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PLANETARIUM CALCULATORS  -  IMAGING 

Capture One Pro - DxO Optics Pro - Photomatix Pro - Lightroom - LRTimelapse - PixInsight

DeepSkyStacker - Nikon Capture NX - Autostitch - Viveza - Photoshop - Terragen - Bibble - MIRA AP

MaxIm DL/CCD - PRiSM - ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator - Picture Window Pro - IRIS

 QMiPS32 - CCDPro - StellaImage - PaintShop Pro - Photo-Paint - Photo Editor - Deep Sky 2000 IP module

Image Tool - Image32/Pro - PRISM - MS-Paint - Photo Styler - Anti Blooming

 HF Propagation programs - Ham, DSP and satellite tracking software

2004-2017, PixInsight, 230

PixInsight

PixInsight is an advanced image processing software developed by Pleiades Astrophoto since 2004. It is designed specifically for astrophotography. Its main advantage on other products is its modularity and open-architecture, the entire processing and file handling capabilities being implemented as external installable modules.

PixInsight manages all postprocessing functions like cropping, histogram stretching, flattening, background cleaning, completed with stacking, combination, star alignment, and provides many filters to enhance details and colors (masks, dynamic PSF, unsharp, deconvolution, noise reduction, etc). In addition it supports special processing techniques like color calibration, multiscale, drizzle, and HDR among others. It also supports scripts to automate the processing.

The user manual is included in the application but documentation is also available online. PixInsight provides also online tutorials made of printscreens and videos as well as a forum.

This application being complex (and probably on par with Photoshop), if you are looking for an easy book to master this application, choose "Inside PixInsight" (2016) by Warren A. Keller (see also Amazon.fr).

PixInsight is now at version 1.8. It runs on all 64-bit platforms like Windows 7 and up, Mac OS 10.10 and up, FreeBSD and Linux. Due to the image processing, it is recommanded to use at least a computer equipped with a 4-core processor at 2.3 GHz or faster, a high-end video card and at least 8 GB of RAM.

2011, Gunther Wegner

Shareware, 89-289

LRTimelapse

LRT is an image pre-processing software developed by Gunther Wegner that allows you to prepare time-lapse videos.

Using an intuitive workflow you can define development parameters, set keyframes to manage transitions and image colors at large, deflickering them if needed then save the modified metadata (XMP), and use these new settings in Adobe image editors like Lightroom, Camera RAW (PS) or After Effects. The final objective is to feed e.g. Lightroom with images correctly preprocessed to create a video.

LRT supports JPG and raw formats and is able to manage HDR sequences too.

You will find on LRT website several video tutorials that will help you to create your first time-lapse video within one hour. Here is an example of such a video.

A forum available in English and German is also at your disposal.

LRT 2.x runs on all Windows 32-bit or 64-bit platforms with Java. It is available as shareware with limited options or as license, at private or commercial use (with a possible logo).

I warmly recommend you to buy the license to encourage Gunther in his project, all the more if you are fan of time-lapse.

2012, Adobe, 125

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom, aka LR, is an image library manager and an image processing software. When we have to manage thousands of pictures saved on disk, we are quickly lost if we try to manage manually so many data.

LR manages your image library in sorting your pictures according to various criteria but more than this it can postprocess them (e.g. rectify the frame, modify colors, add special effects, etc), create photobooks, slideshows, and even attach a soundtrack to your video (but LR is not a video editor so you cannot edit the soundtrack).

Where the program is really performing is in its capability to load metadata files (XMP) defined e.g. in LRTimelapse, and to use slideshow templates. This feature allows you to create time-lapse videos in a few minutes. Here is an example (in HD) and another one of such videos.

Lightroom saves (exports) the resulting video in MP4 (MPEG-4 format) with the H.264/AVC codec with a definition up to 1080p. In this format, a 1 minute sequence needs about 180 MB of disk space (it is 60 times smaller that the AVI uncompressed version).

The size of these files could frighten users. But the video processing is not ressource hungrier, and works according to available ressources. FYI, reckon about 1 hour to generate a 1080p HD video of 1 minute at 25 fps using a 2-Core CPU at 2.5 GHz (performance index of 5.9).

