ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023

      Photo Review 8.8

      In summary

      Although complex, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 works well as a photo management tool and the improvements to the search functions make it even better than previous editions. Expect to spend a lot of time coming to grips with the ins and outs of this complex – and comprehensive – application.

      It’s also a reasonably capable raw file converter with similar functions to those provided in Lightroom.

      Full review

      Over the past couple of years we’ve published reviews of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate, starting with a comprehensive review of the 2020 edition in April of that year and following it with a look at the new and improved features in the 2021 edition in August 2021. Given our existing coverage, we’ve decided to concentrate upon the improvements introduced in the latest (2023) edition, which introduces AI-powered face adjustments, selection tools and actions and expanded search capabilities.

      Box shot of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023. (Source: ACD Systems International.)

      As before, ACD Systems provides a 30-day trial download so you can try out the software and find whether it suits your working style and meets your requirements – without having to supply credit card details.

      Installation and Set-up
      Most people will purchase Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 online via the company’s website. The website is also where you’ll find the link to the trial download. If you opted for a trial version you’ll be notified as the end of the trial period approaches and offered the chance to purchase the software. You’ll receive an activation code once you’ve paid for the software; simply enter it and you’ll be ready to go.

      Aside from that, the set-up process involves the same steps as we outlined in our review of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2020.

      Who’s it For?
      ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate has always been positioned as an all-in-one application for Windows users that combines photo management, layer-based editing and raw file processing. The 2023 edition continues that practice and should be a good choice for people who want a complete workflow solution (ingesting, editing and outputting images) that includes raw file conversion

      The main target audience for Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 will be photo enthusiasts who already have some familiarity with the basic processes. These users should find this program capable of meeting their needs and the new AI-based has functions should simplify some common editing processes.

      The introduction of automated processing could appeal to people who are just starting out with image editing. For these users, refinements to selection tools and portrait enhancements are sure to appeal.

      The latest version is more complex and versatile than most of the editing software we’ve reviewed recently. But incentives to upgrade will depend upon which edition of the software you’re upgrading from.

      Users of the 2019 or older versions will almost certainly benefit from the new AI tools as well as the improved Develop and Face Recognition/ Face Edit functions as well as the background removal tools. Those with newer versions of the software won’t gain so much as the 2021 and 2022 versions remain similar to the latest update.

      We also believe more advanced users could find the degree of automation frustrating at times, due in part to the lack of manual over-rides for some functions (such as Blur Background and Smart Erase), although the new Shape Selection tool goes against this trend and provides plenty.

      We were also surprised to find no significant improvements to the image scaling adjustments or to sharpening and noise reduction.  While separate applications are available with those tools, we feel serious enthusiasts and professional users will likely prefer to stick with their current Adobe software.

      What’s New?
      ACD Systems has added five new features to the latest version and increased the number of Develop presets to more than 60 with the addition of vintage looks and special filters for foodies. It has also made improvements to a number of functions, based on requests from users of previous versions of the software. We’ve listed these additions and improvements below:
      1.  AI Face Edit analyses faces and provides some of the adjustments offered in the specialist retouching application, Anthropics PortraitPro, although without that program’s sophistication. / Face Edit AI identifies and marks key features, after which the user can make adjustments like brightening eyes, widening smiles, whitening teeth and thickening eyebrows with simple slider controls.

      The AI Face Edit interface analyses faces and overlays a diagram of adjustment points. We’ve added the adjustments available for editing these points to the left hand side of the screen grab.

      We found this function quite easy to use and generally effective. One of its best features is the ability to manipulate the shape of the face and various specific areas (eyes, nose, mouth) by simply pulling on the related anchor points. It’s also quick and quite responsive.

      2. Simplified Photo Merging provides tools for Panorama Stitching, High-Dynamic Range (HDR) merging and Focus Stacking to combine multiple images into one.

      Steps in creating a panorama from six source images.

      The Photomerge function is located in the Manage mode, under the Process sub-menu. This opens a box that lets you select between Panorama, HDR, and Focus Stack. You must add the images you want to merge and they must all have the same dimensions.

      The software steps you through the following stages, as shown above. You can output the file to a designated location and select the file type from a dropdown menu, as well as deciding whether metadata or database information is retained in the final image. Note: panorama images are restricted to 16000 x 16000 pixels.

      HDR merging uses a similar process but integrates the most-correctly exposed areas of the selected files to produce an image with an expanded tonal range. You can choose the ultimate rendition from four options: Black and White, Detailed, Dramatic and Natural.

      These screen grabs show the HDR merging process, with two of the rendition options shown below the main screen grab.

      3. Selection tools have seen the Polygon Selection tool been augmented by a new Shape Selection tool that makes it easier to select curved areas and refine selections. These tools are fond in the Edit mode, which also contains the AI Actions, lighting and colour adjustments and drawing tools.

