Software program assessment: ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021 is a speedy Lightroom different: Digital Pictures Assessment


Over the previous couple of years, I’ve reviewed a number of subscription-free rivals to Adobe Lightroom, together with DxO PhotoLab 4, Publicity Software program’s Publicity X6 and Section One’s Seize One 20. After publishing each a type of opinions, I heard from readers praising ACDSee Photograph Studio Final, a Home windows-only Lightroom different that permits you to forego a subscription.


It has been a few years since we final took a have a look at ACDSee, however clearly, it is time we rectified that. A completely-featured picture administration and enhancing instrument aimed particularly at photographers, Photograph Studio Final 2021 gives a lot of the similar core options as its Adobe rival. It additionally contains some that Lightroom lacks, probably the most notable of which is assist for layer-based enhancing.

Photograph Studio Final is a complete digital darkroom instrument. Within the curiosity of readability, I am not going to attempt to cowl each function of Photograph Studio Final on this assessment. As a substitute, I am going to hit the highlights for these of you who’re new to ACDSee whereas summarizing the enhancements perpetually licensed customers of the earlier launch can take pleasure in with an improve. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get proper all the way down to it!

ACDSee’s default rendering in contrast with that of its primary rival, Adobe Lightroom Traditional. Click on via to the gallery to see full decision pictures.

Editor’s observe: Simply days earlier than publishing this assessment, ACDSee introduced Photograph Studio Final 2022, to be launched on the finish of September. In accordance with ACDSee, the up to date model features a new Media mode for effectively viewing and managing folders and media, a brand new Folks mode that makes use of an improved AI engine to acknowledge faces, and a few new choice instruments. Customers who buy the 2021 version shall be eligible for a free improve.

Key takeaways:

  • Home windows solely (sorry, Mac customers)
  • Reasonably priced perpetual license with one 12 months of updates or a selection of two subscription plans
  • Complete picture administration and enhancing
  • A lot of controls, loads of presets and respectable picture high quality, however weak noise discount
  • Layers assist, automated lens correction and (considerably error-prone) face recognition
  • Broad assist for cameras/backs, however lacks Lightroom’s cell/drone assist.
  • Extraordinarily quick, even with massive picture collections
  • A bit buggy and the educational curve might be steep

ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021 is on the market for $149.95 for a lifetime license with one 12 months of updates and technical assist, which can embrace a free improve to the 2022 launch as soon as it launches.

Two subscription plans are additionally accessible, which embrace licenses for ACDSee for Mac 7, Luxea Video Editor, and Video Converter Professional 5. These differ solely of their limits on cloud storage and the variety of concurrent installs allowed. The Private plan is priced at $6.90 monthly, or $69 per 12 months, and might be run on two machines with 10GB cloud storage included. The House plan is priced at both $8.90 monthly, or $89 per 12 months, and contains 50GB of cloud storage with assist for as much as 5 installs.

What’s new?

Let’s assessment what’s new for these already conversant in ACDSee. Most likely probably the most noticeable distinction – and the most important purpose to improve if you happen to’re utilizing an older, perpetually licensed model of ACDSee – would be the efficiency positive aspects. The corporate says that its 2021 launch can begin as much as 100% quicker, swap modes 50% quicker, categorize and key phrase 100% quicker, decode uncooked information 20% extra rapidly, and has 40% higher database efficiency.

There are additionally some notable tweaks to the consumer interface and instruments on provide. These embrace an up to date UI for Develop mode, which provides a brand new right-hand pane that is dwelling to a histogram, develop presets, historical past/snapshots, an data palette, plus new coloration and tone wheels within the left pane.

The up to date Develop mode consumer interface now has a second pane at display screen proper. The left, proper, and backside panes might be hidden through keyboard shortcuts or buttons within the prime proper nook.

A brand new refine choice instrument helps you define topics for enhancing extra precisely, whereas new text-in-frame and text-on-path instruments allow you to outline areas for textual content overlays and have textual content observe a curve or form. And now you can create presets for batch resizing and renaming, and assign these to keyboard shortcuts.

Nice-tuning the extents of a range with the newly-added Refine Choice instrument.

Each cropping and watermarking instruments now assist relative positioning when utilized in ACDSee Actions. In the meantime, the short search instrument has gained a brand new button to go looking solely inside the earlier search outcomes reasonably than the complete database. This makes it simpler to rapidly winnow out undesirable outcomes primarily based on subject material to search out the photographs you are after.

And smaller enhancements abound, equivalent to assist for GoPro uncooked information and import of face recognition information from Lightroom and Picasa, simpler pairing with ACDSee’s Cellular Sync app through QR code, and complete, context-sensitive on-line assist.


ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021 has a modal interface with 5 primary sections that may be chosen on the top-right nook of the display screen: Handle, Pictures, View, Customise and Edit. Additional proper, you will discover a number of icons via which you’ll join an non-compulsory ACDSee 365 subscription, together with cloud storage and entry to a number of different apps, view statistics about your pictures and the general database, and examine any messages from ACDSee.

ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021 has a modal interface with 5 primary sections

Handle mode

Handle mode permits you to browse folders and examine their contents on native and community drives with out first importing them into the database. There is a selection of a number of view sorts, together with thumbnails or a movie strip beneath a bigger preview. You can too view or edit metadata, add tags, scores or labels, and pictures or movies might be categorized or added to collections.

Moreover, you may view geotagged pictures on a map or add areas to people who aren’t geotagged. ACDSee Actions – primarily quick scripts combining a number of processing steps right into a single click on -–might be utilized, or a number of pictures loaded into stacks or processed to create an HDR or focus-stacked picture. You can too choose pictures to open in Develop or Edit modes or to be handed off to an exterior utility.

Photograph Studio Final’s Handle mode is geolocation-aware and might present your geotagged pictures on a map or allow you to add areas to untagged pictures manually.

Pictures mode

Relatively than providing you with entry to the whole lot in your drives, Pictures mode provides you entry by date solely to the photographs and movies you have imported into ACDSee’s database, that are proven solely as thumbnails. You could have a selection of each day, month-to-month, or yearly views and also can choose folders you’d wish to scan for content material.

There’s not a lot you are able to do on this mode aside from rotating pictures or deciding on a person picture to open in one of many different modes. You may solely entry comparatively small thumbnail views of your content material.

Pictures mode permits solely small thumbnail views and provides a selection of each day, month-to-month, or yearly indices. The highlighted picture seems if you happen to hover your mouse pointer over a thumbnail.

View mode

This mode is just like the filmstrip view in Handle mode, besides most visible litter is eliminated or disabled. It is also the one mode to permit you to really play movies, reasonably than seeing them as static thumbnails. (To distinguish movies from stills, the opposite modes present them as teams of 4 smaller thumbnails taken from numerous factors within the video clip.)

There’s additionally an Actions Browser pane for nonetheless pictures that permits you to visually preview the anticipated outcomes of every motion in your chosen picture earlier than you apply it. A row of icons above the movie strip permits you to entry duties like zoom/mouse management, picture rotation, face choice and instruments for automated picture corrections.

View mode provides you a much less cluttered have a look at your pictures. By default, it lacks sidebars, however I’ve enabled the proper bar so you may see the Manage tab of the Properties pane.
View mode additionally provides you entry to the Actions browser, via which you’ll preview the outcomes of particular person ACDSee Actions scripts as thumbnails and a bigger single-image preview.

Develop mode

Develop mode is the place you will be doing the majority of your enhancing. By default – the interface being very customizable – the sliders with which you will make your changes are grouped in a pane on the left of the display screen. Develop mode’s changes are non-destructive and saved to XMP sidecar information in addition to the ACDSee database.

Relying upon the dimensions of every panel inside the pane, you may largely have solely two open without delay, though for a few larger or smaller panes, that quantity will increase or decreases. Should you open too many, one other panel will concurrently near make room for it, stopping you from having to scroll up and down the pane.

The Develop mode is the place you will do most of your enhancing work. Right here, I’ve utilized the Punch preset from the Portrait group after which dialed the distinction again barely, as you may see within the Historical past panel close to the underside proper nook.

Many of the fundamental choices are just like these you’d discover in Lightroom, though there are some variations in how they’re named or positioned. For instance, as a substitute of the Shadows slider present in Lightroom, ACDSee includes a Fill Mild slider, and white stability controls have their very own panel. Essentially the most notable omissions are equivalents to Lightroom’s Whites and Blacks sliders.

You will discover a historical past panel and a categorized number of growing presets at display screen proper, however there is no strategy to preview their outcomes earlier than utility. Nor are you able to entry the View mode’s Actions Browser on this mode, and if you happen to apply an motion earlier than switching to Develop mode, its element steps aren’t proven within the historical past panel.

Edit mode

Lastly, we come to Edit mode, which differs from Develop mode in two key methods. In Edit mode, changes should be rendered to a static format – a JPEG, TIFF, or a wide range of different codecs – when you end enhancing. A number of edits might be made to a single picture, however if you wish to swap to a distinct picture or program mode, you must render your outcomes at that time.

