Best Buy
  • Price: £548 plus VAT (Standard) . £794 plus VAT (Extended)

  • Company: Adobe

  • Pros: 64-bit enabled. Helpful Refine Edge feature. Easier merging of HDR images. Many community-driven improvements. Lens Correction filter uses camera/lens profiles. Better noise reduction in Camera Raw. Convenient Content-Aware Fill feature.

  • Cons: Many plug-ins/filters work only in 32-bit mode. App generally does not feel much faster.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Lens Correction and HDR

Photographers will appreciate the upgraded Lens Correction filter and its new home: It leapt out the Distort filter category into the main level of the Filter menu. The Lens Correction dialog box now lets you download (or create your own) specific camera and lens profiles so its distortion-removing voodoo works better -- and the annoying grid option is off so you can actually see your image while you’re tweaking it. The camera and lens profiles are also used by other features, such as Auto-Align Layers, Merge to HDR Pro, and PhotoMerge for panoramas.

If you’re a fan of HDR photography -- taking multiple exposures and merging them into a single image -- you’ll love Photoshop CS5’s new Merge to HDR Pro dialog box. Not only was the HDR feature redesigned so it’s easier to use, but it includes several useful presets for creating beautiful images right out of the box. The programming code was revamped so Photoshop merges your images faster, and a de-ghosting option was added, which is helpful if something in your image moved or shifted between shots. You can also apply HDR settings to normal images by using the new HDR Toning option in the Image->Adjustments menu, though don't expect to create much more than a high-contrast, grunge look similar to the movie 300.

Camera Raw 6.0

The newest version of the Camera Raw plug-in now includes better noise reduction for zapping grain introduced by shooting in low light at a high light sensitivity setting (ISO). Other enhancements include more options for adding post-crop vignettes (such as a soft, darkened edge) and improved sharpening that pays attention to an image’s tone, contrast, and fine details.

Improved painting tools

Photoshop’s painting engine got an overhaul in CS5, which improves performance anytime you’re using a brush cursor, no matter the tool. The new Bristle Tips feature makes brushes behave like their real-world counterparts, letting you create more natural paint strokes. A new Brush Preset panel lets you see what the new bristles look like before you use them, and the new Mixer Brush lets you mix colors right there on your Photoshop canvas. You can even determine how wet the canvas is, how much paint you’re mixing from canvas to brush, and how many colors you want to load onto your brush tip. There’s even a brush-cleaning option that doesn’t involve turpentine!

You can also change brush size and hardness with the same keyboard shortcut: Control-Option-drag horizontally or vertically respectively. And if you’ve used the Rotate View Tool to spin your canvas so it’s at a more natural angle, your brushes won’t rotate. Just don’t expect the new brush behavior to kill Corel Painter -- Photoshop’s brush improvements are in their infancy and will take some time to blossom fully.

Other painterly improvements include keyboard shortcut access to a “heads-up” version of the Color Picker (it appears atop your image, sans dialog box), making it easier to swap colour while you’re painting; improved support for graphic tablets (like the option to have tablet settings override brush settings); and a new sample ring for the Eyedropper Tool, which shows the current and new colours, making it easier to grab the colour you want.

Puppet Warp

If you ever need to move your subject’s arms, legs, or tail into a better position, the new Puppet Warp tool can get it done. You begin by dropping markers (called pins) onto the item you want to move, and then Photoshop generates anchor points, handles, and a grid-like mesh that you use to move and distort the item. It works with pixel-based layers as well as Smart Objects. Unless you frequently need to move a model’s arm or leg, or adjust a road or path so it’s more or less curvy, you’ll rarely use this feature.

Repoussé and new 3D tools

Photoshop CS5 Extended users will enjoy the new Repoussé feature, which lets you create 3D versions of a variety of 2D items such as text, paths, layer masks, and selections. It creates a 3D layer that you can use with Photoshop’s full arsenal of 3D tools. Don’t expect it to be a quick process, though; no matter what workstation you have, Photoshop requires some time to perform the 3D extrusion.

(To learn how to create the above artwork using Photoshop CS5's Repoussé tool, click here to read our tutorial.)

Other 3D features include the new Ground Plane Shadow Catcher, which gives you an easy way to generate a realistic shadow cast on the ground (or, in this case, mesh) beneath a 3D object. Photoshop CS5 also sports faster 3D Ray Tracer rendering (think of Ray-Tracing as tracing the path of light rays reflected off an object and back to the camera for a more photorealistic image), which lets you render a selection, pause and resume rendering, and change render quality. Adobe also added a slew of new materials, light sources, and overlays, the ability to change 3D depth of field, new 3D preferences, and more.