Capture One on iPhone Review: It’s Finally Here But Wasn’t Worth the Wait

Capture One on iPhone

It’s been a long time coming, but Capture One for iPhone is finally here, and PetaPixel has gone hands-on with the much-anticipated mobile photo editor to see if the app has been worth the wait.

First announced in November 2021, Capture One for iPhone has been in the works for a long time. Capture One for iPad, which was announced at the same time, hit the App Store nearly a year ago, and took great advantage of the iPad’s touch-based interface and the Apple Pencil.

However, while some of Capture One for desktop’s key features made their way to iPad, not everything transitioned from macOS to iPadOS. Layers, masking, image variant comparison, full tethered camera control, and Capture One’s famous and robust color editing tools were lost in translation. That’s not to say color editing tools aren’t on iPad — and now on iPhone — but they are quite different.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Credit: Capture One

At its core, Capture One for iPad is an extension of the traditional Capture One experience on full-fledged computers. There’s a lot that the user can achieve on iPad, but there are plenty of features and tools that require Capture One Pro. The app’s cloud features also require Capture One on desktop, by the way, and the mobile versions of Capture One for iPad and iPhone require an additional subscription cost.

Capture One on iPhone doesn’t buck the trend established by the iPad version last summer. The iPhone version is just a new arm attached to Capture One on desktop’s body, and the arm is a bit weaker than the iPad’s by virtue of a much smaller display. The iPhone version still allows photographers to capture and edit photos on the go, which is a big deal for some users.

Capture One on iPhone: Key Features

As already alluded, Capture One on iPhone, referred to occasionally as “Capture One mobile” from here on out, is basically Capture One on iPad but shrunken down. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the iPhone version of Capture One mobile.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Credit: Capture One

The app is designed for photographers who don’t just want to edit images on the go but want to capture photos and quickly process them in the field. Photographers can connect their camera to the app and capture images. As the photos are imported into the app, users can automatically apply edits and presets, and achieve specific looks in a single tap.

Although the app includes quite a few editing tools, all in the form of sliders similar in appearance and function to what’s seen in the Photos app on iOS and iPadOS, there’s a heavy emphasis throughout the app on automatic edits and styles.

IPhone editing tools are similar to iPad’s, but the smaller screen somewhat limits what users can see and do at once. The user interface relies heavily upon touch gestures, like swiping.

Capture One mobile also includes robust sharing and collaboration tools. Users can share and export images directly from the app, including surprisingly expansive export options.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review

At its core, Capture One mobile does many of the same things as Capture One Pro, albeit often with a bit less sophistication. Users can capture, import, cull, edit, compare, copy and paste adjustments, send to desktop and export, and collaborate via Capture One Live. That’s a lengthy list of features, and many of them work well.

The lack of layers and masks is a big deal for serious photo editing. Still, photographers can easily perform basic edits on Capture One mobile and send the file to the cloud for further work on desktop later, whether it’s work they do, or a remote collaborator who takes the file over and puts on finishing touches.

Capture One on iPhone: First Impressions

Capture One on desktop is an impressive photo editing application with excellent RAW image processing tools. Capture One’s color editing tools have always been especially sophisticated compared to Adobe Lightroom.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Users can import images via a connected camera.
Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Images can also be imported using Photos or Files on iOS.

Some of the appeal of Capture One on desktop translates fine to mobile. However, with that said, parts of what makes Capture One notable on desktop aren’t present yet on iPhone.

A Great, Easy-to-Use Interface

Before digging further into the negative aspects of Capture One on iPhone, it’s worth discussing what the app does well.

The app is straightforward to use and has an intuitive, familiar user interface. It strikes a good balance of looking and feeling like Capture One while still taking advantage of iOS’s touch-based interface. When developing mobile versions of desktop apps, some companies fall victim to trying to move their apps from one operating system to another without considering the context of the destination OS.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
The app includes good cropping tools, including typical cropping with a user-selectable ratio, rotation, and even keystone adjustments, which are a relatively recent addition to Capture One.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review

In Capture One’s case, the developers did a great job respecting the iPhone’s advantages and, most importantly, its limitations. The smaller screen means that not every tool can be on screen at all times, and it also means that some features don’t make the transition at all.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Capture One Pro is known for its amazing color editing tools. Users can edit colors on Capture One mobile, although not with as much sophistication as one desktop.

