Serif PhotoPlus X6 review
With PhotoPlus X6 occupying the same price bracket as Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, we were eager to see what Serif had done to compete with our current favourite photo-editing software.
PhotoPlus Organizer, PhotoPlus X6’s image management program, seems little changed from PhotoPlus X5. It's a fairly basic organiser that isn't as tightly integrated with the main photo editor as we’d like, and while it's simple to understand and operate it retains several limitations. You can view photos' embedded EXIF data and filter the image view by date, rating and so on, but you can't filter by EXIF data such as focal length or exposure.
It also has limited tagging options and you must download and install Serif's CraftArtist and PanoramaPlus to enable options on the Photo Project menu.
If little has changed in PhotoPlus Organizer, the main PhotoPlus X6 application has had a more promising revamp, with Serif claiming to have created a brand-new 64-bit engine for faster edits. In the past we've criticised the program for being comparatively sluggish, so any improvement here would be welcome. Indeed, speeds do seem to have improved over previous versions, but unfortunately not by a huge amount. We found that more complex image processing such as noise reduction and certain blurs and other filters still required several seconds of processing time. This is particularly noticeable in the Live Preview feature. It's generally a highly useful way to preview edits as you play around with their settings, but when it slows down during more complex operations it can sap your creative momentum.
There are other useful improvements, too. This version introduces non-destructive cropping, so you can change your mind about a crop made early on in the edit process without also having to undo every subsequent edit. There's also improved support for RAW files, the import and processing of which is now nothing short of excellent. The Import RAW window lets you toggle, define and tweak a bank of relevant filters, including noise reduction, curves and correction for chromatic aberrations and lens distortion, with easy and impressive results. The software comes with some basic presets, but you can save settings that work for a given camera or scenario and apply them quickly to other similar files.
The PhotoFix feature is available only when working on processed rather than RAW images, and uses exactly the same interface. In this context, the quick redeye and blemish removal buttons at the top of the screen make more sense. Both work in manual or automatic modes. You just need to point automatic mode at the problem area and it’ll do a surprisingly decent job of sorting it out.
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