|Photoshop CS4 Adds Some Cool New Toys|
Context-aware scaling and depth-of-field merge
Photoshop CS4 was released on Sept 23 and, based on news reports, Adobe was touting it mainly as a usability rather than a functionality upgrade (at least that's what I heard). Yesterday I finally went and looked at the "what's new" page for Photoshop [adobe.com] and was surprised to see a couple of new capabilities, one of which was previously the subject of some discussion here.
A year ago Demaestro posted [webmasterworld.com] about context-aware scaling (the Photoshop terminology for this), also known as "retargetting". This is where images can be resized not by simply scaling everything linearly, but by removing pixel paths with the least amount of information. This allows you, for example, to make an image smaller, without reducing the size of the people in the image or to change the aspect ratio of an image without changing the aspect ratio of the faces in the image. It turns out that this technology has already found its way into the shipping commercial version. It's a pretty cool technology. If you missed it, check out the Youtube demo video of this technology [pubcon.com] that Demaestro originally posted last year
I think context-aware scaling has the big "gee whiz" factor, but the feature that intrigues me the most is the extended depth of field functionality. Basically, you can now merge images shot at different focal lengths to get extremely long (or precise) depth of field. So this is a depth-of-field equivalent to the exposure-based merge you use for HDR images. One of my friends who makes his living as a landscape photographer said that HDR merge had more or less obviated the need for his neutral density gradient filter on his digital camera (he still needs it for shooting large-format film), but because of the fixed focal plane of SLRs, he was still limited in terms of depth of field compared to when he's using a bellows camera. It seems like this feature brings an SLR+Photoshop closer to being able to pull off the same compositions as a bellows camera.
Pretty cool, though all in all, I think I'm going to put the $$ towards a new camera and hold out for CS5.
I haven't upgraded Photoshop for several versions now, but this pushes me over the edge. I tried to set up the context-aware scaling plug-in with gimp last year, but found the experience way too frustrating, partly because I rarely use gimp. Now I can have it right in PS, where I live much of the time.
Adobe seems to keep its feet firmly on the ground and provide solid value in their upgrades. I wish I could say the same for all software, but Adobe defrinitely has my trust - and these new features all look excellent.
>>solid value in their upgrades
I agree in general, but the upgrade process for CS3 was a bit of mess. If the install went astray, and for many of us it did, you had to download a special program from Adobe and another one from Microsoft to clean up the mess so you could uninstall and then do a clean install. I hope they do better on CS4.
The fact that Adobe had to release a tool for this purpose tells you something.
Another indication: I wrote up my notes on the experience and how I fixed it and even as CS3 reaches the end of its shelflife, that page still gets over 100 visits a month on a site that has almost nothing else on it. In other words, these are not casual passers by who are on the site anyway, but SE referrals - I have no idea how the page ranks for those searches, but I bet it's not in the top 20.
I expect that now that CS4 has rolled out, search volume on CS3 install issues will plummet, hopefully not to be replaced by searches on CS4 install issues!
[update: but alas - a quick search on the net already brings up 317K results for "CS4 install problems" - I suppose any suite that big and complex is bound to have some problems, but still]