Adobe released Lightroom 4 a couple of weeks ago, with some worthwhile improvements to what was already the industry standard for professional photographers. And the new Lightroom followed hard on the heels of Corel’s entry into the category, AfterShot Pro.
ACDSee Pro5 has been around for a while, making its mark in the RAW conversion, image processing world, and now we get the latest version of CyberLink PhotoDirector – version 3. Apple’s Aperture, which we haven’t used, also has a place in this software group.
All these programs are fundamentally the same – they take a RAW file into an editing environment where adjustments can be made to every parameter of the image, without modifying the original file. This means that you can always go back to the original and try again because the output that you save will be in a visible form, such as JPEG, Tiff or PNG, and won’t over-write the original. Most also allow for seamless transfer of the processed file to Photoshop or PaintShop Pro for adding graphic effects.
We like all of these work flow programs. Cyberlink PhotoDirector 3 is especially appealing with some directly applied portrait enhancements that work well. So, in the end, it might come down to price.
Adobe pull the usual trick – charging us more than they charge American customers. Lightroom 4 is US $149 – here it is $205. This is an unacceptable difference.
Cyberlink PhotoDirector 3 is AU$150 and US $150 – an acceptable differential. Corel AfterShot Pro is US $99 and it is anyone’s guess what it costs in our dollars because discounts are unpredictable. ACDSee Pro5 is around US $270 so it prices itself out of the game.
There are trial versions of most of these programs.
Corel’s AfterShot Pro is a rebirthing of Bibble and it comes in a version for Linux as well as Windows and Mac. We have installed it on an Ubuntu system and it is brilliant. While it runs against the open source philosophical attachment to free software it plugs a gap in Linux useability. Even on an old cyber-crippled laptop it is fast, opening a RAW file for processing in an eye-blink. The Gimp, the open source image editing program, is an ugly and user-hostile beast while AfterShot is elegance itself.
For open source purists it is hard to go past RawTherapee 3 which is a partial replica of Lightroom. It is not as pretty or as easy to use as AfterShot for Linux but it is free.
Lightroom, being the industry big gun here, has the advantage of third party plug-ins to enhance the editing experience while Aftershot can call up only a small selection of program-specific plug-ins from Corel. Linuxers can probably live with that and new plug-ins are coming all the time.