Zoner Photo Studio 18 Review

Zoner Photo Studio 18 Review ImageZoner Photo Studio 18 Review Image

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Introduction

Photo Studio 18 is the newest photographic editing suite from Zoner. Designed for ease of use, as the program reaches it’s milestone eighteenth version, we’re going to be taking a look at the new features along with it’s compatibility ease of use. Zoner Photo Studio 18 costs $99 or $49 if you’re upgrading from a previous version. There’s also a Family Licence extension available for $49.

Ease of Use

The Windows file is only 66Mb and took us a few seconds to download from the Zoner website and around a minute and a half to install (not including reading the terms and conditions).  Before starting, it’s worth taking a quick look at the Zoner website as they have some useful additions to download that will make your life a little easier. For example, you can download a full PDF instruction manual for when things get tough (as they sometimes can). There’s also links to useful third party tools that can be integrated into Photo Studio 18, such as the Adobe DNG raw processor which expands the amount of compatible cameras. The reason behind downloading it at a later date boils down to the fact that the majority of users won’t use raw files, so it would be redundant data on the original download, and that to use the Adobe converter would mean purchasing a licence which would also push the price up for consumers. Following the links on the website will give full instructions on how to integrate the converter into your program.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

There’s also WIC Codecs for raw previews, GhostScript for previewing PS and EPS files and for those of you that like to have fun with your pictures, there’s a number of photo frames and templates available to download as well.

The front page of Zoner Photo Studio 18 has undergone a bit of reconstruction for this version. The main screen has been decluttered to allow more space to view your pictures and a Favourites option has been added to get to your most used features easier.  Adding to the usability of the program is an improved catalogue which now supports removable disks and has a predictive word search.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

Photo Studio 18 has been split into three sections. Where other programs are getting up to five different sections, Zoner has played it cool and stayed small by reducing the amount of sections available to you. Whether you prefer this is down to personal choice, but it’s a bold choice by Zoner – especially as in the photo industry bigger usually equates to better in consumers’ eyes.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

The first section is called Manager and allows you to find the pictures that you want to edit. It’s also the place where you add titles to pictures, keywords, ratings and edit the EXIF data. Once complete, you can move over into the Develop section, which still retains the navigation menu on the left but changes the EXIF information to global editing options such as white-balance, exposure and colour. There’s also other features such as HDR, noise reduction, sharpening and basic visual effects. A histogram helps with getting the exposure correct. One of the new features of Photo Studio 18 comes into play here. Zoner have introduced a non-destructive editing system in the Develop window whereby none of the editing changes made are actually saved to the photograph. They will be able to be seen on the picture though. This system is used instead of layers, which is the more traditional way of non-destructive editing.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

The third module is called Editor and is where you’ll perform the finer editing tools such as what is on the main window of other dedicated editing suites. The main portion of your editing will most likely be done here. Interestingly, the tools have been placed to the right of the screen in order to maintain the navigation menu on the left. To digress a moment, the menu normally along the top of a window has been compressed into a small square box in the top left corner. The majority of the available tools in there are on the main window anyway.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

Exporting images is done at any time via the small green button on the right side of the screen. It changes to a save icon when in Editor. In Manager and Develop you can choose which file extension you would prefer to use such as JPEG (high, best web, minimised for web, minimised for Facebook), TIFF and PNG.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

We had a play around with the program using various features. We tried overlaying two layers, which isn’t difficult. Getting them the same size means going into the Menu tab (while in the Editor module), choosing Edit and then selecting either Resize or Content Aware Resize. Hardened Adobe users thinking of moving across will find some areas tricky. There’s no area to view the temporary layer that PS 18 creates. We wanted to overlay a picture of some trees onto a portrait with the image of the trees fading while over the face and making it all arty looking. Overlaying the images and adjusting the opacity wasn’t a problem but then we had to apply the changes and the layers merged. We wanted to erase certain areas and couldn’t find a way to do it without erasing both layers at once. In order to get the result we wanted, we had to erase the area of the picture we wanted faded in advance and then overlay the image. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but the program isn’t equipped for that kind of work.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

Zoner Photo Studio 18 Review ImageZoner Photo Studio 18 Review Image

Mac users, we’re pleased to announce Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for just $69£52, and now comes with 12 portrait presets created by Scott Kelby, plus 1 month of access to KelbyOne photography training.

Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10 on Luminar.

We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Performance

We initially got a little excited to see that despite no raw support, you can add the Adobe raw converter as a plug in. It was a little disappointing when the penny dropped that this wouldn’t mean a raw batch processor. Exporting images from raw to JPEG converts them, but this has to be done individually.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

The rest of Zoner Photo Studio 18 is fast enough. Changes are made quickly and the only problem we had was a one off when we tried to undo some actions and the program froze. We had to shut it down and restart. This only happened once and can occur on any program.

Zoner Photo Studio 16

Much of the program is self explanatory and this is to enable ease of use for the end user. However, there are some features that we think even a newcomer could use and not be too flustered about – namely layers. It strikes us that if a photographer using Zoner can understand histograms then they’re at a level of knowledge that they’ll be able to handle layers. Some of the fun features have been placed in plain sight, such as lens flare and symbols which are in the main tools. We would normally put them in a menu somewhere, but this indicates that Zoner users would lean towards those kind of tools more often than not.

Conclusion

The reduced modules makes churning images out through Zoner Photo Studio 18 a lot quicker. While we’re uncomfortable with the ever present navigation sidebar throughout each module, this can be removed via the Main Menu in the top left corner, under View or by pressing F6.

We like the way that certain features have to be downloaded. The reason behind it is that in order for Zoner to integrate it into the program would mean them purchasing a licence from Adobe which would push the price of PS 18 up. The program is free to download anyway, so this way they can keep costs down and it’s just linking the executable file to the program which is a very simple process.

Even after the 18th installment there are areas that we’d like to see improvements on. Given that 18 is the year connected with maturity it would have been good to see Zoner Photo Studio 18 develop into a program  with more advanced features. As such we feel they’ve held back a little and played it safe with what they know – an easy to use program for the newcomer to photo editing. It certainly is that and newcomers will most certainly find it easy to use with a simple UI and straightforward workflow. However, once these users start to outgrow these features, they’ll be left finding Zoner inadequate for their needs and will move on. Despite the easy workflow, there are areas that make it difficult such as the aforementioned lack of layer palette.

If you’re a newcomer to photography and don’t want anything too complicated then Zoner Photo Studio 18 is certainly something to consider; especially given the price point. There are other programs at similar prices though and it’s worth comparing before investing.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 3.5
Value for money 4

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