Topaz Studios seems to have endless releases of powerful tools for photographers, and many of us have at least one Topaz application or plugin in our collection of editing tools. So, just how good is the newly released Topaz Studio 2?
The original Topaz Studio was a bit of an odd release. Studio was free, and it came with some filters, but the premium filters cost money and were added to the Topaz Studio app as you needed them. I know a lot of photographers who didn't like that approach, while some did. With this release of Studio 2, Topaz is giving you a complete set of filters and editing tools, but appropriately, none of it is free.
The All-New Studio 2
Let's define what Studio 2 is first. Like much of the software from Topaz Labs, we've got an extensive set of filters and ease of use that doesn't require a manual.
Studio 2 is a complete rebuild of the original app. It is faster, some bugs have been fixed, and most importantly, it adds non-destructive layers. It's a similar arrangement to what Photoshop offers with layers, and there are blend modes and precise masking.
This release seems aimed at creatives, and by that, I mean people who will take an image and go beyond the normal touch-ups of reducing highlights, boosting shadow detail, and sharpening.
Studio 2 offers two methods of editing, one with "looks," which are basically presets like we've seen from Topaz before and many other image editing apps, and then filters.
Topaz provides more than 25 filters offering control of things like color, texture, lighting, and more. Certainly, you can make the standard adjustments as you would with most other editing software, but Topaz goes beyond that into the realm of advanced digital manipulation,that can give your photos a mildly painted look or a variety of ethereal or surreal edits.
Using Topaz Studio 2
I took Studio 2 for a spin, putting it into my workflow as a Photoshop plugin.I found the GUI of Studio 2 more to my liking, and it is obvious how the tools work. Also, Topaz Labs has always been generous in offering YouTube videos, walk-throughs, and live demonstrations on the web.
While reasonably complete, I found Studio 2 to be missing some basic tools, like cropping and healing. Topaz says they will be in an update, but they should have been in the original release.
I used it inside Photoshop, so it opened the image I already had up. The interface is streamlined, with two options on the right side of the screen: add filters and add looks. When you click on filters, you get an extensive set of options, some similar to what you would find in Lightroom and filters that go further, like AI Clear, which can enhance sharpness, remove noise, increase clarity, and recover details. It works nicely, and the best thing about it is you aren't stuck with the decisions the software makes; you can adjust each parameter and even save your choices as a new filter. I liked it.
There's also a a lot of creative filters that go beyond the usual adjustments you find. They worked well, but in general, they went beyond what I use in an image editor. On the other hand, I have to admit that one of my best-selling prints used a Topaz filter that emulated night lighting. Some photographers will love the range and flexibility. You can get very abstract if you like.
Studio 2 is probably what the original Studio should have been. It's a pro tool, with enough options for landscape photographers like me and plenty for people who want to extend their creativity. I liked the black and white tools especially along with the abstract options, even though I would not use them very often. There's even a section that will create really attractive realistic frames and mattes for your image.
I like this tool. It's the best one I've seen Topaz Labs create. Adding layers really can speed up my work, and individuals layers can be turned off. The canned looks can be infinitely adjusted and then saved, leaving the photographer solidly in the editing equation.
I do think Topaz has too many products, and there is some overlap between them. It may be hard to get some imagers to upgrade when there is a good deal of similarity in the presets on offer.
Users of the older Topaz Studio have a lot of upgrade options depending on what they bought to populate that earlier version of the software. I find that very fair.
Topaz Studio 2 is being offered on a promotional price of $79.99. Then, it goes up to $99.99. The Topaz website is a bit confusing, because if you look for Topaz Studio 2, you'll only find a chance to buy Topaz Studio. I guess they've dropped the original version and name. Topaz offers a lot of videos to demonstrate what this software can do. It's worth a look before you buy.
What I Like
- Clean Interface
- Ability to work with layers
- A lot of control, even with presets
- Split screen and multiple undos
What Could Be Better
- Topaz products have too much overlap
- Some tools from original Studio are missing, i.e. crop and healing options
- Install process is slow and gives misleading times until finish