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.

DxO Nik Collection Update

DxO has continued their updating of the Nik Collection, now at version 1.1. This new version updates compatibility with the most recent Adobe changes, adds Affinity Photo support, and is optimized for macOS Mohave. Some previously unresolved bugs from the Google ownership days have also been fixed. Price for the whole collection is currently just US$69. 

Adobe Updates

At Adobe Max, Adobe's conference for creatives, new versions of the photography bundle products were announced:

  • Photoshop CC version 20.0 — Content-Aware Fill has been reworked with new abilities and the ability to choose source pixels; Undo now steps backward (no awkward Option/Alt key necessary, though you can get that back if you want it); Blend modes now show live previews; UI size change ability; numerous small things like auto commits, double-click to edit text, proportional transforms are now the default, lock workspace, math allowed in numeric fields)
  • Adobe Camera Raw version 11.0 — Includes support for the Canon EOS R, Fujifilm X-T3, Nikon Z7, and Panasonic LX100 II; also includes new integrated HDR/pano ability
  • Lightroom CC Classic version 8.0 — New integrated HDR/pano ability allows a single step for both items together; depth range masking for cameras that can create depth masks (e.g. iPhone); faster tethering for Canon cameras; HEVC file support (macOS); Process Version 5 (improves quality of high ISO shots by removing purple cast, shows less noise when using Dehaze with negative values). 
  • Bridge CC 9.0 — UI now conformed to other CC app styles; centralized Bridge cache in multiuser environments; Edit of Capture Time now allowed; Cut/Copy/Paste integration with the OS; a number of minor changes and improvements

All these versions are available to download immediately.

Kolor Shutting Down

The makers of my preferred panorama software stitching program, Autopano Pro (also known as Autopano Giga) just announced that the program "will no longer be [available] for sale from Kolor.com." No reason was given for the shutdown, though the wording seems to suggest that the product may be picked up by someone else. Accounts and download links for existing users will remain active, as will customer support. Update: GoPro acquired Color back in 2015, and the Autopano code drives GoPro's 360° video player.

This brings up a topic that hasn't been much discussed recently, and certainly not in terms of photographic software: consolidation and contraction. 

The camera market is getting smaller. The number of folk willing to pay for enthusiast and pro software for digital cameras is likely contracting. It certainly isn't growing enough to sustain the players already active. 

Thus, I find it hard to believe that all the software vendors we currently have are going to survive. Indeed, you may notice that you see an awful lot of "press" about new versions and updates on the many photography-related sites, particularly the rumor sites. Those "stories" are almost all driven by affiliate link promotions that are pushed hard by the remaining companies. To a large degree, many of the "stories" you see about software updates are really paid promotions.

The need to have all these software upgrades is the same reason why Adobe went to their subscriber-based service in the first place: the need for ongoing revenue to support further development. I know a lot of you poo-poohed Adobe for the subscriber model, but technically, we have the same thing going with almost all of the current offerings from companies such as DxO, Topaz, OnOne, and Skylum, to name just four. They're just calling it an update instead of a subscription. Skylum Aurora HDR for example, is now iterating every year, as are many other software products (e.g. OnOne Raw). 

The primary difference, which I've argued from the beginning was a mistake by Adobe, is that you can get off the upgrade train at any time and still have working software from the others, but you can't with Adobe (Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC only partially work when you let a subscription expire). Thing is, if enough of you get off an update train, that train eventually comes to a stop and is removed from the tracks, as we've just seen with Autopano, and we've seen before with other products, as well. 

So what's going to happen is continued aggregation. You can already see that: DxO picked up Nik Tools and has already aggregated that into a new version of their product, which, of course, you'll need to pay for an upgrade to get. Skylum really started (as MacPhun) with a suite of plug-ins, now they're basically down to two products they strongly promote and update, one of which—Luminar—aggregated a lot of the plug-in bits. 

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of a number of software programs that don't tend to get a lot of promotion (e.g. Autopano, Photo Mechanic, Intensify, Piccure+, etc.). Two of those are no longer available to purchase (though they still work).

There's nothing new here: the software business has—pretty much from the beginning of personal computers—been lean, smart programmers coming up with something new versus established, large companies with enough size to keep a sales/marketing effort visible and active. I've been part of both in my career, and I've seen the needs of both. 

Simple statement: support companies you want to see continue. But also support those that establish the standard. Thus, I continue to try and buy smaller software company offerings, and I use Adobe CC.

The Latest Adobe Updates

Lightroom Classic CC version 7.5: lots of changes/additions to the Book module, loading of Presets and Profiles in bulk, HEIC file support on Windows, plus the usual new camera and lens model support (see Camera Raw, below).

Lightroom CC version 1.5: local storage of Albums for offline use, HEIC support on Windows, plus the usual new camera and lens model support (see Camera Raw, below).

Camera Raw 10.5: Added Sony RX100 VA and VI support. Added Nikon 180-400mm support, Sony 400mm f/2.8 support, plus Sigma 70mm f/2.8 and 105mm f/1.4 support.

Photoshop 19.1.6: fixed security bugs.

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

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