Monday, July 5, 2010

Zone Tome

Some times it is photography that takes over this column and others it is Linux. Today I am reviewing the latest version of LightZone (3.9), this covers both rather well. In an unprecedented move Lightcrafts have released the same version across all three supported platforms (Linux, Mac OS and Windows). This needs praise. In the past Linux has been released a little behind the others. This tells you that Lightcrafts view the Linux market highly. Perhaps one day they may even release Aurora for Linux.

What is new in LightZone 3.9? Well other than bug fixes 3.8 only offered Olympus E-P1 RAW file processing. In fact, according to the help files little has altered since 3.4 other than changes to help files and new camera support. I went into the program expecting little to have changes and so it was. I have tried the licensed version on my desktop and a trial version on the Laptop. Just one error! While looking at the 'About' splash I had a crash notice on the Laptop but the program carried on running without further problems. Probably due to my installation rather than the product.

What can I say about a product that has not changed? You can see the browser window in the first picture on this note. It is simple and uncluttered, yet everything is available very close to hand. I can use LightZone for everything I do, except perspective control (if anyone can put me right on that one I am happy to admit I have probably not explored everything). What I do use is the Zone Mapper tool.

The Zone Mapper tool allows me to adjust exposure in a way that makes sense to an old man. Probably because I was brought up using my Russian SLR (Zenith B) with an American technique (the Zone system) using British stock (Ilford FP4). It was a merging of ideals in the Cold War era that proved working together gave more hope than fighting. It also got me into serious photography. The Zone Mapper tool is so simple in its implementation. I know I can use curves in other software to achieve the same thing but the Zone Mapper tool makes more sense. I can also envisage the problems caused by compression of highlights, as the tool encourages me to see it happen. The second picture shows an edit using the zone mapper tool.

I still need to go into the Gimp at times. I use lots of photographic solutions. When it comes to exposure, anything beyond simple exposure adjustments I prefer LightZone. If you are looking for a good all round photographic application then LightZone could be for you. Do try all the open source software first but I found it more than worth its price, and you can take a free trial to see how you like it.

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