Buyer's Guide 2007: Digital Imaging Software
From basic fixes to professional tools for the most demanding enthusiast, there's a photo app
The final application in this category is Digital Light & Color Picture Window Pro 4.0. The latest version of this Windows-only program includes RAW file support and full color management. Some of the tools found here are unique, such as the impressive Composite and the Match Reference transformation features. Picture Window Pro has been a favorite with astrophotographers, thanks to its optimized tools for both image registration and stacking tools.
New to version 4.0 are batch processing and RAW file support, along with an image browser to help streamline the editing process. While it doesn't have the most intuitive interface of all the programs covered here, Picture Window Pro puts an impressive set of features into your hands. List Price: $89.
There's another category of programs that doesn't quite fit into the other groups. These applications are designed for helping you quickly work with a large number of images, especially those of you working with RAW images.
Among these programs are Bibble Pro (Mac and Windows), Capture One Pro (Mac and Windows) and BreezeBrowser Pro (Windows only). All make importing, keywording and converting RAW files easy, but none will replace your full-featured image editor. Rather, they're designed to work best with programs like Photoshop.
There are two other programs that fall somewhere in between those listed earlier: Apple Aperture and Adobe Lightroom.
Designed to be a pro-level image management solution, Apple Aperture is an elegant and powerful program that brings many common tasks under one roof. Aperture takes advantage of Apple's expertise in interface design to streamline tasks like image comparison and organizing. Rather than modifying your original image, Aperture creates Versions, which are essentially lists of the changes made to the image. This lets you have any number of variations of a photo without taking up the disk space a full copy would.
Aperture also has extensive output options for high-quality books, prints and web pages. Although there are extensive editing features in Aperture, it won't replace Photoshop or your other image editor. For those situations, you can easily export your images to the editor, and Aperture will track the changes for you. List Price: $299.
Still in beta, Adobe Lightroom takes aim squarely at Aperture. Strong on image management and common editing tasks, Lightroom, like Aperture, isn't designed to be a replacement for your image editor. Lightroom uses the same RAW conversion engine as Adobe Camera Raw, along with excellent print output and Web page generation. Look for a full review of Lightroom in PCPhoto when it ships in 2007.