Software Review: Perfect Photo Suite 8

by Stan Sholik

March 25, 2014

Since the introduction of the controversial subscription-based Adobe Photoshop CC last year, I have reviewed several programs as possible photo editing alternatives for photographers. While none of them could fully serve as a substitute for users who require the fullest range of Photoshop’s functionality, many of them are serious contenders for advanced photographers and professionals who don’t require text tools, vector shapes, multi-use paths and 3D options.

One of these programs, onOne Perfect Photo Suite, has been a great option since the release of version 7.5 when the Quick View Browser module was introduced. You can find my review of version 7.5 on page 112 of the September 2013 digital edition of Rangefinder.

With the release of Perfect Photo Suite 8, onOne Software has further enhanced the software to make it one of the top contenders for photographers searching for a Photoshop substitute. Put simply, this latest version of onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite is a great imaging program with a wide array of tools and effects bundled in an intuitive and understandable interface. Let’s take a look.

Improved Interface
The interface in Perfect Photo Suite 8 has undergone a slight but welcome revision. The file browser that had only been a tab in the left pane of the Layers module in version 7 has been promoted to its own module. You now access the Browser module from its name at the very left of the Module Selector list, making it directly accessible from any module. It joins seven other modules in the Module Selector, although there is a change in the list. The Focus module is now somewhat incorporated as the Lens Blur filter in the Effects module, having lost the focus bug of Focal Point that I had come to love. Oh well.

The browser introduced in version 7 is promoted to its own module and is accessed from the Browser tab at the left of the Module Selector. There are new Sources available including Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Photo Stream and SkyDrive if your photos are stored in those locations. All photos © Stan Sholik

In place of the Focus module is the new Enhance Module, also available as the standalone program Perfect Enhance. Here you find tools to improve color, tone and detail, and there are brushes for spot healing, cloning, and removing objects with content-aware fill technology. You can also create vignettes and add sharpening. It’s the perfect starting place for adjusting an image, especially when using Perfect Photo Suite 8 as a standalone application.

Perfect Enhance will seem familiar to anyone who uses the Quick Develop tools in the Lightroom Library panel, although it also includes vignetting and sharpening. I would hope, in time, that the Perfect Enhance tools become more sophisticated with wider ranges on the exposure (Brightness) slider and more critical color controls along with RGB and clipping readouts. But the availability of presets and the ability to create your own user presets are nice touches for the first cut at an adjustment module.

Better Editing Tools
Along with the Browse, Effects and Enhance modules are the Layers, Portrait, B&W, Mask, and Resize modules. The Layers module is the only one that’s changed as far as I can determine.
Along with Perfect Enhance, there is also a new Perfect Batch module, replacing the previous Batch processor. It does not appear in the Module Selector list but is accessed from the File menu in the Browse and Layers modules. With Perfect Batch you can convert all of the files in a folder to a new file format, change the resolution and size of a group of images, apply presets from the Enhance, Portrait, Effects, B&W, and Resize modules to a group of images, and add a watermark to a batch of images.

The new content-aware Perfect Eraser is capable of removing significant unwanted areas from an image (top) and replacing it with believable image information (bottom).

There are further changes than those mentioned above in the Enhance and Layers modules. The new Perfect Eraser is available in both. Using content-aware fill technology, Perfect Eraser seamlessly removes unwanted objects in an image and automatically fills in the area with appropriate image information. With the right image it works very well—with others, not so well, just as with content-aware fill in Adobe programs. There is also a content-aware Retouch Brush in the modules to remove dust spots and minor blemishes.

Selecting the Layers module opens the masked image and makes the built-in Extras sky backgrounds available. After selecting and scaling the one I wanted, the final image is available for output in seconds.

The Effects and Layers modules also benefit from an enhanced Masking Bug to make mask creation easier and more intuitive. Still present in the Layers, Portrait, Effects and B&W modules is the Perfect Brush, which samples color under the brush and uses that information to mask that color only. This allows you to apply or remove adjustments to the specific area you are working on without crossing the edges around it. Overall, masking with Perfect Photo Suite 8 is far easier and more intuitive than any other software.

