Thoughts on Imerge
The last number of days I have looked at the Imerge 8 trial to check it out.
One liner...I like it. Likely I'll make it my photo editor. ('the' or 'a' photo editor is undetermined at this point)
My view towards Imerge is basic photo editing and tweaking (retouching I guess is the term). Compositing, nada (except maybe sky replace).
I started with Photoshop Elements (the first version!), then Photoshop and until CS6 when I jumped ship. I jumped to On1. The version just before their whole current "raw" workflow style. I've been using On1 since. I do have Affinity Photo. It is only 50 USD and if I ever needed a pixel editor I could use that and uninstall Photoshop/Bridge. I've never used Affinity to edit anything in anger. Just testing/evaluation. Then it's been four years and they have not yet charged for an update so that has been an easy ride. At the end of my Photoshop days my workflow was smart object for the raw file and smart filters (Topaz, Nik). A fully non destructive workflow, like Imerge and most things these days offer. On1 is love hate for me. For me super easy/fast to get a good result but they are lousy software developers.
Love the minimal UI overhead in Imerge. My photo area is bigger and I like that. The fit view is not as small a percentage. I ***HATE*** how On1 strongly sharpens the downsampled previews. Makes it difficult to judge if your edits are too much.
I have enjoyed the snappy editing/response of Imerge.
The effect and layer stack setup/function work for me.
The basic photo developing (exposure effect) and effect functions offered are all pretty ideal for me. Not sure about the contrast control in exposure but then I never been too much a fan of the basic contrast slider in On1 either.
The Clarity effect looks pretty good to me. I like adaptive contrast type effects like this. The results of clarity and structure both seem reasonable.
Imerge now has Dynamic contrast. This basically mimics On1 and that is not a bad thing. I have been addicted to this effect for years. It is an effect you have to be careful with. A little goes a long way.
Between clarity and dynamic contrast we have two options to use whatever any given image seems to like the best.
The dehaze effect looks good. The On1 version can get a bit out of control. Need to keep it at low(er) levels. Generally true for dehaze anyway.
I love the technical control offered by the Color Adjustment effect in Imerge. It offers 2D color range control. Still need to fully understand the best balance between the range box and the Softness control. The presets for Color adjustment are crap. They result in very splotchy selections. Significantly due to a low Softness control setting. IMO.
Speaking of presets Imerge lets me delete the builtin/predefined presets. Yea. Letting me have only what I want to keep and use to clutter ;-) my UI drop downs.
The saturation editor seems quite interesting. I still think I would end up using Color Adjustment. Besides saturation, I often tweak Yellow Greens a few degrees towards a more greeny green and drop sky blues intensity a little. Saturation editor is saturation only.
Effects can have their own masks independent of layers and the masking options offered are quite good. One niggle. The fact that a very oblong rectangle mask get a much wider feather area on the long ends seems silly. There is no logical reason for that. The app just uses a percentage of dimension for the feather area. So for a reasonable feather on the short side you end up with too much on the long side for very oblong rectangles.
The highlight recovery in Imerge has some issue(s).
The noise reduction is weak. This is not uncommon. e.g. On1 noise reduction is pathetic. I'm not comparing against something like Topaz Denoise. That is frankly unfair. For this statement the NR is weak compared to Affinity Photo.
The sharpening is curious. They all need basically twice the radius I am historically used to. High pass or USM. It's like they say radius by are a diameter. I actually visually compared a high pass filter in Affinity against Imerge. Yup. Wants twice radius for similar result. Curious. The USM sharpening does not go beyond 100%. This limits the ability to do some technique like using a tiny radius like 0.3 at 300% layered with a bigger radius at a lower amount. Anyway I find that when using something like dynamic contrast that "sharpens" the image enough.
Imerge has no contrast/edge/feature snapping selection right now. I think this is kinda a standard feature a image editor should have. Try to mask a sky with an complex vegetation shape and it is not really doable. So sky replace is realistically a non starter.
Imerge has no inpainting, or magic eraser tool. Again, this seems standard image editor feature. Imerge has added a classic clone stamp type tool. Way back in the day before I got addicted to inpainting, I never had a lot of luck with Photoshop clone stamping. I tried a couple of photos in Imerge using Clone stamp and I got a result with minimal effort. Inpainting is computationally quite expensive. For a non destructive editor like Imerge we always keep paying that cost during edits, versus just once for a physical pixel editor. Clone stamp should be crazy fast. Some tone matching tweaks could greatly help clone stamp.
The HDR in Imerge seems fine. The tone map effect seemed odd at first. A little vague memory of some initial Photoshop tone mapping. Anyway, it gets the data into a position for Exposure to do its thing. Not that I do HDR. It is really mostly blending a two shot bracket. Ground exposure, sky exposure.
Imerge has Focus stacking. Focus stacking at first seems like a special macro thing. That is where my brain always went. Subsequently I learned a two or three shot landscape can be a general use for focus stacking. This is not something I have really used but I should.
Printing is a no go as of now due to a lack of printer/paper profile support. Also, with what Imerge has implemented it looks like it wants to interpolate to the printer DPI. That poses a problem with respect to print sharpening as we never that that intermediate result. Anyway Imerge offers no print sharpening anyway. For printing I am talking about printing to my Canon Pro 100 inkjet.
With photo editing some kind of file browser always comes up. Imerge needs something here. Something simile would go a long way. I like the current recent projects list. In On1 I always had a manual Album named "working" which referenced whatever I was playing with regardless of disk folder. That home page of Imerge could have a tab for a basic file browser. A Folder hierarchy tree. A list of favorite folders. A main panel with thumbnails of the selected folder and on the right panel with full detailed EXIF metadata of the selected photo. The metadata where the web data is right now. Imerge file sidecars could be grouped with the source RAW/image file. That is hardly anything but is massively better than the operating system file open dialog.
I gotta shut up. This is has gotten crazy long.