Designed as a well-priced alternative to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, we take a look at what Windows-only workflow suite Zoner Photo Studio X has to offer the professional.

IN A SOFTWARE world that’s so dominated by the big players, Zoner Photo Studio X, or ZPSX for short, is designed to appeal to photographers who are looking for an alternative all-in-one workflow suite to big guns such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Still making a name for itself, ZPSX is considered by many to be the best photo editing suite you’ve never come across and it’s well worth checking out if you’re looking for a full editing solution. It’s considerably cheaper than rivals as well, costing $49 a year or $4.99 a month, though it’s worth pointing out that,  just at the moment, the program is Windows-compatible only.

What’s on offer is comprehensive and promises to cover most professionals’ full post-processing requirements. In this review I’m going to be looking at what it offers in terms of features and how effective these are, and I’ll also be checking out performance and asking who might benefit from using this suite.

Find out more about the features within the recently updated Zoner Photo Studio X program by accessing this independent in-depth video review by Adam Welch.

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Zoner’s user interface should be familiar to anyone who’s ever used a photo editing suite, and it features modules entitled Manage, Develop, Editor and Create. It’s intuitive and quick to master and you can pretty much dive straight into working on images, which is great to report, whether you happen to be a post-production beginner or a seasoned pro.

ZPSX features a unique tab system that performs in the same way as the browser / finder tabs in your computer’s OS system, and this allows you to open new Manage or Develop tabs, enabling multiple parallel jobs to be on the go simultaneously. I particularly enjoyed this feature and, after using it, I have to confess to feeling a little short changed by other editing suites.

MANAGE MODULE

Manage is a full Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool where you can organise your images. It’s great that there’s three different options for importing files, the first being no import necessary. You can toggle through local folders on your drives on the left and select any folder you want to view and the images are retrieved in less than a second, so it’s super-fast. You can choose to import images straight off the card and then back them up to a specific location and, lastly, you can also create and open catalogs to utilise the images in there too. So, a trio of workable methods and it’s great to see all these available as it’s more usual to only get one or two of these supplied in rival editing/DAM suites. You can also use and apply metadata to organise files in any way that fits your needs. The Manage Module has everything you need and, with the use of batch filtering, you can batch change any metadata or EXIF data in this mode too for maximum efficiency.

EDITOR MODULE

Editor is the module where layer-based editing is possible and here you’ll find the tools you require to do more detail editing, including liquify, composite tools, retouching and adding effects or text. Performance is fast and everything you need is included within the ZPSX toolbox, so you won’t need to move your files into Photoshop to finish them off.

DEVELOP MODULE

Develop is where it’s possible to carry out non-destructive Raw editing using basic sliders and adjustment tools. This is the ever-familiar slider-based editing, where you can make changes to exposure, contrast, colour, white balance and more, and it performs exactly as you would expect it to. The colour controls are easy to work with and extensive, with options to use it in basic or advanced mode, so if you’re someone who loves a more sophisticated approach to your colour control you will not be

disappointed. There are also gradient and radial filters plus adjustment brushes, allowing quick touch ups of images. ZPSX also comes with built-in Presets that can be applied to an image with a single click, with the added advantage of being able to change the opacity of the style applied. This happens to be a little favourite feature of mine and it’s a sign of Zoner’s attention to detail. It’s not available in many other software suites and it’s great to have that extra control.

CREATE MODULE

Create is where you can make photo books, collages, canvas prints, contact sheets, postcards and – my personal fave – video productions. Many photographers have to use external software to create videos or slideshows of images, all at an added cost of course, so for this to be available and included was a major plus point for me. I had to give it a go and was thoroughly impressed. Creating and editing video is a different ball game entirely to what we’re used to as photographers, but Zoner makes it super

with its drag and drop timeline. Rendering was also speedy, which was a nice touch as I expected some lag here. The photo books feature is based around templates and is very easy to use, similar to other photo book making software, but it does come with the Zoner branding, which might not make it suitable for professional products. I couldn’t find a way of removing this, but if that doesn’t bother you it’s great to have the book option included, as it removes unnecessary costs with external software.

Verdict

THE BEAUTY OF Zoner Photo Studio X is that it doesn’t lock you into a set way of doing things. One of the strong points of this software is that it’s open, so you can choose your own workflow, to import or not to import. Work with either fully-developed Raw files or fast previews for sorting and culling, and edit images non-destructively or destructively. So, whatever your current working methods, there’s a way to fully emulate these and to integrate everything into the ZPSX system. This is great because, as we all know, the same workflow arrangement doesn’t fit every photographer’s needs.

ZPSX is a great package that combines the best elements of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop on top of added features, such as the creation of photo books or video editing, all in one space, enabling the photographer to run a really efficient workflow and to save money as well. The fact that, at the moment, Zoner is only compatible with Windows is something that is likely to be addressed in the future, but until that time it does mean that those working on iOS systems are currently excluded. Hopefully this will change at some point down the line and there are plenty who are working on Android devices and so it’s still a big market.

I would look at ZPSX as a unique opportunity to use something that works very well but is super cost effective. With neat features like the tab system allowing multiple parallel jobs and the ease of importing (or not) with quick controlled edits this is a hugely impressive all-rounder and has to be seen as a real contender in the full editing suite markets.

There’s also another added feature called Zonerama on board as well, which is Zoner’s free unlimited, non-compression online user gallery (similar to Google Photos), which is fully integrated with ZPSX. It’s just the suite that keeps giving! If you want to take a closer look there’s a free trial available on the Zoner website – click link below – so try it out for yourself and I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed..

More information: zoner.to/pro

Zoner YouTube channel with tutorials

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