photography easy, fun and rewarding.
Disclosure about product links and affiliations: Some of the links I provide are affiliate links which means I get a small commission, with no additional cost to you, if you click it and end up buying something. It helps keep the lights on as well as supporting this blog and my other free educational resources and articles. So if you use them, thanks! It is always my goal to report my results in a straighforward manner whether or not it favors a particular product.