Lightroom is now at version 4.2 and runs on all Windows 32-bit or 64-bit platforms, and MacOS. LR is available in trial version (30 days) or license in 8 languages.

2007-2011, HDRSoft, 99$

Photomatix Pro

Photomatix Pro is probably one of the simplest HDR software to use. 

On the dump displayed at left, the 3 small images at right were loaded in MS-Photo Editor over which I opened Photomatix to show you what images it loaded.

Through an ergonomic and efficient interface, the process will assist you. It will request you to select 2 of more exposure-compensated images (e.g. one underexposed at -2 EV and another one overexposed at + 2EV), whether you want to align source images by matching features, to reduce or not ghosting artifacts, noise and the chromatic aberration. Based on these settings, it will combine your images in a few seconds. The image will be displayed in HDR what could be the limitations of your video card and diplay. 

In a last step, you can fusion exposures or better, apply a tone mapping. This last processes the resulting image back to 8-bit or 16-bit color space for display on your screen or to print it. The result is really stunning as we can show at left, the software showing in a separate windows image variations from pastel to vivid colors.

Photomatix Pro also includes basic editing functions of colors (histogram per channel, saturation, gamma) and luminance (brightness, contrast, smoothing...) completed with a crop and sharpness functions. At last, it supports batch processes.

The Tone mapping function is also available as plug-in for Photoshop CS2 and higher versions for 79$. You will need to load and combine your series of bracketed shots using Photoshop's "Merge to HDR Pro" function first, and then apply the Tone Mapping Plug-In

Photomatix Pro is now at version 4.0 and runs on all MacOS X and Windows 32-bit or 64-bit platforms. It is available in various languages. A trial version that never expires is available.

2011, DxO, 299

DxO Optics Pro

Dxo Optics Pro is an image processing software supporting RAW files and linked to a database of lenses that you can updated from Internet. In fact, DxO is able to detects in the RAW data which camera and lens were used to take the picture and if needed to download the specifications to fix the defaults typical to that optical combination.

DxO is both a retouching and a corrective tool, although this second feature is the most developed.

Indeed, DxO comes with an impressive serie of functions to rectify most optical aberrations from those typical to fisheye or wide-angle lenses, to distorsion, vignetting, chromatism, high-lights reducer, and other light-related defaults. 

Another very useful function is the parallel; instead of rotating a plan to level it at some occasions it is preferable to distort the image. DxO allows to manually adjust lens distortion by tracing two separate lines in the image. 

Among tools applying the latest technologies, DxO provides a HDR-like tool and manages High ISO in reducing the electronic noise. It includes a technology la "U Point" named multipoint color balance (MPCB) to change colors and luminosity of a more or less extended and fuzzy area, it includes a dust removal tool, a curve editing, and is also able to add artistic effects.

Better than a preview, DxO includes a dual image mode to display the image changes before and after processing.

DxO Optics Pro can export files to Adobe Lightroom and other graphic editors. 

DxO has the look and feel and contents of professional tools. Sole minus point, if it is excellent to correct optical defaults among other things, as retouching tool it is not as complete as Photoshop or some of its competitors able of selective editing.

DxO Optics Pro 6.5 runs on all MacOS X and Windows 32-bit or 64-bit platforms. It is available in various languages in version Standard or Elite.

1995-2011, Phase One, 299

Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro is an image processing software supporting RAW images, including many DSLRs and digital backs.

The new version adds new tools. Among them, it includes a Focus Tool and Focus Mask to instantly assess and make selections from the focused area in images. It also includes a new Skin Tone enhancer. You can also add vignetting to images, adjust individual color channels and edit an expanded set of metadata fields.

Capture One includes a database of lenses (presets) to perform corrections depending on the lens used, a HDR and perspective correctors, local adjustements of contrast and luminosity, layer based adjustments and multi-colour sliders for controlling the tonal blend of a monochrome conversion.

