Adobe Photoshop CS5

Adobe Camera RAW 6

Adobe Photoshop is a must have for almost every digital photographer in the world, and it’s very likely that most people reading this are very familiar with Photoshop, but the RAW file converter Adobe Camera RAW 6 is part, not just of Photoshop CS5, but also of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. Adobe’s RAW file convertor - ACR has recently been updated to Adobe Camera RAW 6 - ACR 6 which can only be used with Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5 or Photoshop Elements 8.    Why ?  ACR Compatibilty

When it was first released the interface of ACR was a breath of fresh air, compared to the very clunky manufacturers own products available at the time. However, things have moved on, and although ACR is still very good, it’s interface isn’t the best around any more. But you now have a choice. Although Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 use the saw RAW conversion module, they are very different to use. So this test, apart from assessing the quality of the RAW conversions, also has to consider:

Which Photoshop is best?

Photoshop ACR 6 web size

Start Adobe Camera RAW and the main Photoshop screen is forced into the background.

ACR floats on top of the main Photoshop screen while it’s in use, and much like the rest of Photoshop, everything you need is there, it just may not be obvious where. Photoshop and ACR are aimed sqarely at professional users, so have to be learned. The tabs on the right are well arranged and offer lots of extra functions for noise reduction, correction for vignetting,  lens aberrations and color. If the main control panel is set to auto, I’d suggest changing it to Default. Apart from the fact that the Auto corrections just never seem to get it right, they obscure what you’ve actually got to work with. So I always turn them off. Once you’ve done that you see the pictures you actually took, not the auto level version.  If you’re considering buying Photoshop CS5 because it will make it easier to get great pictures, that’s only true if you’re prepared to put a lot of time in to learning to use it. Adobe Photoshop CS5 may be the greatest imaging program there is, but it’s auto fix tools are usually about as useless as every other program’s. Photoshop’s great strength is the amount of manual control it gives you. That also applies to it’s RAW conversion module Adobe Camera RAW 6.  In both cases there’s a lot to learn.

Results from ACR with Nikon NEF files have always been pretty good, if not the best, but results with Canon CR2 files were poor.

However, with ACR 6 that’s all changed. Adobe decided that a complete ground up rebuild of ACR was what was required to get back on even terms with the competition and, wow does it make a difference. At high ISOs in particular, Adobe’s RAW processing software is now about the best there is, leaving previous market leaders with a hill to climb.

Although I prefer the Adobe Lightroom 3 interface, the ACR module is exactly the same in Photoshop CS5, so results will be identical.  Which is the best Photoshop? To me now, it comes down to the workflow, or interface, and Lightroom 3 wins that hands down. Photoshop CS5 has new features but it, and ACR 6 now look old fashioned in comparison to Lightroom 3.

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© David Gold
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