ON1's relatively new to market Photo (RAW) 2017 has pushed their first major update into beta which Fstoppers managed to get our hands on for an early review. In December, we took a look at the original launch of Photo (RAW) 2017 and were impressed by many of the features but ultimately felt that it did not offer enough benefit to recommend switching to over existing raw editors. With this latest iteration ON1 has promised a series of impressive new features that it feels will launch it into contention as a top tier raw editing tool.
The first new feature offered in Photo (RAW) 2017.5 is a tool designed to help compare images and make selections from within a library. For those familiar with Lightroom's survey mode will find Photo (RAW) 2017.5's compare mode quite familiar. ON1, however, has taken their compare mode feature a step beyond what Lightroom offers by including a feature that makes it easy to zoom in on each image and pan them all at once to easily compare at 100% zoom. This feature makes comparing aspects of a photo such as focus accuracy much easier and is certainly a welcome addition to a culling workflow and is often something I have wished was present within Lightroom. An even more welcome, addition, however, would be a tool that can automatically detect eye sharpness and reject soft images as I find that one of the biggest time drains while culling is often zooming into each and every image to ensure that I don't accidently send a soft shot to the client for review. (As we all know, if I do, that will be the one the client selects for editing)
One of the most commonly bemoaned missing features lacking in the original release of Photo (RAW) 2017 was the lack of a lens correction tool. Many photographers consider such a feature to be critical, for good reason, and often would cite its omission from Photo (RAW) 2017 as a reason to cast it aside. In Photo (RAW) 2017.5, ON1 has added a standard lens correction tool that will feel very familiar to any photographer who uses other raw editors on the market. Other than some slightly different naming conventions Photo (RAW) 2017.5's lens correction tool is almost identical to other lens correction tools on the market. In my tests it seemed to work great but offered nothing new to the table. For me, it is a checkbox that needed to be filled but not a wheel that needed reinventing.
Presets are a fantastic, quick way to apply a series of adjustments to an image in order to achieve a specific look. Photo (RAW) 2017 enjoyed this feature from day one by offering an improved workflow beyond the traditional Lightroom style preset system. Photo (RAW) 2017's presets offer a thumbnail grid view that lets the user preview the impact of each preset before applying them to the image. One of the major weaknesses that most preset systems suffer from, however, is that only one preset can be used at a time and selecting it overwrites any existing settings already applied to the image. In Photo (RAW) 2017.5 ON1 has added the functionality to layer multiple presets on one another to craft a new look.
In Photo (RAW) 2017 ON1 adds another new pane to the develop module designed to help photographers manage detail within their images. Detail is defined as the balance between sharpening and noise reduction. Each individual slider, like the lens correction panel, does not appear to be breaking any new ground. Each does as you'd expect and at first glance appears to do a fairly good job. ON1, though, is expanding the functionality of the standard detail pane that we have come to expect by including tabs along the top of the pane that allow the editor to specify different levels of adjustment depending on the output medium when the image is exported. This nifty feature allows photographers to set different sharpening levels depending on if the image is exported for print or web which is incredibly useful for those who often find themselves constantly re-adjusting sharpening depending on what they intend to use the image for.
Another often bemoaned missing feature within Photo (RAW) 2017 was a lack of a cloning tool that can be used to manually make clone based adjustments to an image. In previous versions of Photo (RAW) 2017 retouchers were limited to only the more "intelligent" healing tools which make attempts to interpret what the user wants. The addition of a clone stamp tool which specifically is responsible for making an exact copy of what the user specifies can be a big help in situations that the intelligent, interpretive healing tools simply are not getting the job done. As a whole the clone stamp tool worked as expected offering a similar experience to the Lightroom clone tool. Unfortunately, like the Lightroom clone tool, the Photo (RAW) 2017 clone tool also feels very sluggish compared to cloning in Photoshop.
In the previous Photo (RAW) 2017 review I was not overly impressed by the speed of the software often finding that its sluggishness felt like a burden while editing. In this latest version of (RAW) Raw 2017.5 overall speed appears to have increased moderately which certainly helps improve the workflow. It, however, is certainly not fast which continues to make it a tough sell over Capture One which offers far faster performance throughout the workflow. As a whole, Photo (RAW) 2017.5 feels about on par with Lightroom in terms of software speed which certainly brings it into the viable category but I'd prefer to see a further significant boost in performance, personally.
As a whole, I would consider Photo (RAW) 2017.5 a strong update that adds maturity to the software by shoring up several of its largest weaknesses. As a raw editor Photo (RAW) 2017.5 offers a complete workflow that is more than capable of providing end to end photo editing for all but the most complex of edits. For those who wish to free themselves of Adobe subscription plans Photo (RAW) 2017.5 enjoys a reasonably competitive one-time fee of $119.99 which allows users to own their software license instead of renting it. Comparatively Photo (RAW) 2017.5 is priced at almost exactly the same price point as an annual subscription to Creative Cloud for Photographers. For users who wish to always be on the cutting edge the Photo (RAW) 2017.5 upgrade pricing does feel a bit high at $99.00 which presumably would become an annual fee to anyone looking to stay up to date.
What I Liked
- New features offer improved workflow without re-inventing the wheel.
- Improved stability.
- Several innovative additions to the expected photography workflow.
What I Didn't Like
- Performance continues to be mediocre at best.