Output options

Once you have a great looking image, your ability to share it depends largely on the raw converter you're using. Here we'll take a look at the options offered for producing rendered versions of your raw files.

File export

All three applications make it easy to select multiple raw files and export and rename processed files to a local or network destination. You can render the files in an ICC color space of your choosing, specify maximum image dimensions and save frequently used export configurations as user presets. Lightroom 4 is limited to initiating exports to one file format at a time, though you can configure multiple exports in succession which will then run concurrently. Both Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8 allow you to create multiple export configurations that will begin running simultaneously.

Lightroom supports free plug-ins that allow you to publish and sync existing image collections directly to social media sites like Facebook, Flickr and Picasa. DxO Optics Pro lets you upload images to your Flickr account.

Capture One Pro 7 has Process Recipes that you configure for your desired output settings.

Capture One Pro 7 offers the widest range of file formats you can export to - including three variants of the JPEG standard -  while DxO Optics Pro 8 lacks support for the PSD format and Lightroom cannot output PNG files. Both Capture One Pro 7 and Lightroom 4 allow you to include/exclude some specific IPTC and EXIF metadata tags such as copyright and location information, while with DxO Optics Pro 8 you're limited to enabling/disabling all EXIF data with the exported file.

Lightroom 4 offers the most flexibility when renaming exported files, with the option to include IPTC and EXIF metadata, image sequence numbers and custom text in the filename. Naming conventions can be saved as presets for future use.

Capture One Pro 7's metadata naming options are limited to EXIF data and DxO Optics Pro 8 limits you to user-generated text which can only be appended as a filename suffix.

TWO-WAY TIE: Lightroom 4 offers the most flexible file naming options and publishing support for Facebook. Capture One Pro 7 supports PNG and three JPEG variant formats.

Web galleries

Capture One Pro lets you create an HTML gallery from one of four very basic templates using any selection of images in the catalog or current session. Lightroom offers a much more robust collection of highly customizable HTML and Flash templates with the option to configure FTP settings for direct upload to your web site directory.

WINNER: Lightroom 4 

Slideshow

Both Capture One Pro 7 and Lightroom 4 let you create onscreen slideshow presentations of your image collection. Lightroom goes several steps further with a wide range of parameter adjustments, including backdrop, image border, and soundtrack options. In addition, you have the option of saving the slideshow as an MP4 video file at 1080 resolution as well as a static PDF document.

WINNER: Lightroom 4

Asset management

Lightroom 4's Library module is where you'll search, sort and organize your images with keywords and metadata.

One of the bigger distinctions between these programs is the degree to which they aspire to sort and manage, rather than just edit your collection of images. DxO Optics Pro 8 makes no pretense of significant image management, lacking even the basic ability to add or edit image metadata, so if you're looking for the ability to search or organize your image collection by any method other than the Finder/Explorer folder structure, the choice really comes down to Capture One Pro 7 or Lightroom 4. And because both applications are supported by a catalog-style database structure, you can even search and sort images that are currently offline.

Keywording

Adding keywords to your images is a highly effective, if unavoidably labor-intensive method of populating your images with searchable data. Capture One Pro 7 supports standard IPTC metadata fields which include ownership, copyright and image-descriptive metadata. You can create presets of commonly used information to batch-apply to additional images. Lightroom 4 goes much further, however, with the ability to create a hierarchical nesting of keywords, a user-specific frequently used keyword list and auto-complete function to aid in consistency when tagging your images.

WINNER: Lightroom 4

Search filters

Capture One Pro 7 and Lightroom 4 both have robust filter tools that let you winnow down your image collection by date, keyword, EXIF and IPTC metadata.

To perform searches with multiple criteria, Capture One Pro 7 has an Advanced Search bar where you can search via IPTC and EXIF metadata.

You can also apply star and color ratings to your images to identify the keepers or highlight images with specific processing needs for example. You can also create and save custom searches as image collections that match multiple criteria. You can also create 'smart' collections whose contents automatically update whenever new images with the appropriate criteria are imported.

Lightroom 4 lets you select multiple items in its Library Filter bar to perform a 'match all' search. You can select multiple options within any single category by Command/Control or Shift-clicking them.

TWO-WAY TIE: Capture one Pro 7 and Lightroom 4 offer similar search functionality.

Organization options

Both Capture One Pro 7 and Lightroom 4 allow you numerous options for storing your raw files. The files themselves can reside on any local or network drive of your choosing. You can work with an existing folder structure or choose to house your raw files in a single directory and organize them exclusively within the application.

With previous versions of Capture One Pro, images were organized into Sessions, each one a single holding place that encompassed your raw images, edit instructions and output files from a single shoot. The benefit was that you could easily move or archive an entire project at once. While maintaining support for a Sessions-based workflow, version 7 introduces a robust catalog option, which functions in a similar manner to Lightroom's database-driven system.

Capture One Pro 7 allows you to have multiple catalogs open at the same time. Search queries, however, are catalog-specific.

Among the benefits here are the ability to search among images located on different hard drives as well as apply metadata edits even when images are offline. A Capture One Pro 7 catalog can be stored on a shared network drive where multiple users can have access.

Lightroom 4 offers the same cataloging benefits, minus support for network sharing of catalog files. And while you are free to create multiple catalogs, you must first close the current catalog before opening another one.

WINNER: Capture One Pro 7 offers both a project-based Sessions workflow as well as an all-encompassing Catalog workflow.

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