September 16, 2010

Adobe Photoshop CS5 In Use

I’ve had time to really dig into CS5 (or Photoshop 12 as I like to call it) and while I’ve mentioned it several times and in several places, I thought it was time to do sort of a long-term road test of the product.

There are many new features in CS5. It’s as complicated as ever to learn if you’re a raw beginner, but that shouldn’t stop you. In the 16 years I’ve been using Photoshop I’ve been able to make it do pretty much anything I want to and I’ve still never learned every feature.

In CS5 the new features you’ll want to pay attention to are Edge Detection, Content-Aware Fill, Puppet Warp, 64-bit for Macintosh, enhanced 3D features (Extended only), painting and brush enhancements, enhanced HDR, auto Lens Correction, Mini Bridge, and some real speed and performance enhancements.

The OpenGL stuff seems to work more smoothly. There are lots of little minor changes which may actually cause some long-time users to have to learn new tricks. For instance the Zoom tool doesn’t work the way it used to. The new “Scrubby Zoom” drives me crazy. Fortunately Adobe lets you turn this off in the Options Bar.

The interface isn’t radically different from CS4 but IS very different if you’re upgrading from CS3. Overall, I like it better but it did take some getting used to.

I really like the new Bridge. Now I don’t actually use it. I use Aperture. But serious Adobe fans may want to use Bridge instead of Lightroom or to augment Lightroom. The Mini-Bridge is actually useful and Bridge is now fast enough to actually rely on. For years it was just too slow to interest me.

The sexy stuff you may already know about – i.e., content aware fill and new edge detection. What you may not know is that tech like content aware fill doesn’t only apply to the dramatic demos where you are cutting whole sections or adding whole sections to a scene. CAF works in the background on tools like the Patch Tool. The edge detection works in multiple places. In short, Adobe has done a masterful job of integrating its new technology into the program in a straightforward and seamless fashion.

One of the other new improvements to CS5 is the ability to use it more freely with other Adobe apps. This may or may not impact photographers as much as it will designers or illustrators, but moving forward, I can see where things like Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom will work so effortlessly with Photoshop that it will be hard to tell where one starts and the other takes off.

I personally have appreciated the smarter masking available with the edge detection feature and the improvements to HDR. But I must say that after extended use of CS5, I am less impressed with the HDR improvements than I was at first blush. I can still get much better results out of Photomatix Pro and the new Nik HDR Plug-in (which I am beta-testing for Nik.)

The lens correction seems to work better. The new 3D stuff is much faster (important mostly to photographers who shoot video,) and the new brush types round out some of my favorite improvements.

Photoshop is in a class by itself when it comes to pixel pushing. It may be less important to photographers today thanks to the advent of Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture. But there are some tasks for me personally that I just still really need Photoshop to do. Retouching eyes, masking and artistic refinement are all things I still do in Photoshop. I could do them in Aperture (which I prefer over Lightroom) but there’s just something about the raw speed and power of Photoshop that is tough to replace.

When you add plug-ins and powerful actions to Photoshop, it’s possible to extend it even further to something almost supernatural.

I highly recommend this upgrade for people who can afford it. As always, my only real knock on Photoshop is its price. It’s very expensive and in this poor economy, with other less-expensive choices out there, some people are having trouble justifying the upgrade.

But if you are very serious about your imaging, I suspect you’ll find a way. It’s worth it.

Company: Adobe Systems Incorporated
Price: $699 (Upgrade: $199); Extended: $999 (Upgrade: $349)

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store