Photoshop CS (8.0), by Adobe
Posted: 23-Mar-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Judd Spitzer Class: HARDWARE

There comes a time in every Mac Power user's life when you say to yourself, "can I survive with only iPhoto?" Yes fellow Mac-aficionados, I do have an iLife, and iPhoto is an important part of it. Do you really need anything more than iPhoto? Recently I took up the challenge to test out one of the applications in Adobe's CS line, Photoshop CS. The CS stands for Creative Suite; however in the about Photoshop window, you will see version 8.0 listed.

Overview
Adobe Photoshop CS is the premiere photo editing software on any platform, however it is recognized as the fastest photo editing software when optimized for the G5 processor. Before I get into the product itself, I want to explain some of the other software titles out there that may seem on the surface to be in competition with Photoshop, and how Photoshop really is in a league of its own.

iPhoto by Apple Computers - $49 with iLife: It can do some basic photo touch up and cropping. The key word here is basic. The design of iPhoto is photo management: All photos in one handy place. iPhoto is integrated within the iLife suite of software. However, if you need to correct more than red-eye with your photos, then it's time to move on.

GraphicConverter: This shareware product allows you to do a lot of powerful things as far as photo editing goes. Yet with all the filters and special effects that it supports, this product falls far short of being a professional photoediting tool.

PhotoStudio: a product that Apple has been giving away recently with purchase of the .mac service. This product has some interesting filters and special effects; however, the image editing is limited at best.

Photoshop CS is designed as a High End Professional title, but many of its features can be easily tapped by the average user.

Photoshop has been around for quite awhile. I used a copy of it back in the early 1990's for use with a scanner. The quality and features packed into Photoshop CS truly will take even the novice into territory once reserved for photo restoration experts. Photoshop CS provides the capability to work with a large variety of image formats natively using the powerful tools provided.

Pricing

Adobe Store price

US $649.00 Full
US $169.00 Upgrade


Test System

  • 17" iMac 800Mhz 512M Ram w/Superdrive
  • OS X 10.3.X

Mac System Requirements

  • PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor
  • Mac OS X v.10.2 through v.10.3
  • 192MB of RAM (256MB recommended)
  • 320MB of available hard-disk space
  • Color monitor with 16-bit color or greater video card
  • 1,024x768 or greater monitor resolution
  • CD-ROM drive


Installation
Photoshop CS uses the standard Mac OS X installation interface. It was a snap, and I was able to get started right away.

Interface
I found that Photoshop has some brilliant interface enhancements for Mac users. One such enhancement is the scrubbable count up/count down feature. instead of placing a value inside a box, you can "scrub" or move your mouse along the words of the value you wish to increase or decrease. Next move your mouse and the value will change. I like being able to customize my setup and have the browser come up automatically. It makes it helpful to find the project that I'm working on. If you are used to using other Adobe products, then you will find that this operates pretty much in the way. (ie. Toolbar on the Left and floating pallets on the right).

Another interface feature that I really like is the presets and brushes on the Toolbar. This makes it easier to select the tools you need quickly. For all you keyboard shortcut folks, all menu commands can be made into keyboard shortcuts. Even if you don't use keyboard shortcuts very often, this feature is great for repetitive tasks.

Speed and Stability
If you're like me and have an older Mac, then you fear bogging your computer down with some large high-performance software. While I haven't loaded this software on my iBook to check the performance on a G3 at 300Mhz, I am watching it perform on a G4 800Mhz. I believe that it is excellent in its ability to handle files, but I believe that all the software programs, including photoshop have a problem with large JPGs. And it is understandable, since it is a compression (JPG) , and to work on those files decompression is required. I believe I ran Photoshop through its paces. In one specific case I scanned an 8x10 old black and white photo that I desired to restore and preserve. I scanned it at 600 dpi, and it was definitely took some noticeable time to render and manipulate that file. Never the less, I was impressed that I could operate music, email, web browsing and still have photoshop running without a hitch.

Features

Photoshop is a full photo editing package, but it's more than that. Photoshop allows you to create your own canvas and cut and paste images together so that you can do some real photo art.

Here's a short summary of some of the features:

  • Import - Import directly from a scanner, or other sources.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts - Define the actions you do the most with shortcuts.
  • Numerous Adjustments - Several functions for adjusting your image settings, such as auto/manual color, contrast control, etc.
  • Layers - This allows you to place multiple images in the same window without either one affecting the other, and apply blending and merging options.
  • Filters - This allows you do things to the photo you can only dream of from an artistic expression, with the ability to preview and undo affects you don't like. Filters will blur your images or sharpen them, or remove noise from a photo. Some filters can let you do things such as give your photo a charcoal look and feel, or you could create a mosaic look. Each one of the filters is highly alterable giving you several different nuances.
  • Histograms - This is a great feature because it allows you to see the quality of the photo that you are working with. This really makes a difference between a 12 bit image and a 24 bit image.
  • Action History - Another unique feature that really impressed me is the ability to go back several steps. Photoshop records each action that you do and stores it in a list. You can go back step by step, several steps at once, or even move those actions around within the list to change the effects.
  • Shadow/Highlight - This feature allows you to brighten dark areas and darken lighter areas of a photo simultaneously. This was my favorite feature, most useful for improving my photos.
  • File Browser - Work with a file without opening it up using Photoshop's improved file browser.
  • Vector Graphics - Photoshop now includes some vector graphic tools, including the ability to create shapes.
  • Text Manipulation - Write text on your images and place the images within the text, similar to those fancy vacation postcards.
  • Custom Brushes - Create your own brushes and trade them with others.


