Choosing the best photography software is rarely an easy task. And with so many options available offering perpetual and subscription-based licenses these days, not only do you have to think about features, functionality and useability, but you also have to factor in cost. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is a well-established all-in-one, Windows-only photo editing software offering image cataloguing, Raw processing and image editing in a single user interface.
Would we consider it amongst the best photo editing software available right now? Possibly, but we wouldn't put it right at the top of the list.
In terms of workflow, Photo Studio Ultimate offers a comparable package to the Adobe Photography Plan, which is made up of Lightroom and Photoshop. The Photography Plan, alongside most other photo editing software including Affinity Photo, ON1 Photo Raw, Exposure X7, Skylum Luminar and others, is a direct competitor of Photo Studio Ultimate in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace.
ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 is available with both a perpetual license for £192/$230 or through a subscription model that costs £75/$89 annually or £7.50/$8.90 monthly, though the prices and offers do change frequently. With the perpetual option, you receive updates and technical support for one year which is an improvement on previously provided support and updates. With the subscription model, you receive continuous updates and support for the duration of the subscription.
Last year's ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2021 felt more like an update than an upgrade, and the 2022 version feels similar with several improvements to existing controls alongside a handful of new features. The most impressive new features by far are those relating to selections and colour selection/colour channel control.
The Manage and Develop Modes for image cataloguing and raw processing are excellent as always, but let’s take a look at some of the new features for 2022. A new headline feature is People Mode which uses face detection and recognition to identify people and speed up image searches.
Channel Selection allows you to make selections from individual colour channels which can make selections more precise in some situations, or it allows you to create more targeted selections. Luminance/Color Range replaces Pixel Targeting and allows you to make selections based on colour or luminance values, and the Selection Basket allows you to save, load and convert selections to Layer Masks.
Pixel Targeting in Develop Mode allows you to target specific colours when using the Develop Brush for selecting areas of the image to adjust. You can now also apply noise reduction with the Develop Brush for a targeted application. Other new features include SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) file compatibility, Channel Filtering to target specific RGB channels when using the Filters in the Edit Mode, and there’s now a Squareness slider for Radial Gradients in Develop Mode to make Radial Gradient square.
Interface and usability
The software is made up of five Modes within a single interface to provide a seamless workflow from image selection through to raw processing and then image editing and manipulation. These are made up of Manage, Media, View, Develop and Edit. And just like the 2021 version, it’s safe to say that Manage, Media (previously Photos) and View could easily be merged into a single mode to further simplify the interface. That said, the interface is intuitively designed and despite a large number of tools, controls and filters available in the Develop and Edit Modes, neither feels overwhelming.
Just like previous versions of Photo Studio Ultimate, The Manage and Develop Modes remain the most impressive aspects of the software. These offer excellent image cataloguing and Raw processing control between them. And in terms of the Raw processing controls available, everything you need is available including image adjustments, localised adjustments, lens corrections and much more.
The Edit Mode is the equivalent of Photoshop and Affinity Photo, offering a multitude of adjustments including Layers. You can achieve a great deal, but this Mode is far from being as fully featured as even Adobe Photoshop Elements. Some tools, however, do offer a great deal of control including Convert to Black & White which offers colour channel control, a channel mixer and colourisation in a single dialogue window. Edit Mode is good, but it’s certainly not great.
Quality of results
The latest version of Photo Studio Ultimate is a bit of a mix bag when it comes to the quality of results. On the one hand, you have Develop Mode, which is consistently excellent for processing raw files. The Manage mode for image cataloguing is excellent too, and together these modes could even be used within a professional workflow – they’re that good.
Develop Mode is good, but could you use this within a professional workflow? Unfortunately not. For beginners and intermediate users though, this mode does provide all of the features and functionality you’re likely to need. This has nothing to do with the image quality this mode can produce, although the Healing and Cloning tools aren’t the best, it’s more to do with the ability to work with Layers at an advanced level.
Sure, you have control over Opacity and Blending modes, but even a seemingly simple task like cloning or healing into an empty Layer isn’t possible; you have to use a copy of the Background Layer for this. Also, there’s a noticeable inconsistency in the level of control available with some of the more advanced editing features such as HDR, focus stacking and the new Color Range feature – it’s a bit all over the place in this respect.
Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 maintains its position in the market as a highly capable all-in-one image editing solution, albeit for Windows only. Its new features may not have the wow factor, but they do deliver a host of improvements, most significantly in the area of selections and colour targeting. It’s certainly an improvement on the previous version.
This software will be most attractive to beginners and enthusiasts looking for an intuitive all-in-one solution. It offers the features and functionality you need to perform a wide range of image editing tasks ranging from basic to advanced. Although, more advanced users may find the inconsistency in the level of control available in some of the more advanced features frustrating.
In terms of cost, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 is pushing into dangerous territory with annual price increases; the subscription cost is getting closer to that of Adobe’s Photography Plan, which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC and is the market leader.
Photo Studio Ultimate 2022 currently costs £192/$230 with a perpetual license and £75/$89 yearly or £7.50/$8.90 monthly through a subscription. If you like the look of the software you can check out the free trial, and be sure to keep an eye on the ACDSee website for discounts and special offers throughout the year, where you could make considerable savings.
If you're trying out Photo Studio Ultimate 2022, Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, or any one of their rivals and finding them all a bit slow and sluggish, it might be time too think about upgrading our computer. If it helps, we have guides to the best laptops for photo editing, the best desktop computers for photo editing and the best monitors for photo editing.