Edit mode provides entry to a variety of easy-to-apply filters and results. Right here, I’ve utilized the Lomo filter from the Particular Impact instrument, then added a DPReview watermark on a brand new layer.

The opposite key distinction is that there is rather more hand-holding on this mode, which can assist much less skilled photographers get the outcomes they’re after. In Develop mode, a number of controls do provide automated modes. Nonetheless, there are extra auto controls on provide in Edit mode, and a few instruments even have a number of variations providing completely different ranges of complexity (and, in fact, various ranges of management as nicely.)

In comparison with Adobe Lightroom

There’s not an enormous distinction in picture high quality at decrease ISO values between ACDSee and Lightroom Traditional. Adobe’s pictures are inclined to look just a bit extra processed, with greater ranges of sharpening by default and stronger tweaks to native distinction for a barely punchier consequence. Variations in sharpening apart, neither app reveals any benefit intimately, nevertheless.

Coloration is sort of comparable for probably the most half, though ACDSee tends to neutralize a golden hour glow extra, whereas Lightroom tends to retain a bit extra heat. ACDSee’s foliage tends to look a bit extra lifelike, although, and it generally holds onto a bit extra spotlight element by default.

The 100% crops under come from the uncooked model of this picture, proven right here as an out-of-camera JPEG. It was shot at an deliberately excessive ISO 102,400 to current an actual problem for noise discount. (Captured with the 24-megapixel, APS-C Pentax Okay-70.)

ACDSee’s noise discount falls quick

At greater ISO, there is a a lot larger distinction between the 2 purposes. Adobe Lightroom performs fairly a little bit of coloration noise discount by default, and likewise removes scorching pixels. Within the course of, although, it generally bleaches the pure colours out of your creations.

Taking a look at 100% crops with default settings, ACDSee’s consequence does higher than Adobe Lightroom, which has bleached out the entire coloration and left the picture trying washed out.

By comparability, ACDSee leaves the colour noise very seen together with scorching pixels, nevertheless it additionally holds onto what coloration your digicam was capable of discern much better than its Adobe rival. And naturally, both utility gives the instruments with which to tame noise manually.

Sadly, whereas these in Lightroom can do a reasonably respectable job – definitely not in the identical league as DxO’s DeepPrime, however adequate – ACDSee’s noise discount algorithms are decidedly weak.

DxO PhotoLab’s DeepPRIME far outperforms each purposes, not solely holding onto the colour however obliterating the noise that ACDSee and Lightroom each go away behind.
Click on right here for the full-res ACDSee picture, right here for the Lightroom picture, or right here for the DXO picture.

Lightroom’s washed-out coloration might be fastened with a bit tweaking of NR sliders, and adjusting saturation/vibrance sliders would assist much more. There’s not a lot that may be carried out with ACDSee’s controls to enhance the luminance noise, although. I discovered one of the best outcomes at round degree 40 on the noise discount slider.

Lightroom’s washed-out colours might be fastened, however there’s not a lot you are able to do in ACDSee to enhance luminance noise.
Click on right here for the full-res ACDSee picture or right here for the Lightroom picture.

ACDSee’s coloration noise discount works moderately nicely, though you must practically max out the slider to realize what a lightweight contact on Adobe’s slider does. However the luminance slider has comparatively little impact under the 50% mark and quickly turns into impressionist or pointillistic as you stray a lot greater, as seen within the picture under.

ACDSee’s noise discount slider is not very helpful. Any setting within the backside half of its vary has little impact, and something within the prime half simply provides ugly artifacts. By degree 60, the picture is rendered as impressionistic patterns, which then turn into blurred by degree 70.

Nor do the noise discount presets in Develop mode or the noise instrument in Edit mode carry out any higher, as they clearly depend on the identical underlying algorithms. Sadly, if taming excessive ISO noise is a frequent concern for you, this alone might be the most important purpose to offer ACDSee a move in the intervening time.

ACDSee’s UI is mind-blowingly quick, even with massive collections

As talked about beforehand, efficiency has clearly been a major objective for the crew behind Photograph Studio Final 2021. I discovered myself instantly impressed by its efficiency and determined to essentially stress it to see the way it held up beneath a troublesome load.

To take action, I set ACDSee’s flagship app the duty of cataloging the majority of my picture assortment, which I first copied onto a clean WD My E book exterior exhausting drive. It accommodates round 2.5 terabytes of information in all, together with greater than 150,000 pictures from practically 200 cameras, of which round 50,000 are in a variety of various uncooked codecs. And in addition to all of the stills, there’s additionally a small variety of movies, which I additionally had it catalog.

