Thursday, September 15, 2016

ACDSee Ultimate 10

 A Quick Review from an Experienced User

As I write this, ACDSee Systems has released, just today, ACDSee Ultimate 10, ACDSee Pro 10, and ACDSee 20.  (Click HERE for a brief explanation of the 3 different products, and a quick review of ACDSee Ultimate 9)

Please note that this is a review of ACDSee Ultimate 10, I have not had time to examine Pro 10 or ACDSee 20.  While I am reasonably confident that shared features between the 3 products will be roughly similar, if not identical, I can not guarantee that will always be the case.  If one of the other two products interest you, please download the trial version for that product and verify it meets your needs before purchasing.  It's the smart thing to do!

 I like this version, and I believe that someone who is looking for a tool to manage raw development, and bit mapped editing will find this a worthy new purchase or upgrade.  However, for existing ACDSee users, who are primarily interested in the rich media management environment that ACDSee already offers, the need to upgrade is less immediate. V9 was already a very good media  manager, and V10 is pretty much the same media manager.

I think the addition of the ACDSee Dashboard and the Smart Brush technology, strongly indicates that the level of aggressive creativity that ACDSee Systems has demonstrated over the last 3 or 4 years, has not diminished.

I also think that the addition of enhanced noise control via the new Preserve Detail sliders also illustrates ACDSee's commitment to making solid enhancements to the existing infrastructure.

The noteworthy changes in my mind are as follows:
  • In the Selections menu there is now a "Delete Selected Pixels" item. This will set selected pixels transparent if the currently selected image is a layer image, or set mask pixels black if a mask is currently selected. A convenient feature, in my mind.
  • The blend modes now work with actions. I haven't tested this as yet, frankly, I don't use actions much; but this should enhance the ability to more completely automate the editing process.
  • Enhanced Noise Control with the addition of the Preserve Detail sliders. This is a much needed enhancement, and it increases the quality of native Noise control in ACDSee.
  • Smart Brush technology shows up in both the Develop tab and in the Edit tab. It seems to show up in the masking tools and in the selection tools. I found this technology to show great promise in improving the speed and convenience of selective editing in ACDSee Ultimate 10.
  • The ACDSee Dashboard - There is a lot of useful information stored within your ACDSee database that you can use to help you make decisions in your photographic practice. This is designed to help you more easily access this information.
I will discuss the last three points in some detail below:

Enhanced Noise Control

ACDSee has never been famous for its noise control. It isn't BAD noise control, but up til now, it has been pretty basic, not really capable of any subtlety in its noise control efforts.

The net result is that long time users might be willing to use ACDSee for the really EASY noise control but then would use a third party noise control tool like Topaz Denoise for the more challenging stuff.

However the addition of the Preserve Detail slider and the Preserve Detail Threshold slider allows one to fine tune the noise control efforts a bit.

This addition does NOT make ACDSee as good as Topaz Denoise, but it does change the point a bit where where one would feel the need to use a third party tool. 

I can only applaud this effort and want it to continue.

Smart Brush Technology

I LIKE the tools that use this technology!  This might be the single most important addition to ACDSee series 10 versions.  The smart brush is added to the Develop Brush Drop Down Panel and in the Brush selection tool for the Edit tab.

My comments below, specifically address the implementation found in the Development (i.e Raw development) tab.

Smart Brush Panel in action.
Click on this photo to make it larger.

There are 4 smart brush algorithms that you can choose from.

1. None - essentially the "off" mode.
2. Color - Appears to lay down the mask according to color differences.
3. Brightness - Appears to lay down the mask according to brightness level differences.
4. Magic - Appears to be some sort of proprietary selection algorithm.

There is also a "Tolerance" Slider that can vary from 1 to 100. I suspect in time we will learn to value this slider very much. It seems to be the secret to successfully using this new selective edit tool. What I THINK is occurring (based on my observed behavior of the tool, no special information on my part. So I could be wrong!) is that a value level is determined by the initial Nib width size of the brush. And this value is the comparison value of the smart brush technology.

A slider value of '1' means there is very little tolerance for differences. 

What appears to be happening is, that when the brush lands on a new area of the photo, it compares the value of the new area to the original comparison value. Essentially, with a slider value of '1' there can be no differences in the comparison values for the mask to be applied to the photo at that location.

A slider value of '100' seems to mean that the comparison differences to have the mask applied to the new area of the photo is VERY broad. In effect, it practically turns the Smart brushing off and allows almost everything to be applied to the Develop brush.

The user can adjust the brush size at any point.

So far, My testing of this tool is VERY preliminary. These are my initial notes on this tool.
  • Set your Develop Brush size before entering Smart Brush mode
  • Only then, move then move the Smart brush algorithm from 'None' to one of the other 3 algorithms. If you are in doubt as to which to use, start with 'Magic' it works pretty well as a general purpose selection tool, I think.
  • Set your tolerance (I suggest starting at about 20). You can change the tolerance in the middle of mask selection, but it won't reconfigure those parts of the selection mask already applied, only the future selections. I suggest if you think your tolerances are too high or too low, that you back out, and start over.
The Edit Tab's Brush Selection Tool
Click on this photo to make it larger.

ACDSee Dashboard

Essentially this is a database statistics tool It provides information both statistically and graphically. There are 4 sub-tabs within dashboard.

Overview - This gives you a summary of the information found in the other 3 sub-tabs.
Database - This gives you information like Database size, Last backup, File information, Folder Info, Number of orphaned files, and thumbnail information.
Cameras - Information on the cameras you use, graphics and and statistics on ISO photos are shot with.
Files - Statistics and graphics on number of images and videos, the file formats and the image resolution.

Dashboard's Camera Summary
Click on photo to make it larger.

This is a VERY important new tool, I think. However there is plenty of room for improvement. For instance, I'd like to see information on the focal lengths used. And maybe in a future version there could be a way to add a limited number of user defined statistics.

But overall, this is a really useful new feature in my mind.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Big Shots

I was visiting Lincoln Memorial Gardens just outside of Springfield, Illinois this morning. It is the place I go to whenever suburban life and the smell of mown grass and heavy automobile traffic becomes too much for me to bear. Its efforts to recreate the woods and grass prairies of Illinois offers a wonderful renewal of the soul.

It is, of course, a great place to take a camera. I came across a man who must have been lugging what had to have been 30 pounds of weight in the form two cameras, big white lenses, tripods a couple of camera bags and what looked like an ammo belt peppered with what looked like lens pouches around his waist. His wife was struggling to carry a suitcase sized and shaped aluminum camera case. (I assume it was his wife, she had that bored, resigned look mixed with repressed anger on her face that I associate with women married to photographers).

I was equipped with what I consider my 'heavy' gear. My OMD E-M10 with my old Olympus 14-54 mm zoom lens with adapter.

We nodded as we passed, I got the impression that he was wondering HOW I could take pictures with that gear. I know I was wondering that about him!