Good Bye Capture One Pro 23?
Capture One Pro 23

Good Bye Capture One Pro 23?

On 6 Dec 2022, Capture One announced a shocking change to its perpetual license and a new “Loyalty Program” to replace the existing upgrading pricing. The effective date is 14 Feb 2023 (originally scheduled on 1 Feb 2023). I pre-ordered the COP v23 in Oct 2022 and have to decide by 30 Sep 2023 whether to join the new “Loyalty Program” or leave Capture One (Yes, leave).

After reading numerous Capture One articles about the new changes and thousands of comments, I decided to list out the changes to determine whether the new “Loyalty Program” is a better or worse deal. It always helps me to clear my mind and make a more subjective decision. I hope this post will help some of you to sort out the confusion too.

What’s Going On?

Let’s start with a short story. A car company has two groups of customers, the renters and the buyers. The renters pay monthly to use the car and enjoy unlimited free maintenance and component upgrades as long they stay in the rental. The buyers make a one-off payment to own a car and enjoy

  1. 1-year of free maintenance;
  2. 1-year of free component upgrades;
  3. eligible to trade-in discount for a new car model.

One day, the company announced changes to its buying and rental scheme after the year-end sales,

  1. no more new car models;
  2. all the cars purchased after X date will have an uncertain maintenance period until a new component model is available. How frequently a new component model is announced? Nobody knows;
  3. the monthly rental becomes an installment payment. the customer will get a free car after they pay for X years;
  4. the customer can settle the installment earlier and choose to pay a corresponding discounted lump sum to own the car;
  5. trade-in discount is replaced by the new pricing scheme.

The renters are happy and appreciate the company’s kindness in making their rentals into an installment plan. The renters will get their car for free after they pay for X years. Happy changes happy customers.

On the other hand, the existing buyers are upset and frustrated. The new policy voids the majority benefits of their future buying. The new car only entitles an uncertain maintenance period because a new component could be announced anytime after the purchase.

That’s what’s going on in the recent Capture One changes and the reaction of its customers. There are two items you must figure out, the new pricing scheme (Loyalty Program) and the changes to the new perpetual licenses. Capture One updated the change details multiple times after receiving furious public comments on their site and various forums. Let’s move on to find out more.

The Marketing Approaches

A quick glance at the activities timelines as the following:

24 Oct 2022Sent emails for pre-order upgrades for COP 23.
8 Nov 2022Release of COP 23.
Nov 2022Black Friday sales for COP 23.
6 Dec 2022Announced the changes in perpetual licenses with the new “loyalty program” will take effect from 1 Feb 2023, and promised to disclose the details about the “loyalty program” in Feb 2023.
18 Jan 2023Disclosed the ‘loyalty program’ details with many tables and the comparison of costs. Postponed the perpetual license changes from 1 Feb 2023 to 14 Feb 2023.
COP 23 Changes Timeline

Firstly, Capture One was pushing for pre-upgrade and Black Friday sales before announcing the changes to the perpetual license. All COP v23 purchased before 14 Feb 2023 technically enjoy the same feature releases (16.x) and bug fixes (16.x.x) until 30 Sep 2023 as in previous years.

Secondly, Capture One announced a new term, “Loyalty Program” and asked the customers to wait two months for more details. Nobody knows if it is a good or bad change. People start guessing, hoping, and setting optimistic expectations for the new “Loyalty Program”.

Questionable Changes To The Existing Perpetual License

The initial Capture One article mentioned,

Quoted from Capture One Previous Article

Please note, switching to a subscription will deactivate your existing license key.

Understandably, the older perpetual license is revoked when someone upgraded from an older to a newer version. Most people are okay with that because they can keep the latest working copy as long as their hardware and OS are compatible with COP.

Existing perpetual license holders are fed up with the new changes because switching to the new subscription plan will reward them with a voided perpetual license. Capture One felt the heat and updated the page so that existing perpetual license users could keep their working copy when they converted to the new subscription plan.