This list goes on and on! Truly, Photoshop shines in the fact that you have very user intuitive tools allowing you to combine some drawing style elements and photo-touchup elements all in one powerful package.

New in Photoshop CS
Some of the newest features include:

  • A file browser for quickly and easily looking for images to edit
  • The ability to replace colors within a photo
  • Highlight and shadow adjustments - one of the coolest improvements
  • Ability to type on a curve (normally an illustrator function)
  • The ability to work with animated graphics
  • The ability to change information for multiple files simultaneously using the browser interface

These are just a few of the features and improvements that have been incorporated into Photoshop CS. One important thing to mention is the tutorial disk that comes with Photoshop CS. If you are a novice like myself, you will find that this tutorial is a terrific complement to helping you unleash the power that Photoshop CS contains. Photoshop is a very complex program, and understanding and learning each feature is a very time consuming process. I highly recommend using learning guides to help you get the most out of the product because there are so many features, you can easily become frustrated without some help from the experts.

File Browser
This is slightly similar to viewing files in iPhoto, except it is really browsing your hard drive. What is nice about this feature is that you can edit multiple documents simultaneously with regards to metadata relating to the image files. Additionally, it makes it much easier to find and manage your true image files.

Color Replacement
This is a very cool feature. Not only does it help you correct red-eye, but it helps you to match skin tones and other colors within a picture. For example, if you want to alter a photo by replacing one person with another, you can use Photoshop's color replacement feature to easily match skin tones; that way you won't have a different tone on the face from the rest of the body. You can even use the color replacement feature to tint a photo to a particular color. This is simply a fantastic feature. Photoshop CS makes it possible to wash a color onto an image without loosing your texture or darker colors.


Photograph before color replacement


Photograph after color replacement

Highlight and shadow adjustments
This is one of the coolest improvements. This is the feature that will save your tush when you have a photo that the lighting simply didn't work too well on. This particular tool allows you to only bring up the lighting on the shadowed/dark areas, and tone down the brighter areas. I think that this will definitely take the place of the contrast/brightness controls for most people. Expect lots of other software to attempt to "create their own version of this feature."


Shadow adjustments - left side is before, right side is after

Ability to type on a curve
New in Photoshop CS is the ability to type on a curve or on any curved surface. This was a capability only found in illustration/vector graphics type software for a long time, and now it is available in Photoshop CS. At first I had difficulties moving text around on a circle, but after some practice, it did a fine job. This functionality does not make Photoshop an Illustrator replacement; however, it is nice to be able to have text wrap on objects within Photoshop.

"Now this is Typing Text All Over the Place."

Animated graphics
Using tight integration with a program called ImageReady (a separate application included on the Photoshop CD), Photoshop CS allows you to move between two programs seemlessly without worrying about ruining files that are open in one program and not another. You can output a number of formats, such as Flash graphics or animated GIFs.


Notes
Becoming an expert at Photoshop and learning the massive amounts of features is no easy task. It doesn't happen over night for anyone. Adobe provides an excellent video introductory training CD as part of the software. It was more impressive than any help products that I have personally ever seen come with a software package. Even though I am usually successful at doing the myriad solutions with many of the software packages that come my way, Photoshop really requires that extra bit of training. This training CD really comes through and helps you get going with the software. I know that I am merely a novice in the Photoshop world, but I know I have the tools to be dangerous.

Adobe really need to lower the price of this software to make it more accessible to the entire computer community, because $650 is out of reach of many who can barely afford to purchase a computer. Another option is to provide a toned down version of Photoshop CS and provide a pricing structure that serves both the high-end users and the hobbyists.

It would also be nice if Photoshop was better integrated with Apple's iPhoto. When I work on files within iPhoto, I can easily and seamlessly integrate them into iDVD to create a slideshow. This would be advantageous in Photoshop as well, as I would like to be able to work with an online library of images and not have to worry about the compatibilities of going back and forth.

Summary
All the standard features that you've come to expect out of Photoshop are still there in CS. You have great control over brushes and filters. You can manipulate and change your images like never before. You can work with a large variety of file formats. Improved Layer support has been added to this version, as well as improved text handling, such as writing on a curve. Adobe continues to support the Mac community with writing Native Mac OS X software that beats out the performance on comparable equipped PCs. There is no doubt that for many people, Adobe products are for high performance creative professionals.

The creative control that Photoshop CS provides is the ultimate experience for the digital photographer. Having interfaces with your scanner, tablets, and other accessories as well as the ability to create extraordinary art has never been so easily accessible. Whether you are preserving old family photos or working to design the next Andy Warhol gallery, this software will live up to the task and out perform your expectations at every turn.

Finally, take the time to work with Photoshop and learn it. You will become a big fan. I have impressed my family and friends with the amazing photo restorations that I have been able to accomplish. I'm not a professional artist, yet the tools within Photoshop CS make me feel like one. You will too!

Pros

  • File browser
  • Shadow/Highlight feature
  • Fantastic color replacement
  • Text wrap for any curve
  • Fast image rendering
  • Excellent training CD and tutorials


Cons

  • A bit pricey for the home consumer
  • No integration with Apple's iPhoto
  • Steep learning curve for less computer savvy individuals


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice