Price: 65 plus VAT
Adobe’s bundle of two Photoshop plug-ins is aimed at people who need to preserve as much image quality as possible in pictures shot by digital cameras, or in files compressed for storage or data transmission. These only work with Photoshop 7.0.1. Raw files are called ‘digital negatives,’ as they hold all the image information that the camera captures. Normally the camera’s download software includes a Raw converter, but tools vary. Adobe’s Raw plug-in provides a standard tool set for Canon, Fuji, Minolta, Nikon and Olympus formats – supported models are listed at www.adobe.com/products/ photoshop/cameraraw.html. Working inside the File/Open menu, Raw files are automatically detected and opened into a preview menu where you chose settings such as white balance, sharpening, contrast, exposure override, and colour model. If you archive raw files, you can apply different settings every time they’re opened. The case for JPEG 2000 is less clear-cut. Introduced in 2001 as an image-compression standard to replace the original JPEG, it has failed to make an impact. Benefits include wavelet compression that loses much less image quality than original JPEG, plus the ability to embed metadata. Adobe’s plug-in offers a preview menu with a slider control for quality and a file size prediction, plus tick-boxes for profile embedding and an advanced menu for metadata inclusion. We compared heavy JPEG compression (quality-level three) with a JPEG 2000 setting giving the same file size. The JPEG 2000 image showed far fewer compression artifacts. JPEG 2000 is supported by Apple QuickTime 6, Corel Graphics Suite 11 and will be supported in Adobe Acrobat 6. QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, and earlier versions of Acrobat don’t support it, though, so you’ll have to decompress files and convert them into another format before importing them. Adobe includes a browser plug-in, but JPEG 2000 won’t see major Web use unless Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape gain compatibility as standard. This may happen if Forgent Networks’ claim for patent licence fees on the original JPEG is successful. Is it worth paying £66 for these plug-ins? Only if you have a definite need today: Adobe says that the Raw plug-in will be bundled in ‘a future version of Photoshop,’ though it’s unclear if this applies to JPEG 2000.