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ZONER PHOTO STUDIO X REVIEW

June 25, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Are you in the market for a photo editor?  Maybe you are just getting into photography or maybe you already have a photo editor and are looking for something different.  There are a number of programs out there so it can be tough to decide which one is best for you.  One such program is Zoner Photo Studio X made by its namesake, Zoner Photo Studio.  I'll will admit that I was not familiar with the brand so when they asked if I would be willing to do a review I was initially skeptical.  But once I did my homework I found that this just might be a great solution for people who are looking for something different.  So let's begin......

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

First, we have to get the elephant in the room out of the way.  For those of you looking for an alternative to the Adobe subscription model you will be disappointed.  Like Adobe, Zoner is also based on a subscription model.  However, there is some good news.  It is half the price of Adobe's subscription.  The Zoner subscription is $4.99/mo or a flat $49/year.  With this you get the full program which contains functionality similar to Lightroom and Photoshop, 20 GB of cloud storage and a free online gallery while being able to use the program on an "unlimited number of computers".  Yes, no more deleting programs on other computers to meet the computer usage.  This is really nice when you purchase a new computer and want to move your software and files to the new one before deleting the program on the old computer.  One more thing to know is that the program only works on PC Windows version 8 or 10.  Sorry Mac users!  If I still have your attention then let's move on to the meat and potatoes of this review.

THE APPROACH........

 Zoner Photo Studio X's uses a "catalog" system allowing for quick culling and nondestructive editing of images.  It has four modules to toggle between. The first is Manager which is similar to the Library module in Lightroom.  Then there is the Develop module where you can process you images using non destructive edits.  The Editor module is where you can use layers and many other similar tools similar to Photoshop.  Finally, there is a Create module which allows you to create "projects" such as ordering prints, books, calendars and also creating videos.  

To review Zoner Photo Studio X I processed a couple of images and made note of both the positives and negative of using the system.  I caution that this review is not a total look at all the functions as that would take for ever considering all the program offers  Instead this is a review based on my initial use of the program. 

It took me a little time to get used to the placement of all the tools and the overall abilities of the program but no more than I expected. If I ran into an issue a quick help query usually solved the problem. Below are images of the different panels.  
Manager ViewManager View

Manager panel

Annotation 2020-05-19 100659Annotation 2020-05-19 100659 Develop Panel

Annotation 2020-05-19 100813Annotation 2020-05-19 100813 Editor Panel

Annotation 2020-05-19 100848Annotation 2020-05-19 100848 Create Panel

As you can see Zoner Studio X contains a lot of functionality.  But how well does all that functionality work when it comes to processing images?  That's what I wanted to know.  So I uploaded a few RAW files with different subjects and processed and exported them as high resolution jpegs for review.  Below are some before and after images I processed and a brief description of the process.

_original_original

Unprocessed

_Complete (1)_Complete (1) Raised shadows, cropped and added watermark.  Very simple edit.

_original (2)_original (2) Unprocessed Image

20200318_JMS_CSilkstone_0210_Editor_Finished_finished20200318_JMS_CSilkstone_0210_Editor_Finished_finished Increased exposure, smoothing brush on skin, edited eyes and lips, cropped and cloned in corners

20170729_JMS_WS_0015_origianl20170729_JMS_WS_0015_origianl Base image for exposure blending

20170729_JMS_WS_0016_hdr_complete20170729_JMS_WS_0016_hdr_complete Multiple exposure blend, straightened building, cloned out manhole

_original (1)_original (1) Unprocessed image

20180630_JMS_Hawaii_099920180630_JMS_Hawaii_0999 Raised exposure, brought down highlights, warmed up image, used soft light blending mode for cloud color, removed distractions

Other than a couple of pauses to learn how to use a tool things were pretty straight forward.  During processing the images I made some notes of both the positives and negatives along with some basic comments that I consider neutral but you may want to know.

POSITIVES AND ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENTS........

Let's start with the positives:

  • Allows the use of Blend modes with color in the brush and graduated filters in the Develop module.  This is a very nice addition.  Thank you!

  • Advance color controls in Color Shift and Split Toning.  Two thumbs up for this and was really impressed.

  • Smoothing brush (works like frequency separation) and the liquify face tool work very well.  Great for portraiture.  

  • Enjoyed the layout of each module and the placement of the tools. 

  • When applying a brush or filter in the Develop module it creates a layer bar for each one.  This makes it easy to turn each one on or off or delete them.

  • Overall layout of panels and tools are very intuitive and just makes sense.

And now some areas that could use some improvement:

  • The brush size in both the develop and editor module do not get very big compared to the image.  

  • No content aware tool.  Clone stamping and the healing brush tool are available.

  • No mask when sharpening in the Develop module. Using a black and white mask to visualize what areas are being sharpened would be useful.  

  • Items such as prints, books and calendars in the Create module are made in the E.U. so they take longer to arrive and have higher shipping costs for the US.  

Neutral Observations:

  • The catalog works by picking a folder and then anything that is imported or put into that folder automatically shows up in your catalog.  This works well and you can quickly add images and keep your normal folder hierarchy.  On the other hand if you like to keep other folders with or without images along with your images those too will also show up in your catalog.  I was unable to find a way to hide them in the catalog.  This is just personal taste in my opinion and can be accommodated with tweaks to your workflow.

  • The video editor works very well but is basic without a lot of options.  I would love to see some updates to the video section.    I believe if Zoner Photo Studio X incorporated a mid tier video editor it would provide a more complete package and a great selling point for a truly all-in-one program.

  • As noted above there should be options for US products in their Create module.

  • Zoner seems to be putting an emphasis on presets.  Besides the ones that come installed with the program they offer 12 different preset packages to download for free.  Those looking for some artistic inspiration or a new look for their Instagram images will be happy.

Yep, that's it,

FINAL THOUGHTS

After using the program for only a few weeks I must admit that I was impressed with Zoner Studio X.  It has a ton of functionality for half the price of Adobe's photography package.  From their website it seems that they are updating the program at least twice a year and adding new items to it regularly.  I think most PC users looking for an full editing program or just looking to start developing their images should put Zoner Studio X at or near the top of their list.  

Note: I reached out to the Zoner team and asked if a Mac version was going to be developed.  They basically stated that it was not in the works at this time.  So for now only PC users get to enjoy Zoner Studio X.         

WHO IS IT FOR?

Is Zoner Studio X for you?  If you are a PC user looking to save a little money then this makes perfect sense.  You are essentially getting Lightroom and Photoshop functionality for half the price.  The system is a great value and includes cloud storage and an online gallery.  I would definitely recommend Zoner Studio X for those just starting out in photography and to the seasoned photographer who wants to save a little extra money.  As always you can download a free 30 day trial to see if it works for you.  Just click here.

I hope you enjoyed this review.  I plan to keep using Zoner Studio X on a regular basis to get even better acquainted with the program.  Have you used Zoner Studio X?  If so, let me know what you think in the comments below.

ZPSX-logo-100px-colorZPSX-logo-100px-color  


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