Keep Existing COP Perpetual License
Keep Existing COP Perpetual License

Confusing Pricing Comparison

Capture One tried to justify the savings from their subscription plan with several tables and comparisons with the old and new perpetual license costs. Many people commented on the announcement page that Capture One used the original price of USD 299 for an unfair comparison. Some screenshots from Capture One’s comment section are as follows:

COP Inaccurate Price
COP Inaccurate Price Comment
COP Inaccurate Price 2
COP Inaccurate Price Comment

For your info, Capture One used to offer a yearly upgrade discount of 30 – 50% off the regular pricing. Again, Capture One updated the table figures and filled the table cells with colors.

COP Updated Tables
COP Updated Tables

It took me a while to figure out what the new table figures want to tell us – The old scheme costs USD 199, while the new “Loyalty Program” costs USD 179 for an annual perpetual license upgrade. Whoever has a yearly upgrade should know the actual pricing (I will break down mine later).

Smart Marketing Phrasing?

If you think that’s all about the confusion? No! Capture One brilliantly use the following statement (… means after 5 years you can get it for free)

COP 5 Years Statement
COP 5 Years Statement

What’s wrong with that statement? The fact is you have to pay a full 6-year subscription to get the FREE perpetual license, which is reflected in their latest table (as of 5 Jul 2023).

COP 6th Year Perpetual License Cost
COP 6th Year Perpetual License Cost

Besides, there is another table that illustrates the offer you could obtain a perpetual COP after X years of subscription. However, there is one clause below inferring that “More than 60 months’ means you are in, or have completed sixth year of being a subscriber with us”.

COP Subscription Clause
COP Subscription Clause

How many of you notice and understand that clause correctly? Yes, you can get the free copy of COP after 5 years ONLY IF you continue to subscribe to or complete the 6th year subscription plan.

I try to transform the table above into a “clearer illustration” as the following table:

I’ve been a subscriber for…If I want to stop my subscription I can get a copy of Capture One Pro for
6th Year (61 – 72 months)Free! 100% off
5th Year (49 – 60 months)80% off
4th Year (37 – 48 months)60% off
3rd Year (25 – 36 months)40% off
2nd Year (13 – 24 months)20% off
1st Year (0 – 12 months)0% off
A “Clearer” Illustration

Yes, such an illustration is terrible for marketing because it directly tells customers that obtaining the free perpetual license costs 6 years of subscription. Does Capture One expect their customers would happily say, “Oops! It’s my bad! I misunderstood the clause.”?

The New “Loyalty Program”

In short, it is a new pricing scheme for future perpetual license and subscription plan. On top of it, the subscription plan becomes an “installment” plan (subscribers have the option to convert their subscription into a perpetual COP at a discounted price, or get a free perpetual copy after X years of subscription). The screenshot from Capture One (as of 5 Jul 2023) as below:

COP Loyalty Program
COP Loyalty Program

Receive a free copy after 5 years of subscription sounds good? Something is missing here, “You have to subscribe to or complete the 6th year of the subscription plan to receive the free copy of Capture One Pro.”

How Many Years To Pay For The “Free” Perpetual License?

6 years or 72 months, NOT 5 years. Remember (or have you noticed) the clause set by Capture One?

COP Free Perpetual License Clause
COP Free Perpetual License Clause

Would The Loyalty Program Be Changed?

Capture One reserves the rights to change it anytime, as shown in their terms below. It could be a better or worse change but nobody knows.

COP Change Of Loyalty Program
Capture One’s Rights To Change Loyalty Program

The “Loyalty Program” is lovely for subscribers, who can obtain a perpetual copy of COP at a discounted price/free. However, the new “Loyalty Program” does not introduce any attractive benefit to the perpetual license customers. What upset the existing perpetual license holders is the new “perpetual license”.

The New “Perpetual License”

It is clearer to have a direct comparison between the old and new perpetual license as below.

