2017-2018 Digital Photography Software News

Starting July 1, 2016 I moved the software update and software news into a blog form that has its own RRS feed (top right column). All digital photography software updates and new digital software program announcements will appear in this blog.

Items appear with the newest on top, oldest on the bottom.

The Late Spring Collection

Everyone's on a software update schedule for June it seems. Apparently all the software engineers want to go out and have a summer vacation, so they've been coding up a storm.

  • Adobe has a mild update to Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC (7.4), and Adobe Camera Raw (10.4). Apple HEIC image file format is now supported (but you must have macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later). Use the Creative Cloud Installer to get the updates. 
  • Skylum has a free update to Aurora HDR 2018 (1.2.0). It gets a performance boost, batch processing, and Loupedeck integration. I've been meaning to write about Loupedeck; now that it's broadening its appeal as something more than a "Lightroom keyboard," I'll have to tackle an article on it. Capture One is also getting Loupedeck support.
  • On1 Photo RAW 2018.5 also gets a significant performance boost, new camera profiles, handling of raw+jpeg files, and lots of other new features (mostly in the browsing and preset functions). 
  • Topaz Labs has a new noise reduction add-on for Topaz Sudio called AI Clear. Oh dear, another trained neural network has been loosed upon the world. This US$60 plug-in works with the otherwise free Topaz Studio to both remove noise and sharpen subjects. There's a 30-day free trail for new Studio users. Personally, I think Topaz has gotten a little out of control with the plug-in situation (they now have 41 if you count both those that only work with Studio and those that are traditional Photoshop Plug-ins). There's too much nickel-and-diming going on while their competitors (Skylum, On1, Alien Skin, DxO, etc.) are all moving towards the Lightroom approach, where you get everything in one (less expensive) package. Nevertheless, I still support them because they have some products that do unique things.

Nik Collection 2018 by DxO

bythom nik silver efex

DxO has today introduced Nik Collection 2018 by DxO, which offers full compatibility with the latest Adobe CC products and both recent macOS and Windows updates and is 64-bit. The Selective Brush tool is now fully operational across all the filters. The plug-ins are now compatible with Lightroom Classic CC, Photoshop CC 2018, and Photoshop Elements 2017/2018. 

Note that DxO recommends that you first export your custom and imported presets and recipes from the earlier version before installing the new one. 

In addition, version 1.2 of PhotoLab introduces new U-point type correction features.

The new Nik Collection 2018 is available for US$50 until July 1st, US$69 afterward. It includes the full set of original Nik products (Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, Silver Efex Pro, and Viveza). There's a free 30-day trial for those that want to check out the product. 

Note: DxO isn't doing much to increase my confidence in their handling of Nik. Upon first download, I could still get Silver Efex Pro to crash in Photoshop CC 2018. But wait, there's an update already. Yeah, tried loading that, won't let me activate from the installer or after it's installed  ;~). At least it doesn't crash Photoshop. DxO points you to the email you receive for the activation code. Only problem, the purchase email they sent was blank. I would say that DxO is exhibiting all the indications of a company trying to get a release out before it was actually ready. 

Luminar 2018 Jupiter

Skylum software has made a free, major update to the Luminar 2018 product, named Jupiter. That makes the full name Skylum Luminar Jupiter. Yeah, that seems like a photography oriented product ;~). 

Overall, speed has been improved throughout the product, with Skylum claiming 3x to 25x speed changes for different aspects of the product (3x faster image import, 25x on responsiveness of some sliders, etc.). The underlying demosaic has been changed to provide “better color and less noise.” There’s now an automatic lens distortion removal feature, as well as a new chromatic aberration removal option. DCP profiles are now supported.

All of the above plus stability improvements, bug fixes, and additional camera support. The Windows version now has key-feature parity with the Macintosh version, adding batch processing, free transform, flip, and rotate.

The update is free for Luminar 2018 owners. If you own Luminar 2017 you can upgrade for US$49 (though look around the Web for various US$10 off coupon codes). New users can purchase the product for US$69. 

Luminar 2018 Jupiter Web page

Adobe Now Accused of Moving Cheese

So, Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 7.3 (April 2018) is now out and about in the wild. Lots of things changed, but little changed. 

The big news is that camera profiles have moved right up to the top of the main develop module, in the Basics panel.  And as if to make it slightly more confusing, the old profile name of Adobe Standard  has been changed to Adobe Color. Besides the existing Adobe profiles we used to have, we now have some new profiles (or is it presets? see below), including camera-maker matching, plus some others like variations on black and white and vintage and artistic. 

Okay, profiles versus presets. The creative profiles in the latest version don't move sliders, they use LUTs to make their adjustments, can be faded (they're basically a hidden adjustment layer of sorts), and require a special tool to create (the SDK Adobe provides developers). Presets move slider positions and are something you can create.

