Top positive review
49 people found this helpful
A powerful image editing suite for your digital photos and scanned film - plus it's cheap
on 26 August 2008
Released this year, PhotoPlus X2 is a great alternative to Adobe Elements 7, and although not quite as polished, it's strength is often it's price and it offers a few more features. Serif rarely sell via stores, and rely on word of mouth and cheap upgrade offers to get new users. The fact they have reached version twelve in PhotoPlus shows they must certainly be doing a lot right. I always used Serif software (DrawPlus, PagePlus) at home until I got free licences of Adobe Creative Suite and MS Office Pro from work (which would cost me a few grand to buy myself). Even now, when I've had to pay with my own money for image editing software, I chose PhotoPlus X2 over Elements 7 or Corel's Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 [largely because of the low upgrade price]. I'm less fussed about image databases and PhotoPlus does everything essential I need to do at home - I am a professional optical microscopy imaging/analysis specialist by trade and a keen digital/film SLR photographer and slide scanning enthusiast.
PhotoPlus's only real competitor's now are Adobe Elements 7 and Paint Shop Pro X2 [both also superb image editors]. Although PhotoPlus now has improved support for hi-end camera RAW images, Photoplus X2 does lack paint Shop Pro X2's support for HDR [hi dynamic range] photos. Also, although PhotoPlus Studio's AlbumPlus SE Pro does let you create slideshows, burn discs and so on, it lags well behind Elements photo database organiser's abilities. That said I shun such image databases, preferring the simplicity of logical folder names and Nero 8 burning software. Also, whereas PhotoPlus 11 [that's still available] runs on just about anything Pentium PC wise from Windows 98SE/ME to XP/2000 (not Vista), this new X2 version is certified for 2000, XP and Vista only. Like any image editing software, it also needs 2-3 Gb system RAM, a DirectX9 3D graphics card and a modern fast processor to run quickly and smoothly. However X2's minimum spec is any Pentium PC with 500Mb hard drive space and 256Mb RAM [if you are a rather patient sort].
I am very computer and Photoshop CS3 Extended literate, but I think those with more limited PC skills wouldn't find using PhotoPlus X2 a problem though. It has walk though guides like Adobe Elements 7.0, and offers some automation of editing tasks with the `How To' tab, which guides you through common tasks. There are also a few 'Do it for me' links that perform the described action, such as creating a layer or applying an effect. PhotoPlus also has the equivalent of Photoshop's shadow/Highlight (as does Elements 7), an essential tool for those scanning film as it brings out detail in dark shadows. PhotoPlus's use of standard Windows colour scheme is also better for editing than Elements trendy charcoal grey interface, as you can read black text on white easier than white text on grey, and it's actually difficult to tell which image window is active using Elements 7.
PhotoPlus X2's best new feature though is filter layers, which let you apply filters to images non-destructively. Even Photoshop CS3 - at ten times the price - didn't get this feature until 2007, so this alone is a good reason to upgrade from v11. Plus there are a couple of other gallery improvements: There are new `patch and blemish' tools, e.g. to improve image imperfections on skin tones, and there's `makeover studio' to say fix red eye and brighten teeth, an improved `QuickFix studio' that `runs faster', and improved filter effects and B&W conversion. There's also the new `outline' layer tool that draws outlines round objects and text. However PhotoPlus's extract tool isn't as good as Element's version for selection of image features. PhotoPlus also scores heavily with it's powerful batch process, which can say automatically copy, resize and convert a series of TIF images to compressed jpg ones within a folder. This batch processing offers excellent automation of many tasks.
PhotoPlus undercut Photoshop by a significant margin years ago but with the release of Adobe Elements real competition arrived, so PhotoPlus has dropped its price further. Advanced users will still head to Adobe, particularly PhotoShop Extended CS3 (at £500+) or perhaps Photoshop Lightroom 2. PhotoPlus is a decent buy though, with all the required editing tools and scanner twain support, it will even accept Photoshop plug-ins. Check it out at serif.com - there's often on-line offers and Serif's upgrade prices get very cheap as the latest version nears the end of it's life. Once you register PhotoPlus, and you can't actually avoid this or the software won't run, expect a yearly phone-call and emails from Serif (UK) offering the cheap upgrade, and a deal on other Serif Software.
So recommended for those on a very tight budget - once you get past the learning curve the software isn't bad at all, and is a steal when occasionally offered for under £30. Plus Serif will often offer an upgrade to the next version for under £15 after it's been around a while. Adobe want nearer £60 for Element's upgrades - just £10 off the full £70 licence. You can even buy Serif PhotoPlus v10.0 or v11.0 from Amazon resellers [or eBay] if you really need to save the pennies or you still have Windows 98 (and upgrade cheaply later). PhotoPlus X2 offers a good balance of power features for advanced image manipulators coupled with ease of use for home users, although it may lack some tools for serious photographers. But always remember that you can pick up Adobe Photoshop Extended CS3 and the the latest Adobe Elements 7 + Adobe Premiere 7 (video editing) combined package heavily discounted if you qualify for the Adobe educational discount price (non-commercial use and a child in full time education from primary School upwards in the house, or you work in the education sector).