I ran across a free limited-time only download of a purported higher end photo editing and cataloging application along the lines of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It is called CyberLink PhotoDirector 2011. I’ve been giving it a run through for a few hours over the weekend – here are my thoughts.
It supposedly retails for $99, which is close to the sale prices that I’ve seen for Lightroom, so I expected something solid and seamless. What I got was a usable attempt at a Lightroom clone, but it is not worth $99.
It has many of the same adjustment features that Lightroom has and actually has a very similar interface. It enables you to manage and edit many types of image formats including various RAW formats from Canon, Nikon and others.
The software will be very familiar if you’ve ever used anything light Lightroom or even Picasa. There are three main modules: Library, Adjustment, and Slideshow.
The library module is straightforward. It’s what you expect and really nothing more. Import options, a few metadata sorting options, listing of folders, albums (similar to Lighroom collections) and metadata tags. It has some features for exporting and sharing but I counldn’t get them to work and the buttons for them were always grayed out.
The Adjustment module is still fairly straightforward. It has most of the main adjustment features that Lightroom has, but they are not as polished. If offers White Balance, Tone control, Levels, HSL/Color, Detail and Vignette control. It does not have specific support for lens profiles, which for me is one of the biggest drawbacks as it is a huge benefit for me when using Lightroom. One thing that did stand out to me was the ability to turn off the adjustments from any one of the six adjustment sections as if they were layers. This helps to focus on certain adjustments without worrying about others interfering. There are also a handful of adjustment tools that serve as crop, adjustment brush, spot removal with heal/clone, gradient masks, and red eye removal. Useful stuff but still leaves me asking for more. I guess I’ve just been spoiled.
I had problems getting the slideshow module to function at first, but eventually got it to go. It’s not immediately apparent what is necessary to get a slideshow going even after following the onscreen instructions it lagged in responding to what I was doing. It’s not bad and is basically on par with Picasa slideshows. It does offer exports in various formats from H.264, MP4, and WMV along with a variety of resolutions and aspect ratios. Basic but usable.
The bottom line for me after spending some time getting to know PhotoDirector is that if you have Lightroom already, then you’ll be disappointed. If you’re moving from Picasa, then you might be delighted. If you’re anything more than a casual photographer you will probably also be disappointed at the lack of features beyond basic adjustments. If you can snag this for free and don’t have the cash for Lightroom then you should be fine but it is not worth $99 when Lightroom can be found at or near that price and is much more robust.
If you want to see for yourself, just go here and pick it up after creating a free account.