Is Elements for You?
Despite the happy addition of some sophisticated editing tools, Elements remains a program best for hobbyists rather than truly committed photographers.
The biggest reason? Its handling of RAW files. Sure, a version of Adobe Camera Raw is included, but ACR’s tools are slight compared with those in Lightroom or Photoshop. For instance, there’s no syncing settings between shots, no built-in lens correction or retouching tools, and no exporting in batches.
Once you open your file, you’re stuck converting down to the sRGB color space (Elements doesn’t support others, not even Adobe RGB) if you want to retouch it in the Editor. And while sharing RAW files or adding them to a slideshow is possible, the process takes forever compared with doing this using JPEGs.
So if you have a DSLR and plan to get into shooting RAW, Lightroom or Apple Aperture is probably a better purchase. On the other hand, if you already use one of those programs but are looking for a way to do retouching with layers without breaking the bank, Elements will work as your external editor—that is, as long as you don’t mind working in sRGB and 8-bit instead of 16-bit color.
Rival Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 has very similar strengths and weaknesses-—its edits are also limited to the sRGB color space, and it also excels at organizing and sharing. Corel has Curves, which Elements lacks, but Elements has the benefit of some more elegant algorithms inherited from Photoshop, making for often comparatively smoother and speedier fixes. PC users who are on the fence may be equally happy with either, but, because Corel is PC-only, Mac users won’t have that choice.
Elements doesn’t offer an upgrade option, so it will only be worth trading up to this version if you’re currently using versions 6 or 7. The transition from 8 to 9 is too subtle to make a repurchase advisable, unless you are a Mac user clamoring for the Organizer. Still, for photographers who don’t have a robust image editor yet, and who shoot mostly JPEGs and want a quick way to organize, share, and fix their photos, Elements remains one of the best—and most economical—options out there.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Windows: XP or newer, 1.6GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 3GB HD space. Mac: OS 10.5.8 or newer, multicore Intel processor, 1GB RAM, 3.4GB HD space.
PRICE: $100, direct; www.adobe.com