ACDSee Pro 4 review

6 Jun 2011

A worthy challenger to the pricier Adobe Lightroom, but most of the differences fall in Adobe's favour

Price when reviewed: 
139(£139 inc VAT)
4

There’s a wide range of photo-management software on the market, with an equally wide range of prices. Google Picasa is free, making it perfect for casual users. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom dominates for enthusiasts, but its £215 price is too high for most amateur photographers. In between sits ACDSee Pro 4: a highly capable, more affordable alternative.

Its various modules closely match those in Lightroom, with tabs for managing, viewing and processing photos, plus another for archiving and sharing them online. The latter integrates neatly with www.acdseeonline.com, which looks smart and includes some useful features of its own. It's also possible to upload to Flickr, although integration isn't as tight. Printing is well catered for, and slideshows are available for instant viewing or export in a variety of formats including PDF and PowerPoint.

Lightroom is no slouch when it comes to sorting through vast catalogues of photos, but ACDSee Pro 4 is even faster. It took a couple of hours to add our library of 33,000 images to its catalogue, but from then on it took less than a second to show all the photos for a given day or month using the simple Calendar browser. Filtering the entire catalogue by other criteria, such as camera model or focal length, was performed in a couple of seconds. The controls for combining multiple search criteria are much more immediate than Lightroom's, too.

ACDSee Pro 4

One gripe is that some filter parameters are limited to predefined values rather than ranges. For example, you can view the ISO 100 or ISO 200 shots, but not any value in between. We were able to filter by file type, but Sony and Panasonic RAW file formats didn't appear on the list. Overall, though, the management facilities are easily a match for Lightroom's.

New to version 4 is the ability to view photos on a map, using the coordinates embedded into files by GPS-enabled cameras. Photos can also be tagged manually by dropping them onto the map, and these coordinates were correctly interpreted in Google Earth. The default screen layout for this Map View could be better, but the ability to save and recall custom Workspaces provided an effective remedy.

The Process tab is home to a comprehensive suite of tools: cropping and rotating, colour correction, sharpening and noise reduction, lens-distortion correction, blemish removal, watermarks and various special effects are offered. Localised edits are well catered for, with marquee and magic wand selection tools, plus the ability to feather selections for soft edges. However, while the main RAW-processing tools are applied non-destructively, localised edits are destructive, so it's not possible to tweak RAW-processing options after making localised edits. JPEG processing is always applied destructively, but old versions are stashed away in hidden subfolders, so the workflow for RAW and JPEG images is effectively the same.

Details

Price ex VAT £116
Price inc VAT £139
Overall rating 4
Ease of Use rating 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Software subcategory Photo editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes