It seems that there can be no doubt that the plugin wars are really under way in the photographic world. You have Nik (now owned by Google), OnOne with their Perfect Photo Suite and Topaz Labs which has a long reputation in the plugin market, all making tools to help make your photographic life easier. Recently Topaz Labs reached out to me and asked me to evaluate some of their newer offerings and I was more than happy to give them a go. Sadly I got pretty busy with other projects, both with my day job and photographically, and while I have been using the tools, I haven’t really had much of a chance to sit down and tell you what I thought of them, until now. Today’s post is simply a quick review of the Topaz B&W Effects.
I’m not going to go into great detail about how to use the plugin or provide screenshots, this post is not meant as a tutorial, there are actually a good number of those out on the internet on both the Topaz Labs website as well as on a number of photography forums. I am going to talk a little about my thoughts on both the plugin and the results in general.
The first thing I noticed when I launched B&W Effects was that it opened quickly and is very responsive. We are asking plugins to do more and more these days which means that they are becoming more complex and slower unless you have the latest top of the line computer hardware. B&W Effects seems to have all the power needed, but renders previews fast and is very responsive when applying any changes to the image. It also toggles between the edited and the original image quickly. The other thing that jumped out at me immediately was the size of the previews themselves, they are large, and I really like that. In a lot of the applications out there the default previews are quite small and make it tough to actually evaluate the changes, but the previews in Topaz B&W Effects are a pleasure to work with.
Topaz offers a fairly large number of presets that will most likely satisfy most photographers, but like other plugins, you can select a pre-set and then tweak the image further. All the tools that you would expect to be there are there, but the one that really jumped out at me was the very straightforward, and almost simplistic dodge and burn tools. Being a person that applies a little dodge and burn to almost every black and white image I process, I really appreciated these tools being as simple, and effective, as they are. Simply put, they do what they should and do it well.
All of this doesn’t mean much if the final image isn’t what you want, and I have to say that I am quite impressed with the final results from Topaz B&W Effects. I have processed a number of images with the plugin since I installed it, but I thought I would share this image from the Steptoe Butte area on the Palouse in eastern Washington. I shot this image with a super color IR converted Nikon D200. I decided to use this image because the black and white conversions from the super color IR can actually be somewhat challenging. You don’t really have a very wide tonal range to work with, and it will show the limitations of an application quickly. I don’t know if you agree with me or not, but I am very pleased with the results in this image and would not hesitate to share this image anywhere on the web.
Should you by Topaz B&W Effects? That is a hard one to answer, but I would absolutely download and evaluate the trial version. I think you will be happy with the results.