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12-04-2014, 02:52 PM   #1
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Alternative to elements for enthusiast?

Hi all. I currently own a k5ii, k01, and mx-1. I do a mix of raw and jpeg shooting (jpeg for family events and RAW for landscape, urban, and portraits).

I currently have PS elements 9. I have had 3 iterations of elements and I hate it. The program constantly freezes/crashes, and it takes forever to delete or move photos to different folders or subfolders. And, I cant just use windows, because it wont preview a raw file.

The elements editor itself is pretty good for my purposes but is a bit overkill. I do use layers, some filers, and the color curves and field adjustments. However, I make most of my "mods" in the raw editor that opens. The only real graphic stuff I do is to touch up portraits or add layer masks to simulate a polarizer filter.

In short, I am looking for something a little less cumbersome and less expensive. I still want to be able to do all of my raw processing and do "effects".. (Lomo, cx processing, etc.) But, I do not want an "organizer software" that forces me to create albums, tags, and identify people. I want to be able to quickly view both jpegs and RAW in preview mode, delete what I don't like, move the around to different folders, and then open an editor to process the raws.

Any suggestions, or am I looking for something that doesn't exist?

12-04-2014, 03:00 PM   #2
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Less expensive: GIMP (free).

Powerful and exceptional deal on their special offers: Corel's PaintShop Pro - I've used it for years and just find the interface easier to use than Photoshop or Elements. Don't use it often, but like that it's more intuitive to the way my brain is wired. You can download a 30-day trial for free.
12-04-2014, 03:04 PM   #3
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I'd still say Lightroom, but only if you don't use layers much and you think you can forgo them.
One can still do a whole lot of things without layers, with just a powerful, nondestructive RAW editor.

It doesn't force you to create albums (but those are there if you want 'em, and are mighty useful after you pass the 5k pictures mark or so...), it doesn't force you to tag pictures (but again I believe it's useful to do so...), you can do effects, you can use plugins.

What you are describing is actually much more similar to Bridge than Lightroom, but then you'd also need an editor...
LR is also very stable.
12-04-2014, 03:13 PM   #4
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It would help if you shared what kind of computer operating system you use.

M

12-04-2014, 06:56 PM   #5
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I really don't recommend GIMP. It is functional and can do a lot, but I find that it is rather unintuitive. Being a fluent Photoshopper doesn't help you much and your skills in GIMP won't transfer out should you decide to switch.
12-04-2014, 10:25 PM   #6
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This week you can get a PaintShop Pro X7 and AftershotPro 2 package very cheaply (look for Cybermonday/Black Friday offers). I've used Corel for years with no problems. My computer is over 4 yrs old and wasn't particularly high spec when I bought it.
12-04-2014, 10:59 PM   #7
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I use Cyberlink Photodirector.

I found it worth the money ($0) but at the same time, I wouldn't really recommend it since it's a bit unintuitive, and very limited in the sense of editing such as cloning and smoothing.


I do recall that Hasselblad do an editing software that is apparently rather good, and free if I recall?
I remember there was something odd about it which stopped me from ever downloading it, but I can't remember what it was? maybe it doesn't work on Pentax RAW or something?



I downloaded GIMP, but never tried it since it wouldn't run on my computer (couldn't even open without locking up)
12-08-2014, 02:59 AM   #8
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This might help you viewing RAW files in Windows:
How do I view RAW pictures in Windows 7? - Microsoft Windows Help


As to the freezes, lock-ups etc. it sounds to me like your PC is struggling with the task.

12-08-2014, 12:39 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by cats_five Quote
This might help you viewing RAW files in Windows:
How do I view RAW pictures in Windows 7? - Microsoft Windows Help


As to the freezes, lock-ups etc. it sounds to me like your PC is struggling with the task.
In my experience the Microsoft-made Camera codec pack is slow as hell, especially with DNGs.
The FastPictureViewer Codec Packis much faster, but is paid software.
YMMV...
12-08-2014, 02:19 PM   #10
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The FastPictureViewer Codec is fantastic and does solve the ability to view files in Windows Explorer. It's not free ($15 if I recall right), but it is fast.