      Easily identified areas like the sky in this screen grab were always selected accurately with the AI selection tools.

      Despite the added functions in the Select menu, we found them to be fairly unsophisticated. Even though you can adjust the brush tip width and feathering, a lot of fiddling was required to accomplish a selection that should otherwise have been simple in applications like Affinity Photo or Photoshop.

      Manual selection tool adjustments.

      4. AI Actions provide one-click tools for performing complicated procedures like removing or blurring the background, selecting the subject or the sky, or giving your subject a black and white background. AI-based sky replacement is not provided.

      While they worked just fine with simple outlines that were easy to identify (such as the sky in the screen grab above), they failed frequently with subjects where the backgrounds were complex. To make matters worse, when we painstakingly used the manual selection tools to add areas to the initial selection, when we tried to blur the background with the AI Actions tool, it ignored the areas we had added and blurred them as well, as shown in the screen grab below.

      The top screen grab shows the area selected by the Select Subject action in the AI Actions menu. Below it is the manually-expanded selection area. The lowest screen grab shows how the AI Blur Background action completely ignored the added areas.

      In addition, tools like Blur Background don’t seem to be adjustable.  This means for many images you’ll obtain better results by doing it yourself via the manual selection tools and then inverting the selection to create a background layer that can be adjusted with the regular blur filter.

      The Black and White Background tool (shown above), is similarly non-adjustable. It’s quick and easy for subjects that are easily selected, although not totally foolproof because of the problems that affect the AI Selection tools. Smart Erase is similarly affected.

      5. SendPix Integration enables users to send images to family members and friends via web, desktop, or mobile applications for easy sharing. It will also automatically convert RAW images into JPEG before they are sent.

      User-requested improvements include the following:
      a) A new Advanced Search feature lets users access numerous search criteria, including ACDSee Metadata and EXIF & IPTC fields and fine-tune their results with built-in logic for AND/OR states.

      b) Quick Search has been expanded with new search types, such as Contains All, Contains Any, or Starts with and Ends with. Users can also access their Quick Search history to find a list of all recent searches.

      c) More than 100 new lenses have been added to the supported Lens types.

      d) Support for OneDrive been improved, enabling users to keep files online until they are ready to view or edit them and easily move files between the user’s computer and OneDrive and control whether OneDrive keeps local copies or uploads them to the cloud.

      e) A new Properties pane in the Media Mode lets users assign and read ACDSee Metadata, EXIF, and IPTC. It also makes it easier to view a single image or video in full screen, navigate to the next or previous file, and delete unwanted files without switching to another mode.

      f) Support has been added for animated and transparent .WEBP files and the latest camera models have been added to the supported RAW file types. It is also easier to import settings from a previous version of ACDSee Photo Studio to the latest version to make upgrading easier.

      Additional comments
      As before, Photo Studio Ultimate is packed with functions designed to appeal to users who want a fairly high degree of automation. The screen grab below shows the options available for landscapes.

      AI Landscape Actions.

      While these settings will certainly be welcomed by some purchasers, for those who want more manual control they’re a bit of a waste of time – and often not all that attractive.

      We couldn’t find a ‘look’ we wanted to use on this image in the Actions Browser.

      We found the layer-based editing functions to be satisfactory but not as easy to use as they are in some rival editors. But the tendency of the program to create new layers for any adjustment can make using them unnecessarily complex.

      In addition, Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 still lacks AI-based scaling, sharpening and noise reduction, most of which are provided in rival software. The software was updated shortly after we received it but we couldn’t find any evidence of the changes applied when we re-visited the tools we tested so our initial remarks stand.


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      Build: (64-bit)
      : Intel or AMD processor with 64-bit support
      Systems compatibility: Microsoft Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8, Windows 8.1, & Windows 10 (64-bit editions only), Windows 11
      Display support: 1280 x 800 display resolution (1920 x 1080 recommended); DirectX 10 compatible graphics adapter
      Disk space requirement: 4 GB of available hard disk space
      Minimum RAM:  4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM or more recommended); 512 MB Video RAM (VRAM)
      Raw formats supported
      : ARW, CR2, CR3, cRAW (Sony), CRW (Canon). DCR, DNG, ERF (Epson), GoPro RAW, HDR, HEIF (EXIF support only), MRW, NEF, ORF, PEF, RAF, RAW, RWL, sRAW, SRW
      Computer interface: Internet connection and registration are necessary to download 237MB file and  for software activation and access to online services
      Batch processing: Yes, for editing, resizing, renaming and exporting
      Export to social media: Yes via email and most popular sharing sites, SendPix integration
      Mobile device support: Limited; requires ACDSee Mobile Sync app
      Distributor: ACD Systems International Inc.



      RRP: US$149.99 for Lifetime Licence; US$8.90/month or $89/year subscription plans

      • Features: 8.9
      • Ease of Use: 8.3
      • Versatility: 8.5