May 25 2021
One of the best and most complete post-processing solutions is something of a well-kept secret. Zoner Photo Studio X is growing in popularity and it’s easy to see why.
There has been an interesting expansion of post-production software over the past decade or so, but that’s not necessarily because a slew of new software has started to emerge. On the contrary, new software has appeared and people are realizing that Adobe is not the only name in town. Zoner Photo Studio X (ZPS X) is a program that I had heard about, but little knew about. The company, however, has been around since 1991, and they’ve learned a few things at the same time. They were recently announced as “best expert in imaging software“from the TIPA association.
ZPS X is an editing suite, image library, digital asset manager, video editor and much more. In fact, it has so many benefits that I was surprised it wasn’t more prevalent. That said, it has millions of users around the world, and now that I’ve had the chance to review it, it’s easy to see why.
What is Zoner Photo Studio X?
ZPS X aims to be an all-in-one solution, meeting all the needs of a photographer. While it’s certainly feature rich, it’s not prescriptive about how you use it or the order of your workflow. It also has some features which, while not completely unique, are certainly rare. Let’s start with an overview of some of the top features.
An import system with a twist
There are two areas that make uploading your photos to ZPS X interesting. The first is that you can copy photos directly from your computer or camera and this will create folders for the images, and can automatically sort, rename, locate and save them. The second and arguably most interesting feature of the import system is the “twist”: you don’t have to import your photos into a catalog like you do with Lightroom, for example. This can be both a huge time saver and a space saver on the hard drive.
Digital asset management
The management and organization of your photos are essential for the success of this type of software, especially one that is intended to be a complete solution. ZPS X has many impressive features in this regard. In addition to basic sorting, keyword searching, and metadata support, it also offers a map view of your images, batch metadata changes (for example, time zone offsets or daylight saving time changes) and logs tracking your trips. With GPS and location data almost a staple of modern cameras, this kind of functionality will sooner or later become a staple feature for every software of this type and ZPS X is ahead of the curve.
Quickly and easily create videos
This is another simple and rather obvious feature that is just not that common. ZPS X has a video editing section built into the Create module. While it’s not the deepest video editor, it doesn’t try to be, either. ZPS X clearly wanted to create a simple tool allowing the user to compile clips with transition effects, text and audio. The export options are more impressive though, with everything from 640 x 480 to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) and then a choice of frame rates from 15 to 60 fps.
Powerful color grading tools
The Color Shift tool in the Develop module is complex enough for almost any grading or color editing use you might have. The Basic section covers most of what you’ll be used to with hue, saturation, and luminance, but the Advanced section is where it really comes into its own. There is a visual representation of 9 colors which can then be changed within an inch of their life. You can also use an eyedropper to pick a certain tone in your image to refine it, as well as add masks to your colorwork to locate adjustments.
As great as the Color Shift tool is, I haven’t seen ZPS X promoting the other additional color control options in the pod. For example, there are also Split Toning and Tone Curve. While these are now pretty standard in editing suites, the combination of all the color grading utilities is quite impressive.
A retouching module to keep you in one software
As you would expect from software that aims to be a complete solution for post-production, there is a built-in module that allows you to do more detailed and complex editing. If you imagine that you’ve imported your image into Lightroom, edited the raw file, and then exported, you’ll likely open it in Photoshop afterwards. The Editor module is the second step in this process, except you don’t need to quit ZPS X. No doubt this speeds up your workflow, but my concern was that it wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to the industry. standard software; It can. In fact, it had features I didn’t expect, like face detection and automated facial liquefaction. The list of adjustments you can apply is so long that you have to scroll down to get to the bottom and I couldn’t spot anything missing that I would use or never used.
The problem with software is that it is rarely cheap, especially if it is good. Make no mistake, it pays off if you use it enough, but it’s still an expense that can be hard to justify if you’re just starting out. For example, Adobe’s photography package, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop, costs $ 9.99 per month or $ 119.88 per year. ZPS is $ 4.99 per month, or $ 49 per year – a big savings. Then you have to take into account that you also get the tools of the physical product, the video authoring module, and the myriad of features that come in the all-in-one package. This is not an alike comparison as it is not really possible, but if you wanted to cover most of what ZPS X can do, but with Adobe products you are looking between $ 30 and $ 52.99 $ per month, which in the end is about 10 times the price of ZPS X per year.
Overall, it’s an interesting and well-rounded piece of software. I focused on what I think are some of the real strengths, but there are a lot of little features that are in development, like their authoring module which is currently under development. It will allow the creation of physical products from inside the client; another job that you don’t need to leave ZPS X to complete.
In terms of value for money, you would be hard-pressed to beat ZPS X and I can see that it is very suitable for a lot of photographers.
What I liked
- Great color grading tools
- Efficient HDR panel in Develop mode
- Unbeatable price
- Speeds up the overall workflow
- Awesome creation module for physical products
- Strong digital asset manager
- You don’t need to import photos into a catalog.
What could be improved
- The automatic sorting of images into folders was sometimes random
- Real-time previews of changes are poor quality until you drop them, defeating the purpose of the preview
- Double clicking on the slider does not reset it, but double clicking on the name does
- The Calendar view was not working well for me despite the EXIF data showing the dates taken.