I think Adobe's feeling the pressure from on1 and Skylum: those companies started in the preset business and offer a lot of quick previews of what your image would look like with a different preset in their converters. Well, Adobe has now joined the Chinese menu crowd: just point to what you want and something will be whipped right up for you (a hover over a preset now changes the main develop window to show you what it would look like).

Yes, I'm being snide. I do use some products that apply those kind of profiles/preset formulae at times, but in general there is no one-size-fits-all profile I find at all useful, and I prefer profiles/presets that can be very specifically and extensively fine-tuned, like those in Skylum's Intensify Creative Kit plug-in. My teaching partner Anthony Medici uses his own camera profiles, and he reports that the change doesn't really make things easier for him, it just puts what he needs to do on a different page (who moved my cheese?).

As part of the changes in the new Lightroom, we no longer have .lrtemplate handling presets you use (and you'll get a prompt that Lightroom is changing them all when you start up the first time). Everything is now .xmp, which makes the Lightroom Classic CC changes match up with Adobe Camera Raw, which also updated today. New cameras that are supported include all those recent Canon EOS Rebels/Kisses, the Canon EOS M50, the Panasonic GX-9 and ZS200, and the Sony A7 Mark III. Some new Sigma, Tamron, Loxia, and Hasselblad XCD lens profiles were added, too.

Another Lightroom position move is the Dehaze filter, which moves from the Effects panel to the Basic panel. Other changes: the Sharpening default changed to 40 (from 25); the Tone Curve panel shows a bigger tone curve, which should make it easier to adjust; face recognition "improved." 

I'm not at all sure what to make of this update. On the one hand it feels dramatic, on the other it feels empty. 

And, of course, those of you who aren't on the CC subscription plan and have stand-alone versions of Lightroom, well, you don't get to play along. Your journey ended with 6.1.4. 

On1 Photo Raw 2018.1

Before I get to what it is, let's have a discussion about where we are. 

Many, many people complain about paying Adobe US$10/month for the Lightroom/Photoshop CC bundle. Now we have players like On1—they're not the only ones—who are doing what amounts to once-a-year subscriptions. If you don't act quickly and use the NEW1018.1 coupon to get their new version for US$80, you'll pay US$120. Wait, isn't that the same as Adobe?

Moreover, I don't pay US$120/year to Adobe. Every Christmas I watch carefully for discounts. This year Amazon had that one-day download event where you could get the CC package for well less than US$100. So far I'm averaging about US$85/year. Wait, isn't that about the same as On1? ;~)

Look: if you want more performance, additional features, to keep up with the latest and greatest cameras that drop, the software companies have to hire engineers to do work. It's not free to improve software. As I've written many times in the course of about 40 years of covering digital products—computers and cameras mostly—the real cost is generally not the hardware, unless you over-indulge in updating too often. The real cost is in your time and in keeping software up to date.

So what's Photo Raw 2018.1 going to add to 2017.7 (the last version)?

  • A new fast HDR module
  • Virtual copies (versions)
  • Mask density adjustment, mast edge feathering, luminosity mask changes
  • Import
  • Canon/Nikon tethered shooting
  • Metadata templating
  • Soft proofing
  • On1 Photo for Mobile

And a host of other additions. If you want to see the full list, click here and then click on the See More link on that page.

On1 is trying to build Photo RAW into a Lightroom replacement. They're getting closer and closer on feature parity. Want them to get closer? That's right, you're probably going to be buying Photo RAW 2019.1 in about a year. 

Qimage is Back

Many many moons ago—at least 150, probably more—Mike Chaney came up with a software program that many of us used to swear by (as opposed to swear at): Qimage. This little utility, while ostensibly a raw converter, had one feature that made us like it so much: it printed our images better than anything else.

bythom qimage

That image doesn't quite do it justice. What most of us saw and appreciated with Qimage was that it really took out the antialiasing impacts of digital cameras and produced very high edge acuity in prints. That technology Chaney called Deep Focus Sharpening. Upsizing was also as good as anything else we've ever seen. Qimage wasn't a bad raw converter, either. 

The problem with that early Qimage was that it was Windows only, and that it had one of the craziest UIs we've seen. It was good that it tended to be a set-and-forget program, because figuring out the settings took a little time to negotiate.

Now we have something a little different: Qimage One. Not only is it now Mac and Windows compatible, but it lives as a plug-in in Photoshop and Lightroom as well as a standalone program. It still is a bit tough to wrap your mind around the UI/workflow, though better than before. And it still produces gorgeous prints when set up properly; just as good if not more so than some very expensive RIPs. 

If you print, it's worth US$59.99 price, but there's a free 14-day trial period to figure that out if you're skeptical.

Binartem Qimage One site

Lightroom Classic CC Speeds Up

Adobe posted Lightroom Classic CC 7.2 today, an update that attempts to improve performance of the venerable browser/converter/do all program. Import is faster. Previews render faster. Export is faster. Panoramas and HDRs are created faster. The Develop module makes adjustments faster.

More importantly, some were complaining about Lightroom slowing down as their databases grew over time. This, too, has been addressed according to Adobe.

Machines with multiple CPU cores and GPUs should benefit the most, but you'll need 12GB of RAM to fully benefit. It's impossible to describe what performance change you'll see, as Adobe points out that much of what they have done scales with abilities of the machine Lightroom is running on. Run it on a memory constrained machine with integrated graphics and a dual core CPU and you'll see a different result than with 16GB, GPU, and quad core. 

That has long been a complaint from many of us, actually: buying better and more technology-enabled machines didn't really speed up Lightroom. Now it does.

There's also a new Search Folders ability, the ability to mark a folder as a favorite, filter the library on edited versus unedited images, you can create collections from folders, create collections from map pins, and there's new camera support for the Fujifilm X-A5, X-20, and Panasonic GF90 and GH5s.

Adobe Converter Raw (ACR) 10.2 also updates with the new camera support. 

As always, you should find the new CC updates in your Adobe Creative Cloud Application Manager. 

Dynamic Range from Dual Pixels

I probably don't give the Canon DSLR users enough love on this site yet. So let me try to make that up a bit. 

My friend Iliah and his team have put together a new utility called DPRSplit. If you shoot the Canon 5DM4 in "dual pixel" mode, the resulting image contains two images. One of those is the usual composite frame that makes up traditional CR2 raw files. The other is made from a set of the sub pixels (what Canon calls Dual Pixel). Because those sub-pixels collect less light than the combination of the dual pixel, you essentially are shooting a second image at -1EV. 

That means that you should be able to recover about a stop more highlight room and increase the overall DR by something close to 1EV. If you can process the two sets of data.

Canon's own software allows you to do refocus using the dual pixels. DPRSplit (beta software at the moment) allows you to extract the two images and create two new DNG files from them that can be processed by any converter or software that allows HDR processing (or image stacking with blending options).

Regular raw capture on right, sub pixel capture on the left. Note the exposure differences here. In the regular raw the bank is exposed in the mid-range and should be easily manipulatable but the highlights are lost. In the sub pixel raw the bank and trees are getting down in the shadows where it's tougher to pull up detail but the highlights are no longer blown out. Image courtesy fastrawviewer.com. 

Now, purists will note that this isn't a perfect bracket set. The regular raw image is made of summing two sub pixels together. If we call the sub pixels X and Y, then raw files contain X+Y values, where DPRSplit will create an additional raw file containing just X. Obviously, there are several issues at play here that make this not exactly the same as just shooting a 0EV and -1EV bracket pair, including low level alignment (the sub pixels get their data from opposite sides of the lens, so there's an implied depth map in the X+Y versus X data). 

Still, DPRSplit makes it convenient and produces a highlight-saving potential for Canon shooters that they shouldn't ignore. It means they can push their ETTR exposure a bit further than they usually do and recover more information.

Luminar January 2018

The newer entries in the raw converter and photo editor field continue to evolve as fast as they can. The January release of Luminar adds the following things:

  • Nine language support
  • Brush sizes can now be adjusted with the bracket keys
  • Layers can be permanently merged
  • Curves, the Sidebar, Cropping, and Plug-in support has been improved
  • For Mac users: improved raw support and the product has been improved as an extension of Apple Photos

Latest Adobe Updates

Lightroom Classic CC, Lightroom CC, and ACR all got an update last week. New camera support includes the Canon G1 X III, Leica CL, Panasonic G9, and Sony A7R III. Classic CC also added support for Nikon D850 tethering. 

Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC both added a new Auto Tone feature, which uses Adobe Sensei to analyze the scene and now do more than just changing tonality. In early tests, it seems to do a more reasonable job than Auto used to do, though it still doesn't render the way I'd adjust an image. Lightroom Classic CC also got a way to remove a color sample in the new Range Mask feature.

Lightroom CC on the desktop added the Tone Curve, Split Toning, and a Full Screen mode. You can also now change an image's capture time. Lightroom CC for iOS now allows watermarking on export and improved HDR capture. Lightroom CC for Android gets new app shortcuts and more control over managing storage.

That only leaves Lightroom 6.1, the promised last update for the standalone version. That version will be the final standalone release and should be out on December 19th.

text and images © 2018 Thom Hogan
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