It took a day or so for Photograph Studio Final to complete the job of cataloging all of the pictures; as soon as it was carried out including them to its database and making a whopping eight gigabytes of thumbnails, efficiency was wonderful.

I ought to observe that this time would not embrace face recognition, one thing which might possible have added one other a number of days or extra. (I let ACDSee seek for faces for about 12 hours, and in that point, it managed one thing like 15% of my database.)

ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021 provides you entry to a number of statistical data. As you may see, I challenged it with an enormous database of roughly 160k pictures and movies totaling virtually 2.5 terabytes and together with practically 200 cameras from historic to fashionable. I discovered myself deeply impressed by its efficiency with a lot information.

This system nonetheless launches in round 4 or 5 seconds, and whereas it takes a reasonably sluggish 25 seconds to open Pictures mode or 40-45 seconds to first swap to the basis folder of the picture library in Handle mode, that is the one time it feels sluggish. As soon as it is carried out, shopping is prompt or very near it.

There is no delay in any respect as you browse from folder to folder and scroll via thumbnails in Handle mode. Even in Pictures mode, which presents each picture within the database as a single, scrollable record of thumbnails grouped by seize date, the thumbnails all seem inside a second or much less as you scroll via your library.

Trying to find pictures tagged by face recognition as containing a selected particular person in that library took simply 17 seconds to return virtually 700 outcomes. And adjusting most sliders in develop mode delivered previews that have been real-time or very near it.

Efficiency has clearly been a major objective for the crew behind Photograph Studio Final 2021

Be aware, although, that pixel peeping raws is not attainable with Photograph Studio Final at its default settings. To attain its efficiency, it depends solely on the embedded previews of uncooked information, even once they’re far too low-res for 1:1 viewing. Enabling uncooked decoding in settings would not sluggish efficiency that a lot, and I believe ACDSee ought to actually ignore this setting and simply at all times decode raws when viewing 1:1.

Closing processing of a set of 400 uncooked information from the 24-megapixel Pentax Okay-70 to full-resolution JPEGs at default settings took 12 minutes and 30 seconds, or about 1.9 seconds per picture. By the use of comparability, Adobe Lightroom Traditional with comparable compression ranges and default settings took 9 minutes, 30 seconds, or about 1.4 seconds per picture.

That makes ACDSee about 32% slower at ultimate processing, however that is not an enormous distinction, comparatively talking, and comes on the level that you may usually go away the room to seize a espresso anyway. Responsiveness of the UI is reasonably extra necessary, and right here ACDSee turns in a really spectacular efficiency.

Face recognition is an enormous timesaver however very error-prone

ACDSee’s face recognition algorithms can detect and determine faces not solely when unobscured and searching in the direction of the digicam but additionally in profile view or when partially hidden behind one other object. Faces aren’t detected when the picture is first imported into the database. As a substitute, the algorithms run when manually triggered or, by default, within the background when your laptop is left idle in Handle mode.

Faces discovered by the face recognition algorithms might be seen in View mode, both on the picture itself, in a separate pane, or each, and confirming recommended faces takes only one mouse-click.

I discovered the function to be an enormous time-saver, however some work is unquestionably nonetheless required to curate detected faces as a result of the algorithms are fairly susceptible to misidentification. For instance, on the default ‘average’ face detection settings, I manually skilled the algorithms with 200 footage of myself, then browsed ACDSee’s recommended names record to find that it thought a cat, a Ferrari emblem, my 12-year outdated son and System One race driver Kimi Raikkonen have been additionally me.

After manually tagging one other 150 pictures of my son’s mum, I discovered that a few of her solutions included the identical cat, a number of extra Ferrari logos, a smiley face, a bearded man, a DPReview enterprise card, a menu/OK button on a digital digicam, an oyster on the half shell and extra.

That is not Geoffrey: Even when set to its most conservative detection mode, ACDSee’s face detection and recognition algorithms are far too unfastened and regularly misidentify faces. It is usually difficult to see what the algorithm thought was a face within the first place.

And even altering the face detection algorithms to run at their conservative settings did not resolve this challenge. After utterly clearing all recognition information and ranging from scratch, subsequent solutions nonetheless included many non-human (and never even remotely face-like) objects, together with a number of wheel rims, random digicam components, a flower petal, a cupcake, a Korean seafood rice bowl and people ever-present Ferrari logos.

Whereas the algorithms appropriately detected numerous human faces and recommended the right names for them no less than more often than not, I actually assume ACDSee might use tightening up their solutions additional or providing an much more conservative recognition setting.

