ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8 verdict
ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8 is the MacOS version of ACDSee’s all-in-one Photo Studio application. From its features, it looks like a strong rival to Lightroom or ON1 Photo RAW, for example, but the reality is very different. It’s both basic and technical at the same time, it’s missing features many might take for granted, and it looks like a Windows program ported on to the Mac, even if it isn’t.
+ Non-destructive editing
+ Decent editing tools
+ Local adjustments
– Dated and technical
– Redundant ‘View’ mode
– Basic cataloguing tools
– No virtual copies
– Basic preset management
What is ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8?
ACDSee is known for its Windows photo editing software ACDSee Photo Studio 2022, its standalone photo editor Gemstone and Luxea video editor. It does, however, make a Mac version of ACDSee Photo Studio, and this is the latest version.
How does Photo Studio 8 work?
There are three main panels in ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8: the Manage panel, View and Develop panels. There is a further panel for the ACDSee 365 cloud storage sharing feature, but that’s a subscription service I’m not testing here.
The Manage panel is essentially a folder browser with filters, but with the additional ability to tag images with ‘Categories’ (albums, essentially) and keywords. Categories can store images from different folders, which is useful.
There is a search tool, but it’s quite odd – you drag a property from a panel on the right into the search field to find images that match that property. You can save searches too. Photo Studio does keep a catalog, of sorts, built up from folders and images as you browse them, and there’s a set of tools around this including an Image Well which shows all your photos. You might argue that at least you don’t have to import your photos… well you don’t, but instead you do have to visit a folder before Photo Studio knows it’s there.
I’ve used a lot of image browsing and cataloguing tools and this is the oddest. I can see how it can be made to work, but it’s pretty limited by the standards of its rivals and compared to Lightroom or Capture One it looks from a different era.
The View panel doesn’t really do very much. It simply displays selected images much larger with a filmstrip underneath. Most other programs would build a viewer like this into the organization panel, and it hardly seems to deserve a separate window.
Photo Studio 8 editing tools
The Develop panel is where Photo Studio does all its image enhancement, local adjustments and non-destructive editing. The editing tools are arranged in a stack of expanding panels in the left toolbar and they look both impressive and technical.
It turns out that the impressively named ‘Light EQ’ panel is in fact a detailed kind of shadow and highlight adjustment – but with more ‘bands’ than just shadows, midtones and highlights.
The ‘Color EQ’ panel equates to the HSL hue, saturation and lightness adjustments in other programs, and the ’Tone Wheels’ panel is in fact like the shadow/midtone/highlight color grading tools in Lightroom. You can also apply and import LUTs, which is useful.
But then are some glaring shortcomings. It’s a non-destructive editor, but Photo Studio does not let you create multiple versions or ‘virtual copies’ of the same photo for experimenting with different looks. And while it does let you save your edits as presets, these are simply shown in a menu and are nowhere near as varied or as easily previewed as in other programs.
One further oddity is that it asks you if you want to save your changes when you leave one image to edit another. Remember, this is a non-destructive editor – the universal convention in other software is to save your edits as you go along. Luckily, it does not mean that Photo Studio is directly modifying your RAW file (it had better not be).
ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8 does not, incidentally, use its own raw processing and demosaicing engine but the one built into the Apple OS.
I’m left feeling that ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8 does what it says, but in a singularly crude and old-fashioned way. I can’t imagine coming to this from any other program and not being a little intimidated, more than a little disappointed and probably both.
ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 8 verdict
At the time of writing, Photo Studio for Mac 8 is reduced to $39.95 from $99/99. I think even that low price is too much, and that Mac users would be better off using Photos for organization (it’s better than this) and spending the money on Pixelmator Pro or Affinity Photo for serious editing.
I can imagine Photo Studio for Mac 8 might appeal to existing users who want to stay with what they know, but I can’t think of any circumstances where I would advise someone to get it. Frankly, getting back to my usual software after this is like stepping back into the sunlight.
I have invested in a pretty decent Windows laptop to start reviewing Windows software, by the way, as I’m conscious I’ve skipped some Windows-only candidates on this site. This means I can take a look at the Windows version of ACDSee Photo Studio 2022, Gemstone and perhaps the Luxea video editor. I hope ACDSee’s Windows software is better than Photo Studio for Mac 8.