If you are having issues with Elements locking things up, it may be that you are exceeding the spec for your computer, especially for Adobe Products... In other words, I would say LR is what you are looking for as LensBeginner suggested, but it is an Adobe Product, and it isn't cheap. PaintShop Pro may be best because of the problems you are having, but it could still be overkill, although it is usually priced well and targeted towards users like yourself.

Another option would be to try using something like RAWTherapee. It is free and gives you the ability to do more global stuff. You won't be able to do spot edits or layers, and you'd mostly have to rely on Windows for managing your files or find a different software. Gimp would compliment it well when you need such local edits.
12-09-2014, 08:22 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxian_tmb Quote
Hi all. I currently own a k5ii, k01, and mx-1. I do a mix of raw and jpeg shooting (jpeg for family events and RAW for landscape, urban, and portraits).

I currently have PS elements 9. I have had 3 iterations of elements and I hate it. The program constantly freezes/crashes, and it takes forever to delete or move photos to different folders or subfolders. And, I cant just use windows, because it wont preview a raw file.

The elements editor itself is pretty good for my purposes but is a bit overkill. I do use layers, some filers, and the color curves and field adjustments. However, I make most of my "mods" in the raw editor that opens. The only real graphic stuff I do is to touch up portraits or add layer masks to simulate a polarizer filter.

In short, I am looking for something a little less cumbersome and less expensive. I still want to be able to do all of my raw processing and do "effects".. (Lomo, cx processing, etc.) But, I do not want an "organizer software" that forces me to create albums, tags, and identify people. I want to be able to quickly view both jpegs and RAW in preview mode, delete what I don't like, move the around to different folders, and then open an editor to process the raws.

Any suggestions, or am I looking for something that doesn't exist?
Don't pay any attention to recommendations for Gimp. Gimp is great for what it is, but it's a graphics program. It does what Elements does and then some. I get the impression that's NOT what you're looking for.

You say you hate the whole "photo organizer" - so Lightroom is off the table from the get go. I hate organizer software as well.
I trialed Lightroom for quite a while and then decided I just didn't like it. I own and use Elements 9 myself, but I have NEVER EVER even tried the photo organizer part of the program.

I think a question you may want to answer first is whether you want a single, all-in-one program that does everything you want, or if you are willing to use multiple programs. For example, you could use one program to do basic
browsing/culling/adjustments, and another program to do more in depth raw conversion, layers, etc.
If the answer to that question that you want an all-in-one program, then I'm not sure you can do much better than Elements. You may have to look into what you need to do to make it run better on
your machine, and disregard the photo-organizing part of the program. You should be able to use Elements without using the organizing part of it. Maybe you need to uninstall and reinstall it to get rid of the library. Like I said, I've
only used it as a converter/editor, not as a photo organizer. I've used it on both an older computer and on a much newer one - it worked on both, though on the older machine it did struggle with the larger image files from my K30.
That's part of the reason I upgraded my computer after getting my K30.

If you think you might be able to go the multi-program route, then read on:

I've found the FastStone image viewer to be a very good program for browsing/culling and basic editing, and it is very easy on system resources. It will run well on very old machines ( keeping in mind that handling 20M files on an old machine is going to be slow no matter what program you're using ). So most of the time, I live in Faststone. That's the program I use for all my day-to-day browsing, culling and basic editing. When I think an image
needs more sophisticated processing, then I launch that program from WITHIN FastStone. The other program pops up with the image in question pre-loaded. At least, that's my goal. Some programs don't want to handle this launch mode gracefully, and
those programs usually get uninstalled in short order.

My recommendation would be that you try out FastStone ( it's free/donation ware ). Set it up so that it opens Elements 9.0 when you hit the cntrl-E ( ie. make Elements your default editor ). If Elements works well enough for you as a Converter
and Editor, this may solve your problem.

Faststone is very fast with RAW files because it displays the JPG preview embedded in the RAW file rather than attempting to render the RAW data. This means it will load thumbnail previews for a new folder much faster than most programs.
If you want to do more complicated work on the RAW file, you can invoke the RAW converter of your choice from FastStone. On my machine, I have a suite of RAW converters I can invoke from within FastStone while viewing the JPG preview
( PDCU 3 for my K200D Raw images, Silkypix 3 for my K30 images, Elements 9.0 for either, Rawtherapee for either, etc. ). I find Elements 9.0 works, but I'm often not happy with the way ACR renders my images. The interface for PDCU is awful,
but it gives me the best results for my K200D RAW images. Same goes for Silkypix 3 and my K30 images.

