Zoner Photo Studio X

      Photo Review 9.0

      In summary

      As one of the few image editors that include video editing, ZPS-X is also one of the most competitively priced and, therefore is well worth considering if you’re working on a Windows computer. To take advantage of its full capabilities you need an HDR-capable, 10-bit wide gamut screen.

      ZPS-X is certainly the lowest-priced subscription software in its class. It also provides a very generous selection of adjustment tools and, like Affinity Photo, saves the editing and undo history even after the image is closed.

      Full review

      Zoner Photo Studio first appeared in 2004, developed in the Czech Republic as a digital photography editor. Since then it has received regular updates and was released as Zoner Photo Studio X in 2016. The 2021 edition won the prestigious both EISA and TIPA Awards. The latest version, released in early 2024, received the TIPA Award for the Best Imaging Software in the Expert category. This update is designed to exploit the capabilities of HDR-enabled monitors, while also providing adjustments for bringing out the best in images edited on regular screens.

      You can check out the features offered in Zoner Photo Studio X via its web page.

      Installation and Set-up
      Most people will purchase Zoner Photo Studio X (ZPS X) online via the company’s website, which also provides a link to a 7-day 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.  The download is 221MB file that takes a few minutes, depending on the speed of your system and internet access.

      The software is sold on a subscription basis and you can save money by buying an annual subscription. Different rates are offered for individual and family subscriptions, with the latter providing separate Zoner accounts for each member of the household. All subscribers receive 20GB of cloud storage and access to Zonerama online photo gallery. Once you’ve paid for the software you’ll receive an email containing an activation code; simply enter it and you’ll be ready to go.

      Comparing the alternatives in the table below will help you to find an image editor that meets your requirements, whether you’re looking for a package with a one-off ‘life long’ licence or one with an affordable subscription rate. Most applications will provide free ‘trial’ downloads so you can try before you buy.

        Free trial download period Subscription period Cloud storage included Additional comments
      Monthly Annual
      Zoner Photo Studio X 7 days AU$9.06 AU$89.30 20GB Full HDR monitor support plus online gallery. Regular updates provided.
      ACDSee Photo Studio Utimate 15 days AU$13.50 AU$227* No Direct access to Dropbox & OneDrive available
      Affinity Photo 7 days n.a. AU$119.99 No Once-only purchase with regular updates provided
      Skylum Luminar Neo 7 days AU$14.95 AU$119 No 2-year subscription available for AU$179
      Adobe Photoshop Elements 30 days n.a. AU$145.19* No Companion mobile apps provide 5GB of Cloud storage
      Adobe Photoshop Photography Plan 7 days AU$14.29 AU$171.47 20GB Includes Photoshop, Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop Express and Adobe Firefly
      A$343.07 1TB
      Photoshop Plan 7 days AU$29.99 A$343.07 100GB Includes Adobe Express and Adobe Fresco
      Creative Cloud All Apps Plan n.a. can cancel account within 14 days for full refund AU$79.99 AU$871.07 100GB Covers 20+ creative apps and services

      * One-off purchase price

      What’s Good?
      ZPS X provides a broad suite of tools that covers everything from file management to RAW file and video editing. There’s a good balance of manual and automated adjustments, the latter include a wide selection of pre-sets.

      The ZPS X user interface is clean and well designed and all operations are based on a Catalog where you can organise your image and video files. These can be sorted into dates, places or other groups for convenience and faster access to wanted files.

      The editing process is non-destructive, which means edits are saved as you make them, allowing you to go back to any point, no matter where in the editing process you are, even after the application has been closed.

      The structure of the user interface is consistent across the editing modules, making the program easier to learn. The application is regularly updated with new tools, improved features and adjustments to the workflow that are applied over the subscription period.

      While we were reviewing the software, Zoner released Build 542, which added support for raw files from a number of recent cameras and fixed a couple of identified bugs. The software automatically installed the new version as soon as it was opened.

      Who’s it For?
      Zoner Photo Studio X (ZPS X), which is only available for Windows computers, is one of a number of competitively-priced image editors that aim to provide photo enthusiasts with an affordable alternative to Adobe’s well-established Photoshop and Lightroom applications. Other similar applications we’ve reviewed in the past few years include Skylum Luminar Neo, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate and  Serif Affinity Photo.

      Like these applications, Zoner Photo Studio X provides a wide variety of tools and has a straightforward interface and fast import capabilities. It also supports most popular raw file formats. Unlike most of them, its subscription price includes a basic video editor plus free online storage and the ability to create galleries.

