Adobe Photoshop has been the defacto standard for imaging editing on both Windows and Macs for, well, forever. Other tools have come along, such as Paint Shop Pro and, even, Photoshop Elements, but (in my experience) none of them perform as well as the full Photoshop.Some years ago Serif produced and marketed Photo Plus as a Photoshop alternative, but it didn’t convince me. With large images it struggled. Things move on and Serif’s Affinity Photo editor now looks like a real challenger to Photoshop. I’ve only had my hands on it for a couple of days, so this is a first looks blog post and not a full review. I’ll post more after I’ve used it more…
Affinity Photo comes in 3 flavours – Windows, Mac and iPad. I’m reviewing the Windows version. The iPad version is interesting as it is marketed as a full implementation of the desktop version, although it only runs on the most recent iPads and won’t work on the iPad mini, due to screen size issues. Sadly, a trial version of the iPad version isn’t available.
Affinity Photo – Basics
The Windows version costs £48.99 for a full, perpetual licence. That compares well to Paint Shop Pro (£69.99) and Photoshop Elements (£86.56). (Prices as at August 4th 2018). And it compares very well to the Photoshop CC/Lightroom subscription, which is a minimum of £9.98 a month or almost £120 per year, every year.
Installation is as simple as it gets and it supports Windows 7 and later.
On running Photo it is pretty similar to Photoshop – toolbars around the screen and a menu at the top. Unlike Photoshop, it has configurable layouts and pre-configured layouts, depending on what you are doing.
For example, opening a RAW image puts the interface into RAW development mode. After RAW development it goes into basic editing mode.
Affinity supports a wide range of RAW formats, although it is not as complete as Adobe’s Camera Raw. For example, the Canon M100 and M50 bodies are not yet supported. I haven’t tried yet, but I’m guessing that a .DNG version of one of their RAW formats will be supported.
Photo also has camera lens profiles, but, again, it’s not as comprehensive as I would like. For example, the sub-standard Samsung NX 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 is supported but the superb NX S 16-50 F/2.0-2.8 is not. Then again, it would take an astonishingly good RAW converter to make me move away from DXO Photo Lab for a supported camera and lens, and my second choice, Photolemur/Luminar (same engine, one automatic, one manual) still beats the competition.
I’ve done a quick test of the RAW development and it seems OK but, like Camera RAW for Photoshop, it’s not the most powerful part of the system.
In addition to photo editing, Affinity Photo features:
- Focus stacking
- Panorama stitching
I’ve only looked at the focus stacking, presenting it a series of 20+ images. It did a really good job, better than Photoshop did with the same stack of images.
The only drawback is that it offers absolutely no way of tweaking the output.
Scratch the above comment. As pointed out by the comment below, the stack can be edited. See this YouTube video for details…
Photoshop lets you see the various layers and tweak the layer masks, although that’s probably easier said than done. Tools like Helicon Focus grant you much greater control over the output image. But it costs a whole lot more and does nothing else…
Affinity Photo seems to provide a full and comprehensive set of photo editing facilites that are very, very similar to Photoshop. I’ve used it to prepare a couple of large (28mp) images for printing and it did eveything I asked of it really well. It loaded the images quickly, sized them easily and outputed a decent JPEG converted to the correct colour profile.
It doesn’t have quite the sophistication of Photoshop – for example it lacks the Bicubic-Sharper interpolation setting for downsizing images. Nevertheless, the Bicubic interpolation it did offer worked well enough.
So, for a first look, I’m impressed.
Affinity Photo doesn’t support video file editing. True, Photoshop would never be a first choice video editor, but it can be used to create Cinemagraphs. Affinity Photo cannot.
Affinity Photo supports Photoshop plugins, but not perfectly. Some work really well. Others behave weirdly. NIK Viveza, one of the best plugins, ‘looks’ wrong when launched from Photo, with the image’s colours looking really weird in the main display, although they look correct in the loupe display. And the results afterwards are fine. Photolemur’s plugin seems to have the ICC colour profiles all mixed up and the resulting image looks awful.
Affinity Photo say that this is the fault of the plugins. Well, I doubt it is. A plugin is a dynamic link library (DLL) which, if called with the correct parameters, should produce the same result regardless of who called it. Then again, different techs sometimes have such a different underlying architecture that DLLs do behave weirdly. When I was a software developer I found that Delphi and C++ Builder used DLLs differently to Microsoft Visual C++ and I always had to work around the problems.
The consequence of this is that you should use the trial version of Affinity Photo and test its use of any plugin you are dependant upon. Most of the plugins have to be ‘installed’ manually, which means copying the .8bf files to Affinity Photo’s plugin folder. It’s easy enough but not seamless.
Affinity Photo’s forums indicate that their developers do investigate why a plugin may not be working properly, so raising a support request may be fruitful.
I’m impressed with Affinity Photo. I’m thinking of moving away from reliance on Adobe and their subscription model and Affinity Photo is now my candidate replacement photo editor, with Exposure X3 as my Lightroom replacement, DXO as my RAW converter and Photolemur/Luminar as my backup RAW engine.
More to come…