Adobe has made Lightroom 5 Beta available for public testing.
The list of enhancements include:
- Support for PNG file format,
- Use of the F key to produce a true full-screen view of the image,
- Use of a black and white mask to make spot identification and removal much faster
- Changes to the Healing Bush, enabling it to deal with shapes, not just circles,
- The addition of an intelligent Upright tool to straighten images and resolve problems with skewed horizontal and vertical lines,
- The addition of a Radial Gradient tool to assist the photographer in focusing the viewer’s attention to the important part of the image,
- And a long set of other minor changes to the application.
The release of Adobe Lightroom 4 more than a year ago — with a much lower price and many new features — brought numerous first-time users to its customer base. It also had an impact on competitors.
By pricing the application at the same level of Cyberlink’s PhotoDirector, released at the same time, it ruined that product’s chance of picking up a bigger share of the raw deverloper/digital asset manager market. The features made PhotoDirector look like a toy in comparison.
In my opinion, Lightroom 4 also played a role in Corel’s decision to stop development of its AfterShot Pro product, also released at the same time. The Lr features and competitive pricing attracted enthusiast photographers using Windows and Mac computers, some of those moving over from Bibble/ASP. (Shame on Corel for its continued marketing of ASP despite loss of the right to use Picture Code’s Noise Ninja filter and no additional camera/lens support for months.)
Lightroom 5 is likely to have a similar impact on plug-in filters. The radial gradient tool appears to be able to do the enhancement available in some onOne and Google Nik filters. The intelligent Upright tool will likely eliminate the need for a third-party perspective adjustment filter like DxO Optics’ ViewPoint.
The new features coming in Lightroom 5 appear to make Photoshop CS6 an extravagance as an external editor for Lr for most photographers. The German published PhotoLine and Adobe’s own Photoshop Elements are much better — and cheaper — alternatives as an external editor for Lr.
I have been producing a series of short YouTube tutorials to assist English-speaking photographers evaluate PhotoLine.
The tutorials available now are:
A few days ago NIK Software, now owned by Google, released the Google NIK Collection for $149 USD. These are the same excellent 8bf plugins sold by the pre-Google NIK company as individual apps or packages at inflated prices totaling much more than twice the new cost.
Hooray for Google!
The package includes Color Efex Pro 4, a powerful set of filters and presets for easy alteration of your color images, and its black-and-white companion, Silver Efex Pro 2, which performs similar adjustments to produce stunning black-and-white photos.
Rounding out the suite of plugins are Sharpener Pro 3 and Dfine 2, a noise-reduction utility that works by profiling your camera. The plugins in the Google NIK Collection utilize control points, an innovative approach for precise local adjustments.
These 8b3 plugins are marketed to users of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Adobe Photoshop Elements, the stripped-down companion to Photoshop, will run all of the plugins in the package, too.
In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 appear to generate actions which run when the plugin returns control to the host application. Thus, they will not run in other photo editors compatible with 8bf plugins.
In addition to restructuring the marketing strategy of the NIK plugins, Google has changed the look of the NIK website, adopting the minimalist look of other Google products.
NIK software has long been held in high esteem by professional photographers. The new Google pricing now makes the NIK plugins affordable for more amateurs. Let’s hope Google will extend the universality concept by recoding Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 to run on non-Adobe editors.
I’ve finished another YouTube video designed to help English-speaking photographers learn how to use PhotoLine. The topic of this one is how to customize.
This German-produced image editor has long-held the reputation for being a bit “geeky” and difficult to learn. However, it’s a great external editor to use with Lightroom and other raw converters and digital asset managers and about one-tenth the price of Photoshop CS6.
I also continue to be disappointed by how it is often panned by Photoshop-centric reviewers who never seem to spend enough time with PhotoLine to find out how it really operates. In short, I think the program’s interface and the publisher’s website — both with outdated looks — turn off potential customers.
With that in mind, I produced a couple of YouTube videos about PhotoLine.
The first was to explain how PhotoLine will record actions containing Topaz Labs plugins.
The second, just posted, is intended to demonstrate important features in the PL interface.
I’ve been reading on the Corel AfterShot Pro User-to-User forums about AfterShot Pro dropping Picture Code’s Noise Ninja, a significant third-party feature of the software, with the release of the version 18.104.22.168. Curious, I asked for verification in an email to Picture Code and received this reply:
We terminated the license agreement to Bibble Labs (purchased by Corel) for our noise reduction technology. The effective end date of the license agreement was this past February 16.
Corel, owned by a venture capital outfit and tight-lipped as always, never offered its customers an explanation. The product seems to have been downgraded on its website, yet AfterShot Pro continues to be marketed with a slick new video released on YouTube about a month ago.
However, I now believe the product is dead.
Late yesterday I received an email request from Corel to participate in a survey which was to take from 30 to 45 minutes. Curious, I took it.
The questions began with efforts to ascertain my use of still-image and video hardware. Next came a series of questions about use of software, including specific questions listing all of Corel’s photo editing and video products and their competitors. AfterShot Pro was on that list. Scattered among these questions were questions about sources of purchases and sources of information.
Then came a list of questions about pricing of these generic products and the effect of bonus offers. Finally a group of questions about future pricing of specific Corel picture editing and video software. AfterShot Pro was not on that list.
If Corel intended to continue to publish ASP, it certainly would have been included in their questions about future products.
RIP AfterShot Pro.
Picture Code, meantime, seems to be doing well without any ties to Corel. Picture Code made available Photo Ninja 1.0.5 pre-release late last month, and the company indicates that version is expected to be promoted to release status very soon. Their Photo Ninja, replacing Noise Ninja, is not only a noise remover but an exceptional raw developer. A 1.1.0 beta Mac version which includes a plug to process images directly from Photoshop without intermediate images has been released. The Windows version is expected soon after resolution of some compatibility issues.