      However, the main advantage of ZPS X lies in its HDR capabilities, offering support for the full dynamic range covered by recently-released 4K OLED gaming monitors that come with an HDR10 or VESA verified tag. These screens can display a dynamic range of at least 17 stops, which is similar to that of the human eye, whereas standard SDR monitors can only display about six stops.

      To obtain the best viewing, your monitor should have a peak brightness of at least 1000 nits, although OLED screens with 600 nits brightness will also look good. Make sure the display offers a contrast ratio of at least 1000:1 (100,000:1 or more is better).

      The monitor should also provide the controls for calibration and cover as much as possible of the Adobe RGB or P3 colour gamut. 4K resolution isn’t essential for photography but nice to have when you’re editing video.

      SDR editing.

      Fortunately, the software also works well with SDR monitors and users can export both regular and HDR data in a single image for full backward compatibility with common monitors and browsers. ZPS X also allows users to capitalise on the large amount of image data in 14- and 16-bit raw files, where the newer monitors can reveal more detail because of their peak brightness and wide brightness ranges.

      The User Interface
      ZPS X is structured in a similar fashion to its competitors, opening with a Browser that displays thumbnails of the image files in your Pictures folder. The workspace is divided into five sections: Manager (which shows the Catalog thumbnails), Develop, Editor, Print and Video. These are outlined in red in the screen grab below.

      Each module’s workspace is split into three sections. On the left are the file and folder navigator functions, while the larger central area is devoted to what you’re working on: either the gallery thumbnail view or a large live image view, depending on which module you’re using. The right hand column contains all the editing tools for selecting and applying edits or viewing metadata.

      When you install the software it will scan your computer and begin indexing all the image and video files it finds. This will take some time – and if you try editing files while the cataloging is in progress, the software can freeze.

      It is, therefore, important to allow time when setting up the software for the catalog to index all the files before starting to edit pictures or videos. As a guide, for large collections of images and video clips that need to be indexed, it can be worthwhile setting ZPS X to do the job overnight.

      Clicking on the Information tab while in the Catalog browser allows you to access and input image information and rate individual shots on a one to five-star basis. A new addition to the Rating function is the addition of a Rejected option (highlighted in the screen grab below), along with a tab at the bottom of the sub-menu that lets you delete all images in the folder that have been tagged as ‘Rejected’.

      Clicking on a thumbnail while in the Browser opens the image in a ‘Fast Preview’ format. The default setting displays thumbnails of surrounding files in a filmstrip below the preview pane. The right hand column displays an RGB histogram plus spaces for entering a description of the content, keywords and map references to make it easier to catalogue.

      While also in the Fast Preview mode you can click on the HDR tab above the displayed image and choose from a dropdown menu of 11 Display Modes, shown in the screen grab below, which lets you chose how the image’s HDR content will be displayed. In the default Automatic mode, when images with HDR content are open in the preview, the HDR content will be displayed automatically.

      This menu can also be used to simulate how images will look on both SDR and HDR monitors so users can see how they will look on different screens. This is possible because each JPEG file contains a gain map with image data for both types of display.

      Moving to the Develop workspace (shown above) enlarges the image preview and brings in the main ‘development’ functions, which are arrayed below the histogram. By default all operations carried out in this module involve non-destructive editing; all adjustments are stored in supplementary file saved alongside the original and retained even if you swap to another image, exit the Develop workspace or even close ZPS-X.  When you return to the image, the changes are re-applied.

      You can disable non-destructive editing by clicking on the small triangle beside the Save button at the top of the right panel, as shown in the screen grab above.  Below the histogram and this toolbar is a Color Style menu with three main sub-sections – Color, Black and White and HDR – plus a dropdown menu containing three colour styles you can select for different purposes: Color Black and White and HDR.

      In this workspace – as well as with the Fast Preview mode – you can see whether your monitor can display the full HDR range. The red line below the histogram shows the dynamic range supported by the monitor.  Where the red line runs all the way across the HDR section it indicates the monitor can only display the standard dynamic range (SDR), as shown in the screen grab below.

      If most of the line below the HDR section of the histogram is white, the screen is capable of displaying a high dynamic range (HDR). The length of the while line indicates the extra exposure values (EV) the screen can display. The screen grab below shows a screen that can display roughly 2.5EV more exposure values.

      As well as the basic editing tools, the Develop workspace contains a toolbar, outlined in green in the screen grab below, which lets you select the Auto editing function as well as Camera and Lens profiles, where the new Defringe function has been added for removing coloured fringing due to chromatic aberration. Other tools in this bar include Crop and Rotate, Straighten Lines, Gradient Filter, Radial Filter, Filter Brush, Smoothing Brush and the Retouching Tools. Masking and brush adjustments are accessed via the Retouching Tools button.

