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Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Review

Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Review - Daniel Bell tests the many plug-ins included in the Topaz Labs bundle.

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Category : Other Software
Product : Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle
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Features
Performance
Verdict

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The Topaz Labs Photoshop bundle includes 10 plug-ins which are designed to enhance digital photographs quickly and easily. The plug-ins include Adjust ($49.99), BW Effects ($59.99), Clean ($29.99), DeJPEG ($29.99), DeNoise ($79.99), Detail ($39.99), InFocus ($69.99), Lens Effects ($79.99), Remask ($69.99) and Simplify ($39.99). They can be purchased separately or as a bundle for $299.99 (saving nearly $250) from the Topaz Labs website, with updates available for free.

Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Features

  • Adjust - optimizes exposure, colour and detail strength for dynamic, HDR-style images
  • DeNoise - removes noise, colour noise and banding while recovering and preserving image detail
  • B&W effects - create traditional and stylized looks with the most versatile tool for B&W Enhancement
  • ReMask - fast and easy masks and cutouts for background replacement and selective adjustments
  • Lens Effects - create bokeh, vignettes, colour tone balance, motion blur and more after the shot
  • Detail - selectively control 3 levels of image detail without creating halos or edge artefacts
  • Simplify - create digital art and painting effects in your images for a wide range of artistic enhancements
  • Clean - smoothing and edge stylising for creating smooth, flawless skin and curly, vectorized effects
  • InFocus - sharpens and refines to improve image quality and reverse minor instances of blur
  • DeJPEG - eliminates jpeg compression artefacts and restores optimal JPEG image integrity

Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Performance

Adjust 5: When opening Adjust 5, it automatically creates a new layer in Photoshop, an option which can be disabled if preferred. Your image is automatically adjusted to the last settings, pressing Reset All will give your your original image. On the left hand side of the screen is the preset panel and preview area. The presets are categorised, with some being much stronger than others. You can also save your own presets in the My Collection area.

Topaz Labs Adjust 5 Screenshot

The main area of the screen can be split so you can see before and after images next to each other. On the right hand side is the preview navigator, this can be zoomed in so you can look at an area of your image in full size. You can also choose to view the histogram here as well. Further down there is undo, redo and snap. Snap allows you to take a shot of the image as it looks, then when you make further edits, you can take another snap to then compare them.

Further down we reach the three set workflow, which includes global and local adjustments, as well as finishing touches. Global adjustments includes adaptive exposure, details, colour, noise and curve tool, all of which will be applied to the whole image. Local adjustments lets you brush out an effect in certain areas of the image. To help do this, edge aware detects the edges, so as not to run into the area of the image you want to retain. This is useful for editing landscapes, for example, where you may want to edit the land, but not the sky. When saving your own preset, the local adjustments are not saved, as it is unlikely they will be usable on other pictures.

Next is finishing touches, with options including diffusion, grain, transparency, warmth, border, vignette and tone. The border can be set to any colour, including using a dropper to select a colour from your image. You will also find transparency, which reduces the overall effect of all the edits you have made.

Lastly we come to Apply, Reset All and I Feel Lucky. Apply takes your current settings and uses this as the new base image. I Feel Lucky chooses completely random settings, it was rare that it created anything particularly good.

Vibrant Collection - Bold preset - before   Vibrant Collection - Bold preset - after
Vibrant Collection - Bold preset - before (left) and after (right).

BW Effects - images open as a greyscale image and the plug-in is laid out in a similar manner to Adjust 5, with lots of presets. The main difference being the workflow area down the right, this is four steps in BW Effects. The four steps include Conversion, Creative Effects, Local Adjustments and Finishing Touches. The latter two are very similar to Adjust 5. Conversion includes basic exposure (contrast, brightness, boost blacks and boost whites), Adaptive Exposure (regions, protect highlists, protect shadows, detail, detail boost), colour sensitivity, colour filter and curve tool. Creative Effects includes simplify, diffusion, posterize and camera shake. BW effects does have the Apply or I Feel Lucky buttons.

Warm Tone Black Border with adaptive exposure - before   Warm Tone Black Border with adaptive exposure - after
Warm Tone Black Border with adaptive exposure - before (left) and after (right).

Clean 3 - this plug-in helps you adjust texture, smooth features, flatten details, enhance edges, over sharpen and stylise effects, ideal for portrait shots. This is a little trickier to use than the previous plug-ins. If you are editing a portrait, you need to select the face in Photoshop, then going into the plug-in. Again, there are a number of presets for a quick fix, with further editing options for more advanced users. When you're finished, you need to bring some of the detail back in portraits, such as the eyes. There is a tutorial video on the Topaz Labs website which shows you how it is done.

Skin Even - before   Skin Even - after
Skin Even - before (left) and after (right).

