Finding the best application to do exactly what you want is hard to find these days. Today you can go out and you have an enormous variety of applications you can choose from. No matter what the title may be, you have choice. And where there's choice, there's confusion.
I have found an application which I believe ideally suits me for most things I care to do when it comes to the area of image creation and image manipulation: namely Photogenics 2.0a.
(Note: Photogenics 2.0a is a free patch upgrade from V2.0)
What is Photogenics:
For those who have had their head stuck in the ground like an Emu for the last few years (to use an overused cliche), Photogenics 2.0a is an Image Processing and Image Creation package on the Amiga, by Almathera, which has made its way from V1.0, V1.0a, V1.1, V1.2, V1.2a, V2.0, and finally to version 2.0a.
In the beginning most people were comparing the current version of Personal Paint at the time to Photogenics, and in general Photogenics usually came out on top (not by much though). So how does Photogenics 2.0a stack up against something like Personal Paint 7? Read on to find out.
Firstly I'd like to say that Photogenics and Personal Paint, while they both have notable similarities in the feature department serve two different purposes. Personal Paint (here-in refered to as PPaint) is much more ideal for the artist who wishes to create hand-drawn images and wishes to be able to use Image Processing type effects to 'brush it up' (the image). Photogenics on the other hand is the ideal package for one who wishes to work with alot of high resolution images and rather than creating images from scratch in general, use existing or scanned images to create a new image via the means of conventional paint program tools and with the aid of a variety of powerful image processing affects.
Photogenics 2.0a and PPaint 7.0 both come with a whole set of Image Processing effects and traditional paint tools, both come with an extensive set of Arexx commands, both can be bought on CD-ROM with a whole variety of fonts and images included, both support 24bit buffers (although when working with Photogenics you can always see the 24bit buffer you're working with), both support secondary channels, and both support a variety of other features as well. As you can see from this list, this may lead to some confusion when choosing which application to go for, and why the comparison between the two products have been made.
So what are the differences? Well, Photogenics 2.0a has many more Image Processing effects than PPaint 7.0 does, PPaint has better animation support than Photogenics, PPaint has a more 'DPaint-like' environment for those accustomed to that sort of working environment, Photogenics has a custom GUI system of its own (called Widget) which has both benefits and losses (losses is initially it's hard to get used to, benefits though are much more extensive when you're used to it), Photogenics comes with an on-line HTML manual (decide for yourself on this one) where as PPaint comes with a printed manual, Photogenics can handle more than 2 images (actually it can handle hundreds, memory permitting), Photogenics is the best application when dealing with high resolution images, PPaint requires no high-spec Amiga to work well, and the comparisons could go on. As you can see while there are alot of similarities, the two applications also have alot of differences. Which application you choose will depend on what requirements you wish of it.
How does Photogenics 2.0a compare with V1.2a?
For a start Photogenics, up till version 1.2a used the Amiga's intuition system completely for its GUI, V2.0 onwards uses the Widget system, which can be chosen to look more or less like Intuition and different versions for High Resolution and Low Resolutions screen systems exist. This is the most striking difference in looks from earlier versions. While the Widget system takes quite some time to get used to at first, after a while I found it to be a far more beneficial system.
Other features which are new in V2.0 from V1.2a is Virtual Images (allowing the loading of images which are bigger than your available RAM), the Plug-in Effects system (allows for more complex image processing than allowed through the standard image processing effects offered in the 'Modes' window, and also has the benefit of working with the Virtual Image system), Animation loading and saving (although you can only work on one image from an animation at a time) (it supports loading and saving of all varieties of IFF ANIMs and CDXL Animations), Arexx support (Any function of the program is basically programmable through this new Arexx port), On-line HTML Help (some people may see this as a major downfall of this version in comparison to previous versions, some may find it an advantage), the loading and saving of Paint Layers (a 'Paintlayer' is a separate layer 'floating' above your image), changes to loaders and savers (a variety of new file formats have been added here and greater support for older formats has also happened), and a variety of other (un-listed) bug fixes.
Is it worth the upgrade? Well, if any of the new listed features above are things you don't need and you still have Photogenics 1.2a I see little reason to upgrade, IF though you do believe you need these features (and I found I have definitely used many of these new features extensively) then I DEFINITELY recommend the upgrade.
What features does Photogenics 2.0a have?