Photo Ninja has received high praise from professional photographers who have used it.
DxO Optics Pro 8 has recently added the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens to its list of adjustment modules for the OM-5 E-M5. The lens has received praise from users at both Amazon and B&H Photo.
The 60mm 2.8 is extremely sharp, and with the correct distance option selected on the side, the lens finds focus quickly. DxO Optics Pro 8 is now supporting more than 2/3 of the m4/3 lenses on the market.
Optics Pro 8 makes a long list of manual corrections and adjustments, but for camera-lens-supported modules, Pro 8 provides automatic correction and adjustment for distortion, vignetting, lens softness and lateral chromatic aberration.
From Optics Pro, processed images can be sent to Lightroom for digital asset management, additional tweaking and publishing.
Topaz Labs appears to have fixed an EXIF-loss problem occurring in its plugin hub, photoFXlab. A number of users had reported corruption of keyword and/or EXIF data when photoFXlab was called from Lightroom or as a plugin. A fix sent to some users last night works correctly. If these preliminary results are verified, there will likely be an updated version issued for all users very soon.
As a plugin, photoFXlab provides an excellent way to access and tweak the Topaz plugin suite without returning to the host application to call another Topaz plugin. As a standalone, photoFXlab can work on an image and save to an external file, including the new photoFXlab extension to save the project.
Even though it was mentioned in the January/February issue, readers of Adobe Photoshop Elements Techniques may have missed the subtle changes in the magazine. Since 2008 the publication and its associated website have been aimed at providing education and support for subscribers to get the most from Photoshop Elements.
The magazine is now called Photographic Elements Techniques, in recognition that Adobe Lightroom, not Elements, has become the primary tool in the photographer’s work flow.
The original design had “Elements” in large fonts with “Adobe Photoshop” above and “Techniques” below — both in a much smaller font size. Now it’s “Photographic” above the word “Elements.”
Published by Photo One Media, a sister company of onOne Software, the magazine has added sections on shooting photographs and photo gear.
Gone is the regular back-cover ad for onOne Software plugins for Photoshop Elements. Instead, there’s front-cover branding for B&H Photo, which is now offering free shipping for paid subscribers of P.E.T.
A subscription to the website and magazine remains an excellent buy for an amateur photographer because they continue to be sources of ideas and valuable techniques that can be applied not only to Photoshop Elements but to other photo editors as well.
The plugin can be used with virtually any photo editor that accepts the 8bf standard. It also runs in Lightroom, Aftershot Pro, ACDSee Pro and other raw developers. For that purpose, B&W Effects 2 requires the assistance of the free Fusion Express or the more elaborate photoFXlab, which costs $49.99. Both are found at the Topaz Labs download page.
Digital photography has led to an interest in black-and-white by a new generation of photographers, and Topaz B&W Effects made it much easier for new enthusiasts and old guys like me to produce stunning black-and-white images.
With the new version a single-click accesses one of more than 200 B&W Effects 2 presets. These presets are grouped into eight categories for easier access. Adjustments are available to modify any preset, or the user can build an effect from scratch.
Manipulate adaptive exposure, enhancing both depth and detail of your image. Add grain, special effects, grand and finish with local brushes. Try it for free for 30 days or B&W Effects 2 is available for purchase for $59.99.
Olympus says the highlight and shadow control function was modified so the exposure settings are applied correctly at ISO 2000 or higher, and there was additional change improving operation during long exposures.
My download went smoothly — a couple of minutes. I haven’t had a chance to shoot any test shots to evaluate the change.
I’ve settled into my routine with Lightroom and really appreciate its power. With my Topaz plugins and the addition of onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 7, I’ve been able to keep PhotoLine 17 as my main external editor for layer work. Topaz ReMask and Perfect Mask in Suite 7 take care of the masking/selection gap in PL’s tool lineup.
For years I avoided Adobe software when possible because may Adobe products were too expensive and the company was too big. And it kept getting bigger. I watched as Adobe gobbled up my favorite audio editor and made it a part of their video editing package with no support for my old audio-only version. Then my favorite web editor was folded into the Adobe empire. The Death Star had struck again. Of course, Photoshop kept getting more bloated and more expensive.
For the last two years I have struggled with raw photo developers and digital image management, knowing I had to make a change to get a handle on my growing library of images from my digital camera. I evaluated numerous non-Adobe products — raw processors and a few applications with some digital asset management element. But each trial revealed flaws and weaknesses in my attempts to reach a satisfactory level of creativity. I even tried version 3 of Adobe’s Lightroom, but it seemed too cumbersome and too expensive. I remained frustrated and unsatisfied.
About five weeks ago, I heard of a limited-time free subscription to an extensive online video training package for Lightroom 4. I decided to download the demo for that version — originally priced at one half the cost of LR3 — and give the the program another try with the free training. About halfway through the series of tutorials, I purchased Adobe Lightroom 4.
Adobe made significant improvements in version 4, and the tutorials gave me a jump start in the process of learning how to use the application. On my Dell XPS PC, which was designed as a gaming machine, LR4 is a speed demon.
Lightroom does not provide the automatic development and lens correction for my Olympus E-M5 and its lenses that I would like, but with the addition of some presets designed for the camera easily generate great color. Presets are the key to saving time in Lightroom. DxO Optics 8 solves any bad lens distortion, and TIFs from there go right into Lightroom for addition to the database.
My Topaz plugins work well in LR4, and I’ve added onOne Perfect Photo Suite 7 to my library of tweaking tools. Principal editors include Photoshop Elements, Photomatix Pro for HDR and PhotoLine.
Lightroom is not perfect, but it has improved my workflow efficiency significantly.