Paint Shop Pro X: RAW power

Corel Paint Shop Pro X, with RAW support, may be the best workflow improvement I’ve experienced since I bought my digital camera.

I finally upgraded to the latest version of Corel Paint Shop Pro X. It may be the best workflow improvement I’ve experienced since I bought my digital camera.

Corel Paint Shop Pro

I have to admit that I was very reluctant to even try Paint Shop Pro X after being disappointed with the trial version of Corel Paint Shop Pro 9. Paint Shop Pro X has many changes to the user interface and some of the tools I used most in JASC Paint Shop Pro 8 are completely different in PSP X. But, PSP X starts much faster than PSP 9 and the RAW support alone may be worth it.

Workflow (more work than flow)

So, I have a Canon 10D. It’s getting a bit dated, now, and only shoots at a mere 6.3 Megapixels. But, it has an option to shoot in Canon RAW format. Since I didn’t have RAW support in PSP 8, I would use Canon ZoomBrowser EX and File Viewer Utility to do some processing on the RAW image and then convert it to JPG.

Canon ZoomBrowser EX is the main tool for managing and manipulating images from my Canon 10D. From this tool you can copy images from your camera, or memory card, and store them on your drive.

Canon ZoomBrowser EX

You can use the ZoomBrowser to “zoom” into directories and convert images for preview. The “zoom” is an animation of the directory getting larger until it fills the viewing area. It’s cute but I could do without it if the tool was faster.

From ZoomBrowser, you can open the Canon File Viewer Utililty which will allow you to manipulate the exposure and do some processing of the image.

Canon File Viewer Utiltiy

In File Viewer Utility, you can adjust the contrast, color, sharpness, exposure, etc.

Then I open the converted JPG in JASC Paint Shop Pro 8 for further manipulation.

Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8

In Paint Shop Pro 8, I would usually do some saturation or contrast adjustments and then resize and run Unsharp Mask. Sometimes I would just run One Step Photo Fix.

The pair of ZoomBrowser EX and File Viewer Utility is pretty slow; so it’s a pain to do a lot of images. Most of the time I would just convert the RAW files to JPG with a bulk adjustment. But, what is the point of wasting time doing a sloppy RAW conversion if the camera can do a good job of it on the spot at capture time? It was easier to just work with a JPG file in PSP 8 than to work with a RAW file in ZoomBrowser EX and File Viewer Utility.

Shooting in RAW gives you some artistic options in the digital darkroom that are harder to achieve with JPG. Once the image goes to JPG, the color range is clipped. For snapshots, this isn’t a big deal. But when you are trying to get a really good photograph, and you use your tripod, you use your shutter release, you set the exposure adjustment and you take a long exposure at ISO 100, it makes sense to work the image using all your digital tools before converting it.

An evolution occurred in my workflow when the free download of Pixmantec Raw Essentials became available.

Pixmantec Raw Essentials 2006

Pixmantec Raw Essentials allows me to browse files and manipulate them more quickly. Raw Essentials does a low resolution rendering and replaces it will a higher resolution. Technically, the image probably doesn’t display any faster, but it’s more tolerable. The best feature is probably the JPG conversion. Pixmantec Raw Essentials takes advantage of background processing to convert the images while you are doing something else. So, you don’t have to wait for the image to finish. You can just keep working.

Less work, more flow

Paint Shop Pro now has RAW support for Canon CRW files. Now I can browse and manipulate RAW files in one tool. An image browser opens by default showing thumbnails of all the RAW images. When I open an image, I am given the dialog for Smart Photo Fix. This is good because a RAW file, by definition, has only had very minimal processing in the camera and needs to be processed to get the most out of the image.

Corel Paint Shop Pro X

A little rough around the edges

There are some problems with Paint Shop Pro X that I hope are fixed soon. One big problem is the Image Browser seems to get confused somehow and starts throwing up “illegal argument” error messages that never seem to end.

Paint Shop Pro X - Invalid Argument in Browser

I’ve had to kill PSP X from Task Manager several times. I can reproduce it by resizing the Browser panel. That just throws it into a death spiral for some reason.

Another problem with the Browser is speed. It seems to render the whole image instead of just doing a rough render, followed by a better quality replacement. That would really make the Browser nicer. A large directory can take a long time just to render the image you want so you can select it for editing.

Author: Eric Holsinger

Eric Holsinger is a software professional and photography enthusiast in Southern Maine.

6 thoughts on “Paint Shop Pro X: RAW power”

  1. Very interesting stuff about PSPX and RAW files. I have PSPX and a digicam which works in TIFF and JPEG format, but I plan on getting a DSLR camera soon and I thought I would have to buy Photoshop CS2 to get some decent software for taking advantage of RAW format photos. But, it sounds like you’ve had some luck with PSPX and Canon’s RAW format, although you did note some problems. Have you been able to work them out and have you tried other PSPX tools on your RAW photos that has been more successful?

  2. Nathan,

    Paint Shop Pro X has a built-in update feature. It is now at 10.03 and I think 10.02 fixed the browser pallette problem.

    The latest version of Paint Shop Pro is PSP XI (or 11). I haven’t had any trouble with the image browser in this version. The images are still rendered one-by-one, but it seems faster. There are some excellent new features in PSP XI like, like the Filter and Film Effects which I blogged a little about at Paint Shop Pro XI: Film and Filter Effects.

    One thing I’ve always loved about JASC Paint Shop Pro and now Corel Paint Shop Pro is the power for the money.

  3. I agree that PSP definitely gives more power for the buck than any version of Photoshop. However, I really want to take my photo imaging as far as it can go and when you see all the plug-ins, tutorials, etc. that are available to Photoshop users it makes me wonder if I just need to be using Photoshop software, even though Adobe charges you 5 times as much for the basic product.

  4. You’ll find that most, if not all, plug-ins for Photoshop work with Paint Shop Pro. Paint Shop Pro uses the same plug-in technology as Photoshop. Many of the image editting programs do.

  5. I’ve been a regular user of PSP since version 4. I didn’t like version 9, but when X came out, I became so hooked with it that now I consider it the best I’ve ever seen in software of this gender.

    But now Version XI is out, and I hesitate to upgrade because I’ve read comments from some that say it doesn’t accept plugins like Eye Candy 5, or Panopticum, or Power Retouche. Can anyone inform me if this is true, because my version X is a marvel and works like a charm with all these. If I have to leave my plugins when upgrading, I won’t do it. I need them to create effects that PSP X cannot.

Leave a Reply