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Reindeer Graphics Optipix 2.0

16-bit image correction filters for Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
If you perform image corrections for a living, you're no doubt aware of the limitations of Adobe Photoshop when it comes to working with 16-bit images. Yes, you can perform a few color correction tasks, and you have access to a short list of 16-bit-aware filters. But most of Photoshop's useful tools are completely unavailable. Fortunately Reindeer Graphics has come along with the Optipix 2.0 filter collection to fill in the gaps, bringing powerful image manipulation, enhancement and compositing features to the 16-bit workflow.

Optipix 2.0 is an outstanding collection of filters and tools designed for working with 8- and 16-bit images in Adobe Photoshop and compatible hosts. It includes filters for correcting images through sharpening, edge manipulation, noise reduction, detail enhancement, exposure blending, image averaging and compositing, and it also offers some simple utilitarian tools as well, such as sub-pixel nudging, storing of selections and other features we'll get to below. The software is tailored for the needs of professional photographers, though anybody who works in Photoshop will find the filters in this collection incredibly useful for two reasons: They save an amazing amount of time, and they provide functionality that just can't be found in Photoshop otherwise. This second point is especially true of the version 2.0 release, which includes a compositing engine for 16-bit images, something completely foreign to Photoshop before now.

What it does
By way of introduction, Optipix 2.0 offers 10 primary filters, along with a few plugins that are designed to support these primary filters. Now, I've reviewed two prior versions of Optipix in great detail, and I don't intend to repeat myself too much here. If you'd like to read more about the filters that have been carried over from Optipix 1.x, you'll find my review of version 1.0.2 here and my review of version 1.0 here. But I will give you an overview of the major features carried on from version 1.x before moving on to the new and improved plugins (starting on page 3). The older filters are as useful today as ever, and some of them still have no equal.

Among these is Blend Exposures, a combination of filters that should delight digital photographers to no end. Blend Exposures allows you to take bracketed photographs and blend them together for optimal results. Why would you want to do this? Well, let's say you're shooting in harsh light outdoors. Your photos are either going to have very dark shadows or very bright highlights, killing the details in either region. But with Optipix, you can take multiple exposures and mix together the results so that your details appear in both bright and dark portions of the image, all in just a few simple steps.

In the example below, the top two images show how details can be lost in shadows and highlights. The bottom image shows the blending of these two exposures to restore lost details that might be unrecoverable using simple curves or levels adjustments.

And, while the blended image may not look great in and of itself (especially when I'm the guy behind the camera), you now at least have the details from the two exposures and can then go in and perform any necessary color corrections. (Note that for misaligned images, the sub-pixel Nudge filter does a great job of helping to line up your exposures, as it did for mine in the example above.)

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