Zoner Photo Studio 14: Spectacular Improvements

This is the review of the latest, recently released, version of Zoner Photo Studio, an excellent software package for photography. This version adds amazing speed improvements, new edition tools, and an awesome tone mapping HDR feature.

INTRO

I've been using Zoner Photo Studio since I discovered it, and now they have released the 14th version, which is the most complete specialized photo software in the market today.

I say this because many people use graphics editing programs for photo retouch, and this is an error. A specialized software like Zoner Photo Studio has much more to offer than those, because it was specially designed for this task.

zoner photo studio 14

Zoner Photo Studio interface. All photos seen here are © Jordi R. Cardona

A graphics editing program is just a drawing and image composing program, and no matter how many features it has, it was designed to make a wide range of tasks, and applications like Zoner Photo Studio are always superior because of their different approach.

Zoner Photo Studio 14 is a real studio for all your photography needs, and in addition, it contains lots of features of image editing and processing, that you can also use it for lots of other tasks. But as its approach is from photography, it always makes those other tasks from the perspective of keeping the maximum quality of the final results, which is what matters in photography. Of course, this approach is perfect for any other usage, because maximum quality in any file format is always desirable.

In addition, as it is not thought for graphics computer geeks, but for photographers, artists, and creative people, it is highly intuitive. You just have to install it and play with the controls, and you will see that everything works as your intuition says, no need to read boring manuals or get training. In case of need, you have integrated help, that is easy to understand and use.

The amount of tasks you can do with Zoner is enormous. All phases, from extracting RAW files from your card or camera to making the final works are covered. Soon I found myself also using this software for all kind of other tasks like taking screenshots, optimizing images for the web, composing images for tutorials, browsing and making textures...

I found Zoner PS when searching for a RAW viewer for my photos, but soon while testing the free version I saw it was not only a very fast RAW browser, but also an awesome photo editor. Later, I was amazed that it had so many other features, that allowed me to make everything I wish with an image.

Before I owned ZPS I used a lot of apps for the same tasks and now I only use this. Zoner can do all those things and can do them much better.

INCREASED SPEED (EVEN MORE)

I can simply say that Zoner PS is the best software amongst all other specialized photo programs, because of all those features and also because of the great speed when dealing with RAW files.

In version 14, this amazing speed has been improved even more, taking advantage of CUDA and OpenCL.

This gives you a faster response when directly browsing RAW images, and also speeds up some filters and operations. I have noticed a speed improvement between version 13 and 14.

HDR WITH TONE MAPPING

The most amazing feature introduced with version 14 is Tone Mapping HDR. In previous versions, another type of HDR was already present: Exposure Blending HDR. Now you have the two kinds of HDR techniques so you can choose which one you like for what you want to do.

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A HDR tone mapping photo by me © Jordi R. Cardona

For those who don't know, I will explain what HDR is in a simple way (and inaccurate, I know). HDR is a technique to increase the quality of the images taken with a camera so they display more details. If you take it to a extreme, it can create something that improves reality.

There are two types of HDR, that achieve 2 different things.

Let's say that you take a photo in a situation in which some parts of the image appear too bright or too dark, like for example a sunset or a sunrise, that has a sky with lots of clouds but the sun makes it all white. Or a building under hard light that makes some side appear completely black.

In this situation, Exposure Blending HDR can restore the details in the photo, so the clouds in the sky are visible, and the details of the dark areas are also visible. This way, the image becomes something much more similar to what you saw through your eyes when you were in that place. The purpose of this HDR technique is to make a beautiful photo that truly reflects the beauty of a place where you've been. The photo wins a lot of quality, becomes much more detailed.

The other situation is when you use Tone Mapping HDR. The most popular landscape photos nowadays use this technique. You may have seen spectacular landscapes in which colors appear improved, altered more or less, with a strong emotive atmosphere. This is tone mapping HDR. A good photo is taken, and through this technique, becomes better than reality, something intense and supernatural.

Now Zoner Photo Studio 14 includes both HDR types. And which is more interesting, you can make HDR from any photo. Usually, all HDR software requires that you take several photos of the same thing with different light settings (exposure). But with Zoner PS you can do it from several photos, or from a single photo!

DSC_0029_ToneMapping

Another photo improved with HDR, not a landscape but moving water © Jordi R. Cardona

What this means is that you can apply HDR to any photo you take. This opens lots of possibilities for you. For example you can use HDR on a portrait, on a pet photo, on a macro shot, on sports photography, and lots of situations in which taking several photos of something in the same position is impossible. You can simply go out, shot a photo to a landscape or anything, and later see how it looks with HDR applied.

I have used this technique with Zoner with my photos and achieved spectacular results. In the market there are some HDR programs, but I see that Zoner is much simpler to use than any of them, and the results are better. In addition, it can do it from a single photo! And Zoner PS even costs less money! If you are wanting to apply HDR to your photos, now you have no excuse!

NEW TOOLS AND FEATURES

Zoner Photo Studio 14 has added some very nice tools like the Deform tool, and Fill with Surroundings.

The Deform tool is a kind of brush that you can use to change the shape of some part of a photograph. In other applications it may be called Liquify or something similar. But in Zoner PS the difference is that it is much easier to use, you have much more control of what you do.

shark smiling deform tool

Making the shark smile with Deform © Jordi R. Cardona

I really missed the Deform tool sometimes, so I am very happy they added it. And as everything in this software studio, the usability is a prodigy. The controls are easy and simple, no complications at all.

The Fill with Surroundings tool works this way: you make a selection (for example, with the freehand lasso) and then use this tool. It makes a calculation and fills the area seamlessly with what surrounds it.