DeJPEG 4 - This plug-in is where we struggled to get any decent results. It is likely to be more useful for really poor quality images, perhaps those shot on low resolution camera phones. The majority of cameras will shoot at a quality good enough to not require the use of this plug-in.

DeNoise 5 - This plug-in is simple enough to use and is also effective. There are a number of presets which do a good job, with further fine tuning options available.

JPEG - strongest - before   JPEG - strongest - after
JPEG - strongest - before (left) and after (right).

Detail 2 - Again, this plug-in feels very similar to the Adjust 5 plug-in. In the workflow area there are a lot of options split into Detail (small detail, small boost, medium detail, medium boost, large detail and large boost), Tone (brightness, contrast, cyan-red, magenta-green, yellow-blue, protect shadow, protect highlight), Deblur and Colour (saturation, saturation boost and hue). Again, the presets do a good job, but with the additional settings you can tailor your image as much as you want.

Micro Contrast Colour preset - before   Micro Contrast Colour preset - after
Micro Contrast Colour preset - before (left) and after (right).

InFocus - this is a very simple plug-in use, but is very effective. There are three different presets, you can also change the level of deblur and sharpen. The images on the left below (click the thumbnail for full size) is out-of-focus, clearly seen in the centre of the image, but has been brought back into focus, which can be sign in the image on the right.

Pre sharpening - detailed preset - before   Pre sharpening - detailed preset - after
Pre sharpening - detailed preset - before (left) and after (right).

Lens Effects -  this is slightly different from the other plug-ins, with the first step being to select from the range of effects, each of which have a number of presets. Dependent on which effect you choose, the workflow editing options differ. There are a number of options, including emphasising focal points, adjusting depth-of-field, adding vignettes, balancing colour tone, creating miniature scenes, fisheye effects and more.

Bokeh SLR Lens Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 preset with vignette added - before   Bokeh SLR Lens Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 preset with vignette added - before
Bokeh SLR Lens Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 preset with vignette added - before (left) and after (right).

ReMask 3 - this plug-in has a very different interface from the others and is initially quite daunting. The tutorial video on the Topaz Labs website takes you through simple and complicated subjects. For the example below, the simple method gives a good mask and therefore the background is easily changed in a matter of minutes.

Subject removed from one picture and moved to another - before   Subject removed from one picture and moved to another - after
Subject removed from one picture and moved to another - before (left) and after (right).

Simplify 3 - this again has a number of presets, where you can tinker with the settings down the right hand side. This plug-in is designed to turn your photography into works of art, with art effects which include watercolours, textured oil paintings, cartoon-like images, abstracts, charcoal drawings, line art and photorealistic paintings.

Painting oil - before   Painting oil - after
Painting oil - before (left) and after (right).

With the full set of plug-ins, you can go into each and make different edits to your images. All of the presets can be used in batch processing. Although we have briefly run through what each plug-in can do, we recommend you take time to get used to them by viewing the tutorials available on the Topaz Labs website.

The menu found on the plug-ins allows you to change your preferences, check for updates, access user guides, product info, gallery, my Topaz, tutorials and about.

Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Verdict

The Topaz Labs bundle of plug-ins has something for everyone, basics for quick adjustments (presets) and lots of further editing tools for more advanced users. The plug-ins aren't generally something you can open and use straight away, to get better results it's advisable to read the tutorials and watch the videos on the YouTube site. If you are completely new to Photoshop, you may struggle to use one or two of the plug-ins, but again, the tutorials will help.

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The Topaz Labs plug-in bundle offers a vast set of useful image editing options, with presets and fine tuning controls.

Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Pros

Presets make it easy for beginners
Bundle is considerably cheaper than purchasing individually
Advanced users have plenty of fine tuning options
Topaz Labs website has tutorials
Can be used for batch processing
Can purchase individual plug-ins rather than whole bundle

Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle Cons

DeJPEG plug-in doesn't appear to be particularly useful
Some Photoshop knowledge required
Takes a little while to learn each plug-in
I Feel Lucky button is pretty useless

FEATURES  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

The Topaz Labs Photoshop Plug-In Bundle is available for $299.99 from the Topaz Labs website.

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Comments


6 Sep 2012 5:44PM
BEWARE OF TOPAZ LABS !!!

I've purchased the Topaz Adjust bundle and have had nothing but problems getting it to work.
Plugins freeze, crash and just wait until you have to get tech support on them. The only support they have is thru emails and trying to get a problem solved bouncing emails back and forth takes DAYS. If you purchase products from them and have problems, be ready for a lot of aggravation.

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28 Sep 2012 6:07PM
I have been trialing this and I have to say I think its brilliant! Very intuitive to use WITHOUT the manuals you can achieve stunning pictures easily. I always find Photshop too long winded I believe in the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach, software is far too complicated unless you have endless hours to read tutorials or twiddle away, I love the one click processing and the fact its tweakable.

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