Software Review: onOne Perfect Photo Suite 9

January 9, 2015

By Stan Sholik

Since the introduction of the Quick View Browser in Perfect Photo Suite 7.5, onOne Software seems bent on dethroning Adobe as the go-to post-production software of choice for advanced enthusiasts and professionals. With the release of Perfect Photo Suite 8, onOne has advanced closer to that goal with the introduction of Photoshop-compatible PSD files and layers.

Now in Perfect Photo Suite 9, onOne has added Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom functionality along with other tools that mirror Photoshop functionality. The Basic edition functions as a standalone application while the Premium edition functions as a standalone and plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Apple Aperture. Both editions are compatible with Photoshop CS6, so you don’t have to subscribe to Creative Cloud if you need to take advantage of Photoshop features, such as text tools, vector shapes, multi-use paths, and 3D options that are not available in Perfect Photo Suite 9.

The revised masking tools did an almost perfect job removing the background while preserving the rider’s hair and the bike’s detail, other than the moving spokes in the rear wheel. All photos © Stan Sholik

There are significant changes to some modules in Perfect Photo Suite 9 and minimal or no changes in others. Speed enhancements are present throughout this new version. Users will be impressed by how quickly image previews display, even from very large RAW and TIFF files.

The Browse module in version 9 has changed significantly. While retaining its ability to browse folders like Adobe Bridge, it adds Bridge and Lightroom-style functionality such as the ability to rate, rank, like or dislike, and sort images. In addition, a right-hand panel now allows you to add metadata and keywords to an image. By selecting multiple images and entering in metadata, you can add IPTC data to all selected files. I would like to see a place for GPS data now that many cameras (and smartphones) have built-in GPS functionality.

One quirk that I found occurs when using the Browse module to import RAW files from your camera or card reader. You can do this with the Batch module found in the File menu, and add metadata while importing, but RAW files are saved in the PSD file format, even when “Same as Source” is chosen as the file type for import. DNG is available as an option, too, but I would prefer to not have my native RAW file format files changed to Photoshop or DNG files, even if all of the original file information is somehow preserved.

Another major change in the Browse module is the loss of the Mask module tab from the toolbar. Masking functions (with significant changes) are incorporated into the Layers module in version 9. The Keep and Drop brushes with their tolerance settings, the Keep and Drop eyedroppers with their keep and drop color sets, and the Magic Brush Tool are gone. Replacing them are the Quick Mask Tool and the Perfect Brush, along with a few of the masking tools in version 8.

Quick Mask, to easily remove simple backgrounds, is now available in Perfect Layers. 

For simple masks, like replacing a boring sky with clouds in a mountain or desert landscape, the Quick Mask Tool is fine. But for tougher tests, I used photos with trees against the sky and a motocross rider against a bland California sky. The masks in version 9 were as good as or better than those I also created in version 8, and the newer masking tools were quicker and more intuitive. Rather than selecting keep and drop colors, you select the Perfect Brush from the toolbar, position it over the color you want to remove, then press and hold the Control key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) while you brush. 

The enhanced Perfect Brush in the toolbar simplifies masking out complex areas such as hair.

It worked perfectly, preserving wisps of the rider’s hair against the sky. Removing the old sky between the moving spokes of the rear wheel of the motorcycle worked better than I expected, but not quite as well as I hoped. Automated masking still needs some human intervention.

When you open an image from the Browse module, regardless of file format, to any module other than Perfect Resize, you encounter what is probably the most important new feature in Perfect Photo Suite 9: the ability to edit a copy of the image as a “Smart Photo Re-editable PSD file.” Like a Smart Object in Photoshop, the changes you make to the file with a tool in any module that supports Smart Photos remains re-editable even after the file is closed.

When moving from the Browse module to most others, you now have the option to convert the image into a Smart Photo that preserves edits for re-editing later. 

Although the image with Smart Photo layers is saved as a PSD, the layers do not open as Smart Objects in Photoshop. However, the changes do remain editable when the file is reopened in Perfect Photo Suite 9.

The Enhance module contains a new noise-reduction tool with presets and sliders to customize the presets. There is also a separate ability to apply noise reduction selectively to highlights, shadows or several colors. A new lens flare filter is available in the Effects module. And for the first time in Perfect Photo Suite, you can print from any module.

One thing that hasn’t changed for new users or those upgrading is the excellent video tutorials to get you up to speed on the program. The tutorials, along with information about new features and enhancements, are on the onOne website. You can also download a 30-day free trial there. The masking and resizing functions are among the best you will find. Integrated with the other modules, Perfect Photo Suite 9 is a formidable alternative to comparable Adobe programs.

Microsoft® Windows®
• Current 64-bit maintenance release of Windows 7 or Windows 8
• Intel Core 2 Duo, Xeon or better processor(s)
• 8+ GB RAM
• 1.5 GB of available hard disk space
• Fast 7200 rpm or SSD hard drive; 20-inch or larger monitor with 1280 x 720 resolution
• OpenGL 2.0 video card with 256MB video RAM, 1280 x 720 resolution (OpenGL 4.0 compatible video card with 1GB dedicated video RAM)

Apple® Macintosh®
• Current maintenance release Mac OSX 10.8, 10.9, 10.10 Intel Core 2 Duo, Xeon or better processor(s)
• 8+ GB RAM 1.5GB of free hard disk space
• Fast 7200 rpm or SSD hard drive
• 20-inch or larger monitor with 1280 x 720 resolution
• OpenGL 2.0 video card with 256MB video RAM, 1280 x 720 resolution (OpenGL 4.0 compatible video card with 1GB dedicated video RAM)

Perfect Photo Suite 9 remains a non-subscription program. Its two editions are only available by download: $149.95 for new users; $99.95 for previous user upgrades. $79.95, Basic Edition new users; $49.95, Basic Edition upgrade for previous users. $59.95, Premium Editions of Perfect Mask 9, Perfect Effects 9, Perfect Layers 9, Perfect Enhance 9, Perfect Portrait 9, Perfect Browse 9 and Perfect B&W 9 as separate applications. $79.95, Premium Edition of Perfect Resize 9.