Old Perpetual License (Before 14 Feb 2023)New Perpetual License (From 14 Feb 2023)
1 year of new feature releasesNo new feature release
1 year of bug fixesUncertain bug fix period until the new feature is released
Uncertain yearly upgrade pricing. It has been increased from USD 100 to USD 185 in the most recent 5 COP full versions (v12, v20, v21, v22, v23)USD 179 for yearly upgrade
Up to USD 299 when the last update is more than 12 monthsUp to USD 299 when the last update is more than 12 months
Old vs New Perpetual License Benefits

The original quotes from Capture One article as below:

COP Perpetual License Changes
COP Perpetual License Changes

COP’s new “perpetual license” is no longer a regular perpetual copy. It is grateful to receive such a “snapshot” as a reward through the “Loyalty Program,” but it is ridiculous to pay USD 299 (or USD 179 for yearly upgrade) and only get an uncertain period of bug fixes before the next feature release (16.x).

How Frequent Is A Feature Release (16.x) Rolled Out?

Determining how frequently Capture One rolls out a new feature release is crucial. I summarize the COP releases history from COP 8 to COP 23 (as of 5 Jul 2023):

COP VersionLast ReleaseHighlighted Features In Specific COP Version
88.3.5New – UI, heal layer, curve, HDR & WB in layer, film grain, live view

Improved – Highlight & Shadow recovery, RAW processing engine, Natural clarity option
99.3New – luma curve, curve in layer, create mask from color range, flow and airbrush in masking, keywords library

Improved – engine (for brightness, contrast, saturation), DNG color, color editor UI
1010.2.1New – 3-phrase sharpening, output proofing, halo surpression, default workplace, camera focus tool, filter for orientation, PSD support, X-trans support, Tangent hardware support

Improved – JPEG output size/quality, auto masking, compressed RAW support, OpenCL, move folders in Catalog, delete from Collection, RAW processing engine
1111.3.2New – Opacity in layers, Styles & Presets for layers, greyscale mask, feather and refine mask edge, duplicate checker, LAB color readout, tethering (USB-C, ethernet, wifi)

Improved – backup and restore of Catalog, RAW processing engine
1212.1.5New – UI, radial gradient, Grids, Guides tool, Auto Crop, Multi-crop, barcode scanner, Next Capture metadata/keywords/backup, workspace & tool lock, rasterize mask, luma range mask, Fuji film simulation

Improved – X-trans/Fujifilm rendering, Overlay, linear gradient, keyboard shortcut manager
2013.1.4New – Black & White slider in HDR tool, scrollable & pin interface, heal and clone brush, before/after comparison

Improved – noise reduction, crop, brush apperance, workspace, copy/apply for layer, DNG support
2114.4.1New – Dehaze, Speed Edit, ProStandard camera profiles, HEIF support, Sytle brush, Apple Silicon and Metal support, Magic Brush, proofing in export, password protected session

Improved – import photos from multiple folders, WB sliders, link brush with layer, link eraser with brush, show images in Catalog
2215.4.3New – HDR merge, Panorama, Magic Eraser, Capture One Live, wireless tethering (Sony, Canon, Nikon), cloud transfer from iPad

Improved – tool panel, Keystone tool, Apple Silicon performance
23*16.2.2New – Smart Adjustment, Culling, layers in Styles, change capture time, Apple ProRaw support, move Background adjustment to layer, wireless tethering for Fuji, face focus in cull and importer, auto dust removal

Improved – performance for Sony files, cull and importer, Smart Adjustment consistency, faster preview generation
COP Releases History

* 16.2.2 as of 5 Jul 2023 at this post written time.

Except for COP v12 and v20, there were 3 to 5 feature releases for each version of COP. It indicates that there are approximately 2.5-4 months bug-fixed period before the next feature release (16.x) is available.

For example, if you purchased the COP on 14 Feb 2023, the release number is 16.0.2. You are entitled to receive bug fixes 16.0.x until 16.1 is available. Guess what? 16.1 was announced on 21 Feb 2023, one week after your purchase. Were all the COP 16.0’s bugs fixed before COP 16.1? No, some bugs were only fixed in 16.2.2.

