When I first started in photography, I remember recoiling at the price of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, but I "needed" them, so I dipped my hand into my pocket. Back then, you could buy a version of the software outright, which was better in many ways, but it did also mean they became outdated as major updates were locked behind new versions. I thought this changed for the better when Adobe introduced a subscription model so that you always have the latest version, but alas, that didn't turn out to be the case. For just Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, the "Photography" package, it's $19.99 per month (more outside of the U.S), or $82.49 per month (yes, you read that correctly) for all of Adobe's software (including Adobe Premiere Pro for video).
For many starting out, that is simply too much for those two applications, and the $82.49 per month package is difficult for almost everyone to justify. When I began my journey with a camera, however, the alternatives were grim. I experimented with a few and they handled like software from the early 90s — and they looked like it too. Now, there are viable alternatives and one is Zoner Photo Studio X. Not only can it compete with what Photoshop and Lightroom offer, but it does so at a fraction of the price ($5.99 or $59 per year.)
If you search "Zoner" here on Fstoppers you will see some other articles on the software suite and some previous major updates. In this article, I'm going to be highlighting the best parts of the latest update which contains the "largest batch of improvements since Version X, released in 2016."
Raw Processing Time Cut in Half
There are few things that ignite fury in me faster than slow computing, particularly if the task at hand is for work. When you open raw files for the first time, this can be a slow and cumbersome task for the editing suite. What's happening behind the scenes is a demosaicing algorithm interpreting and combining the color information captured by your camera's sensor, which only records one color per pixel. Once complete, the algorithm provides the full-color image you see by guessing the missing colors per pixel. While modern software has improved at how quickly and efficiently this function is performed, it can still be slow. With the latest update, ZPS X has, more or less, cut the time it takes to open a raw file in half, as well as improved speeds for importing and exporting in general.
Native Support for 50% More Bodies and Over 1,200 Lenses
In the past 20 years, the number of different cameras that have been released has been unprecedented. It has reached the point where it's not all that common to bump into someone with the exact same model you are using. If, like me, you often enjoy wandering off the beaten path with cameras, this can pose a problem. If you've never had your processing software refuse to read your work, you may not appreciate the pain in the posterior it is. When reviewing unreleased cameras, I would say it is the worst part of the workflow. Well, since the Fall update of 2022 — mere months ago — ZPS X has increased the number of camera bodies supported by a whopping 50%.
Arguably, the bigger news, however, is the native support of over 1,200 lenses. This means that there are lens profiles for an enormous selection of glass, which allows you to automatically correct distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. Nothing additional need be installed, you can just enable automatic lens corrections, and the number of lenses supported is continuing to grow at a rate of knots.
Brand New Video Module Features
In any article I write on ZPS X, I mention that it aims to be an all-encompassing suite that can edit photographs, videos, and work as a file management tool. The video module started life reasonably basic, but with every passing update, it grows into a more comprehensive weapon for multimedia folk. There are four main components to the latest update to the video module:
- Transform Clips: Footage can now be easily cropped, scaled, and moved.
- Keyframes: Every setting or animation can now be controlled completely across clips rather than as a whole.
- Preloading: Videos can now be preloaded from a folder for a smoother and faster workflow.
- Fast Previews: Video previews are now smooth even on weaker hardware and high quality in full resolution.
Last year, I said Zonerama is underappreciated, and I still feel that way. In fact, the entire quote is applicable: "Zonerama is a free online gallery for your images, but it has a lot going for it: unlimited space, custom privacy and sharing settings, and my personal favorite: zero compression. That is, you can upload as many of your photographs as you like, for free, and they will retain their original quality."
Zonerama has continued to be improved, with this update adding 2K and 4K resolution video too. However, there is one aspect I was unaware of: Zonerama is free to use regardless of whether or not you purchase the license for the software. ZPS X is already ludicrously well-priced, so I'm unsure why Zonerama is free, especially when it's such a useful feature. There aren't many — if any — free online galleries with unlimited space that give you power over privacy and sharing, and do not compress your images. So, it felt worthwhile to plant a flag in this!
And So Much More...
When I say that these three features stand out to me, that isn't to say there aren't some fantastic additions and enhancements in ZPS X's latest update that I haven't included. There are some general improvements, such as higher-quality photo previews, interactive video thumbnails, and myriad user interface changes. There are then more targeted improvements such as the artifact reduction for high ISO images; This is particularly effective for cameras using the Fuji X-Trans sensors.
There is so much included in this latest update for ZPS X that it's difficult to cover it all in one place, but I will highlight one final inclusion that is a brilliant quality-of-life addition: You can now customize the Develop module, allowing you to move and rearrange panels and settings groups to how you want them to be positioned.
ZPS X may not be the most famous editing suite out there, but the team working on it deserves far more credit than they receive. I'm not sure I have ever seen software iterated upon so aggressively, rolling out gargantuan update patches multiple times per year.
If this holistic software suite for a fraction of the price of its famous rivals sounds interesting, why not utilize the one month free trial of Zoner Photo Studio X to test the water?
As a hobbyist photographer with full-time job I have not had much time for photography the last couple of years. But I used zoner X since it was zoner 18, drawn by the low price. Something I remember well was the excellent and personal support I got when I had questions in those early days. Warm and friendly and concise. If I had follow-up questions, I got the same person responding to me each time. I have not recently had to ask for help and I don't know if that aspect has been scaled back as the application grew but I still appreciate that to this day.
One last note, I noted that I am a hobbyist but of course I get bombarded on the internet with all sorts of articles about other software and I can see that the Zoner X features seems to be keeping up with the other professional grade software.
It would be really helpful if photography software articles identified the platform support in the lead, or at least in the first few paragraphs!
Sure, Windows is a majority player — when it comes to desktops.
But if you include all the devices out there, it is now a minority, overall. With Linux and Mac OS as viable alternatives to desktop/laptop software, there is also Android and IOS that run almost all non-desktop/laptop devices, including some tablets that are competitive with desktop/laptop machines!
I just searched the article. Neither "Windows" nor "Mac" nor "Linux" even appear in the article! C'mon, it's not even a review if it doesn't mention platform support!