Andy Bell Photography

Photo software updates

The following photo processing software have recently been updated. Here are my first impressions:

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel 2.0

Hot on the heels of last month’s 1.1 release, Topaz have quickly released version 2 of their image resizing application. In my previous review, I concluded that it is the best image upsizing software I had ever used. What does the new release offer?

Speed! The software is much faster than the previous releases. It still takes a fair bit of time to perform a large upscale but now it is a matter of minutes rather than hours. The speed increase only kicks in if you are using a supported graphics card (2gb RAM minimum). However, if your card isn’t supported A.I. Gigapixel now uses your CPU. This will probably tie your computer up whilst it’s processing but that is far better than it not working at all.

The really good news is that existing owners of A.I. Gigapixel get this update for free!! Usually, a major software update (v1 to v2, etc) incurs an often quite substantial upgrade price. But Topaz Labs’ email announcing the update says:

As always, this is a free update! In honoring our customers-first policy, updates to our products are free for products you already own. If you previously purchased A.I. Gigapixel™, you get all these new features for free – and will get free updates for the lifetime of your product!

In use, I found it continued to produces high quality image enlargements – just faster. Good stuff!

Skylum Software Luminar major update coming this year

Luminar is one of my favourite RAW processing software programs. Quality wise it is ever so slightly behind DXO Photo Lab but only in lens specific sharpening and noise removal, where DXO has no rivals. Luminar is the best RAW converter for recovering shadow detail and is wonderfully intuitive to use.

But, as it stands, Luminar is nothing more than a RAW converter and image enhancer. It doesn’t have any ability to browse the photos on your computer let alone Digital Asset Management (DAM) capabilities.

But it soon will!

Skylum’s latest blog post announced that by December 2018 the next version of Luminar will be released, with full Digital Asset Management as the main enhancement. Their blog states:

The first version of Libraries in Luminar is all about these main points: performance, comfort, and enjoyment. This means the new version will give you speed to browse & organize images without the extra wait time. This means that you’ll enjoy your photos moments after you start the software.

Most importantly, with the new version of Luminar, you’ll be able to conveniently group photos into albums, rate pictures, sync edits between hundreds of images, and do more without the need to check back a manual every time.

It sounds good! And, in what I wish would become the norm, this update will be free for existing users. Luminar’s current price is a ridiculously low £53 GBP (as at 29th September 2018). That’s a crazy price for such a powerful tool. And with the major update just around the corner, the decision to purchase it is almost a no brainer.

Alien Skin Exposure X4

The final upgrade announcement was for Exposure X4, which is a real alternative to Lightroom. X3’s main drawback was its shadow detail recovery, which was nowhere near as good as Luminar’s. X4 is said to fix this and I’ll be testing it soon.

Exposure X3 is certainly the best Image Browser I have used. It is far better than Lightroom in this regard. I’ve been using it as the core tool in my workflow for several months and I really like it. It will be interesting to see how well Luminar competes when its update is published. Once configured properly, X3 (and no doubt, X4) integrates seamlessly with every photo tool I use. It doesn’t support Photoshop plugins, but many of them come as standalone executable programs and X3 links to them really well.

I have not found a better tool for Black and White image creation – I much prefer it to Nik Silver Effex Pro.

Aside from better shadow recovery, the X4 upgrade offers new lighting effects, transformation tools, and Digital Asset Management enhancements.

The main downside of this upgrade is that it is quite expensive – $99, which is only a 1/3 discount from the regular price of $149. Personally, I think upgrades should be half the regular price or even free, but there is no question that the software is worth every penny. If you are looking to move away from Adobe and Lightroom, then this tool along with Affinity Photo is the best option at the moment.

Sadly, it still doesn’t support the new .CR3 RAW format, as introduced by the Canon EOS M50, but this seems to be the case with every tool other than Adobe Camera RAW. However, after conversion to DNG using Adobe’s free DNG converter, X4 (and Luminar) can process these images, so it’s not that bad.

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