Are Bugs An Issue To COP?

Bugs didn’t cause noticeable issues to my work when I used COP v21 (14.0) and earlier versions on my Mac. However, more bugs caused distrupted change to my workflow since COP v22 (15.0) as the following sections.

Bugs In COP v22 (15.0)

I used Sidecar XMP to sync the rating between the RAW and JPEG. It requires both RAW and JPEG to use the same filename. However, batch renaming would result in an additional “1” at the end of the JPEG filename. This bug makes the Sidecar XMP sync useless and is still not fixed in v23 (16.2.2).

I reported the issue to Capture One’s support team in Apr 2022 and got a reply from them in Jun 2022. The few email exchanges always suggest downloading and install the latest version of COP. I did and gave up eventually, because the Capture One team couldn’t reproduce the issue, and their suggestion didn’t help resolve it. I simply don’t rename the RAW and JPEG pair after importing, and suck my thumb when I put the wrong naming convention during the importing.

COP v22 Bug
COP v22 Bug – Broken RAW & JPEG Pair After Batch Renaming

Bugs In COP v23 (16.0)

Capture One advertised its new culling system as the core feature in COP v23. I encountered two critical bugs that screwed up two wedding shot sessions (6K+ photos).

  1. The file naming just went haywire in random order! COP has been optimized to run natively on Apple Silicon since v21 (14.2.0), running fine for 2 years (v21 and v22)! Who could expect the most critical core import renaming function suddenly not work correctly on the v23? This bug was fixed in 16.0.2.
COP v23 Bug #1 - Incorrect Import Sequence
COP v23 Bug #1 – Incorrect Import Sequence
  1. The new culling feature introduced in 16.0 ran out of memory on a 64GB RAM M1 Max Macbook Pro. Seriously? The new highlighted core feature just failed miserably. Was there any load testing? This bug was only fixed in 16.2.2.
COP v23 Bug #2
COP v23 Bug #2 – Excessive Memory Consumption In Culling

What If Those Bugs Are Discovered Under The New Perpetual License?

As a reminder, the new perpetual license will only receive free bug fixes (16.x.x) before the next feature release is available (16.x). Imagine the bugs mentioned earlier happen in the new perpetual license as following:

BugsFound InFixed InWhat To Do?
Broken batch renaming for RAW and JPEG pairv15.0Not fixeddon’t do batch rename after imported photos, and pretend to be a happy user
Haywire file importing namingv16.0v16.0.2a happy user
Excessive memory consumption in its highlighted core culling featurev16.0v16.2.2pay up to USD 299 (depends on the bug fixes period) for the bug fixes (and additional new feature as a bonus), and be a happy user
Simulation of Bugs Found In New Perpetual License

The best scenario is, your perpetual version only contains minor bugs and could be fixed before the new feature release (16.x), then it will last you for a good few years. The worst? Your perpetual version (16.x) contains critical bugs (e.g., excessive memory consumption in culling), and the bugs only fixed in the new feature release (16.y). You either fork out another USD 179 (within 12 months from the last purchase) or bear with the bug.


The new “Loyalty Program” makes it clearer that you will pay USD 179 for either a yearly perpetual license upgrade or an annual subscription plan.

COP Perpetual License Past Years Price Changes

Most companies adjust their product prices over the years. Let’s see COP’s price changes since COP v8. I started with COP 8 “for Sony” and upgraded every year to support the development. Yes, there is an official upgrading price, but how much does it cost after the “big-sales discounts”? I list the yearly upgrading prices as the following and standardize the currency to USD for easier comparison:

COP VersionPrice (In USD inc. tax)Remarks
v8 (for Sony)* $53Charged in EURO $40
v9 (for Sony)* $53Charged in EURO $40
v10 (for Sony)* $53Charged in EURO $40
v11 (for Sony)* $89Charged in EURO $69
v12 (full)* $239Upgraded from “for Sony” to full version, with 5 COP Styles Bundles. The standalone upgrade price was around USD 100.
v20 (13.x, full)$107
v21 (14.x, full)$132
v22 (15.x, full)$153
v23 (16.x, full)* $185Charged in SGD 250
COP Perpetual License Upgrade Prices

Set aside the attractive prices for the brand-specific COP version, the upgrading pricing for COP perpetual license price increases every year but stays competitive (up to v21) with other competitors. There were around $20 – $30 yearly increments from v20 to v23, seems to be a step-by-step increment to align the perpetual upgrading cost and the yearly subscription plan pricing.

