Capture One Pro: Should you buy a perpetual license or a subscription?
UPDATE (April, 2021): Please note this article is no longer relevant and is kept here on online for reference only. If you want to know the most affordable route to working with Capture One 21, please see the updated feature here for more details.
If you want to try Capture One 21 before buying, it can be downloaded and used without restriction for free for 30 days, or you can buy or upgrade directly from Capture One [affiliate link].
If you’ve made the decision to use Capture One Pro as your RAW converter and editor of choice, then Capture 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 the 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 ‘perpetual license’, you won’t have to upgrade when the next full version is announced, assuming RAW files from your camera (and to a lesser degree, your lenses – though they can still be corrected without dedicated profiles) are 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 new 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, 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 Capture 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 $119/£119 in the first year over a perpetual license. Although the total, cumulative cost is $360/£360 in the second year, from 13 up to 24 months, that’s still a saving of around $98/£98 (or an even more substantial $138/£138 from earlier versions). 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 $119/£119 in the first year over a perpetual license.
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. It’s not until year seven that you’ll start to see a benefit (around $7/£7) from the upgrade route, providing you’ve upgraded every year. If there’s no change in the prices, in the following year (year eight) you’ll see a larger saving of $28/£28 from upgrading.
So, there you have it. In the short term subscriptions are cheaper up to and including the seventh year, but in the long term the perceptual license can work out cheaper, providing you upgrade every year.
In the short term subscriptions are cheaper up to and including the seventh year, but in the long term the perceptual license can work out cheaper, providing you upgrade every year.
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 at $89/£89. 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 a 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, Capture 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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