This morning, Capture One released the latest version of its software, Capture One 22. Included are much-anticipated HDR and panorama merge tools, along with wireless tethering for select Canon cameras, auto rotate and more.

I got a first look at Capture One’s newest software, and was particularly interested in the new HDR and panorama tools.

A little backstory

When I used to photograph with Olympus cameras, I had trouble getting the most out of my RAW files. I decided to try Capture One, and was immediately blown away by how much more I could get out of the files. I could bring up the shadows and tone down the highlights more effectively, the contrast adjustments were more life-like, and being able to fine-tune edits with Layers was a huge plus.

But there was one glaring omission for me — the lack of HDR support. This forced me to send my bracketed photos into Aurora HDR, which wasn’t a native plugin for Capture One and was overkill for what I was trying to do. This added to my development time, further delaying photo delivery for my clients. So I went back to using Lightroom Classic after a few months.

How HDR merge works in Capture One 22

Capture One 22 offers two options to create HDR images from bracketed files. First, called Merge to HDR, gives basic auto adjust and auto align options before merging your images together. There’s also a second option, called Merge to HDR with Default, which automatically adjusts and aligns your images without asking.

In terms of alignment, I was very impressed. I purposefully chose a bracket set that had some movement to it, as I was handholding instead of shooting on a tripod. Elements of the photo were tack sharp.

One thing I did note, on this particular set, was that Capture One seemed to overexpose the finished image, even with auto adjust turned off. However, this image set was drastically underexposed in order to capture the car trails in the scene. Obviously this isn’t a dealbreaker, as it’s easy to go in and lower the exposure for the merged image.

That’s more like it … the HDR merged image with exposure lowered by 1 stop.

I tend to underexpose my bracketed images, in order to recover highlights better in Lightroom. With Capture One, this is worth noting, as the photos do tend to be a bit overexposed due to this practice.

The biggest positive here for me with Capture One, is that it tends to keep your colors very realistic, along with shadows and highlights. With Lightroom, I frequently run into the issue where it takes the highlights down too much, while boosting the shadows way up where it loses contrast.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the results here. HDR merge in Capture One offers a very realistic view at your images.

A few notes

The one thing missing here is the ability to take ghosting into account. I’d like to see Capture One add this, as it can help objects like flags from being blurred in the merged image.

How panorama stitching works in Capture One 22

To start using Stitch to Panorama, select your images and go to Image > Stitch to Panorama. This will bring up a box where you can preview your stitched panorama, and select from four different projection options — Spherical, Cylindrical, Perspective and Panini.

Being someone who typically doesn’t work with panoramic images, I used this series of images by my friend Michael Muraz of a Miami skyline view.

Being a newbie to panorama, I appreciated the guides next to the names of the projections. For most use cases, you’ll likely end up using Spherical (which is what I used) or Cylindrical. But you might find a need for the other two in certain situations.

You can also select from a Stitch Size. The default here is 100%, meaning that this will give you the largest file possible. But there are also options for 75%, 50% and 25% in case you want to deal with a smaller file size.

In my tests, I found that Capture One’s Stitch to Panorama worked pretty well. There was one problem spot with a water trail in the right of the image, but outside of that, I was very happy with the processing.

Compared to Lightroom (image on the right, below), the results were very close when it comes to the stitch, with the same problem spot occurring in the water. With Capture One, you can see some of the boat trails across the water, whereas in Lightroom, it gets rid of most of these. Both of these images were stitched without any adjustments made to the RAW. The color shift between the two programs is not related to the stitching; it’s simply Capture One’s camera profile vs. Adobe’s default DNG profile.

I also tried a panorama on this image from Levi Sim. From what I can tell, it’s flawless, with no overlaps or weird patterns.

A few notes

First, Stitch to Panorama only works with RAW files. Be sure to keep that in mind during your editing process.

Secondly, Stitch to Panorama does not offer an auto-crop function. I’m actually happy it doesn’t do this, as it ultimately gives me more control over it. But it’s worth noting.

One thing to note is that Stitch to Panorama only will work with RAW files. Meaning that if you’ve brought in TIFFs or other files, you won’t be able to do a merge on those.

What abut HDR Panorama merge?

Lightroom added the option to blend bracketed images into a panorama after it came out with its initial HDR and panorama tools. My guess here would be that Capture One is following that same direction, making sure the core tools work as intended before making them work in tandem with each other.

Other updates in Capture One 22

Auto rotate

When dealing with a series of images, you can automatically rotate the entire batch, eliminating the need to manually rotate one-by-one.

Canon wireless tethering

Certain Canon cameras can now tether wirelessly with Capture One 22. Fingers crossed this comes to other cameras as well, like those by Sony and Nikon. Below is a list of supported Canon cameras:

  • Canon R3
  • Canon R5 (WFT-R10 grip recommend for optimal performance)
  • Canon 1Dx II (WFT-8B adapter recommended for optimal performance)
  • Canon 1Dx III (WFT-E9B adapter recommended for optimal performance)

Capture One 22 also offers preliminary support for the Canon R6, EOS R, 5D IV and 90D. These cameras have not fully been tested, but offer the same protocols.

What this means for Capture One going forward

Capture One has grown in popularity over the last couple years, mainly due to its professional toolset. But adding tools like Stitch to Panorama and Merge to HDR mean that Capture One is realizing where its holes are. Having these tools inside of Capture One — and not requiring someone to go to Photoshop or another program — means that Capture One is listening to its customers.

HDR and panorama tools were something I had asked for since I started using Capture One. I’m thrilled that they’ve finally been added! It makes Capture One a more approachable, usable and professional tool when dealing with your images. And that’s something I can immediately get behind.