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It’s summer, so that must mean heat, humidity--and, in 2010--time for a new update to the Adobe suite of apps, including the flagship of the fleet, Photoshop. The CS5 iteration is a significant step forward, for reasons big and small, and overall, it’s one of the strongest upgrades in the 20 years that Photoshop has graced hard drives around the world.
Those working with tricked-out Macs loaded with RAM will deeply appreciate the fact that Photoshop CS5 finally takes us into the 64-bit world, providing support for as much RAM as you’ve jammed into your machine. That significantly speeds up performance when working with densely layered, print-resolution imagery--from applying filters to saving files and everything in between. Of course, you’ll need Snow Leopard and loads of RAM to exploit this, but you already knew that.
Check out Content-Aware Fill at work! The original photo is above, and in the "after" shot on the bottom, the flowers were automagically vanished.
In the “cool enough to be science fiction” department, the most potentially jaw-dropping new feature is Content-Aware Fill, which is much sexier than the name suggests. It lets you draw a crude lasso selection around an element you want to remove from a complex background--say, some people standing in front of a stone wall--and Photoshop CS5 automatically fills in the resulting hole by applying some serious image-processing mojo on the surrounding area. It’s not always perfect, but when well-used, it’s nothing short of astonishing.
For advanced masking nerds, the new edge-processing technology tucked into the Refine Edges dialog helps create really clean edges on challenging selections that normally present an extra challenge--think hair, fur, and other finely detailed nightmares that have long plagued expert retouchers. These two new additions alone are reason enough for any CS4 owner involved in heavy image editing to bite the upgrade bullet.
If you’ve always wanted Painter-level brushes in Photoshop, you’ll enjoy the flexibility of the new Mixer Brush and extensive Bristle options, which deliver sweet natural-media effects that make heavy use of a Wacom-style graphics tablet. Puppet Warp is a very powerful new tool that allows you to bend and distort images using “virtual pushpins,” turning any photograph into pliable Play-Doh. It’s very different from the Liquify filter, and was derived from After Effects, where it’s used to make South Park–like animation.
But at the end of the day, Photoshop is about photographs, and shutterbugs will deeply appreciate the new noise-reduction code built into the Camera Raw plug-in, which will change how you approach shooting pushed ASA settings in low-light situations. It does an amazing job of minimizing--and often completely eliminating--pesky noise artifacts. The tweaked Camera Raw-Sharpening is really stunning, just when we thought that Smart Sharpen was already fantastic.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) Pro is tailored toward giving photographers the maximum quality when compositing multiple exposures, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that you can now apply the hyper-realistic HDR look to single images shot conventionally--a nice creative touch. Pro photographers will also appreciate the combination of the newly automatic Lens Correction filter in conjunction with the release of a new lens distortion profiler, which lets you tailor the results to your specific digital camera--cool stuff.
The Extended version of CS5 is now all about 3D, including something exotically dubbed Repoussé, which finally delivers some workable 3D extrusion tools to the 3D menu. While you’ll find it useful for some basic 3D logo work, it’s still not even close to being a replacement for a separate 3D modeling and rendering program. When it comes to the issue of final render quality, Adobe’s ray tracer simply doesn’t justify the Extended package’s premium pricing.
Photoshop CS5 is one of the most compelling versions we’ve ever seen, delivering a wide array of new toys that really make this a powerful imaging application. If you’ve been hanging back for a while, it’s time to take the plunge.
PRICE: $699 (Standard), $999 (Extended); upgrades from $199
REQUIREMENTS: Multicore Intel Mac, OS X 10.5.7 or later, 1GB RAM, GPU for Photoshop Extended 3D functionality
Content-Aware Fill. Noise Reduction & Sharpening enhancements. HDR Pro. Puppet tool. 64-bit support.
Extended is overpriced. Repoussé still not full 3D solution.