Choosing the best photography software is rarely an easy task. And with so many options available offering perpetual and subscription licenses these days, not only do you have to think about features, functionality, and usability, but you also have to consider cost. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is a well-established all-in-one photo editing software, only for Windows, offering image cataloging, RAW processing and image editing in a single user interface.
Would we consider it one of the best photo editing software available today? Maybe, but we wouldn’t put it at the very top of the list.
In terms of workflow, Photo Studio Ultimate offers a comparable package to Adobe Photography Plan, consisting of Lightroom and Photoshop. Photography Plan, alongside most other photo editing software including Affinity Photo, ON1 Photo Raw, Exposure X7, Skylum Luminar and others, is a direct competitor to Photo Studio Ultimate in an increasingly crowded market and competitive.
ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 is available both with a perpetual license for £192/$230 or through a subscription model which costs £75/$89 per year or £7.50/$8.90 per month, although that prices and offers change frequently. With the perpetual option, you receive updates and technical support for one year, which is an improvement over the support and updates provided previously. With the subscription model, you receive continuous updates and support for the duration of the subscription.
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Last year’s ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2021 felt more like an update than an upgrade, and the 2022 version looks like several improvements to existing controls along with a handful of new features. By far the most impressive new features are those relating to selections and color selection/color channel control.
Manage and Develop modes for image cataloging and raw processing are great as always, but let’s take a look at some of the new features for 2022. A main new feature is People mode which uses detection and recognition faces to identify people and speed up image searches.
Channel selection allows you to make selections from individual color channels, which can make selections more precise in certain situations, or allows you to create more targeted selections. Luminance/Color Range replaces Pixel Targeting and lets you make selections based on color or luminance values, and the Selection Basket lets you save, load, and convert selections to layer masks.
Pixel targeting in develop mode lets you target specific colors when using the develop brush to select areas of the image to adjust. You can now also apply noise reduction with the develop brush for targeted application. Other new features include Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file compatibility, channel filtering to target specific RGB channels when using filters in edit mode, and there is now a squareness slider for radial gradients in develop mode to make the radial gradient square.
Interface and usability
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The software is comprised of five modes within a single interface to provide a seamless workflow, from image selection to raw processing, then to image editing and manipulation. These are made up of Manage, Media, View, Develop, and Edit. And just like the 2021 version, it’s safe to say that Manage, Media (formerly Photos) and View could easily be merged into a single mode to further simplify the interface. That said, the interface is intuitively designed and despite a large number of tools, commands and filters available in the develop and edit modes, none feel overwhelming.
Just like previous versions of Photo Studio Ultimate, the Manage and Develop modes remain the most impressive aspects of the software. These offer excellent image cataloging and raw processing control between them. And in terms of available Raw processing commands, everything you need is available, including image adjustments, spot adjustments, lens corrections and more.
Edit mode is the equivalent of Photoshop and Affinity Photo, offering a wealth of adjustments, including layers. You can do a lot, but this mode is nowhere near as comprehensive as even Adobe Photoshop Elements. Some tools, however, offer a lot of control, including Convert to Black and White which offers color channel control, channel mixer and colorization in a single dialog window. The edit mode is good, but it’s definitely not great.
Quality of results
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The latest version of Photo Studio Ultimate is a bit mixed when it comes to the quality of the results. On the one hand, you have Develop mode, which is still excellent for processing raw files. The Manage mode for image cataloging is also great, and together these modes could even be used in a professional workflow – they’re so good.
Development mode is nice, but could you use it in a professional workflow? Unfortunately no. For beginners and intermediate users, this mode provides all the functionality you are likely to need. It has nothing to do with the image quality this mode can produce, although the healing and cloning tools aren’t the best, it has more to do with being able to work with single level layers advanced.
Of course, you have control over the opacity and blending modes, but even a seemingly simple task like cloning or healing into an empty layer isn’t possible; you need to use a copy of the background layer for this. Additionally, there’s a noticeable inconsistency in the level of control available with some of the more advanced editing features like HDR, focus stacking, and the new color gamut feature — it’s a everywhere in this regard.
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Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 maintains its position in the market as a high-performance all-in-one image editing solution, albeit for Windows only. Its new features may not have the wow factor, but they do offer a host of improvements, especially in the area of selections and color targeting. It is definitely an improvement over the previous version.
This software will be more appealing to beginners and enthusiasts looking for an intuitive all-in-one solution. It offers the features and functionality you need to perform a wide range of image editing tasks ranging from the most basic to the most advanced. However, more advanced users may find the inconsistent level of control available in some of the more advanced features frustrating.
In terms of cost, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 is stepping into dangerous territory with annual price increases; the subscription cost approximates that of Adobe’s photography package, which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC and is the market leader.
Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 currently costs £192/$230 with a perpetual license and £75/$89 per year or £7.50/$8.90 per month via a subscription. If you like the look of the software, you can check out the free trial, and be sure to keep an eye on the ACDSee website for discounts and special offers throughout the year, where you might make considerable savings.
If you try Photo Studio Ultimate 2022, Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, or any of their rivals and find them all a bit sluggish and sluggish, it might be time to think about upgrading our computer too. If that helps, we’ve got guides on the best laptops for photo editing, the best desktops for photo editing, and the best monitors for photo editing.