Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2
- Wonderfully easy to get to grips with, fast and streamlined tool set, plenty of advanced features
- Experienced users may be put off by the excessive handholding and default easy modes
If you're cutting your teeth in the world of photography, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is a great introduction to the editing process. It allows you to create quick and easy-to-achieve results yet still remains suitably professional.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
The gulf that separates amateur photographers from industry professionals is growing smaller by the year. Armed with just an entry-level compact camera and a rudimentary editing package, it is now possible to produce great looking shots almost effortlessly; regardless of your experience level (oh, how the darkroom boffins must weep.)
Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 makes the process even easier thanks to its simplified interface and innovative tool set. Whether you're a dedicated enthusiast or just enjoy taking an occasional happy snap, you'll find plenty of valuable tools in this easy-to-use program. Our only gripe concerns its recommended retail price. While $150 is certainly affordable, it places the software in direct competition with Adobe's all-conquering Photoshop (albeit in its stripped down 'Elements' guise). Whether Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is a match for the industry leader is debatable, yet it does offer a far more 'beginner-friendly' experience without skimping on any of the advanced features.
As has become customary for every professional editing application on the market, PSP X2's interface now sports a dark grey aesthetic -- but without the daunting complexity that usually goes hand-in-hand. We really can't stress enough how accessible this program is for the entry-level user. Unlike certain other editing packages which require you to wade through a phonebook-sized manual, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 can be confidently used directly after installation. This is in large part thanks to the handy Learning Centre sidebar which gives you streamlined information and useful tips whenever you click on a particular icon. In addition, many commonly used functions -- such as perspective correction, noise reduction, photo merging, object removal and isolated colour changes -- have been simplified at the user's end to make life a lot easier. Basically, you don't need to be an expert to get the most from this product; a fact which is sure to appeal to a great many of you.
Indeed, 'making life easier' seems to be Corel's primary goal with this software. We were particularly impressed by the Express Lab feature, which lets you preview and correct dozens of photos at a time by accessing folders on your hard disk drive. This is naturally a far quicker process than opening each image file individually. In the Express Lab window, pics can be tweaked to perfection and then given a rating out of five, making it easier to bring up your favourite shots in the future. Once again, the beginner is duly catered for here via the Suggested Settings tool, which automatically adjusts brightness, shadow, highlights and saturation for an optimum result. (As with any 'auto-adjust' tool though, the outcome will often vary -- especially if an image was close to perfect to begin with.)
Another feature that is sure to please the casual crowd is the Makeover tool, which offers a series of cosmetic enhancements to make your subjects look suitably glamorous. This includes a Blemish Fixer (a nice way of saying 'zit remover'), a Suntan mode (for giving skin a bronzed sheen), a Thinify tool (for sucking in unsightly flab) and a Toothbrush Mode (for brighter teeth). Personally, we find all this tinkering with reality a tad narcissistic and creepy, but if you want to look hot on Facebook or something, these tools are sure to come in handy.
For many budding photographers -- particular in the 'mom and pop' crowd -- computers are the main stumbling block to sharing their output with others. This has been alleviated somewhat by Photo X2's 'Share as Email' button, which allows users to select their photos, adjust the size and send as an attachment, directly from the program.
All up this is a very impressive product which has been tailor-made for emerging photographers who are serious about their pastime. It has been built to grow with your developing skills and for the most part, the road it takes you down is smooth and bump-free.
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