So FastStone will give you the basic browswer/editor functionality, and it does it very well indeed. The next thing you need is a RAW converter.

I haven't worked much with the most recent versions of Rawtherapee. I'm not crazy about the interface and workflow compared to other programs I've used. It's fairly complicated - there's a lot of stuff in there you can tweek.
I think it is also fairly resource heavy - if your machine is struggling with Elements 9.0, chances are it will not work well with the current version of Rawtherapee.

If I'm not mistaken, you should have a bundled version of Silkypix 3.0 that came with your Mx-1. Have you tried it ? You've been using an Adope product, so Silkypix will seem strange and/or unfamiliar at first. There's a bit of a learning curve for it, because some things have been implemented and/or translated in an unconventional way ( cropping tool is called "trim" ).

Some people don't like it because it's not built the way Adope products are built, but it's a decent RAW converter. Unfortunately, the bundled version is somewhat out of date, and it's set up so that it will only open RAW files for the cameras that it comes bundled with. However, Silkypix currently has a special on for upgrading from the bundled version to Silkypix 6.0. I'm currently considering taking advantage of this offer. This version will be more modern, and will handle RAW files from all your cameras.

Another option is the PDCU that came with your K5. The interface is clunky, and a big step down from Silkypix, but I believe the underlying image engine is similar, if not the same. If you're only using it for RAW conversion ( ie. invoking it from FastStone ),
you may find it isn't so bad. That's how I use the PDCU that came with my K200D. If that program would open RAW images from my K30, I'd use it as my default RAW converter, but it won't. Your more recent version of PDCU may handle the raw files
from all your cameras, I'm not sure. I don't know why Pentax bundled some cameras with Silkypix 3.0 and some with PDCU. It would have been nice if the bundled software for your most recent Pentax camera could convert the RAW files from all your
older models, but that's not the case if your most recent camera came with Silkypix.

This approach where you launch a RAW converter from FastStone sounds far more awkward than it is. I wish I had some video capture software that would allow me to make a demonstration video of how I do this.

There are other RAW converters out there, but I have not tried them.

So unless I'm mistaken, you have 3 RAW converters you can work with right now, without spending an additional nickel: PDCU ( comes with the K5 ), Silkypix 3.0 ( comes with MX-1 and K01? ), and ACR ( dumbed down version comes with Elements ).

It wasn't clear to me if you had a problem with ACR - the RAW converter that comes with Elements. If that program works for you, then maybe all you need to do is use FastStone as your photo browser, and only fire up Elements when you need it
( ie. for RAW conversion and working with layers ). That would allow you to do everything you need to do using 2 programs - Faststone and Elements. The first is free and you already own the second.

If you don't like using ACR/Elements for your RAW conversions, then you can try using Silkypix 3.0 and/or PDCU. If PDCU works for you, and it handles RAW files from all your cameras, then you're all set. You can still use Elements for
doing layers, etc.

This approach does require that you try to learn multiple programs - but that's the only way you're going to find out which program/work flow works for you. One advantage of what I'm suggesting here is that it shouldn't cost you anything
to try a few different options. Many people will tell you not to mess around, and just get Lightroom. That works for some people, but from what you said in your original post, I don't think it's the best approach for you.

In Summary:

Try to figure out why Elements isn't running well for you. It may be that your computer is underpowered, considering the size of the files your cameras ( especially your K5 ) are generating. If Elements will no longer allow
you to use it without using the photo organizing portion, you may want to uninstall it and reinstall it to get rid of the library. Make sure your photo folders are organized into a logical tree structure and that they are backed up before you
do this!

Then install Faststone and use FastStone to browse your photos, to do basic Edits, and to invoke Elements for doing more sophisitcated processing ( including RAW conversion ).

If that setup works for you, then you are DONE. If Elements is still giving you problems ( eg. RAW conversion is unsatisfactory ), then try the other RAW converters that came with your cameras.

I hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to ask for clarification. I don't pretend that this posting is entirely coherent.

Cheers, Rick
12-09-2014, 09:29 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxian_tmb Quote
Alternative to elements for enthusiast?
I'd suggest you have a look at what Lightroom has to offer, as it would certainly tick many of your boxes.
12-09-2014, 10:29 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by arkav Quote
*snip*

You say you hate the whole "photo organizer" - so Lightroom is off the table from the get go. I hate organizer software as well.
I trialed Lightroom for quite a while and then decided I just didn't like it.

Cheers, Rick

*snip*
Well... actually you can skip that part almost entirely...
You can import the photos, develop them (no tagging, no nothing), export the final jpeg (or whatever format) and then remove them from the catalog.
Or leave them, it doesn't matter.
If you remove them, just purge the thumbnail cache from time to time and that's it.
12-09-2014, 11:02 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by LensBeginner Quote
You can import the photos
I think that's the rub. Maybe I'm reading between the lines too much, but I got the impression that the original poster doesn't like that whole "import" concept, and what it entails. If all I want to do is
go into a folder, look at the contents, work on a photo or two, and then move on, why should I be burdened with importing the folder and removing it from the catalogue when I'm done?

If he's running an older computer, or one with insufficient RAM, he may find that Lightroom takes forever to import a folder of RAW files. At least, that's what I found when I was trialing an older version
of Lightroom on my previous computer.

When I read the original post, it seems to me that he's looking for an in inexpensive, lightweight photo browser that works on RAW as well as JPG files, and that will allow him to invoke more serious programs
if and when he needs them.

I don't think Lightroom fits the bill - it is not lightweight, it costs money ( though it's far cheaper than it used to be ), and it entails cataloging at a fairly fundamental level. FastStone is probably closer to what he wants.
12-09-2014, 02:20 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by arkav Quote
I think that's the rub. Maybe I'm reading between the lines too much, but I got the impression that the original poster doesn't like that whole "import" concept, and what it entails. If all I want to do is
go into a folder, look at the contents, work on a photo or two, and then move on, why should I be burdened with importing the folder and removing it from the catalogue when I'm done?

If he's running an older computer, or one with insufficient RAM, he may find that Lightroom takes forever to import a folder of RAW files. At least, that's what I found when I was trialing an older version
of Lightroom on my previous computer.

When I read the original post, it seems to me that he's looking for an in inexpensive, lightweight photo browser that works on RAW as well as JPG files, and that will allow him to invoke more serious programs
if and when he needs them.

I don't think Lightroom fits the bill - it is not lightweight, it costs money ( though it's far cheaper than it used to be ), and it entails cataloging at a fairly fundamental level. FastStone is probably closer to what he wants.
I don't know why people think you have to catalog files with LR. You import photos into a library. If you have a root folder for everything, it's fairly automatic. I just right-click on the root folder in LR and synchronize it. LR takes care of the rest. Besides that, I don't use the library module other than the fact it stores the RAW edits I make, which is convenient if I ever revisit a photo.

After that, I simply browse my file structure from within the Library module in LR, which is kind of like using FastStone (which I do use at work) All importing really does is give you access to your files within LR. It is an added step from other RAW editors but not such a negative one. You end up with a catalog file that you really don't have to pay attention to, but it will keep track of your edit history for files in one convenient place. If files needed more care (layers, etc) you could still utilize Elements directly from LR. I don't see why a user would need to delete a folder from the catalog/library just because they are done processing the photo. The folder tree is there, so just don't use that folder again. There are times when I like to revisit files, and it's handy to have the photo there with its previous develop settings. If you remove a folder or files from the library, you tend to lose the edit history too (not the files).

Of course the other possibilities mentioned in this thread do work and in some cases may be cheaper.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that most software that includes a catalog feature doesn't really need that catalog feature to be fully used. You can usually just use the folder structure and neglect items such as albums, collections, etc. It's really up to the user to decide how much of a program they want to use.

Heck, if a user really wants basic and easy software, Picasa could work. It's free, has basic editing and basic cataloging features. It's not fantastic, but it costs nothing to try or keep. My mother uses it and has grown into cataloging her images with it now that her own collection of photographs has grown.
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