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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – Photoshop CS5 from Adobe Systems

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This is the first of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) Master Collection. When Adobe releases CS5 this year, they not only will release single version products, but also five separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

Photoshop CS5

What do you need to run Photoshop CS5?

Windows

  • Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3; Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise with Service Pack 2; or Windows 7
  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor

Mac

  • Mac OS X v10.5.7 or v10.6.3
  • Multicore Intel® processor

Both

  • 1GB RAM
  • 2 GB hard disk space for program installation
  • 1024×768 display (1280×800 recommended) with qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics card, 16-bit color, and 256MB of VRAM
  • Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • QuickTime 7.6.2 software required for multimedia features
  • Broadband Internet connection required for online services

Just like with the previous version of Photoshop, this new version also comes in two editions: the standard edition of Photoshop and Photoshop CS5 Extended edition. The extended version is targeted to professionals in film and television, manufacturing, architecture, engineering, medicine, science, and those doing 3D rendering.

Photoshop CS5 is a raster graphics editor. That is it is an editor that allows users to paint and edit pictures on a computer screen and save them in one of many popular raster file formats such as JPEG, PNG, GIF and TIFF. This makes Photoshop extremely good for working with photographs.

So what's new in Photoshop CS5?

64-bit support – Photoshop CS5 delivers cross-platform 64-bit support, allowing you to perform your imaging tasks up to ten times faster. Video and photo professionals will benefit from the extra performance. The gains are even greater if you regularly work with very large files where processing can be up to ten times faster when you take advantage of higher addressable RAM amounts on 64-bit computers.

Edge selection – is made much easier with the new adaptive selection-edge modification controls, giving you more precise control when extracting a subject from its background. The Smart Radius can automatically match the best selection approach with the subject's changing edge characteristics. The Refine Radius and Erase Refinements tools customize your masks and selections as you make them. These tools are especially important when dealing with fine items like hair that are on a busy background.

Content-Aware Fill – enables you to remove an element from an image and automatically replaces it with a background that matches the scene in tone, lighting, and noise of the surrounding area. You can use Content-Aware Fill with the Spot Healing brush or as an option of the Fill feature to replace content in an active selection. When used with the Spot Healing brush, it will account for more of the content and structured detail providing for a cleaner result. This feature works best on areas where there is plenty of sample content for Photoshop to interpret the background from.

HDR Pro – will allow you to take bracketed images – images shot at multiple exposures – and then combine them into a single image that is able to capture the full tonal quality of the scene. There are also extended controls that will allow you to adjust your image from photo-realistic to totally surreal. For High Dynamic Range (HDR) to work correctly each image shot must be non-moving and so usually requires the use of a tripod, but sometimes even with the use of a tripod, something in the scene may be moving, like a wire or a tree. This can result in ghosting. HDR Pro has a feature that allows a single image to be a sole reference and by brushing over the object that contains the ghost, the ghost is eliminated.

Photoshop CS5

HDR Toning – gives you the ability to create an HDR image from a single shot instead of a series. It is for those times where you were not able to create a bracketed image, but you still want to enhance the tonal qualities, the new HDR Toning will give you the ability to mimic the look of an HDR result quickly and easily.

Mixer Brush – gives you drastically new painting qualities from within Photoshop CS5. This new brush gives you the ability to define multiple colors on a single tip and then mix and blend them with the underlying hues on your canvas. You can start with a blank canvas, or you can use a photo original to blend the colors, giving the image a painterly look. There is extensive control over the wetness of the canvas colors as well as if the brush is refilled, cleaned, or a combination of both after each stroke.

Bristle Tips – give you a whole way to control the stroke capabilities of your painting tools. Bristle Qualities define key new bristle properties of your brush such as the length, shape, stiffness, thickness, angle, and spacing of the brush. All of these in turn affect the way that the color is distributed on your image.

Puppet Warp – gives you a totally new sense of control over your image especially when pushing and pulling elements in your image. At its base, it will let you put pins, or pivot points, on objects in your image and let you move them. So if someone's arm was in a strange position, it can give you the ability to move it to a different position. You can, in certain situations, move one item behind or in front of another. But even beyond working on people or animals, you can use it to straighten landscapes, perspectives on buildings due to lens discrepancies, and even fix smiles or other image retouching.

ACR 6 – now supports over 275 camera models. Along with working with Raw, JPEG, and TIFF files, ACR now has the ability to remove noise, it incorporates a better quality of sharpening, as well as the ability to creatively apply vignettes and film-like grain. This will let you shoot at higher ISO and let Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 6 remove the excess noise, providing better control over key details. This will even help with long exposure images as well as ones from lower end consumer cameras.

