Capture One Workstation Requirements

Capture One is in my mind, the most professional RAW image editing software available, offering a very slick set of tools for image manipulation and colour correction.

It is a thoroughly modern bit of software that has been written to take full advantage of a modern workstation that has a fast processor and graphics card. The question is which is most important, the CPU or the GPU?

Which Processor to use with Capture One?

A fast processor helps with Capture One in almost every way, from opening of libraries, to image access off disc and image exporting. The Intel Core i7 9700K is ideal for most tasks and gains from moving up to the Core i9 9900K for example are small at best, if your system has a good graphics card installed.

Capture One is designed to use GPU when it is available, but if your system does not have powerful GPU you can force it to use the CPU instead through a change in the preferences.

So when planning your system you need to make choices based not only on Capture One’s needs, but consider also what else you need your system to do. If your budget does not allow for a very fast graphics card, then go for the faster Intel Core i9 9900K CPU or an X-Series processor as Capture One does take full advantage of all CPU cores and threads.

Which Graphics Card to use for Capture One?

Capture One is as stated earlier, a modern piece of software that is written to take full advantage of your systems graphics card, and it certainly does. Everything from image corrections to image viewing and export involve the graphics card.

Where Capture One really makes use of the power your graphics card has, is during image export. I notice usage of around 90% on my NVIDIA P4000 card during image exporting, and little use of the processor so the graphics card is the all important component for speed.

If you are a casual user of Capture One any reasonable card will provide reasonable performance, but if you are a wedding photographer for example where you are exporting hundreds of images at a time then get a powerful graphics card as it will save you time in the long run.

Check the speed comparisons to the right to see just how much faster the GPU can be over even a very fast CPU.

How much RAM does Capture One require?

The amount of RAM you need for Capture One is somewhat dependent on the size of your library and how many other apps you have open at the same time. Having said that it does not seem to be as RAM hungry as you would expect.

A system with at least 16GB RAM is recommended as a minimum to allow for system memory and other apps to be open at the same time. Of course, 32GB ensures you have more than enough for future demands as well.

Which storage type is best for Capture One?

It should go without saying, but the faster your storage the better the performance, particulalry when working with very high res files. (40-50MP) Therefore, SSD storage is the only way to go for both your startup drive and your image library. The faster M.2 drives are preferred as they tend to offer greater read/write speeds.

Even the slowest 2.5″ SSDs are significantly faster than a hard drive (by about 4 times in fact) and are recommended as a minimum, but the significantly faster M.2 SSDs can provide slightly better performance if budget permits.

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We tested Capture One in a system with an Intel Core i9 9900K CPU and an NVIDIA Quadro P4000 GPU and exported 12 42MP images from a Sony A7R II. The difference is quite amazing.

CPU 100%
GPU 30%

Shorter bars are better

The Intel Core i9 9900K CPU finished the export in 52.10 seconds, the NVIDIA Quadro P4000 GPU did the same export in 18.12 seconds. So as you can see, the benefits of using a fast GPU are significant.