There are many ways to get RAW images onto iPhone, including direct connection with a camera, using an SD reader, using the cloud, or just grabbing photos from iOS’s Files or Photos apps. Once images are imported, users can create albums and scroll through their pictures. The app also supports star rating and color tags, allowing the mobile app to perform culling and making selects.

Editing Tools Are Good, But Incomplete

As for editing, there’s much on offer. Users can apply Styles on iPhone, although presets are only on iPad for now. Manual edits are also available, including cropping and keystone adjustments and a lengthy list of editing tools.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
The iPhone version includes good sharpening tools, complete with radius and threshold adjustments.

Users can adjust white balance (temperature and tint), exposure (exposure, contrast, brightness, and saturation), sharpening, noise reduction, film grain, moire, dynamic range (highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks), clarity, and dehaze.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
The app includes detailed metadata and EXIF data viewing.

As for workflow, there are before/after comparisons, metadata viewing, EXIF data, undo/redo/reset, copy and apply adjustments, and camera controls. There’s also an on-screen histogram and exposure warnings, each of which can be toggled on and off.

Once an image is edited, users can export, share, and send images to desktop.

That’s quite a long list of available features, so what’s missing on Capture One mobile? A big one is curves — there’s no way to adjust curves manually in Capture One mobile. Not to beat the same drum again, but the lack of layers and masks is a limitation when considering Capture One mobile as a replacement for Capture One on desktop.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Capture One on iPhone can use Styles, but not presets, a feature available on iPad.
Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
The app includes a histogram and exposure warnings.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review

Granted, the mobile app isn’t marketed as a desktop replacement. It’s meant to be an extension or add-on. However, cynically, that seems like a cop-out to explain the lack of robust features on mobile.

There’s also no way to do spot or dust removal on mobile, which is a somewhat surprising omission.

Capture One for iPhone Summary: First Impressions are Mixed

Considering how long Capture One for iPhone has been in the works and that the iPad version has been out in the wild for nearly a year, it’s reasonable to have expected Capture One mobile on iPhone to make a bigger splash. Unfortunately, it lands with a dull thud rather than an exciting bang.

That isn’t to say that the app isn’t worth your time, because it’s pretty good in many respects. It’s easy to use, and the editing tools work well. However, lamenting what the app lacks is easier than celebrating what it includes.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
Black and white conversion is available in the app, although split tone isn’t an option. Users can also add vignette on mobile.
Capture One mobile for iPhone Review
The export and sharing options are robust on Capture One on iPhone.

Capture One mobile for iPhone Review

The foundation is strong, and Capture One clearly understands the importance of catering mobile apps to their platforms rather than trying to fit the square hole that is a desktop photo editing app into a round hole.

Capture One Mobile: What’s Missing on iPhone?

A full breakdown of everything missing from Capture One on iPhone compared to iPad is available on Capture One’s website. However, there are some notable features to mention.

On iPhone, users cannot use auto-adjust, presets, a color picker for white balance, access Capture One’s filmstrip, use keyboard shortcuts (iPad has a keyboard and iPhone doesn’t, so that makes sense), change album order, and batch edit images.

Are There Alternatives

There are alternatives for photographers that aren’t already ingrained in the Capture One ecosystem, including Adobe’s suite of mobile apps that work alongside desktop versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.

However, Capture One Pro users will likely find quite a bit to like with Capture One mobile, even if there are glaring omissions.

Should You Buy It?

If you’re already using Capture One mobile on iPad, there’s no need to buy it on iPhone — you’ve already got access to it.

However, if you’re a Capture One Pro on desktop subscriber, you can add Capture One mobile for a few bucks extra per month. You should buy it if you want to edit and share photos in the field or edit pictures on the go. However, if you always use curves, layers, or masks when editing images, don’t pay extra for Capture One mobile.

That said, the “All in One” bundle that includes Capture One mobile also includes the full version of Capture One Live, which may very well be worth the money for photographers who frequently collaborate with others.