      Clicking on the bars to the left of the Auto mode lets you access an extensive menu of development pre-sets. An example of one is shown in the screen grab above. You can also scroll down the toolbar to find another group of Effects, which contain adjustments for Vignetting, Add Grain, Glow and Halation.

      Glow and Halation are new additions. Glow finds light sources in a photo and applies a glow effect to surrounding objects, while Halation applies a coloured stripe along the edge between light sources and objects. Adjustment parameters are provided for both effects.

      The Add Grain function has also been modified and now has three settings: Amount, Size and Smoothness.

      At the bottom of the list of basic adjustments in the Develop module is a new section labelled Effect 3D LUT, which works with the sRGB colour space. The default setting in Neutral but users can upload their own look-up tables or tables developed by third-party suppliers. The strength of this tool is fully adjustable.

      Changes have also been made to the Export options (shown above) with the addition of Dynamic Range, HDR Colour Space and Transparency to the Format dropdown menu and an expansion of the Colour Space sub-menu to add Display P3 and Rec.2020 to the former sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto RGB, Colormatch RGB and Linear RGB colour spaces.

      We had a few issues with the Video module initially, mostly due to not being able to open a video clip in anything other than the player mode. Fortunately our problems were quickly addressed by Zoner’s support staff and the software update that took place concurrently so we were able to check the module out.

      The advice we received recommends setting the Picture indexing mode in the Catalog module to Preload Smart Video previews before creating a new Video Project. This enables the software to work with your video clips more efficiently and makes the video module work as smoothly as possible. Pre-loading the clips into a dedicated folder beforehand can also help.

      While the video editor is too limited for serious videographers, it’s a ‘nice to have’ addition for everyday shooters. It comes with a traditional timeline and drag-and-drop interface, making clip navigation easy and enabling users to edit and arrange clips in the order they want.

      The Video interface is logically designed and easy to use.

      The video-specific tools offer a good range of transition and fading effects, including sliding transitions and cross-fades as well as fades to black or white. Users can also apply most of the same image adjustments as found in the photo editor and add titles, credits and subtitles via the Text button.

      Users can access a full range of transition effects and image adjustments.

      A wide range of metadata edits is also available for controlling what information is included in online content. In all, XPS-X should suit everyday content creators who want to publish and save short videos as well as their photos.

      Titles, credits and other text-based information can be added via the Text button (circled in red).


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      Hardware: Quad-core and multi-core 64-bit Intel processor or AMD with dual graphics and SSE2 support; integrated graphics card with a minimum of 4 GB of RAM required for processing images
      Systems compatibility: 64-bit Windows 10 or Windows 10 version 1809 and newer
      Display support: Minimum 1280 x 800 display resolution; Support for 4K resolution HDR monitors and high DPI on small monitors
      Disk space requirement: At least 1 GB of available hard disk space
      Minimum RAM: 4 GB RAM;  at least 8 GB of RAM recommended
      Supported image formats: JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, PSD, PSB, PCD, BMP, PCX, TGA, ICO, RLE, WPG, DIB, BMI, PSP, PSPIMAGE, THM, HDP, WDP, JP2, J2K, JPC, PNM, PPM, PAM, PBM, PGM, WBMP, BMS, JPS, PNS, KDC, MPO, JXR, HDR, ZPS plus the following raw formats: 3FR, ARW, CR2, CR3, CRW, CS1, DNG, ERF, FFF, GPR, KDC, MEF, MRW, NEF, NRW, ORF, ORI, PEF, RAF, RAW, RW2, RWL, SR2, SRF, SRW, X3F; Zoner Photo Studio X also supports the following video file formats: ASF, AVI, M1V, MJPEG, MOV, MP4, MTS, WMV, 3GP, DIVX, DV, DVR-MS, FLV, M2T, M2TS, M2V, M4V, MKV, MPE, MPEG, MPG, MPV, MQV, NSV, OGG, OGM, OGV, QT, RAM, REC, RM, RMVB, TS, VCD, VFW, VOB
      Computer interface
      : Internet connection required for installation and logging in to Zoner account
      Mobile device support: Support for pressure-sensitive drawing tablets
      Distributor: ZONER a. s.



      RRP: Individual – US$59 (AU$89.02) annual or US$5.99 (AU$9.04) monthly for a one-year commitment; Family Plan – US$98 (AU$147.86) annually or US$9.98 (AU$15.06) monthly

      • Features: 9.0
      • Ease of Use: 8.9
      • User support: 9.0



      Zoner Photo Studio X – Buy options