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.
Video and 3D support have been upgraded, although this functionality is still only found in Photoshop Extended. The range of supported formats has been extended, and you can now edit scenes, materials, meshes and lights directly inside Photoshop.
Animation of 3D objects is straightforward, and a new ray-tracing rendering engine enables high-quality (but slow) output. It’s even possible to paint directly onto a texture while it’s rendered on a 3D mesh.
Bridge has seen the same interface improvements as the rest of the suite, and is slightly more mature than the version that shipped with Photoshop CS3. CS4 also sees the introduction of Camera Raw 5.0, which has various improvements over version 4.
Most notable are the new Adjustment brush and graduated filter tools. Both work allow adjustments to be targeted to specific areas of the Raw image, enabling localized corrections to be applied. Multiple corrections can be layered together, allowing a lot of the traditional Photoshop-proper corrections to be applied directly in Camera Raw.
There are numerous other small improvements. Photomerge, for example, now allows for automatic correction of lens distortion and vignette. For users creating panoramic images from several photographs this is a big bonus, as almost all the visible edges between merged photos are now taken care of automatically. There’s also support for auto-blending a stack of narrowly focused images to create an almost HDR-like extended depth of field photograph.
Some features have been retired as part of the ‘architectural reworking’ Adobe has been performing behind the scenes. Gone are the Pattern Maker and Extract filters; Mac support for Twain has also disappeared. Most
lost tools can be added back in through an optional download from the Adobe Web site, while other apparently missing tools have simply been relocated to new homes – automated contact sheets, Web galleries and picture packages now live inside Bridge.
Photoshop CS4 offers a reasonable balance of shiny new features and workflow enhancements. The latter
are likely to offer far more value for money in the long-term to upgrading users, and make navigation around your documents infinitely more enjoyable. Again, this workflow improvement alone would make it worth considering the upgrade, which might seem expensive, but will be a worthwhile investment for regular users.
Indeed, once you’ve upgraded, you’ll find yourself wondering how you ever managed before its release.