Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Lightzone 3.1: a first look

So Lightcrafts updated Lightzone again. This has been my favourite photo editor, despite some flaws for various reasons. Low cost, easy editting and natural workflow (in no particular order) were the key ones. Each update to 2.4 seemed worthwhile.
Then came 3.0. That wasn't a major update, IMO. Actually a big step backwards. The tools were little changed, performance didn't improve, they binned the handy XML format .lzn file and still wanted me to pay for the upgrade. No thanks.

Now 3.1. I can say, this is the major upgrade that 3.0 never was. Significant changes in tools and performance improvements. Here, then, my initial observations (not a huge amount of files done):

The good

Relight tool: a big step up from the Tonemapper and much better than 3.0. Combines highlight recovery, shadow "lift" and micro contrast (similar to hiraloam sharpening) in one handy tool. It's so good, final sharpening needs are much reduced.

Colour/tone selection: a feature I've wanted for a while. The ability to edit by colour mask or tonal range mask is very powerful and very nicely implemented although the sliders are a bit small.

Noise reduction: much improved. Both stronger and yet retaining detail. Ability to also restrict it to tonal ranges enables shadow noise to be attacked without touching the rest of the image.

Zoom buttons: nice to add on top of the short-cuts. Still need a drag zoom feature.

Nice to finally see a history stack, but ability to clear it (and memory) is needed.

The bad

Losing the .lzn files. If I want to batch rename files I can no longer batch edit the sidecars to maintain file associations. Frustratingly, all the appropriate data can be viewed in a text editor, just not editted and have the file keep working. This is annoying squared for me.

Load up is still not fast. First time I ran it, it was slower than my old tape drive load-ups (it even installed faster). Subsequent starts were better behaved. The constant scanning of folders still annoys me, though.

No way to clear the history stack. I'm sure data caching is eating memory and as LZ is memory hungry in the first place, this is a bad thing.

Crop tool also includes rotation. Very annoying and very hard to undo an accidental rotation. There are 2 tools, lets keep them separate as they always were.

Auto-renaming. I name files with -nnn at the end for indexing. LZ seems to think I don't need it and bins the lot. Bang! My index is gone from the sidecar. It also does different naming things when copying tools than editting. Very annoying and needs constant vigilance. For software that advertises as a DAM solution, these are not conducive to file management.

Not yet tested (as I got annoyed quickly)

Printing: I had a load of problems, to the point that I could not use LZ to print. Plus my printer is down at the moment (thanks Canon).

Export/save times and behaviour. Again, each point you save from has a different way of naming, colour managing etc. I want one default TIFF setting, and one JPG setting and to use them everywhere, without LZ changing them on my behalf.

A few tools not yet tried and those I have tried need in-depth testing.

My Conclusion

Significant improvements in the tools. Way too little QA on the UI. Lots of annoyances still. Yes it's a big upgrade but not enough, especially with the hike in price. On another note, I don't use other software linked to LZ (Lightroom and the likes) so do not care what features have been included for that. I want my tidy, all by itself LZ back, please.

I'll hold off upgrading for now until I've tested further.

I'll probably contact Lightcrafts on some of the issues, too, see what they have to say.

UPDATE: if you're just dropping in - check out my more in-depth look here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still using Lightzone 2.3 (I hit a bug in 2.4 and trashed the installation). It has always frustrated me. It has loads of potential but the guiding hand behind the product seems out of touch.

    On a completely different subject (another post), if you haven't seen it, then:

    has posted a lot recently on the various print-on-demand book makers.


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