If you’ve been computing long enough, you can probably tick off some of life’s touchstones that occurred around the time of each major Photoshop revision and on occasion tell yourself, “Wow, I remember when Photoshop was just born, err, released.”
To make you feel even older, Photoshop’s and Premiere’s offspring are well on their way to becoming grown-ups too. Photoshop Elements has now hit 5.0, and Premiere Elements has reached 3.0. But are these applications growing up to be as well groomed as their parents, or are they destined to work at the Quick Stop with Dante and Randal?
As the older of the two, Photoshop Elements 5.0 appears to get most of the attention from the revision bump. You now get finer control over black-and-white conversion and curves as well as the capability to correct for barrel distortion and corner vignetting. The organizer side of Elements also gets a healthy dose of new layout options, including album pages, a flipbook effect, and online backups of your photos.
One thing that irks us about PE5 is the number of services Adobe pushes your way. The online backup uses Iron Mountain Digital, which you get for free for a whole 30 days! Yippee! Want to upload a photo stamp or create an photo book? You have to pay for those too. We’re not asking for free services, as we know you can’t get stamps for free, but at times, it feels like Photoshop Elements is just a middleman that takes you to other sites where you’ll need to have your credit card ready.
If you can avoid all the add-in services, it’s pretty apparent that the DNA of Photoshop is still in Elements. But while perspective correction is somewhat effective, as with many PE5 features, you always feel as though you want to crank it up a notch, and the program just won’t let you. And when the scripts don’t quite work, newbies are left to fend for themselves in the cold, cold land of Photoshop layer hell.
The younger of the two programs, Premiere Elements 3.0, gets fewer apparent updates, but the major change is aimed at user friendliness. We lauded the previous version for being Premiere Pro with training wheels, and Adobe tries to make the app even easier to use here. Unfortunately, one of the major fixes doesn’t work for us. Adobe added a new storyboard view, but not all of the features work. For example, we included a title overlay in timeline view, switched to storyboard view, and then found that it didn’t display our title. We stayed in the timeline view for the rest of our project.
Adobe is finally touting the ability to capture and edit HDV-resolution material, but the company neglects to mention that the feature is half-assed. The preview window and scene detection don’t work, so if you want just one scene, you have to queue it up on your camera and manually capture it or capture the entire tape and hunt for your footage. That’s pretty pathetic. Even weaker, there’s no support for burning to Blu-ray or HD DVD drives. You just output to MPEG-2 and find some other way to publish your HDV content.
These issues aside, we found it hard to hate Premiere Elements 3.0, because so much of what we liked in the previous version is still here. Performance is quite good, thanks to the Premiere Pro DNA. While it took several hours to encode our 20-minute project on a dual-core Athlon 64 FX-60, at least it pegged both cores through the process.
That leaves us a little torn. We gave the previous bundle a 9 verdict and a Kick Ass award for being so feature complete and powerful. You don’t lose any of the features or power with this bundle, but it’s just not as satisfying as the last upgrade. Both applications are like children who have just turned into awkward teenagers. We think it’s probably a phase they’ll grow out of, but sometimes you never know.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 and Premiere Elements 3.0
Powerful with enough features to satisfy most people’s needs.
Feels a little bloated at times, and Photoshop Elements suffers from module overload.