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Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021

John Riley has been editing and organising his photos with Zoner Photo Studio X software to find out if it's a Lightroom and Photoshop alternative.

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Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: Photo Studio X


Quick Verdict

Zoner Photo Studio X is an image management and editing program that offers a lower-cost alternative to Photoshop. The familiarisation process is actually quite fast as the interface is logical and largely intuitive and there are also some very nice touches that make the program an attractive proposition. A free one month trial with no strings attached that can be used on several computers, albeit for the one user, means that it costs nothing to try out. What is there to lose?

+ Pros

  • Fast learning curve with an intuitive interface
  • Logical layout
  • RAW formats supported
  • Excellent quality JPEG handling
  • Fast response time
  • One month free trial
  • Low monthly or annual subscription
  • Handles video and stills

- Cons

  • Low cost, but still a subscription model
  • Changing to any program slows down workflow initially


Zoner is a Czech based company and their Zoner Photo Studio X program is well known in their home territory and across Europe. It has in fact been awarded the EISA Best Photo Editing Software award for 2021-22. The word Zoner actually means something that divides into distinct areas or zones, and indeed that is what the program does. Downloading the program is hazard-free and it takes just a few minutes before we are up and running. No credit card details are required, just an e-mail address.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Features

The workflow is divided into modules - Manager, Develop, Edit and Create, more of which as we go into greater detail. The program handles a wide variety of file types for both stills and video. New for September 2021 are faster editing, a new remove noise function, easier and quicker video editing and support for 2K and 4K video.


Zoner Photo Studio X Key Features:

  • Bitmap editor and image file manager
  • Subscription model
  • One month free trial for evaluation
  • Handles RAW and JPEG files
  • Video editor 2K and 4K compatible
  • Creation of books, calendars and more from within the program


Zoner Photo Studio X Handling & Performance

The basic requirements to run Zoner Photo Studio X are:

  • Windows 10 64 Bit, version 1809 or higher
  • Intel or AMD processor with SSE2 support
  • 4GB RAM
  • 480MB of free disk space
  • Resolution 1280 x 800 or higher

The program launches swiftly with both 8GB and 16GB RAM machines used to check it out.


Manager Module

Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 001 Zoner Manager |

The manager module is basically the browser, but also much more than that as it enables organisation of the image files. Files can be named, descriptions added, ratings applied and anything else that involves the organisation of images. If any of the dialogue boxes should be in the way, they can be closed using the small arrows next to the edge of the screen.


Develop Module

Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 002 Zoner Develop Module 1 |

Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 003 Zoner Develop Module 2 |

The develop module is where most of the adjustments to the image are made. Vignetting, colour balance, sharpening and all the basic adjustments are handled here. The effects are not totally instantaneous, but the processing delay is minimal and not obtrusive. There are also some very nice split toning tools based on colour wheels.

For those who use minimal processing of their images, most of the work can be completed in this one module and although there are a full set of possible controls the process can be as simple or complex as desired.


Editor Module

Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 004 Zoner Editor Module |

There are many tools repeated here, but we have essentially a Photoshop type program based on the use of Layers. Apart from Favourites, we have lists of tools under the titles Adjust, Document, Edit and Effects. Here we resize, sharpen, create layers, do complex manipulations and so on.

Some things will captivate in a program, and in particular, the list of Effects is particularly interesting. Some of these give an arguably easier and perhaps even better result than using Photoshop, and they are certainly created with no loss of speed. A few examples of some considered particularly useful follows.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 006 Zoner Editor Effects Damaged Photoi |

The first example is Damaged Photo and it is impressive how quickly the end result is processed. This is the simple version, needing a minimum of adjustments via one slider and a pull-down menu. The effect suits the subject and is so easy to achieve that it will be bound to stimulate a more detailed examination of the depths of Zoner's many other options.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 007 Zoner Editor Effects Mix Channels |