While I found no changes in the Portrait module, with its combination of control points, preset looks, and adjustment sliders, it remains one of the fastest and most intuitive portrait retouching programs available.

The Effects module is expanded, with nearly twice the number of filters and more built-in presets. One of these is the new Dynamic Contrast filter, which adds clarity by exaggerating contrast without creating halos, affecting saturation, or sacrificing highlight or shadow detail. Dynamic Contrast does not create an HDR effect (there is a separate HDR Look filter in Effects)but does enhance edge sharpness and texture. And, as with all of the filters, there are multiple sliders in the right pane of the workspace to customize the effect.

Room for Improvement
Besides the need for more refined adjustment tools in the new Perfect Enhance module, there are other areas that could use improvement in future versions. While RAW file conversion is supported from a large number of cameras (they are listed on the onOne website), there are unsupported cameras that professionals need, such as Phase One digital backs. And, although RAW file conversion is available for the Fuji cameras with the X-Trans sensor, I found the results fall short of other programs.

Also, while RAW files are converted natively in the Mac version of the program, the Windows version relies on RAW for conversion, which leads to results that some picky professional photographers will consider inferior to the conversions from Adobe or Capture One.

Program speed is always an issue for photographers with a large number of images to adjust. While it makes sense to convert RAW files to PSD, TIFF or JPEG before adding them to most modules, I would prefer adjusting the RAW data using the Enhance module before converting the file and being able to paste those adjustments to similar RAW files. Perfect Batch is a step in this direction, but rarely do I want to apply exactly the same set of adjustments to a batch of files without opening and tweaking the adjustment for the RAW files individually.

Final Thoughts
While it makes sense to me to have access to all of the image files on your computer in the Layers module, the file browser in that module only allows access to the files on the drive where the program is installed. Because I store images on a separate drive, I must either return to the Browser module or use the File drop-down menu to add another image to a new layer. I’d prefer saving myself this additional step.

These issues aside, Perfect Photo Suite 8 (upgraded to 8.1 as this is going to press) gives most photographers all of the tools they need to do their work. Do note, however, that the Pen tool is limited to drawing masks, and there is no Path palette, no type tools, nor are there vector shapes, either. If you have never used these in Photoshop and are looking for an alternative imaging program, you should take a look at this program.

Perfect Photo Suite 8 is available in three editions: The Premium Edition works with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, Apple Aperture, and as a standalone application. It is priced at $179.95. Owners of previous versions of Perfect Photo Suite Premium Edition can upgrade for $99.95. Perfect Photo Suite 8 for Adobe Lightroom & Apple Aperture works with Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop Elements, and as a standalone application. It is available for $129.95; upgrades are $79.95. The Standard Edition works only as a complete standalone photo editor and is available for $79.95. Perfect Mask 8, Perfect Effects 8, and Perfect Resize 8 are also available as separate applications.

Recommended System Requirements

Microsoft® Windows®
Operating system: Current maintenance release of Windows 7 or Windows 8
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, Xeon or better processor
RAM: 4GB RAM (8+GB RAM recommended)
Disk space: 1.5GB of available hard disk space
Monitor: 20 inch or larger monitor with 1920x1080 or higher resolution
Graphics card: OpenGL 2.0 video card with 256MB video RAM
Installation: An Internet connection is needed for activation
Optional Host Applications: Adobe Photoshop CS5, CS6, CC; Photoshop Lightroom 4, 5; and Photoshop Elements 10, 11, 12

Apple® Macintosh®
Operating system: Mac OSX 10.7, 10.8, 10.9 current maintenance release Intel Core 2 Duo, Xeon or better processor
RAM: 4GB RAM (8+GB RAM recommended)
Disk space: 1.5GB of free hard disk space
Monitor: 20 inch or larger with 1920x1080 or higher resolution
Graphics card: OpenGL 2.0 video card with 1MB video RAM
Installation: An Internet connection is needed for activation
Optional Host Applications: Adobe Photoshop CS5, CS6, CC; Photoshop Lightroom 4, 5; and Photoshop Elements 10, 11, 12

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