This week I had a pre-release press briefing on Photoshop CS4 with Bryan O’Neil Hughes of Adobe.
The next release is due out sometime between now and Christmas and will cost $699 for the regular version; $999 for the extended version and offer upgrade prices of $199 and $399 respectively. Student discounts will also be available.
There’s no denying this is expensive – but that has nothing to do with value. And based on my briefing, there’s plenty of value in this next upgrade.
According to Adobe, the engineers worked hard at improving the user experience. And they started at the beginning – improving Bridge.
I’ve always found Bridge cumbersome and slow. But this new version appears to have a better interface and offer some speed optimization. Adobe has worked hard to streamline the interface and make sure it’s consistent across the various Adobe products.
I was impressed with the ability for users to jump from any photo file in Bridge right to Adobe Camera Raw with the click of a button. I was also surprised to see that Bridge even supports playing video – something that might be very important as future cameras include more video options.
One thing that I asked about was the need for Lightroom given the new functionality of Bridge. Bryan explained that Adobe has positioned Lightroom as a specific tool for photographers while Bridge opens and works with several sorts of media. Bridge also does not work as well for storing, sorting into a database or offer some of the color management and print workflows available in Lightroom. Adobe said there would be tight integration with Lightroom for those who want it.
One of the reasons Bridge is more powerful is that Adobe is now tapping into the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to move images. This hardware acceleration generates previews faster and more accurately and leads to some cool new tricks. There is a cool new Carousel mode that looks like Cover Flow on a Mac.
The hardware acceleration of the new version of Photoshop will be a concern for people with older computers – hardware accelerator features have been added because newer machines will give zippy performance. Adobe says they tested CS4 on all sorts of computers and that any reasonably new computer should work well. In cases where the specs aren’t up to snuff, users will not have access to glitzy features like smooth canvas rotation and zoom. I’ll reserve judgment until I actually test the software. I am supposed to have a copy of CS4 on my desk before it goes live.
Some of the new features I saw were quite attractive. There is a new Adjustment Brush tool in ACR that works very similarly to Nik’s U-Point technology. It allows you to make spot corrections right in ACR. Users will also have more control over the entire Photoshop CS4 interface. Adobe claims that 35% of pros have MORE than TWO monitors, i.e., three or more. So multiple monitor support has been beefed up.
There’s a new Adjustment Panel that makes tone color masking and selection much easier. Adobe includes 22 new presets for use when editing your pictures and has also hurried things along by moving the panel and interface around in such a way to allow 89% less mouse travel. This should translate to better workflow performance using Photoshop CS4’s very customizable interface.
Masking has particularly been made easier. If you can make a selection in Photoshop now, you can make a mask in CS4. There is also the content aware scaling trick which allows you to resize and reframe an image without losing important data. It works best with organic subjects and won’t work well on all images, but it is cool when it works. To see another demo of this go to www.seamcarving.com.
And I can’t close this article out without talking about Mask Mapping – at least that’s what I call a new feature that works in the Photomerge menu. It allows you to take multiple exposures of the same subject at different apertures and melds together the best focus. This has been made possible by better auto-alignment features in Photoshop CS4’s layers engine. It’s pretty exciting stuff and I can’t wait to see where it leads.
I should also mention that as far as the interface goes, Adobe also says it fully supports the track pad multitouch API.
And one last tidbit – PRINTING in 64 BIT! Finally.
With each new version of Photoshop, the age-old question is offered…”Should I upgrade this time or not?”
Since I haven’t tested the program in full I can’t say. But based on this short demo I can say definately probably.
And some of you will invariably ask me if I’ll “switch” to Photoshop from Aperture. The question is based on a faulty premise. Photoshop is a pixel editor. Aperture is not. I’ll continue to use Aperture. In fact, I haven’t been using Photoshop nearly as often as I used to since plug-ins make it easier to stay in the Aperture workspace. But some image corrections such as facial retouching, panoramic stitching, tone-mapping and other features are best done in Photoshop. And I’m looking forward to all the new power that should be available in Photoshop CS4 for that and more.
As soon as I’ve completely tested the program, I’ll add a mini-review.