Mix Channels is essentially the same as Channel Mixer in Photoshop, always an excellent way to manufacture pseudo-Infra-Red images. Sometimes effects like this can be tricky with Photoshop, but here Zoner nails it straight away. This does of course also depend on how much infra-red light is in any given scene. To give a filmic look, optionally some grain (noise) could also easily be added.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 008 Zoner Effects Tone Mapping |

Tone Mapping is another technique that is often left to stand-alone programs, but Zoner has the capability within Photo Studio X. It is notable that the processing does not take too long.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 009 Zoner Effects Variations |

Variations offers another simple way to create alternatives to an image. Presets like this can be useful starting points, and perhaps even if they only give an idea of what could be changed then the photographer can create the effect themselves if they wish.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 010 Zoner Effects Old Photograph |

Old photograph gives us an oven-ready sepia tone, which is fine, but in this case, if the colour is a little extreme for taste, then we can move back to the other adjustments to tweak the final result.


Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 011 Zoner Effects Pencil Drawing |

Although this reviewer is not a great fan of computer-generated pencil drawings, the Zoner software does produce a very pleasant version and with the right subject, it could work.


Create Module

Zoner Photo Studio X Software Review 2021: 005 Zoner Create Module |


Zoner Photo Sudio X has another trick up its sleeve with the create module. From within the program, it is possible to create a Photo Book, a Calendar, a Canvas Print, a Collage, a Contact Sheet or a Video. It is also possible to create prints. All of these items can be produced or ordered directly from within the program. For some reason, the postcard tab tells us that this has been removed as a facility but the postcards can still be ordered via the Zoner website.

There is very little to be said that is other than complimentary, although the resizing methods provided are definitely less intuitive than Photoshop. Apart from that, all works really well. There are also many YouTube videos that give a greater insight into the working details.


Value For Money

Notwithstanding that some may not like the subscription model as a matter of principle, perhaps preferring to purchase a program outright, there is no doubt that it has advantages. Updates are constantly delivered and everything is kept properly up to date. Zoner Photo Studio X is priced on their website at $4.99 per month or $49 annually, which is around half the cost of Adobe Creative Cloud for photographers. ePHOTOzine members can also save 25%, for a limited time, when purchasing the software. 

The bonus to all this is the one-month free trial, which is a full version with absolutely no strings attached. There is no need to even use a credit card to open an account, just an e-mail address. More information on the free trial can be found here: Zoner Photo Studio X Free 30-Day Trial

To read more opinions on photo editing software, have a look at our software reviews



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Zoner Photo Studio X Verdict

When a workflow is well established there has to be a very good reason to introduce an alternative program into it, especially if the existing workflow is fast and efficient. It is probably true that the more Photoshop work that an individual does, the less likely they are to want to interrupt the flow.

However, there is such a thing as inevitable progress, so the argument would be that we should try new things from time to time to make sure that nothing has come along that will improve or help. In the case of Zoner Photo Studio X, there are distinct possibilities in that it has useful features that can be used to advantage. It has speed, the results are excellent and with the free one month trial, there is really little reason not to give it a go.

As asked at the start, what is there to lose? Nothing at all, and the distinct possibility that there is something useful to gain.

Zoner Photo Studio X Pros

  • Fast learning curve with an intuitive interface
  • Logical layout
  • Most RAW formats supported
  • Excellent quality handling
  • Fast response time
  • One month free trial
  • Low monthly or annual subscription
  • Handles video and stills


Zoner Photo Studio X Cons

  • Low cost, but still a subscription model
  • Resizing not intuitive
  • Changing any program slows down workflow initially
  • Not part of a wider set of programs such as Creative Cloud

Overall Verdict

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saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.8k 92 Norway
8 Nov 2021 1:51PM
John - you mention the basic requirements for running the software with Windows, but no mention of any macOS requirements. Does that mean it is not available for mac users?
johnriley1uk Avatar
8 Nov 2021 2:00PM
Sadly not for Mac users.

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