Lens Correction – will now remove the three most common types of lens-based errors – geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. This will give you the ability to use a wider range of lenses and still produce images of high quality. With the aid of Adobe Lens Profile Creator – a separate, free download from Adobe Labs – you can produce custom profiles for your lens that will let you address specific problems of lenses that you use.

Photoshop CS5

Mini Bridge – puts your assets in a panel right in Photoshop CS5. This is a panelized version of the traditional Adobe Bridge, but instead of having to open up a separate program just to find what you need, everything's waiting for you in your panels.

Workspace Switcher – gives you the ability to set your copy of Photoshop CS5 up one way when you are working with photos, another when working on paintings, another when working on logos, and still another with 3D, and then switch back with the click of a mouse.

Workflow enhancements – number in the dozens. These are things that people have been asking for and include items like a neutral density preset, an option to save 16-bit documents as 8-bit in a single step, a close-all option without saving, the ability to drag and drop a file onto an open Photoshop document to create a new layer, customizable default values for Layer styles, an option for changing the opacity on multiple layers, Layer groups can be nested more than five levels deep, and many, many more.

So what's new with Photoshop CS5 Extended Edition?

Everything in the Standard edition listed above, as well as the following:

Adobe Repoussé – will let you take 2D objects and convert them to 3D. With this feature you can easily extrude text and other objects into 3D artwork for creating logos and 3D artwork for use in websites, video frames, or layouts. This will give you the ability to manipulate key extrusion properties – depth, scale, bend, shear, inflate, or twist – in the Repoussé dialog box. In addition, you can manipulate these properties and can inflate the front or back of the extrusion and/or apply a custom bevel.

Rich materials library – gives you the ability to select materials from the library of included presets, download additional materials, create your own, or even edit existing materials to customize them for your needs. The Repoussé dialog box and the Materials section of the 3D panel both contain options for applying a single material to all surfaces. You can use the 3D Material Drop tool and the Material Load tool to easily load a material and drop it into different meshes, allowing you to sample and apply materials interactively and the new overlay controls provide instant feedback about where specific materials and meshes are located in your model, and the updated 3D axis widget now works with lights and cameras as well as 3D objects.

Photoshop CS5

Adobe Ray Tracer – (ART) engine in Photoshop CS5 Extended lets you take advantage of better performance and faster rendering feedback. ART 2.0 brings substantial improvements in performance when you interact with and edit 3D models. ART 2.0 progressively renders 3D scenes with an option to re-render after a pause, or even perform selective renderings

Complex 3D geometry – gives you faster previews and more responsive interaction thanks to changes made in the OpenGL engine. Overall workflow performance has been optimized with improved import, interaction speeds, and better merging of 3D objects into a single scene. To aid with fine-tuning and adjustment of these performance features, there is a new 3D section in Preferences.

After 18 months since the last version all I can say is WOW! This has to be one of the most powerful updates in a long time. The 64-bit capabilities for Mac users are worth the upgrade alone. Then the content aware fill will benefit anyone who does retouching. The puppet tool has been available for After Effects users since CS3, but it is great to see what it can do here as well.

What can I say about the enhancement to the painting capabilities of Photoshop CS5? The Mixer Brush and the Bristle Tips are really cool and is worth the upgrade for those that use Photoshop to paint. The Mini Bridge is something that was really needed. I always hated having to switch on Adobe Bridge just to find something.

Photoshop CS5

While the workflow enhancements are small things in and of themselves, there are a lot of them and they really make sense. I mean, just the "Don't show me this message again" option on the saving files with maximum compatibility might swing me if I were sitting on the fence. I don't know how many times I have hit that box in the last year alone.

Finally, if you were never quite sure if you should get the extended edition, the ability to extrude a 2D object to a 3D image might be enough to upgrade. This is extremely useful for those who work with design and Web sites. You can take some very basic shapes and really make them pop. For a lengthy demo of all of the features you can also watch the 22-minute video at the bottom of this review.

In my opinion, these new features alone make it very much worth the upgrade, especially if you didn't upgrade to CS4. Overall, CS5 is a much more responsive Photoshop and it just brings a whole lot of additional features that will make you say, "How'd they do that!" I very highly recommend this version.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Tim

    It is fantastic that Adobe are continually updating and adding to the already fantastic photoshop suite. I am sure that it is worth every penny of the asking price with all the development time that goes into such a feature rich package.

