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Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate Review

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate Review - We look at the latest version of Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate with HDR merge and Dual Monitor support.

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Category : Corel Paint Shop Pro & Painter
Product : Corel PaintShop Pro X4
Price : £4
Rating :
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Features
Ease Of Use
Performance
Verdict
System Requirements
 
PaintShop Pro X4 Box PaintShop Pro Ultimate Box
PaintShop Pro X4 is the latest version of PaintShop Pro - version 14 - and comes with a large array of additional pieces of software and tools. You can buy PaintShop Pro X4 as the standard, ultimate or photo and video ultimate version depending on what you want and how much budget you have.

PaintShop Pro X4 Standard: CD1 contains X4 and in the box you also get a full colour printed guide (186 pages).

PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate:
as above plus CD2: Nik Colour Efex Pro 3.0 (52 creative filters, 250 effect, 30+ emulated film types), 21 royalty free images from fotolia (fotolia activation code), premium collection of picture tubes, Winzip Pro (download code for full version), blurb photo book promotion code (£20.95 off). Register PaintShop Pro X4 and you can get the Corel KPT Collection with 21 additional filters.

PaintShop Pro X4 Photo and Video Ultimate Pack: as above plus VideoStudio Pro X4 Ultimate and bonus pack: proDAD Mercalli SE extreme video stabilization, Boris Graffiti 5.3 broadcast-quality titles and effects, 3D glasses (included in the box version only), free tutorial videos.

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Features


New features of PaintShop Pro X4:
  • HDR Tools
  • Photo Blend
  • Fill Light and Clarity Filter
  • Selective Focus (for miniature etc)
  • Vignette (white/black)
  • Dual Monitor Support
  • Shot info panel
Enhanced features of X4:
  • Camera RAW labs
  • 16-bit support (over 20 tools have been upgraded to 16-bit support)
  • Application Speed
  • Full Screen Review
  • Redesigned Workspace
  • Built in Sharing - to facebook and flickr
Other features included with PaintShop Pro X4 are: Support for 50 file formats, Auto Preserve Originals, Crop to New Image, Learning Center, makeover tool (suntan, thinify, eye drop (removes red from bloodshot eyes), blemish fixer, toothbrush mode), one step photo fix and smart photo fix, smart carver, red eye removal, colour changer tool, noise removal, perspective correction tool, scratch remover tool, black and white film effect, adjustment layers, depth of field effect, curves and levels adjustment, lens distortion correction filters, high pass filter, visible watermark, picture tubes, picture frames and photo edges, time machine plus more.

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ease Of Use

On first load of the application a welcome screen greets you, showing you the various work areas:

Corel PSP X4 Welcome Screen

Manage: Using the full screen preview you can quickly zoom to 1:1 / 100% / Actual pixels by just clicking the mouse on an area you want to zoom in to. The manage workspace also lets you rate your photos (out of 5 stars), so you can quickly sort through your photos and identify the best shots.

Corel PSP X4 Manage Screen

Adjust: This has a nice feature whereby you can select multiple white balance sources, and adjust colour balance, brightness/contrast, fill light / clarity, local tone mapping, high pass sharpen, digital noise removal, and then apply whatever changes you want to a selection of images.

Corel PSP X4 Adjust Screen

Edit: This is where you get access to all of the controls / features / tools of PaintShop Pro X4, which we'll go into detail below.

Corel PSP X4 Edit Screen

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Performance

Load time for the program is around 7-10 seconds on my PC, loading quicker the second time. Closing is instant. Shown below is the main edit screen, where I've used the Tan filter to darken the skin.

Corel PSP X4 Edit Screen

Effects browser is quite useful, however, the dialog box design doesn't match the rest of the programs stylish new interface. Hopefully this will be fixed with an update.

Corel PSP X4 Effect Browser

Time machine lets you choose a specific period in time to replicate the photography technique available at the time, with a historical explanation of each film process. The example below is showing cross process, and a border which you can switch off if you want. Using the effect this way lets you preview it on the main image, while the effect browser doesn't let you preview it any larger than the small thumbnails shown above.

Paint Shop Pro X4 Time Machine

Being able to selectively control the depth of focus, can help draw attention to your subject, and the more advanced HDR features, and photo merge tools that allow you to remove elements from the images are very good.