You can use it with small areas or big areas, although it will take more time to fill a big area, and for big regions it will work better if you make them in several steps. You can use it to hide objects, remove defects, and so on. It's like a giant healing brush.

It is a very big help in situations in which otherwise you may have to clone a lot. You can now use this tool, and get your work faster and better, then clone only on some part if you see something that is not perfect.

There is also a new filter, Damaged Photograph, that makes a lovely effect. You have controls to regulate the intensity of the effect, and if you want to keep the colors or desaturate them to a sepia, and there is also a button to randomize the effect, so the spots fall on different places.

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Damaged Photo filter applied to Mrs Tara, cat model © Jordi R. Cardona

I have also noticed some changes in some tools, like the Crop tool, that is now easier and faster.

Noise reduction has also been improved. Now you have 3 ways of reducing noise. One is through HDR, using multiple exposures. The other 2 are much simpler. The old Noise Reduction is already there, and is quite powerful and easy to use. Then there is another new method, called Advanced Noise Reduction, which can be used automatically or set all its parameters by hand. The tool is very fast, even when it works with huge images, and gives a very good result.

A Filmstrip tab has been added in this version. It is a tab that when using the editor or the viewer, shows the other images in the same folder in which you are working. It makes much faster to visualize and work with images. I really found it very useful, specially when studying reference images or browsing a lot of images. As other tabs in the application, you can drag and drop it to any side. In my monitor, I found it worked better for me if drag to the left side instead of being on the bottom, so I just drag and dropped it there.

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The filmstrip on the left, Tara, cat model, on the center. © Jordi R. Cardona

The Compare Images tool opens a tab with different windows (you can have 2, 4 or more), so you can watch side by side similar photos and decide easily if you like one or the other, or if the modifications you applied to different versions of a photo are better or not. This really helps in the selection of the best images, and also in the edition phase, to decide between several image adjustments.

compare images tab

Compare Images tab. Photos © Jordi R. Cardona

The Filmstrip and the Compare Images tab may seem minor features at the beginning, but as soon as you use them, they provide so much faster workflow, and they are so confortable to use, that it makes you wonder how could you do those things before having them.

ZONERAMA

Zonerama is a new website that hosts free photo galleries for Zoner Photo Studio users. It gives you up to 2 Gb of space to upload photos. The galleries may be public or private. Setting up them is easy: add your profile photo, a short paragraph telling who you are. After that, create the folders and upload your photos.

The best of all is that you can create the folders and upload the photos from inside Zoner Photo Studio. There is a button in the browser for this. It opens a tab for Zonerama. The first time you have to type your login, later it is stored and the application won't ask again.

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You can see the Zonerama tab on the lower side. All photos © Jordi R. Cardona

You can simply create the albums as you create a new folder, from inside the Photo Studio. Then drag and drop images to those folders, and a progress bar will tell you how and when it uploads. Very easy, and you don't have to leave the application to upload photos. As you don't have to add any details for the photo, the process is very simple and fast.

It is a very fast way to have an online portfolio. If you upload optimized JPG images as exported as Web JPG from Zoner, the 2Gb is a huge space for your photos, specially if you don't upload a giant photo but a smaller copy, lets say 800 width.

The public albums can be browsed from the Zonerama site, and you also get a subdomain if you check the option in your profile. Later you can give this short subdomain url to anyone or put it in your card, and let people visit your portfolio.

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My Zonerama page All photos © Jordi R. Cardona

Zonerama is also a social site in some way. Commenting the photos is possible, and the quality of the albums I saw is very good. There are really good photographers there, that are taking advantage of Zoner Photo Studio to make their photos even better.

In the case that you already have a portfolio as me, you can anyway open another here, as I did. The reasons are:

- This software is so good that it will drive lots of people to Zonerama, and they will see your work.

- Zonerama may eventually become a good website to find other photographers and get commissioned works.

- It gives you the opportunity to watch very good photos

CONCLUSION

With Zoner Photo Studio you get:

- A RAW browser and editor

- A image browser and editor

- HDR via Exposure Blending

- HDR via Tone Mapping

- A noise reduction application

- A screenshot capturer

- Your web portfolio at Zonerama

- An image optimizer

- A image file format converter

- A image sharing application if you want to directly post to Picassa or others

- Calendar maker, card maker...

- And lots of other features, too much to mention here.

All these features work really good, giving professional results and outstanding image quality. Instead of investing a large amount of money in lots of applications that are not easy at all to use, you can get Zoner for a very low price of $. Then, your life becomes very simple, and the work with your images and photos becomes a pleasure.

Zoner Photo Studio is not only a powerful software suite, but also something that is so fun to use that it becomes a vice for most of us. It's very addictive to get stunning results with your photos, and in a simple way, just realizing what your imagination wants.

Get it at http://www.zoner.com/

-Jordi R. Cardona-


© 2008 by Jordi R. Cardona. Link to this post without copying the text.

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3 comments

Jiri said...

Zoner Photo Studio 14 will be presented by the lead designer at PMA/CES in Las Vegas tomorrow. If you want to meet top management of the company responsible for this great product, visit us at CES :
Zoner software
Venetian Hall D and Venetian Ballroom, Level 2
Booth 72553

Damian Bathory said...

As convenient as photo editors like this are, I only use them as a last resort. I'd rather make all the effort to take the perfect shot with my Digital SLR Cameras first.

Richard Stoller said...

To create great photos in HDR quality it's not necessary to have a lot of software, you can use only https://aurorahdr.com this photo editing app create exclusive for MAC users help you to create amazing HDR photos very fast. Try to and I'm sure you'll like it.

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