The current subscription price (USD 179) is not guaranteed to remain the same in the next few years. Would there be more customers in the future and lower the price? Or will it be increased for inflation? Nobody knows. You shall consider the future price adjustment before switching to a subscription plan. The “Loyalty Program” only gives better cost savings to long-term subscribers.

When Does It Worth To Stop The Subscription And Convert To Perpetual License?

Capture One’s new “Loyalty Program” offers the subscribers to convert their existing subscription plan into perpetual license at a discounted price according to the years of subscribed. I extract the new “Loyalty Program” conversion pricing from Capture One article to show whether stopping the subscription and paying for the new perpetual license is financially sensible.

YearPrice To Convert To Perpetual License (In USD)What Could Be In The Customer’s Mind?
1$299That is another 20 month worth of subscription. Why would I pay such premium to convert?
2$239That is another 16 month worth of subscription. Why would I pay such premium to convert?
3$179That is another 12 month worth of subscription. Perhaps I should subscribe for another year?
4$119That is another 8 month worth of subscription. Should I stop the subscription and change to perpetual?
5$59Hmmm? I thought the perpetual license is free after 5 years of subscription?
Perpetual License Costs In Loyalty Program

The conversion price through the new “Loyalty Program” is a bonus to subscribers who have subscribed to COP for 5 years or more. Any earlier switch sacrifices 8 – 20 months worth of bug fixes and new feature updates. Undeniably, the new perpetual license makes the new “Loyalty Program” more promising to all subscribers. As long you need COP as your primary RAW editor, staying with the subscription plan and getting the free COP should be your choice.

Competitor’s Pricing

I explore a few popular alternatives and summarize their pricing and license types below:

SoftwarePricing In USDLicense Type
Capture One Pro$179 /yrSubscription
Lightroom Photography Plan (LR Desktop & iPad, Photoshop Desktop & iPad, 20GB cloud storage)$120 /yrSubscription
DxO Photolab 6$219Perpetual
Affinity Photo$74Perpetual
Photo Mechanic$169Perpetual
Luminar Neo$193 or $128 /yrPerpetual / Subscription
Pricing Comparison

Impressively, Adobe has kept its Lightroom subscription plan at USD 9.99 per month since it was introduced in 2014.

There are some open-source alternatives as well, e.g., Darktable, RawTherapee, GIMP, etc. Except the Photo Mechanic, I tried and used the other mentioned RAW editors for an extensive period. They have their goods and shortcomings, but all are capable of producing beautiful outcomes.

What Could Be Done Better?

All the perpetual license holders have to decide before 30 Sep 2023 on whether to change to the subscription plan or move to another software. According to Capture One’s FAQ, half of its customers are on a perpetual license.

COP Customer Percentage
COP Customer Percentage

It is a critical period for Capture One to make the “Loyalty Program” promising and more attractive to the existing perpetual license holders.

A Roadmap?

Why do customers ask for a roadmap? There are two simple reasons:

  1. The product does not have absolute advantages in its price and features.
  2. The users love the product and seek justification to continue to support it.

Let others know about what features are coming will be helpful to existing perpetual license holders to justify future commitment. Please don’t forget that perpetual COP gives a sneak peek at what is coming and attracts people to upgrade.

Promising Bug Fixes?

Critical bugs tend to be more challenging and time-consuming to be fixed and likely be resolved after a few feature releases. For example, the excessive memory bugs in culling exists in 16.0 is only fixed in 16.2.2.

