Saturday, March 13, 2010

Product Review: Paint Shop Pro X3

I have to admit I'm a Corel Paint Shop Pro (PSP) user. Since version 5, I have used the product. It has kept pace with Photoshop in many respects, and has some specific advantages over it in other cases, in particular, a great set of cosmetic editing tools for facial retouching.

I have used version 12 "PSP X2" for the last year and had good fortune with it. Some of my earlier feedback on that product was its lack of pre-editing work flow - you know, you get 750 photos and need to triage them, and maybe apply some batch flow to them like Lightroom. I used to rely on Canon's Zoombrowser for that stage of my work flow.

X3 now has that. Although it took me some time to figure out how to configure it just right, I did figure out how to pull the images in, rate them with 1-5 stars, and then work on the selected images.

To speed up the editing process, PSP/X3 now has a batch flow process that uses its history/script capability interactively. This is very handy for applying edits to a bunch of similar images.

For example, I had a recent dance shoot against 4 backgrounds. For the first image of each background, I opened the image, tweaked Levels and Saturation, then saved that image. Back in the organizer, I selected that image, and chose "Capture Editing". Then I selected all of the remaining images in that background/set and chose "Apply Editing". In under a minute, all of the images were edited and saved using the same parameters. Then I'd visually check them out and do any cropping or other cleanup. This saved me about 50% of the time I'd spend opening up each image and applying essentially the same edits to these images.

There are a number of other features that I haven't tried out yet, such as removing objects and smart image stretch. Right now I'm just trying to see how it will play into my work flow as the shooting season ramps up.

I will have to say that there are a handful of strange or undesirable things going on such as unpredictable application aborts and memory leaks. I have found that the first service release they send out after the base release tends to fix most of them. I really wish they did a better job of Beta testing to weed these out (hello...I'd volunteer!), but I am generally happy with the X.1 release.

So if you are not already on the Photoshop drug, consider this product. I run my photography business on PSP, both for the cost savings and for the unique retouching features that make my Senior, Dance and Wedding image workflow very efficient. At roughly $60/yr, you can't beat the price.

Incidentally, if/when the X3.1 release comes out, I'll comment on whether it cured any of the bomb/defects that I found in the base release.

UPDATE:I worked with Corel's Tech Support who had me uninstall and reinstall and the hang problem is still there, but at least I worked out a workaround which will prevent the hang. They can't reproduce the problem. There is a patch file but it did not solve my problem.

2ND UPDATE: The workaround doesn't work all of the time. Given that I touch about 20,000 images per year, I can't afford to use a program this unstable. I can't recommend X3 for anything close to professional use. The ironic footnote is that I have backed up to X2 and it's pretty solid. The product is not bad, but the code is UNSTABLE.