Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Review

by Reads (10,688)
  • Pros

    • Awesome user tutorial
    • Simple filter application
    • As robust as you want it
  • Cons

    • No direct Flickr uploads
    • Auto filters more harm than help
    • Weird flash-drive handler

By: Dustin Sklavos

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is often billed as the primary challenger to Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. Is PSP Photo X2 really the unsung hero of consumer-grade photo editing software, or does it play second fiddle for a reason. We sound it out in this review.

After my experiences with Corel’s VideoStudio Pro X2 software just a few weeks ago, feelings were mixed going in with Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2. Fortunately, those feelings have been largely ameliorated by actually playing around with the software and drawing a monocle on a picture of my cat. Expect to see more of her in the photo editor reviews ahead. A lot more.

One of the primary concerns when selecting a consumer-grade photo editor suite (as opposed to a professional grade) is newbie-friendliness. Consumers aren't paying for the potentially confusing wealth of options and power involved in something like Adobe Photoshop CS4; they'd rather just have something they can tinker with a bit and get the results they want. In many ways that makes this kind of software simple to review; just check out the available effects and auto-fixers.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 brush tool

To that end, Corel does something very smart with their software in the form of the Learning Center panel on the left side of the screen. Within this panel are options for wizards, or if you select any tool or filter, it will explain what is does and how to use it. To say I love this feature would be a grand understatement. The Learning Center makes me want to this software to recommend to my mother.

You can, of course, disable the Learning Center if you're comfortable enough with the software (or simply have too much lingering Clippy trauma), but I found it to be pretty invaluable.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 get photos

One thing that does rub me the wrong way is the reoccurring use of Organizer bins, which work like the footage bins in video editor suites, rather than like photo browsers with which most users are familiar. Fresh off using Adobe's Photoshop Elements 7, I still hate this convention. Worse still, of the options in the Get Photos list (screen capture above), not one of them is just "load from computer." I had to go to the menu bar at the top of the screen to import pictures of my feline associate from my hard drive. This is just silly.

On the subject of file management, I do want to point out another minor annoyance with the Paint Shop Pro: It installs a process that runs in your system tray and pops up whenever you plug in flash memory.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 flash popup

This is quite irksome. The process appears easy enough to get rid of, but the fact that it was installed at all bothers me. Microsoft, through Windows 7, is trying to break developers of the habit of just dumping "quick launchers" in the system tray. This is an effort I appreciate. Beyond that, I don't need Windows and Corel asking me what I want to do with the flash drive I just plugged in. Maybe I just want to move some files, eh?

FILTERS AND EFFECTS

Like its various photo editor kin, Corel's Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 has a wealth of effects and filters at its disposal. Using the Learning Center panel makes things simpler by offering a sort of "one stop shop" of quick fixes and adjustments.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 smart photo fix

Take, for example, the Smart Photo Fix, which offered some fairly simple sliders for adjusting the image quality. It includes a Suggest Settings button which may or may not help your photo. Since Zoe (my cat) was already pretty good to go in this photo, the program suggested settings that wound up making the image too bright, blowing it out and making her muzzle full-on white instead of cream-colored.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 express lab

Also available is an option dubbed Express Lab, which is really just a much larger control screen for Smart Photo Fix and thus probably more desirable to use.

As a general rule the auto-fix options seemed to just blow out the images, but your mileage may vary. Users will probably want to just manually adjust the images, which is mercifully easy in PSP Photo X2.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 depth of field filter

Corel's software offers several additional features and effects, but Depth of Field (shown above) was one I actually enjoyed a bit. The filter allowed me to create a false depth of field and refocus the image on one element of my yawning cat. It was kind of a nice touch, actually, and a good shortcut for more adventurous users.

If I had one complaint, it would be that the Fix Red Eye function which Corel's Learning Panel does say can be used for pets whose eyes glow a different color (like, for example, evil) is kind of spotty. Zoe's bright "yellow eye" problem didn't seem to be fixed or helped very much by this option, which operates as more of a paintbrush than a simple push-button correction.

OUTPUT AND SHARING

Output is where Corel comes up a bit short with Paint Shop Pro Photo X2. While output options are for the most part fairly standard, Corel misses a lot of the options Adobe offers in Photoshop Elements 7.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 web share

For starters, the there's no slideshow option available, which is just inexplicable. Beyond the slideshow absence, the biggest blunder is that the Web Share option doesn't allow you to upload directly to Flickr. If just about every consumer-grade video editor available allows direct uploads to YouTube, it should stand to reason that just about every consumer-grade photo editor available should be uploading directly to Flickr, but that's not the case here. Instead, you're allowed to upload to CVS Pharmacy's website. This reeks of a paid product placement.

PSP Photo X2's e-mail option is a good one so long as Corel recognizes the e-mail software configured on your computer (it didn't recognize mine, but I'm using Windows 7 so it may just be something there) and you don't rely on Web-based mail clients to do most of your e-correspondence. If PSP does tune into your e-mail, it offers options on automatically scaling an image down for e-mailing, which is a nice feature. My desktop monitors both run at 1920x1200, and I'm continually horrified when I get a forwarded image that somehow manages to require scrolling in my e-mail box. Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 (theoretically) solves this problem.<-->

CONCLUSION

I wasn’t expecting to like Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 nearly as much as I did. Truthfully, I was wondering why I’d even bother with any other software after reviewing Adobe Photoshop Elements 7. But Corel has changed my mind and I owe a large amount of my affection to the Learning Center panel. Providing simple and easy to understand explanations and instructions to novice users is fantastic and a great way to give them a life raft in an application that may otherwise seem profoundly confusing.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 sells for $99, just like the competition, but can be had online for much less. As of this writing, Corel actually has it on sale for a remarkably low $59, which makes it a steal as far as I’m concerned.

Bottom line: Novice photo editors should definitely give Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 a try

PROS

  • Awesome user tutorial
  • Simple filter application
  • As robust as you want it

CONS

  • No direct Flickr uploads
  • Auto filters more harm than help
  • Weird flash-drive handler



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