Review: Corel AfterShot Pro

Corel has released its first professional photo catalogue and RAW editing software, AfterShot Pro. It’s based on a number of technologies that are widely known and respected in the photography world, such as Noise Ninja, Perfectly Clear, and Bibble Pro, and it’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users.

The first thing you’ll notice when you launch Corel AfterShot Pro for the first time is its performance. Corel AfterShot Pro is fast — even importing 20,000 images didn’t take much longer than 15 minutes, including the creation of thumbnails and previews on an iMac i5/3.1GHz with 12MB of RAM.

AfterShot Pro’s impressive performance does suffer a bit when you start adding a lot of corrections and adjustments to a photo, but all in all, the software stays very fast, and faster than some competing products.

Interface-wise, Corel AfterShot Pro looks a lot like Bibble 5 Pro. Feature-wise I can’t tell, as I don’t know Bibble 5 Pro, but I do know Bibble 5 Pro does come with some of the same technologies embedded as those that are embedded in Corel AfterShot Pro.

Interface with original, dark photo

In particular, there are two features that make Corel AfterShot Pro especially interesting: Perfectly Clear and Noise Ninja.

Perfectly Clear is multi-patented technology that utilizes the physics principles of light to automatically and instantly optimize the lighting for each and every pixel of an image while maintaining true colour and zero clipping. Perfectly Clear uses patented medical imaging technology to provide photographs with optimal contrast and sharpening. Because it’s a one-click feature I was skeptical, but as an automatic adjustment early on in the workflow it proved to be quite accurate and extremely fast. The results on digital photos were all spot-on.

Same image after applying Perfectly Clear and AutoLevels

Noise Ninja is the second reason why I like Corel AfterShot Pro. Noise Ninja is the best noise reduction algorithm available in the industry and you get direct access to the free version from within Corel AfterShot Pro. Better yet, if you have a serial number for Noise Ninja, you can register in AfterShot Pro and all the additional paying features become available to you, including making profiles, etc.

Noise reduction in action (on the right)

For a moment, I thought Corel Aftershot Pro worked with body and lens profiles the exact same way as DxO Optics Pro does, but that is not the case. There is, however, a database of lenses the program taps into in order to correct for lens-associated errors.

Overall, I found Corel AfterShot Pro to offer all the adjustments that are also available in apps like LightRoom and Aperture. The interface isn’t as smooth as Aperture’s — for example, the Loupe in AfterShot Pro is less nicely designed with less options to set, but it does the job just fine.

Tools are grouped together in tabs. You start with Standard tools and then work your way down with tools for Colour, Tone, Metadata, etc. A combined Levels/Curves tool with a histogram is available across all relevant tool sets.

Corel AfterShot Pro shines in departments such as asset management flexibility (you can either work in the file directory, with a few restrictions, or by cataloguing your images) and metadata support. Also supported are versions and stacks (more flexible than in other apps), and an elaborate file output system that enables you to rename files in a myriad ways.

Part of the metadata in AfterShot Pro

The program comes with tools like Fill Light and Fill Range, which allow you to make something out of a less than perfect photograph. Some tools have really nifty controls as well. For example, the Straighten tool has one of the best controls I have ever seen in an image editor, while the Healing/Clone tool enables you to control which area the tool takes its samples from.

Colour balance or colour correction is also a very flexible and powerful tool with square colour wells (6 already filled, and another 6 for you to fill with a pipette tool) that turn round when used in adjustments. Additionally, you can edit portions of an image by creating layers and drawing adjustment areas the form of rectangles, ovals or bezier curves — you can also brush random area forms. The layers work exactly like those in Capture One Pro: each layer can have a whole range of adjustments, but it is wise to create a layer for each type of adjustment, e.g. colour adjustments on one layer, noise reduction on another, etc.

Finally, Corel AfterShot Pro supports plug-ins. These are the same format plug-ins as the ones that are available for Bibble 5 Pro, but some of the Bibble plug-ins won’t import into AfterShot Pro — they’ll probably need to be updated for support of the Corel app.

After having spent a good week with Corel AfterShot Pro, I believe the program has a lot going for it. It’s fast, extremely flexible and has powerful technologies under the hood. It has everything to be a real winner, except perhaps for its interface which to my personal taste needs a bit more polish. Having said that, I do believe AfterShot is worth a good look. The app costs €90.00.