Capture One Pro: Should you buy a perpetual license or a subscription?

Update (December 05, 2019): This article, first written in December 2018, has been updated to reflect the change in prices of upgrades and the repositioning of Capture One 20 Fujifilm/Sony product with its new pricing structure. 

Update (December 04, 2019): Phase One has announced Capture One Pro version 20. For more information please follow the link here (or via the banner to the right) to the official Capture One store and, if buying or upgrading, please add the promo-code DJP during check-out as show of support.

If you’ve made the decision to use Capture One Pro as your RAW converter and editor of choice, then Phase One offers a couple of methods to buy into it. You can either opt for the traditional perpetual license model or pay for a subscription.

The price of a perpetual license is $299/£299 [affiliate link to official store] for three seats (or two seats for Capture One Pro for Fujifilm or Sony), which means a single user can install it on separate devices, so long as they’re not being used simultaneously. As a so-called ‘perpetual license’, you won’t have to upgrade when the next full version is announced, assuming your camera is supported of course.

Although there’s an argument to keep to the perpetual license for the long-term. Bear in mind that that long-term saving is based on benefitting from a full 12 months’ use of the initial license; in reality you could have bought a perpetual license in October, so you could have just one month before feeling compelled (and having to pay) to upgrade.

Service updates are free for the full version and are mainly about bug fixes though occasional features and support for new cameras will be added during the year. Should you want to benefit from major new features, as well as gain support in terms of RAW file compatibility and lens correction profiles for new models announced prior to Photokina, then you will have to upgrade.

Let’s say you purchased a license on, or soon after, the launch day of the latest version, usually at the end of November and you want to upgrade (if you bought a license for the older version during November, speak to Phase One to see if they’ll upgrade you FOC. They might). As of December 05, 2019, that will cost around $199/£199 (Single User updating from version 9, 10, or 11), or $159/£159 from version 12.

So, for anywhere between 13-24 months, the price will be around $460/£460 upgrading from version 12, or $499/£499 from earlier versions (9,10, or 11).

Annual pre-paid subscriptions

The price of an annual pre-paid subscription plan is $180/£180 [affiliate link] saving a substantial $129/£129 in the first year over a perpetual license (or an even more substantial $169/£169 from earlier versions). Although the total, cumulative cost is $360/£360 in the second year, from 13 up to 24 months, that’s still a saving of $100/£100. And, that’s presuming no further increases in upgrades. There was a $10/£10 surge for year-on-year upgrades this year (2019). So based on current prices for subscriptions, they’re hoping to re-coup on licenses in the successive years.

The price of an annual pre-paid subscription plan is $180/£180, saving a substantial $129/£129 in the first year over a perpetual license (or an even more substantial $169/£169 from earlier versions).

In the third year, for example, a perpetual license with two upgrades will have cost you around $617/£617 for between 25-36 months (assuming you’re upgrading from v12 and based on current updated 2019 prices – there’s no way to tell what it will be in 2020). With an annual pre-paid subscription plan, that will cost $540/£540, a saving of $77/£77 (or more when upgrading from v11 or earlier).

In the fourth year, assuming you upgrade every year, the upgrade route will have cost around $776/£776 compared with $720/£720 in subscriptions, a saving of $56/£56, and in the fifth year, the annual pre-paid subscription option will have saved you $35/£35, providing that the prices remain the same.

Fujifilm or Sony only user?

There are other ways to save as well. If you know that you’re going to be a Fujifilm or Sony user for certain period of time, and don’t require RAW file support of other makes, then select the Capture One for Fujifilm or Sony, respectively. At $129/£129 [affiliate link], for the perpetual license, they’re some $170/£170 cheaper initially and they’re cheaper to upgrade $89/£89 to upgrade. They’re not the Capture One Pro version with support for all camera makes, though. To upgrade to that will cost $170/$170. Note that the more lightly featured Express versions are already bundled with Fujifilm and Sony cameras, and can be downloaded for free.

What’s the best option?

Although there’s an argument to keep to the perpetual license model of Capture One Pro for the long-term. Bear in mind that that long-term saving is based on benefitting from a full 12 months’ use of the initial license; in reality you could have bought a perpetual license in October, or November, so you could have just one month before feeling compelled (and having to pay) to upgrade. Note that this year, though, Phase One offered a free upgrade to version 20 during much of November. That could be repeated next year. Or, it might not.

With an annual subscription there’s no upgrade fee, so if you’re are buying into Capture One Pro in the months leading up to when new version is announced (usually end of November but there are no guarantees), then currently it pays to buy an annual pre-paid subscription.

Currently, if you’re are buying into Capture One in the months leading up to when new version is announced, it pays to buy an annual pre-paid subscription.

Again, you can save a little more if you’re sure to remain a Fujifilm or Sony user for a few years by taking out a Capture One Pro for Fujifilm or Sony pre-paid subscription.

If you’re still resistant to paying 12 months in advance, Phase One offers some flexibility which could prove attractive. If you pay monthly, and agree to an annual plan it will cost $20/£20 a month, or $240/£240 per annum. Still cheaper initially than the perpetual license. Contrast this with the monthly payment option of $24/£24, or $288/£288 for 12 months. Although the priciest route for potential subscribers, it’s cheaper initially and even remains the same price as the traditional upgrade route over the first two years, but in year three the perpetual license model will have saved you a hefty $247/$247.

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