For those of you who have never used Photogenics before here is a list of its features: (based on the manual)
* Natural paint tools (AirBrush, Pencil, Chalk pastel, Watercolour, Ballpen, Neon, etc) * Edit multiple images simultaneously (each in a resizeable window) * Powerful Undo/Redo System * Virtual Image System (Edit images much larger than you can fit in your computer's memory) * Preview any paintmode effect instantly * Support for multiple file formats (IFF-ILBM, JPEG, GIF, BMP, PCX, PhotoCD, PBM, QRT, Raw, Impulse, IMG, Targa, TIFF, CDXL, Framestore, etc) * Paint in 24-bit with real time HAM8/24bit preview (Realtime 18-bit HAM8 preview really is fast and no 24-bit graphics card required (only AGA)) * Full CyberGraphX Support (Direct support for running under 15/16/24-bit CyberGraphX screenmodes with HiColour and TrueColour previews) (CyberGraphX supports most graphics boards) * Support for additional hardware (Video Toaster, CyberVision64, OpalVision, Picasso-II, VLab, Retina, EGS cards. ProGrab24RT, etc) * Easy to use alpha-channel support * Open Architecture (in terms of its plug-in system for adding and deleting loaders, savers, effects, brushes) * Drag & Drop User Interface * Dozens of paint modes and effects (Add Noise, Alter Hue, Balance, Blur, Brightness, Cloner, Contrast, Displace Map, Emboss, False Colour, Flip, Gradient Tint, Greyscale, HueMap, Limit, Line Art, Matrix, Mix, Monochrome, Motion Blur, Negative, Paint (standard painting), Pixelise, Posterise, Randomise, Rub Through, Rub Mix, Saturation, Sharpen, Shift Hue, Solarize, Tile, Tile Brick, Tint, and many more)As you can see from this list, its feature list is quite extensive, and provides a great many number of tools for the artist.
The included manual is in HTML form (ie. World Wide Web pages), and has an old version of AWeb (Unregistered) included for the purposes of viewing these documents. You can within Photogenics though, configure it to use any Amiga Browser you wish (as the on-line HTML Manual is called up when you press the Amiga HELP button). The manual covers all aspects of the program and all the descriptions and capability lists of all the Loaders, Savers, Modes, and Effects the program.
It also includes tutorials for beginners and/or advanced users. The tutorials are generally very useful, but it would be alot easier to have printed documentation so you can look at the manual as you do it step-by-step in the program.
The manual is fairly well indexed (they could have done better), and usually finding help for the feature you're after is generally very easy. The inclusion of HTML On-line documents Vs's AmigaGuide is sensible, but as for HTML Vs's Printed, or HTML and Printed, is not such as good. It would have been much better if they had included printed documents as found in V1.2a and versions prior to that.
Ease of use:
Photogenics 2.0a has been described as complex/complicated to learn in comparison to packages such as ArtEffects. While this is right, once you've got the hang of the Widget system and learn how to use the program (which really doesn't take all that long) it's a VERY easy program to use. Finding a feature takes next to no time, and its interface is well designed and laid out, as are the menus. Photogenics 2.0a I found much easier to learn than a package like ImageFX 2.6.1 or PPaint.
Normally this information would go at the front of a review, but to avoid any bias the review may have as a result of it, I have included it near the end of the review. Why? Well I believe that if you CAN afford to upgrade your system to use this program then I believe you should do so, if your system can't currently support it. Upgrading your Amiga will help to make it more powerful, allow you to do more things, allow you to run more applications (and games), is a positive step towards supporting the Amiga.
So what does Photogenics 2.0a require to run? You must have an Amiga (any chipset) with 4mb of RAM, Hard Drive, and Kickstart 3.0 or higher, and to use the CD-ROM version of this program, a CD-ROM Drive is required (a disk version also exists). NO 24bit Board is required to use this program, but if you have one it can do wonders for you when using Photogenics.
So is this the package for you? Well if the above sounds like the sort of thing you want, or has enough reasons to justify an upgrade, do so. If you own no package like this, then I definitely recommend picking up this package now. V3 of Photogenics is currently being written, and owners of V2.0a will find upgrade paths exist. Overall, Photogenics 2.0a is a highly professional Image Creation and Image Processing tool for the Amiga, and a product well worth supporting.
I give this product: 9/10
Manual: [***--] Ease of use: [***--] Features: [*****] Price: [****-]
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