    However it is priced way out of the reach of the average user.

    It would be great if adobe released the old versions free of charge or highly discounted to enable the vast majority of the general public to use these tools

  • http://www.enlightened-image.net T. Michael Testi

    Thanks for the comment Tim.

    While I do think that there are many who cannot afford the price, the focus of this product is for the professional who can justify it for their work. The Adobe Elements has a lot of the basic features that Photoshop has and is sort of like the younger sibling.

    In between you have Adobe Lightroom that is for the hobbyist as well as the pro photographer. It doesn’t have all the bells, but is extremely powerful in its own right.

    The other thing is once you shell out the $699 for the standard, then the upgrade is only $199. While that may seem high considering they put out a new release every 18 months or so, Adobe has a pretty liberal upgrade policy of “three versions back.” Which is why you won’t see free prior version.

    What that means is that if you purchased Photoshop CS2 in October 2003 for $599 (I think that was the price), between now and when CS6 is released (probably in late 2011 early 2012) you can upgrade to CS5 for around $200. If you can handle the $200 more often, so much the better.

    Sometimes you can find older stock versions at a reduced price as well.

    T.

  • http://www.billyreviews.com Billy

    I agree. It depends on the user and their needs. For some, a $699 price tag can be justified if it serves them well.

    For the rest, who would only use it on occasion, they would be better to pay someone else or find a cheaper alternative such as Gimp 2.6 or Gimpshop 2.2.11

    With that being said, Adobe Photoshop is the best on the market and the industry standard when it comes to graphic design.

  • Levi

    I am with you Tim, I love Adobe’s products. I use them daily to make my living, but I wonder about the lack of innovation in the community of users, barred by the lack of hundreds and thousands of dollars to drop on this admittedly awesome software suite.

    I like to think I am a pretty good designer and I work hard at it, but I just imagine the hundred or so kids in the US right now, who statistically would be phenomenal designers, who never will know that, because of the cost to entry.

    Makes me wonder if Adobe has any sort of charities? I know they give limited packages to college students, but donating a full suite to a high school for student use? Things like that would be tremendous, but I guess if I was the decision maker at Abobe, I might have bigger fish to fry.

  • Phillip

    Call me a cynic but I’m willing to bet that many of those young would-be Photoshoppers are using it without paying anything at all.

    Given Adobe’s liberal upgrade policy, and that you can find cheap reportedly-sealed older versions on Ebay, it’s hard to bitch legitimately.

    Re: charity… you did note that there are very inexpensive academic versions. (Which if you buy the soon-to-be-older version at “major release time” they often give (!) the new full version to the student buyer.)

    It’s never been clear to me that so-called academic versions (from any software maker) are any different from the full versions, except for the box label and lower cost.

  • Tink

    Academic versions “expire” a few months after your “graduation” date. I n other words it WILL stop working and upgrading after it has reached a certain date.

    I did not know this, so I put in my actual grad year for my CS3. I can know longer use, save, or even open files in my program. WTF?

    Now I wish I could have afforded the Pro version. I can’t even get an upgrade from my student version to professional.

    So, yes, there is a difference in the student and professional versions.

  • ps cs5 user

    August 6, 2010

    I was surprised to read “Tink’s” comment, as I’ve not found it to be true. I sratred with the academic version of PS 7, and had no problem purchasing the CS version.

    Please look at the following url. If you’re leery about utilizing these url, go to adobe.com and put “student and teacher edition faq” in the search box in the upper right corner. Hope this clears up the confusion. Student and Teacher Edition FAQ.

    Are the Student and Teacher Edition products the same as the commercial products?

    Yes. Adobe Student and Teacher Editions are the same full-version software products.

    Is there a time limit on using an Adobe Student and Teacher Edition?

    Eligible users who purchase an Adobe Student and Teacher Edition receive a perpetual license that does not have a time restriction.

  • Creative Almanac

    I agree with Tim. Adobe products are fantastic tools for creative hobbyists and professionals like me but the new CD release is very prohibitive. No wonder, a lot of people in Asia relies on reversed engineered Adobe products for about less than a quarter percent of an actual and original Adobe product with the same performance. Adobe should free-up their previous versions and let their consumers decide if they are willing for an upgrade. This of course needs a price. Nonetheless, I believe this is a more consumer friendly and competitive business strategy that Adobe itself should make or maybe this will only happen if a stronger competitor bites a golden bullet and makes Adobe products less valuable. Only time knows. It happened to Microsoft, who knows if it will happen to Adobe.