Using a slow or guenine graphic card, the application can display an "OpenCL initialization failed" error at start. Then the application hangs. In this case you need to run the application in "XP SP3" compatibility mode (via a right-clic on the shortcut or on the exe file) and select in the application Preferences "Use OpenCL = Never". Then the programs will work properly. You will find more information on the developer forum.

Now at version 6.2, Capture One runs on all MacOS X and Windows platforms. It is available in various languages, in version Express (Lite) or Pro.

2008-2014, DeepSkyStacker Freeware

DeepSkyStacker

You need to stack ten or thousand images ? DeepSkyStacker do it easily !

DeepSkyStacker is a freeware dedicated to astrophotographers that aims to simplify the pre-processing of deep sky pictures.

DeepSkyStacker manages all your images including light frames, dark frames, offset/bias frames, flat frames and produced a stacked image in a few mouse clics.

It manages the registering, stacking, post-stacking processes, and automatically save the resulting image to a TIFF or FITS file in 16 or 32 bit format.

Now at version 3.3.2, DeepSkyStacker GUI is available in many languages and a tutorial as well as a user manual are available online.

DeepSkyStacker remains a 32 bit application but it runs without problem on 64 bit Windows (in 32 bit mode).

(c) 1998-2009, Nikon, $179

Nikon Capture NX

Capture NX combines powerful RAW image processing software and a file management. The RAW editing features are Nikon NEF specific, but there are a number of other editing controls for JPEG and TIFF files. 

Capture NX 2 looks similar to the previous version, but there are useful changes : you can configure and save custom workspaces, have a dual monitor support with the additional space for your image on one display and the various palettes on the other. It also integrates a browser to find images as well as apply ratings and labels. It adds a Favorites panel to the folders tab to help with accessing the files you work with most frequently. The Metadata tab is available to assign more info if you wish, including keywords, copyright notice, and contact information.

Speed improvements are also obvious with the program keeping up with most editing tasks. Batch processing is welcome but a bit slow, even running on the most recent and faster computers (the processing of hundreds of images can last several days).

About processing tools, in addition to the Color Control Point method of selection in the previous version, there are Select Control Points using U Point technology. When selected, you can drag out a slider to set the radius that will be affected by the selection. You can also set the opacity of the selection, and whether to view a combination of the selection and the original image, or just a mask view that is very useful to verify what you've selected. For more localized control, the Selection Brush lets you paint your selection, after which you have all of the same adjustment options. There is also an Auto Retouch Brush (bandaid icon) that works extremely well with a variety of clean-up tasks. This tool is similar to the Healing tool in Photoshop but works easier and faster.

For NEF files, there are Picture Control settings and utility to create your own control settings, including non-destructive editing capabilities. The new version includes Highlight and Shadow Protection, controls that help to recover details in either the shadow or highlight range (like do Lightroom or Camera Raw). Used with a NEF file, the Highlight Protection control can recover even more information than possible with a TIFF or JPG file.

Capture NX 2 includes filters, a full set of effects (similar to the ones available in Photoshop) and supports plug-ins like Color Efex from Nik Software. Note that all adjustments and filters are listed in the Edit List (like the Photoshop History) that you can change or disable or delete at will. 

For output, Capture NX 2 has some powerful options. It fully supports color management and soft proofing mode (to look how your image will look on paper). See demos on Nikon website.

Nikon Capture NX2 works on MacOS X and all Windows 32-bit and 64-bit platforms and is available in various languages.

(c) 2004, Matthew Brown

Freeware

AUTOSTITCH

As its name suggests, it is an automatic image stitching, in other words an application able to create a panorama from individual images.

Developed by Matthew Brown from the University of British Columbia, Autostitch does not require any tutorial. At first run, check the Edit, Options menu, in particular the output file size (e.g. 4000x1500 pixels), the JPEG quality (e.g. 100%), and the possible matching options (pixel min. dimension, scale, number of iterations, etc).

Then select at least two images to assemble via File, Open and the stitching will start. The algorithm will align selected images and improve its rendering to display a final image free of joins and other artifacts. Depending on the image resolution the assembly and rendering lasts between a few seconds and some minutes. The result is really stunning as you can see at left on this panorama of Barcelona that I took.

