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Tuesday, 12 January 2010


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I've never been a Paint Shop Pro kind of guy, but that seems like a really good deal. I remember toying around with it waaay back before leaving for Photoshop 5. I wonder how it has held up?

While Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is an excellent program in many ways, prospective purchasers should be aware of a few important limitations:

1. It does not support plug-ins operating on 16-bit images. You can only use plug-ins on 8-bit images. So if you are thinking about using a noise-reduction plugin or raw presharpening plugin as one of the first steps in your workflow (and the consensus until recently was that these should be the first and second steps in your workflow), then you will be forced to convert your images to 8-bit very early in your workflow and subsequent changes will be made on only 8-bits of data.

2. While the program is generally billed as 16-bit, in fact only certain operations can be performed on 16-bit images. For a list of these operations, see here: http://corel.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/corel.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=758589. When presented in this format, the list seems impressively long. But then think about how many operations and tools are available in Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 that are NOT on the list, and the balance shifts.

3. There have been reports of problems with Paint Shop Pro Photo X2's color management, in particular when trying to convert images from one color space to another (e.g., when converting an image from a broad color space to sRGB for web display). There have also been reports that Paint Shop Pro Photo doesn't pass color space information on to plug-ins, which makes it impossible to reliably use any plug-ins that alter or correct colors in your images.

I would personally recommend PhotoLine, but that obviously doesn't help those who are considering purchasing Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 at today's promotional price. Frankly, at $29.99, it is hard to see how anyone has much to lose, so everyone should feel free to try it out, so long as they keep the above limitations in mind.

Best regards,

That's not surprising, wasn't there a news blurb a few weeks back about how a check of all the JPEGs culled from the web of pictures taken with dSLRS showed that like 90%+ were from entry level cameras with kit lenses? Sorry to start the year so cynically but basically that means that the vast, vast majority of people wind up buying cheap entry level dSLRs to "move-up" or "upgrade" and wind up doing no such thing.

I wonder what will happen with DMDs in a few years. They can't stay at the premium they're at now, and after a while they'll slot in even lower than dSLRs when economies of scale kick in, because of the cheaper cost to manufacture. With a completely new format of interchangable lens camera, will consumers start turning into more conscientious photographers or will everyone be using Panasonic G/H/F5s with kit lenses?

I'm not sure what it is about "entry level DSLRs with kit lenses" that should arouse cynicism. I personally use a Rebel XS and find it to be an extremely capable camera. While I tend to get more use out of my 10-22mm and 50mm f/1.8 lenses, the kit lens is sharp, has IS, and is generally capable of taking great photos.

"means that the vast, vast majority of people wind up buying cheap entry level dSLRs to "move-up" or "upgrade" and wind up doing no such thing."

I wouldn't jump to that conclusion, and I'm not sure what's cynical about that, anyway. One likely explanation is that many find all the capability and quality they need in the entry level kit, which indeed are very capable. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing really new about it either.

What I've seen happen is that these fun cameras get passed down to the kids, who take and post pictures like crazy, while the parents "upgrade" to semi-pro gear and find it bigger, heavier, and not as fun to pick up and use.

But in some cases the parents (or non-parents) do indeed advance in their photography, and also move on from posting jpegs straight out of the camera. These people are not going to show up in cullings of JPEGs taken with dSLR's. It doesn't mean they're not photographing in earnest.

As for your "DMD", it may repeat the life cycle of previous successful compact formats. That is, high-end professional models will be refined and push the performance envelope, while a plethora of ideas will compete for the mass market, pushing the feature/cost envelope. Thus, the format evolves, for better and for worse. (I can be cynical, too. [s])

Mac users who don't need Photoshop should check out Pixelmator. Retail is $60 but Amazon's had it for a lot less for quite a while. I checked today and there are "2 copies" for $18. Paid $25 recently for my copy.

Pixelmator at Amazon

"With a completely new format of interchangable lens camera, will consumers start turning into more conscientious photographers or will everyone be using Panasonic G/H/F5s with kit lenses?"

I think things will look very similar to today.

My guess is that a lot of people will still have something akin to regular P&S cameras (although they will be embedded in their phone/PDA even more so than they are now).

Another large group will go for interchangeable lens cameras of one type or another and will stick the kit lens on and never change it. (Not that this is necessarily bad or anything. I think quite a few folks do this with SLRs right now.)

And the same small groups as now will actually own an interchangeable lens camera and actually make use of of being able to change lenses.

I am not at all surprised that the Canon EOS XS is doing so well. At $450 it's a terrific value for serious occasional/casual snappers who want a more earnest camera than mom's Kodak EasyShare.

I bought an XSi when they were introduced (2008?), basically as a camera with more muscle than a p&s but not as "earnest" as its bigger brethren. I'm sure I should feel embarrassed to admit this but Wow! I have been extremely impressed by that fellow whenever I use it! It's light, small, very responsive, has an outstanding LCD and control menu, and feels terrific in my hands. It produces some terrific images at low-to-moderate ISOs. There's little not to like!

So I'm not at all surprised that the bargain model of the Rebel line is also in great demand. (Just look at the 240+ user reviews on B&H's site.) After all, it's not about the camera, is it?

It's not surprising that most JPGs come from dirt cheap entry-level SLRs with kit lenses (like that Canon REBEL that Mike linked to). While many people like taking photographs, most people aren't at the "enthusiast" level.

For everyday "picture takers" an entry-level kit does a really good job that is way beyond what they can do with a pocket compact. So why would Joe or Jane average plunk down $1000 for what is -- to them -- essentially a toy when they can get one for $500 that apparently does the same thing?