If you purchased COP 16.0 before 14 Feb 2023, you have the peace of mind to receive the bug fixes for free. Sadly, the new perpetual license (purchase from 14 Feb 2023 onward) requires you to pay USD 179 to buy the 16.2 for the bug fixes. Seriously?

COP Perpetual License Changes
COP Perpetual License Changes

Please be fair to the customers. The bugs shouldn’t exist in the first place and should be fixed for free for all the affected users.

More Efficient Tools?

Capture One always improves COP’s performance and tools. Over the years, COP has featured Speed Edit, new Culling tool with auto-zoom-in on faces and auto-grouping of similar photos, Magic Brush & Eraser, Smart Adjustment tool for exposure and white balance for a series of photos, etc.

Unfortunately, LrC’s new AI masking dwarfed COP’s advantages and tempted many users to switch. Why? Because masking always takes significant time in the workflow (30 ~ 50% depends on the individual), and it is an irreplaceable core feature in RAW editors. You can use another application for culling and noise reduction, an editing console like Loupedeck or TourBox for Speed Edit. Still, your primary RAW editor cannot directly process third-party tool masking.

Adobe took one year to introduce the AI masking (in Oct 2022) to answer Capture One’s Magic Brush (introduced in Jul 2021). What would be Capture One’s answer this time?

New Option For A “Restricted” Perpetual COP ?

Kudos to Capture One for offering the option to buy a full version of COP. How about a free restricted COP version like what LrC does? When I stop the subscription, it likely means I have little to no editing or switching software. However, I still want to access my existing work in COP Catalog hence a free “restricted” COP is good enough. (Yes, Adobe, please learn from Capture One and provide an alternative option to purchase a full working perpetual copy.)

Reinstate The Regular Perpetual License?

It is an excellent initiative to give a free “snapshot” copy of COP for long-term subscribers as a “Loyalty Program”. But why forfeit those pay in full for the perpetual license? Making the perpetual license less appealing doesn’t help to transform the perpetual license holders into subscribers.

Please consider reinstating the regular perpetual license.

Better Marketing Approaches?

Better means more straightforward wording and being frank with the customers. Yes, “smart” marketing wording and approaches might earn the company a few rounds of money. However, customers only get more frustrated/disappointed when the impression and reality differ.

Please don’t forget that there is something more important than money: the customer’s trust and respect. Eventually, it will impact future sales more dramatically than the expectation.

More Stable Build?

Recent COP more frequently breaks existing core functions (e.g., haywire file renaming during import, crashes, etc.). It is pointless to rush for new features but break the existing core. Severe/professional photographers need a stable working tool, not a flashy fragile toy.

Final Thoughts

Capture One Pro is a fantastic RAW processing software. Please be thankful and respect the team who spent countless time and effort to bring us this productivity tool over the years.

Unfortunately, Capture One chose to announce the changes to perpetual license in Dec 2022 (right after Adobe announced the brilliant AI subject masking in Oct 2022). The worse? Adobe announced another prominent AI Denoise feature in Apr 2023. That’s a “double-kill” for those comparing Adobe and Capture One’s subscription plan’s values. Besides, other companies like DxO, Affinity Photos, etc., still offer a regular perpetual license for whoever resists a subscription model.

Despite the higher cost, I upgraded COP yearly to support its development and as an appreciation for the more efficient tools. However, Capture One recent “smart” marketing approaches are disappointing and raise my concern for COP’s future direction. As such, I will hold back the subsequent upgrades and reconsider COP when it proves itself worthy.

Are you on the fence to stay or switch from COP? What’s your choice? Let us know what’s your opinion in the comment below. I hope this post will help you clarify some of your doubts and make a decision. Cheers!

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James Tan

James Tan is a Singapore-based professional photographer who shoots weddings, events, products, and cityscapes. Learn more about his works on his galleries. He shares his perspective on cameras, gadgets, and photography tips & tricks in his blog. You can follow him on his YouTube channel and Instagram.