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CS5 – Worth The Upgrade?

Split Rock Lighthouse

Recently, while shooting in Minnesota, my friend, Al Utzig showed me the new “content aware” fill in Photoshop CS5.  It is a really, really “smart” cloning tool.  I watched him use it on a couple images, went home, plunked down my $ and upgraded to CS5.  Unfortunately (in my view) I had only recently upgraded to CS4.  I kind of wish I had waited for CS5.

It seems like in years past, the folks at Adobe would update Photoshop every 2-4 years.  That seemed long enough to amortize the upgrade costs and some of us would even skip an upgrade or two.  If the current software was working for me, I didn’t see a reason to upgrade.  Funny, I don’t even recall why I decided to upgrade to CS4.  I know the changes were significant enough that for the first time since CS came out, I found myself having to buy a book to see what was new and more importantly, where some of my “stuff” had gone.  I was able to get by with Ben Wilmore’s very pithy “Adobe Photoshop CS4:  Up To Speed,” which succinctly summarized just the changes from CS3 to CS4.

With the advent of CS5, I thought maybe there was enough new to warrant a full text, and recently bought Martin Evening’s “Adobe Photoshop CS5 For Photographers.”  While I obviously felt that the “content aware” feature was worth the price of admission, learning some of CS4 and 5’s other new features has been a pleasant surprise.  Among other changes, some of the changes I find useful are:

  • Adobe Camera Raw 6.0 has a new tools (I believe 6.0 was also part of the CS4 program, or an update, but I didn’t become aware of some of the new features of ACR), including a sharpening algorithm that the experts say is so good that most sharpening should probably be done in ACR before bringing an image into Photoshop.  I have been using it exclusively as my pre-sharpening step and have been very pleased with the results.  I still do output-specific sharpening with Photoshop’s unsharp mask.  Remember that adjustments made in ACR are “non-destructive.”  In other words, all the changes are stored as “instructions” in the file and the actual original raw file remains unchanged from capture.  It can be recovered.
  • Camera Raw also has new and better color and luminance noise reduction tools.  There is also a lens profile feature that corrects for lens distortion.  Most brand name lenses that have been around for a while have been profiled and if not already in PS, can be downloaded.  And, if you are really ambitious, you can build your own profile.
  • I haven’t used it yet, but ACR has also added a new “neutral density” linear gradient.
  • In CS5 (if you computer supports “openGL”), there is now a new Heads Up Display Color Picker.
  • As an image management tool, there is now a “mini-bridge” feature which allows for viewing and selecting image files from within Photoshop by invoking mini-bridge.
  • CS5 now allows you to drag any PS compatible file onto an open PS file as a new layer.
  • With the Crop Tool, there is now a “rule of thirds” grid option.  I have left that on since I loaded CS5.
  • The Clone Stamp Tool can now be used to sample from one part of an image and paint to another.
  • Content aware is present now both as a “fill” option and as part of the Healing Tool.
  • The Refine Edge feature has been — well — “refined” and is perhaps the best way now to feather a selection.
  • CS5 has added Depth of Field blending capability.

This is by no means intended to be a full review of CS5.  That would be a textbook sized undertaking.  There are — and will be — many new texts on CS5, the new Bridge and ACR 6.0.  It is also my understanding the Adobe Lightroom has most, if not all of the features of ACR and may well be on its way to the full-featured photo editor that will render the need for Photoshop for many essential tasks unnecessary.

Note the white, "event tent" in the photograph at the top. A quick "selection" with the lasso tool, a "shift-backspace" and choice of content aware fill and "viola," no more tent!


4 Responses

  1. Andy, I was thinking of upgrading to CS4 because of its 64 bit capability. When I started hearing rumors about an upcoming release of CS5, I waited.

    As good as the Content Aware cloning feature is, I think the improvements in Camera Raw are even better. The noise reduction, spot remover and the adjustments the mimic Viveza are well worth the upgrade price.

    The only problem I have with CS5 is that Sitegrinder, which I use for my website and EFEX color pro that came with my wacom tablet only work with the 32 bit version. Of course, that’s not Adobe’s fault.

    Speaking of the Wacom Tablet, it took awhile to get used to it, but on balance, I am very happy with it and I’d buy it again. Sorry I didn’t get that message to you sooner, as I’m sure your wife has already completed her Christmas shopping.

  2. Al: There’s always my birthday which is in early January :-). Thanks again, my good friend, for demonstrating content-aware. If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it and would still be using CS4, I am sure. I am not the quickest “adopter” of new software. I just upgraded MS Word from 2003, and still am using the original version of Lightroom.

    I am going to take the plunge and upgrade to Windows 7 Professional Ed in 2011, I too, can use the 64bit capability.

  3. Andy, the biggest reason to upgrade to CS4 was , for people me, it’s keywording and metadata capabilities. It seems that odd numbered CS releases have major changes. The cycle is 18 months or so. Shorter is you are. Beta tester,


  4. Hey Ray! Good to hear from you. I have been doing keywording, etc. in Bridge. I remember that Bridge has evolved along with PS, and it may have been in CS4 that it took a major leap forward. I appreciate your views from the real world of a pro. Thanks for commenting.

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