ByCharlie-CJHALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon May 10, 2010
Given the major improvements within Photoshop CS4 over previous versions it seemed Photoshop had fully matured into the de facto industry standard image editing software, and any further releases would be more about tweaking the interface. So it's a bit of a surprise that the latest version Photoshop CS5 [now shipping] has proved to be a major update, with impressive new features that save more time and further boost productivity, leading to techie magazine 'PC Shopper' rating Photoshop CS5 a maximum 5 stars. Although Photoshop CS5's myriad of image editing features require considerable effort for newcomers to master, particularly compared to the cheaper cut-down consumer version 'Adobe Photoshop Elements 9', there is plenty of on-line help and even videos to aid you.
Major new features in CS5 include better intelligent edge detection for selecting, cutting out and pasting complex shapes [i.e. hair, and it blends the pasted bit in for you], the 'puppet warp tool' which imposes a mesh onto objects to do sophisticated transformations [to say curl up an elephants trunk], and 'context aware fill' added to the spot healing brush to greatly improve removal of dust/hairs, blemishes, unwanted objects etc from photos and replace them with colour and shade matched pixels derived from nearby regions of the image. You could do all of this manually with older versions of Photoshop, but it could take ages. Context aware fill doesn't always work perfectly, although the results with the likes of natural scenes with lakes, clouds and woodland are impressive - plus carefully reselecting the object to be deleted often helps. There's a new `mixer' brush which mimics natural paint brush shapes and produces various `painting' effects (although it's still no match for Corel Painter 11). Black and white conversion from colour images is also 'improved'. Plus `Adobe bridge' media file management has been updated, and now allows a customizable panel within Photoshop.
Those working with RAW images will benefit from better noise reduction and lens distortion correction algorithms, utilising the photos EXIF info and an internal database of various SLR lenses. There's also improved support for creating HDR images. Plus all the old Photoshop CS tools are present, such as layer masks that enable you to non-destructively partially visualize areas of your layers, and the ability to write macros [Actions] for automating repetitive tasks [important features lacking from Photoshop's cut-down Elements 8]. Photoshop CS5 simply runs more fluidly than Elements 8 as well. Plus integration with Adobe LightRoom 2.0 has apparently been made tighter. The CS5 grey interface is similar to CS4s [dull but worthy]. As with CS4, CS5 can use a [compatible] graphics card CPU to further boost processing speed, although with both my workstation NVidia graphics cards Photoshop CS4/5 signals a problem and switches this feature off. Otherwise, so far CS5 has proved glitch free on my XP Pro workstation, but Adobe issue regular patches in any case.
Photoshop can now be installed as 32-bit or 64-bit [Vista/Windows 7]. With the 64-bit versions you will need more system RAM above the 32-bit 3.2Gb limit to see any benefit. Those with 64-bit Windows 7 and 8Gb system RAM should see 40% performance [speed] improvements. The alternative far cheaper Photoshop CS5 upgrade version will upgrade Photoshop CS2 or above, and those on CS2/CS3 would particularly benefit from this upgrade as Photoshop CS4 had a worthwhile interface overhaul that carries over to CS5. As usual there are significant Adobe education discounts for those on a 2 year+ course, in school or work in education. Although Photoshop CS5's full retail price is steep, hopefully it's the workplace that pays for it. See Adobe's website for more details, and there you can download a fully functional 30 day trial copy of Photoshop CS5 [or say Photoshop Elements 8 and LightRoom 2.0] to see if it suites your needs. You also get discounts for buying combinations of Adobe applications.
Minimum system requirements are Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor, Windows XP [SP3], Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows 7, 1GB of RAM, 1 GB of hard-disk space, 1024x768 display (1280x800 recommended) with qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL 256Mb 16-bit color graphics card, DVD-ROM drive, QuickTime 7.6.2 software, and Broadband Internet connection for online services. However for fluid image editing the more powerful the system the better [and adding more system RAM is generally the most cost effective way of boosting Photoshop responsiveness].
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