• Price: 130

  • Company: LightCrafts

  • Pros: Simulates analog photographic techniques. Boasts a powerful built-in image browser, and true non-destructive editing. Powerful rendering engine eliminates the need to store multiple copies of an image

  • Cons: Lacks important retouching tools, region selection tools need refinement, and performance is slow when multiple regions and modification tools are active. Some important tools are accessible only through option- and control-click.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

While new-fangled applications such as Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture aim to be the central workflow tool for digital photographers, neither attempts to take on Photoshop for deep image editing – yet. LightZone from newcomer Light Crafts, however, combines a thumbnail browser with some hardcore photo-manipulation tools.

LightZone is no Photoshop competitor though. There are no compositing and painting tools – but the process of adjusting images with LightZone feels smoother and is more direct than with Photoshop.

The application is based on the zone system, a photographic technique popularized by the famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams. The zone system lets photographers visualize and control the tonal range of their images.

The program features two main work areas: the Image Browser and the Photo Editor. The Image Browser feels snappier than Adobe’s Bridge and on a par with the latest version of Aperture (1.1) – though it’s not as powerful as Apple’s tool.

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The Image Browser (above), lets you access all of your image files, organize them into collections, and view their metadata. Once you select an image, you work within the program’s Photo Editor.
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The Photo Editor contains the program’s key image-adjustment tools: ZoneFinder and ZoneMapper. These easy-to-use tools work in tandem. Select a zone in the ZoneMapper and view a visual representation of it in the ZoneFinder thumbnail image. These controls let you visualize and adjust the tonal range of your image.
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Clicking on a region of the ZoneMapper creates a ‘ZoneLock’, and selects the corresponding region in the ZoneFinder image. This makes it simple to adjust specific areas of your image.
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