Adobe Photoshop CS5 review

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Adobe Photoshop has dominated the world of professional photo editing since its original launch back in 1990. The nature of computing has changed radically in the intervening 20 years, and Photoshop CS5 reflects that fact with the inclusion of both 32- and 64-bit versions, the latter promising faster performance depending on how much RAM you’ve installed.

Photo editing has moved on too, from managing the occasional scan to thousands of digital camera images, and CS5 boasts key improvements that recognise this fact. The main image management element, Bridge CS5, remains in place, and it’s largely unchanged here, but within the application there’s been a major step forward. The new Mini-Bridge panel now allows you to quickly and directly search and view image previews without the clutter of metadata panels, and without having to load up the full Bridge application.

In the raw

Another significant shift in modern photographic practice is the increasing importance of raw file formats, which store the full tonal range of unprocessed camera data. To this end, Photoshop CS5’s Camera Raw 6 plugin has been significantly improved. It now supports more than 275 raw formats, and offers more control over vignetting and sharpening.

There’s also better control over noise reduction, and the added ability to deliberately add noise as grain – an attractive effect in its own right, and a useful cover for a multitude of sins.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 photography

You don’t have to be using raw formats to benefit from new features, however. Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro command, which allows you to take bracketed shots in any format and combine them to produce perfectly exposed images, has also been enhanced. Images are aligned more effectively now, and the new Remove Ghosts option helps remove the blurring effect that moving items can introduce.

The Merge to HDR Pro dialog also adds advanced tone-mapping control over gamma, exposure and detail, as well as colour control over vibrance and saturation. Throw in control over edge glow radius and strength, and you have all the power you need to create high-impact images – styling that you can save and reapply later. Similar creative possibilities are also now made available to standard 8-bit images via the HDR toning adjustment.

Through the lens

Next on the list is the Lens Correction filter – used for fixing pin-cushion and barrel distortion – which has been promoted and made more powerful, with a new Auto Correction tab. This allows corrections to be made based on a combination of image metadata, camera and lens profiles. You can download profiles directly from the filter and there’s also a free profiling tool available to download, so those with technical nous can profile their own equipment.

Elsewhere, the Ruler tool’s new Straighten command makes it easier to straighten your image and produce better compositions during cropping. And one particularly useful tweak is the change to Photoshop’s workspace presets, all of which now maintain changes until explicitly reset.

Making a splash

Small productivity enhancements can make a surprisingly big difference to working life, but Adobe also likes to add a bit of wow factor to each new version of Photoshop. The new Puppet Warp capability (see it in action in the above video) certainly fits the bill: simply click on an image layer; set top, middle and end pins; and by applying a mesh over your subject, it allows you to manipulate your subject as if it was a jointed puppet. With three distortion modes, plus settings for mesh density and pin depth, there’s plenty of control on offer.


Software subcategoryPhoto editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes
Operating system Linux supported?no
Operating system Mac OS X supported?yes

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