Thanks for joining us here today with our Topaz Lens Effects review. We’ve had a chance to spend some time with the Topaz Labs Lens Effects plugin, and what a great piece of software it is. Here at Toad Hollow Photography we really try to do most of our work in the field, but sometimes when you are post-processing you would really like to have a special effect or emulate a certain lens feature and this can be daunting in many post-processing tools without the assistance of some form of plugin specially designed for the purpose. What we’ve found with Lens Effects is an incredible set of tools with many different applications, and each effect can easily be controlled and applied in post-processing to create that special image. You can jump right in and use most of the effects without reading any manuals as the controls are well labelled and intuitive to the touch. For those with a deeper need, you can dive right into the myriad of controls and create the exact scene you were hoping for.
After having spent a few hours working with the tool, I was able to apply several different effects to a source image. It was really satisfying to be able to try out so many different aspects of the tool in a short amount of time, and this is a real testament to the efforts that the folks at Topaz Labs put into not only the design of the advanced algorithms at the heart of these tools, but also the interface.
The image we selected for today’s post was purely taken and intended to be used as a test shot. It has some good contrast, details and tones, and also has a bit of character.
This was one of the first test shots I took after we got our new Canon 6D. I was testing the high ISO capabilities of the camera in a low-light setting and when I was looking for a test image to use for our review today it had some good elements in it.
The first action we took was to merge the brackets and tone map them in HDRsoft Photomatix Pro. This is our defacto standard for merging and tone mapping, consistently producing professional results in our digital darkroom. If you use the code “ToadHollow” at the checkout, you can save an additional 15% off the retail price.
Before jumping into Lens Effects we did a quick crop and then ran the frame through Topaz DeNoise to reduce any minor noise artifacts that were introduced by using a slightly higher ISO setting than typical. We’ll be doing a detailed review in the future on Topaz DeNoise as we have found it to be a superior algorithm that produces terrific results. All other de-noise tools we’ve tried have softened the image too much, rendering them unusable in our practice. But today’s review is all about Topaz Lens Effects, so let’s get into that now!
Here’s a screenshot of the tool in action. At first encounter we find on the left side a series of effects and some bundled presets. On the right, we find the sliders that allow you to have absolute control over how and where the effect is being applied. Our first example finds us trying out the Bokeh Effect.
What terrific results! I only spent a little time working on this and was able to finely control the area I wanted to draw the viewer into, in this case it was the Gents sign hanging over the hallway. There are so many other controls available in this effect, allowing you to spend as little or as much time as you like in your workflow. The ability to create a razor-sharp depth-of-focus after the fact is a pretty powerful tool to add to your post-processing kit, and when you begin to realize this effect is only the very beginning of what this tool can do, you really start to see the value.
The next effect we tried was the Vignette effect. As before, we find the controls on the right side of our workscreen are well labelled and laid out to allow you to focus on your work as opposed to spending a lot of time learning new software. Those that have need for finer control can dive into the sliders and the time spent will be reflected in the output.
The neat thing about vignettes is how they draw the viewer’s eye into the heart of the frame. I’ve found over the years that some vignette effects take on an artificial feel, and in some cases this can be highly distracting when viewing the image. With Lens Effects, we found a much more subtle application, resulting in a natural feel in the frame.
Sure, you’re not likely to find a thick fog hanging about in an old character pub, but here on the west coast anything is possible. Once again, we find just incredible results with a minimal time investment. The sliders to control the effect are again easy to understand and use, and give you ultimate control over how and where the effect is applied.
When we review the output, we find subtle effects that are applied in a very natural feeling way. All of a sudden, our warm and inviting frame takes on a bit of a sinister feel, and for those who are familiar with west coast weather, perhaps even get you to reach for your raincoat.
The last effect we’re going to take a look at with today’s review is the Toy Camera effect. This effect we applied straight out of the box, so to speak, with no adjustments at all. As you can see in the screenshot above, there are 5 categories of adjustments available with this effect, once again giving you complete control.
The authentic feel produced here is really quite astounding, especially when you consider that we made no adjustments at all when applying it.
The samples we’ve shared and discussed here only begin to scratch the surface of what this plugin is capable of. The level of complexity, for those who are interested in tinkering with post-processing at a very fine level, gives the artist complete control over the creative process, but the intuitive and well designed interfaces also allow you to jump right in. The terrific balance of ease-of-use and underlying complexity is one of the hallmarks of all the products produced by Topaz Labs and goes to show how much time and effort they spend in creating tools for photographers.
As with any product, it’s true test comes in the level of support and customer service you find when working with the company. Here at Toad Hollow Photography, we focus on quality first and foremost, and as such we only affiliate with companies that deliver on customer service. We’re very happy to say that Topaz Labs is an industry leader because of the level of service they provide, both before and after the sale. As with any complex tool, the training materials are key to helping you get the most out of the product, and the folks at Topaz Labs provide a truly second-to-none experience in this regard.
Topaz Labs has created a series of Webinars designed to show you how to get the most out of the tools. These video presentations are hosted by some of the industry leaders, and they take you on a pretty in-depth tour of the software. At the time of this writing two more seminars are scheduled for the coming days. Here are the details:
- Thursday July 18th at 2:00pm CST- Quick Tip Thursday – Create Realistic Fog
- Tuesday July 23rd at 3:00pm CST- Specialty Lens and Camera Effects
And finally, before we wrap up today’s review we saved the best news for last! If you use the code “julylens” at checkout you can save 50% off the regular retail price! From July 16, 2013 to July 31, 2013 Topaz Labs has dropped the price from the regular retail price of $79.99, which is a terrific value considering the power of these tools, down to $39.99! We can think of no better way to extend your artistic repertoire while saving money at the same time.