Ever since Adobe niggled customers by limiting CS6 upgrades to CS5 and CS5.5 users have been in a such froth that Adobe finally backed off and added CS3 and CS4 to the upgrade path. Further proof that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
While it may not have been serious enough to get people scrambling for GIMP tutorials, it did prompt some people to start searching around for alternatives to Adobe products. For most photographers the product that would be most difficult to replace is not Photoshop as much as Lightroom.
I’m glad that Adobe saw the light on the Creative Suite upgrade pricing, but I had already started looking around for alternatives to Lightroom and found some worth checking out. Two of them are free.
DigiKam has been around a long time but not many people have heard of it because for years it was only available to Linux users. Now there are download versions available for Windows, Mac and Linux. That’s a big help to me because I can use the same image processing application on any platform.
DigiKam’s biggest strength are the cataloging and search features. I like DigiKam’s catalog management better than any photo tool out there. It makes browsing image catalogs as easy as file browsing.
Photo editing tools are limited to color correction and cropping, but the auto exposure tools are excellent, particularly for processing a large number of images.
Where DigiKam shines is the batch processing tool, which is just amazing for handling batch processes and exporting of entire catalogs.
Phocus is a product originally developed to work with Hasselblad’s RAW format but recently opened it up to other formats and users.
Hasselblad has fielded a winner with Phocus. The cataloging tools, while not as extensive as DigiKam, are smooth and polished. It offers basic color management and cropping.
Probably the best feature of Phocus is the integration with Phocus Mobile. With the mobile apps it’s possible to remotely access any image catalog you have on a computer running Phocus 2.6 or control a tethered camera with your smart phone. How cool is that?
Phocus 2.6 is a free download (registration required) and well worth checking out.
Corel, best known for their WordPerfect office suite, has fielded a serious competitor to Lightroom in Aftershot Pro. Equipped with a full suite of image cataloging and search tools, AfterShot also has full color management as well as healing and cloning in adjustment layers.
Non-destructive editing assures your master image will never be harmed and the edits are exportable.
The best feature of AfterShot Pro is it is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Corel is a long time supporter of Linux and being able to use the same piece of software on any of my home machines is an unexpected bonus.
Price: Free to try for 30 days, $99 after that. I’m probably going to pick up a copy just as an investment in future generations of the product. Competition is good.