Now at version 2.2, Autostitch runs on all Windows 32 or 64-bit platforms. It is free for non-commercial use.

(c) 2005-2011, Nik Software, 200

VIVEZA

Viveza is an image retouching tool very powerful and very easy to use. Contrary to classic IP software often complex to use and that require time to be mastered, thanks to new technologies Viveza can be mastered in a few minutes.

Viveza takes advantages of the U Point technology that has already been incorporated in the famous Nikon Capture NX. The U point allows to a novice designer to globally improve the colors, brightness and quality of any image or one of its details thanks to the combination of elementary functions gathered in global tools. 

Using one or several U Points and selecting the radius of the affected area, in a few seconds you can see your image saturation and level of details improved. A must if you need to regularly modify colors of your images, including in color infrared imaging.

Now at version 2, Viveza runs on Mac OS X and Windows 32 or 64-bit platforms. It is available in various languages as plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Apple Aperture. 

Note that the Lightoom plug-in is not integrated in the Raw workflow but remains as a standalone and external tool. You will find  video tutorials on the developer website. A trial version is also available.

Photoshop CC

Photoshop CS5 Extended (or version 12)

Photoshop CS5 with Camera raw

Photoshop 7

(c) 1990-2015, Adobe

955-1375

Adobe Photoshop

This famous program born in 1990 is a high added value image processing software that also reaches a very high price. Considered as a leading product in its category, it is used by all serious photographers and publishers. Each year this imaging program win several awards !

Think about something artistic and graphical, Photoshop can do it ! Any kind of special effect can be created once you master the program. Channel separation, like LRGB composites or CMYK separation for offset publishing count among its skills.

Among all advantages of Photoshop, it has the ability to manipulate layers, masks, contact sheets and blue prints, to merge them, separate images or align them with accuracy to enhance faint details or suppress artifacts.

The main screen displays on top a menu and an option bar (which parameters adapt dynamically according to your selection), a toolbox at left (including tools like selector, lasso, magic wand, paint bucker, eraser, brush, blur, clone, move, text, colors, etc, themselves often sudivided in several tools), and palettes at right (last actions, layers, colors, styles, masks, etc). In-between comes the image window. Most tools are associated to a shortcut key (lasso with L-key, etc)

Photoshop comes with numbers of filters and effects, including artistical and video ones. It is even able to customize tools and their effects in mixing several items together. You can easily alter your image and its colors, stretch your perspective, make transparencies, add or suppress an external light, add a lens glare effect, use a gaussian or smart blur tools, and much more.

With some addins, Photoshop is able to design interactive JavaScript rollover effects, manage image slicing and animations for web publishing purposes. 

Photoshop exports in Pantone format and save in various formats like PSD, BMP, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, including various compression levels of GIF, and many other formats. It can also use a compression algorithm compatible with a web publication that preserves the quality instead of be focused on the compression level.

Here is for short how improved Photoshop along the years. 

Version 1 was released in February 1990 for MacOS. It supported Colormatch colors from Pantone. 

In November 1992, Photoshop version 2.5 was adapted to Windows. 

Version 3 (Sept 1994 for Apple and Nov 1994 for Windows) added tab palettes. 

Version 4 (Nov 1996) added adjustable layers and editable type rather than rasterized. 

Version 5 (May 1998) added Color management and a reduced color space named sRGB. This color space didn't please users and version 5.5 (Feb 1999) added the Adobe RGB (1998) gamut aka SMTPE-240M, a TV standard much more extended. This version also included the Extract feature. 

Version 6 (Sep 2000) added the "liquify" filter and color management (support for ICC profiles).

Version 7 (April 2002) added full vectorial text and healing brush. 

Version 8 (Oct 2003) aka "CS" standing for 'Creative Suites", code name "Dark Matter", added a "lens blur" filter, real-time histogram, commands like shadow/highlight and match colour, and last but not least the Hight-Dynamic Range, HDR. 

