Gavin’s Thoughts on Photoshop CS5. The Straight Dope

by Gavin Seim: I’ll keep this brief because Photoshop CS5 has been out for months now and reviews have been floating all over. Rather than get redundant with an ultra in depth review, I’ll just talk a little about what I think. I’ll be frank and you can make your own decision from there.

Photoshop CS5. Full = $699 – $999.
My overall rating 6.5/10.

New features worth noting…

  • Content Aware tools are the big news in CS5. It works when lassoing and deleting sections of an image, using the healing brush and more. Neat tool, but not perfect. More on that below.
  • New “Mixer Brushes” blend color like paint, similar to something like Painter (but less powerful).
  • Crop has a rule of thirds overlay now (finally).
  • Remastered HDR tools and Pseudo HDR with HDR toning. Better, but not perfect.
  • Remastered Refine Edge. Will find more detailed edges for better masking and has automatic edge decontamination.
  • Puppet Warp allows you to modify in a new ways. Move limbs, horizon lines and more by defining control points.
  • New process versions and improved camera RAW.
  • Mini bridge right within PS.

Content aware fill. This feels more like a beta feature. It got hyped a lot prior to release. Probably over hyped. Once we got the product in our hands, reality set in. Content Aware was not the magical tool that Adobe made it out to be in demo videos and they took some flack for it. I think the problem was that they showed it as being so perfected. Erasing entire areas of photos, cleaning out power lines with a single stoke. It looked wonderful in theory.

In reality it’s just another useful tool. Now that I have accepted that, I rather like it. I usually try it first to see if it will save me time cleaning up an image. It probably does so about 1/3 of the time and the rest I have to resort to cloning, patch tools etc. When area is selected (sometimes even a simple one that should be easy to fill) Content Aware stick in objects from other parts of the image that have no relevance. You might be trying to clone out a bush and get grandmas head in it’s place. Often you have to try more than once. When you do get a proper result it can be great however and have a more natural feel than simply cloning. You’ll just have to learn limitations and accept that it will not nail it every time.

For example if you’re trying to heal out a power line using the Content Aware heal. It’s not likely you’re going to swipe and be done. Often the tool makes strange blurs and out of place details. Sometimes it’s very effective (though not usually with power lines in my experience) and sometimes I just return to the classic healing brush because it’s more reliable.

I think Content Aware is a good tool to have. Just take it for what it is, rather than what the flawless demo videos show it as. Hopefully in the future Adobe will get it refined. For now it’s another tool in the arsenal that’s useful, but not perfect.

Bottom Line: I like CS5 overall. It does feel a bit sluggish to me and I think considering what it costs, Adobe owes it to customers to speed this beast up. Still if you’re an active photographer I think the upgrade is worth getting. I was not blown away, but I like the new features. I do think Adobe needs to start giving us more in terms of more really refined features for the cost. More importantly, they need to get start giving real service to their customers. For the most part, the photo world looks on their service as a joke and their own people have admitted to it being horrid, yet they seem to be ignoring it. These are not low end products and it’s nothing short of stupidity on their part to not take better care of their customers. It will cost them. The fact that the new features are not quite polished and customer service being largely ignored is a big reason why I did not rate this version higher.

Standard or Extended? Personally I think Adobe should simplify and there should be one version as it used to be. I have the extended version of CS5 however. For most (even myself) it’s probably not critical, but Extended comes standard in many of the suites. Rather than make this post long, I’ll refer you to this article which has a nice side by side graph of regular vs extended.

I could go in depth on other features, but I’ve covered the ones most people are asking about. There’s lots of other reviews out there and we talk about this stuff on the podcast as well, so you can get more there. Please do leave your comments and thoughts on CS5 however. Tell me what you like (or don’t), your favorite new features and how you feel about Adobe these days.

Gav