Price When Reviewed: 485 . 139 . 775 . 275
Pros: Fantastic new view options make for a more positive experience; toning tools improved; Content Aware Scaling works well.
Cons: Pricey; full support for new view and workflow functionality requires Vista or OS X 10.4+ plus Open GL graphics card.
There is one new adjustment option – Vibrance – which has been borrowed directly from Camera Raw, and a Target Adjustment tool, which has been adopted from Lightroom. This allows you to click and drag on an area of the image to perform selected adjustments interactively; a feature that will be particularly useful to Curves novices and veterans alike.
Masks have been given a similar face-lift. You now manage these through the appropriately named panel, which more or less duplicates existing mask functionality, with the addition of the ability to feather vector masks, and adjust mask density (think in terms of opacity).
One major plus is CS4’s introduction of new toning tools, and its improvement of others. Burn and Dodge are now both wonder-tools, allowing you to paint with almost total impunity. The damage that was once so easy to cause using these tools is a thing of the past.
Once you’ve selected the ‘Protect Tones’ checkbox, you can paint in shade and light directly, change your mind and paint the opposite way, repeatedly without destroying your image. The Sponge tool has also been improved, albeit not to the same extent.
Content Aware Scaling is a new inclusion that’s getting a lot of attention. The technology examines the image being scaled for areas of detail, and using a complex algorithm determines relative importance of different parts of the scene. This enables you to convert a landscape image into a portrait image without impacting the dimensions of the primary subject matter – be it a person, car or tree.
This function does a pretty good job straight out the box, but there are tools to help you alert Photoshop to important areas of an image. This is poised to become a favourite of the designer’s toolbox, as it offers an effective solution to the frequently encountered ‘great image, wrong orientation’ problem.