Since then, all "CS" versions integrate a complete suite of products to create and edit images or for designing and authoring a web site.

Version CS2 aka PS 9 was released in 2005. Among other things it supported tens of plug-ins to name Camera Raw (released in 2003) to process raw pictures from compact cameras and DSLR (4th image from top), "Viveza" from Nik Software that takes advantage of "U-Point" technology, "Universe Image Creator" from Diard Software and more recently (2007) "Tone mapping"  from HDRSoft, among many others tools.

Since that time, in addition to foreign language support (French, etc), Photoshop is available in two versions : Standard or Extended.

The Extended version includes all features of the Standard version plus new tools to create and edit 3D imagery and 3D composite objects, including extrusions, rotation, inflate, bevel, as well as image analysis and motion. The Extended version is thus more oriented to 3D imaging, film and video graphic and web design.

Version CS3 aka PS 10 was released in 2007. It includes new creative content (shapes, styles, swatches, etc), new industry-leading color correction, an auto-alignment of layers and an auto-blending of images.

Version CS4 aka PS 11 was released in 2009 and provides a new content-aware scaling tool, a smoother zoom and pan, a extended depth of field and support 64-bit OS, Multitouch (with an Internet connection) and custom panels.

Version CS5 aka PS 12 was released in 2010. It includes a "content-aware" functionality; even if it is perfectible, its allows to remove an object from the image and to reconstruct the background in only one mouse-clic. It aslo includes a new Puppet warp. 

In the Extended version, the 3D functions have also been improved.

Version CS6 was released in 2012 and includes 23 new features, including a new interface, darker, a content-aware patch and move, a new crop tool, a skin tone-aware selections and masking, improved auto-corrections, a blur gallery, an adaptive wide angle for lens correction and new type styles (more like InDesign) among other improvements.

Since 2012, a Creative Cloud version, aka "CC" version is available. It requires an Internet connexion for the subscription and the first local installation. Then you can use it locally.

CC versions also support 3D printing. Note that for photographers, the CC version includes a Shake Reduction feature that, under the right conditions, can reduce or eliminate the image blurring due to a vibration or a shook during the exposure.

With CC, instead of buying a licence, the user pays a monthly fee (about 30$/month per application or 60$/month for all available applications, and cheaper for students and enterprises), and access to the application(s) of his choice and to an infrastructure saved in the Creative Cloud (virtual space). Applications are always updated, and you can optionally share your results with trusted parties using the Cloud (Behance). 

Adobe Photoshop runs on all MacOS and Windows platforms, including Windows 8.1 with Adobe Flash. 

To use the 3D module, having RAM is not enough. The system requires at least 512 MB VRAM (on the graphic card, and the fastest the best).

Photoshop is not difficult to use but with all its options it is a complex application that requires practice and time to be mastered. SO, due to its many tools, it is by far preferable to get training by a professional than trying to learn as a self-taugh person Photoshop by trial and errors.

Hopefully, many books, DVDs and video tutorials, including made by Adobe, are dedicated to this bestseller. Any large bookshop has also a shelf dedicated to Photoshop.

For beginners, I recommend to watch videos available for free on the web (YouTube, etc) and "Teach Yourself Visually" (lien VF) collection from Wiley. Their collection is based on image, 4-color dumpscreens rather than long explanations.

You will find on Adobe Buying-Guide a comparison between Photoshop versions.

(c)1999-2011, Planetside

Freeware or registered

No charge, $299, $999

Terragen

Today this term is became a byword to describe scenery and rendering software.

And de facto, Terragen is one of the first application to explore this field in a so complete way and practically without limitations. It is a remarquable tool quite easy to use that permit to each of us to create photorealistic landscapes.

Terragen is a very sophisticated scenery and rendering program able to create photorealistic landscapes. Created by Matt P.Fairclough, it is free of charge for any non-commercial use.

There are two versions of Terragen, version Classique 0.9.43, and Terragen 2 Technology Preview.

