Thursday, April 11, 2013

UPDATE: Topaz Labs B&W Effects 2.1–Zone Mode & Borders Added

Topaz B&W Effects 2.1 - Zone Mode
Topaz B&W Effects 2.1 - Zone Mode
Topaz catches up with Silver Efex Pro 2 with this update

The Zone System Viewing Mode lets you see your image broken down into 11 zones that represent the full tonal scale going from 0 as black to 10 as white. Zones are shown in different highlight colors for easy viewing. This viewing mode helps you determine whether or not you have the full tonal range in your image and then make exposure adjustments in our conversion module to correct these tones.

This was the big feature that was missing when I did my Black & White Comparison article where Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) took the award for the best UI thanks to above and beyond features like this. In the pre-release version I tested you couldn’t hover over the numbers and see the zones like you can in SEP2, but you can toggle them (like SEP2) to quickly see which zones are present in your image. This is super useful for get a nice balanced image with all or most zones for a spectacular black and white image.

Zone Panel
Zone Panel

The B&W Effects version isn’t as elegant as the SEP2 version (shown below), but it gets the job done.

Silver Efex Pro 2 - Part of Nik Collection by Google for only $149 (before my discount)
Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) – Show Zone on Hover & Borders Features

Borders


The new borders feature also matches Silver Efex Pro 2 and Perfect B&W

The Borders feature in B&W Effects 2.1 allows you to choose from several realistic darkroom borders, with several styles including both bleeding and crisp edges. This new feature also allows you to select the size of the border.

This is one area where B&W Effects leapfrogs SEP2 because it uses easier to remember names instead of SEP2’s lame Type # format. Here’s a list of available borders:

Borders Galore
Borders Galore

There’s still room for improvement as only the size is adjustable, but this is a good start. SEP2 offers more options but neither has the feature I want the most – the ability to control the inactive border color (i.e., the white portion in the screen shot above).

Conclusion

Other new features in B&W Effects 2.1 include the apply button and new languages such as French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. This makes a product that is now more approachable to a larger audience.

At $59.95 (at the time this was written) plus my 15% off discount (see my discount coupon code page for the latest details and amount), this is quite the value for $50. However, a LOT has change in the short time since I completed my Black & White comparison article. Google announced that the Nik Collection (which includes ALL Nik Software products) is only $149 for 6 products (which comes to about $24.83 each before my discount). This has unseated B&W Effects as the least expensive option, but the features found in here still might be compelling enough for it to win out over Nik. Just like I stated in my Black & White comparison article, you should install the trial versions and decide for yourself.

What I can say now is that a great product has become even greater, so it doesn’t really play second fiddle to anything else out there.

Where to order

For a limited time save 30% off if you use the coupon code bw21. When this code expires, use my code.

Click here to order and visit my discount coupon code page for more offers and discount information.

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