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AlienSkin Bokeh filter Review

Gary Wolstenholme was always told that if it ain't Bokeh, then don't fix it, but he thought he would take a look at the new plug-in from AlienSkin anyway.

|  Alien Skin AlienSkin Bokeh filter in Other Software
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AlienSkin Bokeh: System requirements
Bokeh is a plug-in and will require one of the following host programs:
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3 or later
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0.1 or later on Macintosh
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 or later on Windows
  • Adobe Fireworks CS4
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2
Windows
  • Intel Pentium 4 processor (or compatible)
  • Windows XP or later
  • A monitor with 1024x768 resolution or greater
  • 1Gb RAM
Macintosh
  • PowerPC G5 or Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
  • A monitor with 1024x768 resolution or greater
  • 1Gb RAM
Bokeh is the latest in AlienSkin's range of Photoshop compatible filters, which recreate effects that would normally have to be created in camera, such as choosing a particular type of film. Bokeh promises to allow users of compact and bridge-type cameras the same creative freedom SLR users have over depth-of-field via the use of specialist lenses, such as a wide aperture lens, one with tilt/shift capabilities, or even something more exotic like a Lensbaby. SLR uses who cannot afford, or cannot be bothered to carry these specialist items, are also targeted by this product.

AlienSkin Bokeh: In Use
AlienSkin Bokeh filter screen grabInstallation is a straightforward process. The necessary menu items are all created automatically, by the installer, if your image editing software is open you'll be prompted to close it so the installation can be completed.

Once an image is loaded in your editing software, you can apply the Bokeh filter. In Photoshop, the program can be found in the filter menu under Alien Skin Bokeh. The tool palette displays your image on the right hand side, and the controls on the left, which are contained within three separate tabs.

The first options presented control the kind of look the blur created by the plug-in takes. There are presets designed to simulate popular lenses, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and more exotic ones that will simulate lenses with heart or star shaped apertures. Once this has been selected, you can then move onto controlling how and where the blur will be applied to your image. The three option include applying a uniform blur across your entire image, creating an effect similar to the image being completely out of focus, picking a sharp 'sweet spot' to create a similar effect to a Lensbaby, or a gradual blur to create a similar effect to a wide aperture lens over distance.

Further controls that effect the nature of the blur are provided, allowing you to create exactly what look you're after, apart from if your image is noisy. There's no way I could find of introducing noise into the blur created, so noisy images can be a problem as the blurred part of the image is smooth, and the sharp bit noisy, which just doesn't look right.

AlienSkin Bokeh: Results
The radial blur filter works very well, and can be used to create some very effective results, drawing attention to the main subject of the image, rather than surrounding areas. The way shapes are rendered by the filter look realistic, and much more convincing than Gaussian blur in Photoshop does. The advantage here over a Lensbaby is that the sweet spot can be very precise, and the fall off of blur can be controlled to the Nth degree, the disadvantage is that it just doesn't look real enough to fool anyone familiar with the effect that the picture could've been taken with one of these lenses, which could be a disappointment if that's what you're after.

AlienSkin Bokeh filter no effect added
No effect added.
AlienSkin Bokeh filter sweet spot effect
Bokeh Lensbaby sweetspot effect added.
As there are no selection tools built into this filter, the effectiveness of the Planar filter, which can be used to simulate the blur of large aperture telephoto lenses, will be limited by the software you have and your skill at selecting an area within the image using the tools at your disposal. Alien Skin suggest using the quick selection tool in Photoshop, which I did with reasonable success. The final results were just not what I would call convincing, although they will do when faced with little alternative.
AlienSkin Bokeh filter no effect
No effect added.
AlienSkin Bokeh filter gaussian blur
Gaussian Blur effect added.
AlienSkin Bokeh filter no effect added
No effect added.
AlienSkin Bokeh filter planar effect
Bokeh Planar effect added.
AlienSkin Bokeh: Verdict
For those who haven't won the lottery recently, a filter like this could open up some creative possibilities that would've required specialist lenses, or much more time and expertise in Photoshop. If this is you, you might want to download a trial to see how you get on. The controls are very simple to follow and reasonably good results can be achieved pretty much straight away. Unfortunately though this plug-in has its limitations and is not really a substitute for large aperture lenses, or special effect lenses such as a Lensbaby. Whether you'll be happy or not depends on how picky you are in the end.

AlienSkin Bokeh:
Plus points:
Very easy to use
Blur rendering is very realistic
Sweet spot blur control is very precise

AlienSkin Bokeh: Minus points:
No way to introduce noise into the blur. This can lead to unconvincing results
Although the effect is good, it's still no substitute for the real thing.

FEATURES
EASE OF USE
PERFORMANCE
OVERALL


 
Alien Skin Bokeh costs $199 (approximately £145) direct from Alien Skin.

AlienSkin Bokeh

 

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