Tuesday, June 26, 2007
After Adobe's unique public beta introduction, the latest version of Photoshop has arrived. Pros will find a interface and a number of key new features to enhance images and streamline workflows.
Now that Print with Preview actually has an accurate color preview, it's no longer called Print with Preview. Get it? Like many other areas of this new version, Adobe has tried to improve the user experience by making it a bit easier to use while adding more functionality. For example, in CS3, the preview window is now color-managed. You can select output profiles and rendering intents, and this preview will update in real time, just like using the Convert to Profile command. The Match Print Colors check box turns the soft proof on and off.
Unlike CS2, if you add new printer profiles to your system, you don't need to restart CS3 to make them available in this Print dialog. You can rotate the page using the two small icons below the main preview window. If you scale the image, the output resolution is updated so you can see if you're sending enough pixels to the printer. Otherwise, the functionality between versions is similar.
My main beef with this update is that the soft proof is always providing Absolute colorimetric intent to the screen, which is the same as using the Proof Setup options to Simulate Paper Color, Simulate Paper Ink. That's what some like to call the “make ugly button.” The soft proof in this Print module is more colorimetrically accurate, but the rest of the UI isn't undergoing the simulation, and our eyes adapt to the incorrect white. This is one reason the “make ugly” option looks uglier than it should. I suspect a lot of users will be unhappy viewing their images this way in Print.
1) The Match Colors check box turns soft proofing on and off. 2) Rotate the image on the page using these icons. 3) Scaling the image now provides useful information, such as output resolution. Yes, it's correctly labeled PPI, not DPI.
Adobe Camera Raw has been upgraded substantially and now has feature parity with Lightroom in terms of the various rendering controls. Such new options as Fill Light, Vibrance and HSL corrections provide new and incredibly useful rendering tools. Curves are beefed up too with the new parametric curve pane that allows the smooth manipulation of the curve shapes in specific tonal regions such that it's impossible to produce banding, as one can do using a point curve.
HSL controls allow selective adjustments to eight color ranges with control over hue, saturation or luminance. The new Full screen mode button quickly controls how large the interface is on screen, and the new UI design provides even more space for the image itself (notice the link to control color space and output size).
Healing and clone brushes are now available. Like Lightroom, select the area to clone or heal, and ACR automatically locates the best source in the image to use for cloning, but you can alter the size and position of either circle manually. You have new controls for saving custom adjustments. A new pane for presets provides far greater room to keep track of saved settings you wish to use often.
Since ACR 4.0 and Lightroom 1.0 share the same controls and rendering pipeline, you can edit in both if you wish; both products can read EXIF data produced by the other. ACR 4.0 has added so many new tools and improved functionality, I expect entire articles and books will need to be written to cover just this major new addition to CS3.
ACR now allows cloning. To the left are the new HSL sliders with the optional Convert to Grayscale check box. Clicking on the Workflow Option link calls up the dialog seen in the lower right where color space, bit depth and resolution can be configured.
For Macintosh users with the new Intel processors, a native version of Photoshop is a big deal. Speed-wise, the differences between CS2 running emulation (Rosetta) and CS3 running native is like the differences between a tricycle and a Ferrari. CS3 launches, applies effects and runs very quickly on the new chip architecture. While I didn't do scientific speed tests, I suspect others who do will find CS3 on an Intel Macintosh outperforms CS2 on even the fastest PowerPC chips. For once, upgrading to a new version of Photoshop won't produce a speed hit. Third-party plug-ins will need to be rewritten to run native, so if your favorite plug-in doesn't show up in the Plug-in or Automate menu, it's not Photoshop's fault.
The Bottom Line
Designing a new version of Photoshop has to be difficult for the Photoshop team based on its huge and diverse audience. In light of some newer, flashier products like Lightroom, getting excited about this new version of Photoshop was initially a harder sell.
While I suspect I'll use Photoshop less and Lightroom more, there are enough compelling new features in CS3 that after using it for only a few days, I found it nearly impossible to go back to CS2. The new interface is elegant, easy to use and, most importantly, gets out of your way when you don't want it around. The Clone palette, ACR 4.0 and Intel-native version alone are well worth the price of admission. By the time you read this, CS3 will be out of the public beta phase, and finished versions will be shipping.
Page 4 of 4