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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.