Corel AfterShot Pro 2 review

Price when reviewed

Bibble was a powerful raw-processing and photo-management application, and a worthy rival to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. After being bought by Corel in 2012 and rebranded as AfterShot Pro, it looked set to get the wider recognition it deserved.

Version one impressed us for quality rather than quantity. It had some superb tools for tracking down photos in the library, quickly filtering by any combination of criteria, including exposure settings, camera model, star rating and keywords. Raw processing lagged slightly behind Lightroom for noise reduction and its ability to recover overexposed highlights, but in most other respects it was an equal.

It surpassed Lightroom in its ability to process selected areas of the frame. Whereas Lightroom offers a pared-back collection of functions for these local editing functions, AfterShot Pro offered up its full set, plus more versatile ways to define the area of the frame to be processed.

That was pretty much it for features – there was no video support, mapping facilities or online hosting – but it was a strong foundation for Corel’s new acquisition. If Corel’s experience of consumer-orientated software could round out the features without compromising the existing core functions, it could have a Lightroom-killer on its hands.

Corel AfterShot 2 review

Corel AfterShot Pro 2 review: new features

On paper, AfterShot Pro 2 appears to stick to the lean, streamlined design brief. There’s a move to 64-bit code, which Corel claims makes raw processing 30% faster. We didn’t have the two versions side by side to verify this, but we were able to compare it with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

Exports of 60 raw files to JPEG – complete with colour correction, noise reduction, sharpening and lens distortion correction – took two and a half minutes in AfterShot Pro 2, compared to four minutes in Lightroom 5. We also appreciated how easy it is to drag photos from the library directly onto a Batch Output template to initiate export.

Other aspects of performance weren’t so impressive, though. Importing our library of 56,000 photos took about five hours, and crashed each time it encountered a “corrupt or unreadable file”. We also experienced a few crashes and numerous periods of inactivity – lasting around 10 to 20 seconds – during normal use.

There’s an HDR module that’s new to AfterShot Pro, but it’s exactly the same one that has been available in Corel PaintShop Pro since 2011. It’s accessed by selecting multiple images and choosing an option from the right-click menu which is hardly the most obvious method. Corel AfterShot HDR then launches as a separate application.

The first job is to merge the images, and there are handy tools for automatic alignment and defining parts of images that should be included or rejected – useful for avoiding ghosting artefacts on moving subjects. Then it’s on to the tone controls: these include separate controls for contrast, highlights, midtones and shadows but, strangely, not overall exposure.

Corel AfterShot 2 review

This module can also create an HDR-like image from a single raw file. It starts by generating three virtual bracketed shots at varying exposure levels before continuing the process as normal. However, the underlying raw-processing algorithm used here is inferior to AfterShot’s own, and it’s incapable of extracting the same amount of highlight information – a fundamental requirement for HDR photography.

Overall, it’s a reasonably accomplished HDR engine but it pales into insignificance next to dedicated software such as Oloneo HDRengine. We can’t help feeling that the people who designed AfterShot Pro could have come up with something better if they hadn’t had PaintShop Pro’s module foisted on them.

Corel AfterShot Pro 2 review: raw processing

Then again, AfterShot Pro 2’s own raw-processing engine still falls short of the standard set by Adobe Camera Raw (which powers Lightroom, Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements). As before, we found that recovered highlights were more susceptible to banding. There’s a new Local Contrast control, which boosts the contrast relative to nearby pixels – great for accentuating details – but Lightroom’s similar Clarity control produced better results, with less artefacts around high-contrast lines.

Noise reduction now benefits from a new algorithm that’s offered in addition to the existing one. However, its ability to tackle noisy images still falls considerably short of Lightroom’s. In some cases, we found that cameras’ JPEG output handled noise better than AfterShot Pro, which rather defeats the purpose of using this kind of software.

Lightroom also takes a clear lead for comprehensive support of cameras’ raw files. We tried to import raw images from 20 recently launched cameras: Lightroom 5.5 accepted all 20, but AfterShot Pro 2 only managed nine. Lightroom also has a much larger database of lens profiles for automatic correction of lens defects. AfterShot Pro 2 can only correct for lens distortion automatically, and for fewer lenses, leaving the user to tackle vignette and chromatic aberration correction manually for each photo.

Lightroom is an extremely tough opponent against which to go head to head. We had high hopes for AfterShot Pro 2, but this update doesn’t rise to the challenge.


Software subcategoryPhoto editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes
Operating system Linux supported?yes
Operating system Mac OS X supported?yes
Other operating system supportWindows 8 and 8.1

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