The rise of the camera phone has turned everyone into an amateur photographer – we’ve taken nearly 1400 pictures on our iPhone this year without even trying. But instead of just dumping them onto the PC willy nilly, we’ve been on the lookout for a program that can organise our photo collection (and perhaps make some of them look like better photos than they actually are). Serif normally does a decent, cost-effective job with stuff like this, so let’s have a look at what PhotoPlus X5 has to offer.
Unified X5 interface
The latest version of Serif’s low-cost photo editing software brings the interface in line with the rest of the X5 range, adds vibrance and clarity effects, several new blend modes and some performance improvements. The big news though is a brand new program – PhotoPlus Organiser which is designed to wean people off Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery – and a range of project templates designed to get you started using your photographs more creatively – things like photo books, cards, collages, scrapbooks and so on.
The new interface has the same good/bad balance as the rest of the X5 range. That means it’s really flippin’ busy with tiny ‘more’ arrows all over the place – on buttons, menus and tabs – and while there are plenty of ways to tailor what’s on the screen (either by using one of the pre-defined workspaces or by setting up your own custom toolbar) beginners will still find it a bit intense. That said, we still think the How To panel that opens by default and can walk you through all of the program’s major features is a real plus and makes navigating the extensive feature set easier than it would otherwise be.
PhotoPlus Organiser lets you include any photos stored on any attached disks – or import them from a camera or USB disk – and then arrange them by folder, tag, star rating, date taken or by using the ‘Smart Albums’ feature which organises photos based on 11 different criteria including place taken, file format, width and height, file size, name and so on. In addition, similar photos can be arranged in ‘stacks’ – a bit like the stacks introduced in Windows Vista. You can also see all the metadata ‘behind’ a photo – things like focal length, shutter speed, exposure mode and so on, double clicking previews a photo, there’s support for simple, Ken Burns-style slideshows, and for direct uploads to Flickr and Facebook. For quick editing, click the PhotoFix button to apply straightforward creative effects, fix red eye, sort out skin blemishes and more, or load PhotoPlus proper and you’ll have the entire tool set available.
The new headline image editing features are vibrance adjustment which brightens photos of people and faces while preserving natural hair and skin tones; similarly, the brightness and contrast controls do their job without losing so much detailed image information, while the new
clarity filter adds a harder edge, even when a photo appears in focus.
Newcomers on the lookout for a full range photo editing program can buy this with confidence in the knowledge that it’ll cover them right the way from fixing kids’ birthday party red-eye through to working with layers, editing RAW files or creating super-vibrant HDR images from multiple exposures of the same scene (this is the effect used in ultra-realistic night shots, sunsets and so on). For the money you get the program, a range of fancy project templates – so you can create a stylish photobook for example – and a mini tripod for your camera, all of which makes PhotoPlus X5 good value.
Contact: Serif on 0800 376 7070
- Stylish and powerful, good help.
- Light on new features.
We're still impressed with the photo editing features of X5 - excellent layer support, macros for repeating common editing tasks, even animated GIF support for those that still need it - but found the new Organiser unattractive and underwhelming. As an upgrade, this feels like Serif getting all its ducks in a row by unifying the product's interface, adding a few nice bits and then throwing in an library application and some templates that usually come with the company's Craft Artist product.