A couple of different bugs might use squashing, too…

I additionally chanced on a number of bugs throughout this assessment, though in equity, a few these most likely solely got here to gentle due to how exhausting I pushed this system whereas testing its spectacular efficiency.

When cataloging my roughly two-terabyte picture library, the whole lot went effective for across the first 40,000 pictures imported into ACDSee’s database. From that time on, I’d get a crash and compelled shut of the app roughly as soon as each 10,000 pictures. (Curiously, ACDSee additionally imported the ultimate 40,000 pictures with no crash.)

ACDSee’s default rendering in contrast with that of its primary rival, Adobe Lightroom Traditional.
Click on right here
for the full-res ACDSee picture, or click on right here for the full-res Lightroom picture.

I additionally found that after launching this system with my detachable media disconnected, then closing, reconnecting the drive, and relaunching, ACDSee incorrectly flagged most of my pictures as orphaned. But if I double-clicked on the thumbnail of a supposedly orphaned picture, it will immediately open with out challenge, after which its thumbnail would replace to indicate it as unorphaned as soon as extra.

There was no rhyme or purpose as to which pictures have been incorrectly flagged, both. As a substitute, the orphans have been randomly scattered between those who nonetheless confirmed as accessible in the identical folder. ACDSee’s database optimization instrument could not repair the problem, nor did re-running the Catalog instrument, though it did throw up a number of ‘save failed, cannot output file’ errors.

However as I famous, these points possible relate partially to the dimensions of my picture library, and I did not see comparable conduct with smaller libraries or when utilizing a non-removable drive. That wasn’t true of one other face-detection bug I found, nevertheless. Should you rotate a picture that already has faces detected in it, the frames for any detected faces are then proven within the flawed space of the picture.

Rotating a picture after faces have been positioned in it causes the face-detection frames to lose their positions. Initially, for this shot, the body jumped outdoors the boundaries of the picture. After switching to a distinct picture and returning, the body is stretched and positioned on the tablecloth.

You may’t change the body positions or form to repair this, as after switching away from the picture after which returning, the frames revert to their earlier, incorrect areas. You may delete them, however if you happen to then try to manually define a face as a substitute, the thumbnail proven for that face reveals the flawed space of the unique, unrotated picture reasonably than the world of the rotated picture that you just’d chosen.

None of those points are showstoppers, however collectively they do conspire to make ACDSee really feel reasonably much less polished than its Adobe rival.


There’s quite a bit to love about ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021, however there are a few issues that make it a bit tougher to advocate. It has nice assist for an enormous vary of cameras with respectable picture high quality, and whereas telephones and drones aren’t instantly supported, their information might be accepted if transformed to DNG-format first.

It provides picture administration options aplenty, and on the decrease finish of the ISO vary, no less than, respectable picture high quality. And it does so whereas offering nice efficiency total, even with very massive picture libraries.

Whereas we’ve issues about its less-than-stellar noise discount and a few occasional bugs, there’s nonetheless quite a bit to like about ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021

However we’ve issues about its reasonably weak noise discount capabilities, which we would undoubtedly wish to see ACDSee handle in a future launch. And we additionally discovered reasonably extra bugs than we would wish to see, together with one that might fairly usually trigger a tough crash whereas cataloging pictures and movies.

To be clear, we by no means misplaced any information. All of our pictures and ACDSee’s database survived each crash completely intact, and the latter can simply be backed up and restored later you probably have any issues. However crashes nonetheless make us nervous, particularly in software program that has already been in the marketplace for near a 12 months.

Should you can stay with out the extra succesful noise discount of a few of its rivals and take the time to be taught its options, although, ACDSee Photograph Studio Final 2021 has an enormous quantity to supply, and its interface is unusually swift and responsive. Coupled with its inexpensive pricing and non-compulsory perpetual licensing, we are able to nonetheless advocate it as an all-in-one instrument, albeit with some reservations.

What we like:

  • A selection between a perpetual license and a subscription
  • Spectacular efficiency for shopping and enhancing, even with big picture libraries
  • Complete picture administration options
  • A great deal of enhancing controls and loads of presets
  • First rate picture high quality in most respects

What we do not:

  • Interface is jam-packed and takes some time to get to be taught
  • Pictures mode interface and performance could be very restricted
  • Excessive ISO noise discount is an enormous weak spot
  • Face detection and recognition is not dependable sufficient
  • No native assist for telephones or drones
  • Extra bugs than we would wish to see

Who’s it for:

Newbie and fanatic photographers who need an all-in-one instrument for managing and enhancing their pictures, and who do not usually want subtle excessive ISO noise discount.


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