Some additional useful features that I wasn't expecting to see include: backlighting, fill flash, one step purple fringe fix and chromatic aberration removal. Other lens problems can be addressed as well with barrel, fisheye and pincushion distortion correction.

We used images from the GPS Zoom comparison to fix barrel distortion in the ISO test shot from the Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR:

Before Fix After pincushion distortion fix.
Before After

We also used the "One step purple fringe fix" to correct purple fringing on the Sony Cybershot HX9v tree shot. This was simply a case of selecting it, waiting for it to process and then you end up with an image without purple fringing!

Purple Fringing Purple Fringing After
Before Fix (100% Actual Pixels) After Fix (100% Actual pixels)

You can keep the bottom organiser on in the adjust and edit screens to make switching between photos easier, and the fact that the program auto-saves the original image means you shouldn't have to worry about accidentally saving over the top of another image. Click on View, Dual Monitor and it cleverly arranges the windows so that one screen lets you perform the editing and the other the organisation of the images, as shown below: (click to view full size)

Corel Paint Shop Pro X4 Dual Screen

Using the program as a replacement for Adobe Photoshop is possible, particularly if you do a lot of cropping / editing and then saving for use on the web, as all the familiar tools are there, it's just that they might be in a slightly different position. For example if you copy an image and then want to paste it as a new image in X4, creating a new image doesn't automatically put in the dimensions of the image like it would in Photoshop, but instead going to Edit, and Paste as new image does the same thing. Similarly saving the image as a web optimised image is possible in X4, but accessing it is different, and instead of going to File, and Save for Web (or CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+S), as you would in Photoshop, you go to File, Export and JPEG Optimizer (although you can setup the same keyboard shortcuts if you want, in View, Customize, and Keyboard).

Creating HDR images is easy to do, and the process is extremely customisable, it will auto align images if you weren't able to use a tripod when taking your shots, making it possible to use hand held images.

Corel HDR Main Screen

You can alter the settings and preview the results before creating the HDR image, Altering the contrast, highlights, midtones, shadows, vibrancy and white balance, then when it is created the program lets you alter the image in the same way that you would open up a RAW file. You then get to alter brightness, shadows, highlights, saturation, colour balance, brightness, contrast, fill light / clarity, local tone mapping, high pass sharpen and digital noise reduction.

Original Image HDR Image
Original shot 0EV 5 Shots Combined to make HDR Image
HDR More Subtle HDR Black and White
HDR More Subtle HDR Black and White

The HDR image is completely customisable to create an extremely subtle image, or a bright over the top image that looks extremely saturated. Part of the process also gives you the ability to create a black and white HDR image. The results are obvious to see in these examples, restoring detail in the blown out highlights (in the silver convertible car) and also in the shadow areas in the trees both in the background and foreground. The process is quite quick as well, from the time taken to take the photos to having a complete HDR image less than 15 minutes.

Value For Money

The price for the standard version is £50 - this puts it at a lower price than Adobe Photoshop Elements (at £53), however the product has much more features making it much more like Adobe Lightroom (around £188), and even Adobe Photoshop CS5 (around £600) with built in HDR creation (in fact you can easily spend $40 on just a HDR program on its own). At £67 the price for the ultimate version is just another £17 giving you a number of additional programs that would cost much more than just £17 if bought individually, although you may get by with the standard version if you don't need the additional add-ons.

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Verdict

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 offers a lot of features and advanced tools for an excellent price. The software offers far more options and controls than the typical free software (such as Google Picasa) and is ideal for anyone wanting more control over their images, or for anyone who wants to speed up their workflow. There is only so much you can do with free software before you start beginning to be limited, for example if you want to add text, overlay other images or look at HDR imaging. Corel PaintShop Pro X4 gives you advanced controls and makes it easy to use them and start using it straight away. It feels really easy to pick up and start using, and the new interface works well (although some of the additional windows could be cleaned up a bit to match better). It even goes beyond the nearest competitors giving you more control than Adobe Photoshop Elements, and rivalling Lightroom but at a nearly four times cheaper price. You could even consider using this as a replacement for Adobe Photoshop, and save yourself hundreds of pounds. Highly Recommended!

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 is an excellent photo editing and management application that comes at an excellent price.

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Pros

Excellent value for money
Dual monitor support
Easy to use
Quick to install
Advanced controls
Lots of features: HDR, Merge
Purple fringing fix

Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Cons

Some of the effects / filters are quite slow
Not the fastest dealing with RAW files
Digital Noise Removal is slow

FEATURES
EASE OF USE
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL


Corel PaintShop Pro X4 System Requirements

  • Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, XP with latest service packs
  • 1.5ghz processor
  • 1gb RAM
  • 1gb of free hard drive space
  • 1024 x 768 16 bit display
  • Windows compatible CD-ROM drive for installation
  • Internet connection required to post photos online and download program updates

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Comments


Ade_Osman e2
11 4.5k 36 England
9 Sep 2011 3:59PM
I asked and I got......Cheers for the quick review guys, much appreciated.....

Ade

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StrayCat e2
10 15.5k 2 Canada
9 Sep 2011 9:56PM
Verrry interesting!!!!!Grin

Denny
brian1208 e2
11 10.6k 12 United Kingdom
10 Sep 2011 6:38AM
I've downloaded the demo version and in the main find much as your review (although on a much more limited trial so far). One thing I have seen is that, particularly when modifying RAW files certain actions are, as you say, very slow and on my win 7 64 bit system (with 6 gig RAM and I5 processor) the screen temporarily blanks out, which is rather disconcerting.

Otherwise it seems a possible upgrade for my PSP12, which I use alongside LR3.4, mainly for web work and the price is very good for this
15 Sep 2011 11:18AM
Hi.

Could anyone tell me if the new Coral Paint Shop X4 has the declutter tool just as the Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 does.

Cheers Craig
craig.booker@xtra.co.nz
17 Sep 2011 12:44AM
Why don't they do a Mac version, as I would possibly buy one?
JPatrickM 7 2 United Kingdom
17 Sep 2011 1:07AM
Sounds interesting. I've been using PSP8 exclusively for several years now, converting from RAW in camera manufacturer's programs. (started off with version 4 !) I shall consider upgrading.
Patrick
Thank you for this very helpfull review, I just downloaded te upgrade version.
It's a very nice and convenient program.
It's a pity that no lens correction tool is available.
But overall a perfect programm for a very good price!
19 Sep 2011 8:56PM
Good to see a new update with some interesting extras for the less skilled, but in my opinion it is spoiled by forcing the graphite workspace theme on us (the option to switch it off has now gone).

While commenting on its weaknesses you should also be aware that the crazy anomaly of Alt / Drag altering the size of all tools except the warp tools, still has not been fixed.

Both little things in themselves and should not put people off, but it is such a shame Coral don't listen more to the users
Tricia e2
9 325 Ireland
21 Sep 2011 1:59PM
Hi Everyone,
We have an exclusive Corel PaintShop Pro X4 invite for you all, read more details here.
26 Sep 2011 9:03AM
JASC's Paintshop Pro went through a number of outstanding variants - 3 and 5 were given away free, 7 was stable and easy to use and 9 was real competition for Photoshop. Initially I was disappointed with the buggy Corel versions, but I was won over with X2 and was pleasantly surprised with X3. I've used Photoshop in many variants over the years, but actually prefer Paintshop Pro. Corel really does seem to recognize the potential of the growing market for highly functional photo-editting and workflow software, and X4 sounds like a real winner. The attraction of the new features outweighs my normal reticence about slavishly upgrading software, and the upgrade price is just incredibly good value.

And well done ePhotozine for featuring articles with hints and tips about using Paintshop Pro!
14 Jan 2012 2:56AM
Bought the Ultimate X4 version last night at PCWorld as a replacement for the JASC Paintshop Pro.
It cost me 79.99!! When I got home I discovered that Amazon UK is selling this version for 39.99. There appears to be a price range across a number of retailers. Amazon was the best price I could find with PCWorld at or close to the other end of the scale.

I have not opened the box so will be taking it back to PCWorld in the morning.

The 40 price difference is doing nothing for my bright red colour. I'm not sure if it is anger or embarrassment but will not be able to change it with this software at this PCWorld price.

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