Here are specifications of the product :

- surface rendering

- atmosphere rendering

- clouds rendering including 3D volumes

- water rendering

- sun and light

- screen resolution

- camera and target position

- boolean combination of two reliefs

- 3D rendering

- scripting

- import, export, plug-ins management, and more.

In order to benefit of all anti-aliasing options and get the best image quality, I recommend you to buy the registered version of Terragen. Not only in this way you encourage Matt P.Fairclough to improve its product but this version allows you to create larger images too.

Terragen 2 adds more realistic vegetation and a more complex clouds texture as well as new tools like a more powerful relief editor, a lens flare effect, new imports, etc.

TG2 having been reprogrammed from scratch, this version requires 1 GB RAM minimum but will be more at ease using a performing system and much memory (~3 GHz CPU, 4 GB RAM and 256 MB VRAM).

In both cases, Terragen can hardly appeals your computer, mainly the CPU when you create complex landscapes with shadows, water, etc. See this article that I wrote about this subject and this gallery.

Note that since end 2006 there is no new development for the Classic version 0.9.43. Only TG2 know new developments. It is declined in 3 products including a free version.

Terragen Classic 0.9.43 runs on all Mac OS 9, X and all Windows 32 or 64-bits platforms.

TG2 runs on all Mac OS X and on Windows XP 32 or 64-bits platforms and higher.

(c) 2000-2011

Bibble Labs, $200

Bibble

Bibble is an image editor including RAW support for many of the newest compacts and DSLR's.

Among the new tools available in version 5, there is a Click Black / Gray / White tool to quickly set curve points based on image content, to neutralize and darken shadows or to set the output white point. Its strongest feature is the selecting editing.

This release also includes the free version of Andrea, the improved AndyPRO, the first film simulator available in Bibble 4, and contains all of the simulations from AndyPRO.

At last, the color reproduction quality for several current cameras have been improved, and this new version also adds 13 newly calibrated lenses and corrects some bugs.

Plus side, Bibble includes a database of lenses and requires hardware ressources lower than many other applications in its class. 

Minus side, the trial version runs only 2 weeks, not long enough to appreciate the application and to compare its performances with its competitors. It runs also very slowly compared to all other graphic editors I have tested.

Bibble 5.2 Pro is available for MaxOS X, Windows 32-bit or 64-bit and Linux platforms. It is available in version Lite or Pro.

(c) 1990-2010

Mirametrics, $399

MIRA AP

In my humble opinion this is the big brother of Buil's QMiPS2. Its tools are powerful and numerous, to list a few : blinking and animation over 40 frames per second, pseudocolor palette, linear to gamma power transfer functions, astrometric calibration, aperture photometry, data analysis including histogram of pixels and radial brightness profile, histogram plots, artifact repair... A few among hundreds of commands accessible in a few keystrokes.

Many arithmetic and electronic frames operations are provided as special as blend image, change sign, square root, subtraction of the dark frame or bias signature. Geometric transformation have not been forgotten as high-pass filters. Optionally a Maximum Entropy module with or without PSF can be added to deconvolve images and increase their spatial resolution. 

On the other side, low-pass filters can be used to remove isolated bad pixels or smoothing both in weight and height. You can even create your own filter kernels or special filters as Rotational Gradient suited to reveal details in radial structure objects such as comets, block average and sum for software "binning".

MIRA provides plug-ins interfaces to open alien files formats, math plugs-ins to process images and make measurements and a script language with batch mode. Its capabilities can be extended to support spectroscopy, 3D graphics. You can also create your own plug-ins writting Visual C++ routines.

At last it is able to acquire SBIG, Celestron Pixcel and Lynxx CCD images through its ACCI module which incorporates a tag to help you to find the best focus using the radial profile method. It read and saves in FITS, TIFF, JPEG and BMP formats of any size, from 8 to 64 bit, including 24-bit color and can read ASCII text and binary files.

Mira also exists in version Pro (more features) and AL (for students).

Now at version 7, MIRA AP runs on all MacOS X, Windows 32-bit and 64-bit, and Linux platforms. A must for its remarkable performances.

Take a look at my Digital Darkroom menu for more detail about image processing 

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