I'm not convinced that DMDs will necessarily go below the price of bottom-end DSLRs. After all, a DMD (e.g., Sigma DP1 and DP2, GF1, E-P1 and E-P2, etc.) is an enthusiasts' camera. They give the photographer extra "stuff" that Joe/Jane average doesn't really know or care about (fast lenses, strong build quality, RAW, large sensors, manual overrides, etc.)

I think we enthusiasts often lose sight of the fact that not everyone cares about the minutiae that we do.

As someone who owns (and more importantly, uses) both a Nikon D300 and a D60, I have to emphasize that entry-level DSLRs should not be dismissed. The primary differences between entry-level DSLRs and the higher-end models generally come down to the following:

- Number of external controls
- Degree of customizability
- Build quality
- Frames per second when shooting continously
- Number of autofocus points
- Autofocus tracking performance
- Viewfinder size
- Availability, size and amount of information displayed on top-plate LCD

Note that, with the exception of autofocus tracking performance, none of the above necessarily impact image quality. Oh, and there are three more factors that differentiate entry-level models from higher-end models:

- Size
- Weight
- Price

Entry-level DSLRs aren't just sufficient to meet the needs of "soccer moms" and "proud papas", they are also sufficient for most serious photographers. I don't reach for my D300 due to its superior image quality (the difference for my purposes relative to the D60 is generally minimal), I reach for my D300 due its greater customizability, which allows me to operate it in a more transparent manner. But I just as often find myself reaching for my D60, knowing that I am not sacrificing much (if anything) in terms of image quality, while I am gaining a lot in terms of portability.

Image quality differences may be apparent between cameras with APS-C sensors vs. those with "35mm full-frame" sensors, but they are unlikely to be significant within a manufacturer's range of APS-C cameras, unless you are comparing different generations of cameras/sensors (e.g., the D300s/D300/D90/D5000 all share the same sensor with minor tweaks, whereas the D200/D80/D60/D40x use the previous generation's sensor).

I also have to admit that I spend far less time fiddling with settings on my D60 than with my D300, and far more time actually taking pictures. It is better to know your camera well, than to have a camera with more features that are theoretically available to you.

Best regards,

I wonder how the study was able to determine that pictures were taken with kit lenses. A quick glance at the back of Canon's EF LensWorks III shows me 27 EF lenses that cover some or all of the 18-55mm range. If someone shot with a 50/1.8 stopped down to f/8 their exif data would look identical to someone's shot from an 18-55 kit lens if the latter were used at 50mm and f/8.

Camera model is easier to glean from exif data, but how many JPGs are uploaded to common sites like flickr, photobucket, webshots, dgrin, zenfolio, etc? And of those, how many still contain exif data? Half? Two-thirds? Even if it's a large percentage, it's possible that the exif-lacking images might represent a different graph/model of data than the exif-containing photos.

I guess I am saying that I am dubious of the statistic.

Mike, the deal on Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is good until January 19 at Corel's website http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1184951547051#versionTabview=tab0&tabview=tab0
Also, the Ultimate version sells for $50. Not my favourite photo editor but very capable and fully featured in the special effects department.

Indeed, we purchased an Canon XS/1000D for my father about 6 months ago. He had been using a Canon Rebel 2000 for about 9 years and it was the perfect step into digital.

He can't stop talking about a) how much he loves the camera b) (more importantly) how much more he is enjoying photography.

Ed Hawco said:
"I think we enthusiasts often lose sight of the fact that not everyone cares about the minutiae that we do."

I couldn't agree more with this.

Christian: Most current DSLRs save lens ID in the metadata. Mine saves exposure settings, focal length, lens ID, and the camera's serial number as well as the owner ID if it's set.

Regarding kit lenses, I don't think this is anything new. I've seen a lot of old camera kits which were interchangeable-lens FSLR and there was exactly one lens in the bag - the lens the camera came with. Not surprised the same thing is happening with DSLRs.

I think it's mind boggling that you can buy a camera as good and versatile as the Rebel XS for $450. The original Digital Rebel was how I returned to photography, and while I've been sucked into the chase for better and better equipment, I have to say that some of my favorite photos were taken with that Digital Rebel with the kit lens. The Rebel XS appears to be orders of magnitude better, and I imagine that many owners are taking lots of fantastic photos.


Amazing how many people get involved in a discussion on entry level DSLRs instead of reacting to your original post Mike. Oh well.

I have been working with PSP(XI)for some years now and find it very good for the PP I do. The important operations like levels, curves, unsharp mask, channel mixer, leveling and cropping all work in 16 bit per channel.

I do not need plug-ins, I think they are a waste of money as all the functionality is in the program. Of course you must be willing to learn how it works.

One of the strong points of PSP is the scripting, I have scripts for resized images for the web and for images that I like to print.

The raw processing part of PSP X2 really sucks as it blows highlights for Canon G9 and Olympus E-xxx files beyond recovery where Olympus Studio -which is not great with highlights recovery- still can retain some detail.


Marc, Wow! I had no idea. That's pretty cool. I just found this info from a picture of mine:

Long Focal: 250 mm
Short Focal: 55 mm

That's from my Canon 55-250. Now, skeptic that I sometimes am, I wonder if that level of attention to detail was part of the study.

Paint Shop Pro was a fantastic program from about 1999-2003. At the time it was the only alternative to Photoshop that I could find that let you work with layers. It also supported vector images. Sadly the company that produced it (JASC) was bought by Corel in 2004 and it's gotten pretty middling reviews since then. If you're looking for an alternative to Photoshop, Photoshop Elements is probably a better choice. It's currently only $55 at Amazon (with mail in rebate).

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