February 5, 2007 – Kodak recently released a batch of plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop: the Digital ROC to restore color, the Digital SHO for contrast and exposure correction, Digital GEM for noise and grain reduction, and Digital GEM Airbrush for smoothing skin. The Kodak photo editing plug-ins, for both Windows and Macs, come in standard versions for $49.95 and professional versions for $99.95.
The Kodak Photoshop plug-ins are easy to use on first sight. Those familiar with any Photoshop plug-in will find Kodak’s versions comparable and manageable. As plug-ins tend to be, the Kodak plug-ins are geared for specific needs of photographers. Because of the basic layout, interface, and options, Kodak's plug-ins may have a wider consumer base for both professional photographers and everyday home users.
The Kodak software, Digital ROC, Digital SHO, Digital GEM, and Digital GEM Airbrush, share similar interfaces. Each plug-in contains a small original version of the photo in the top right corner that acts as navigation guide for users to zoom into their image in two ways: by either dragging a box on the small navigator image or by changing the zoom tool with "+" or "-" tools. Users cannot, however, manually enter numerical settings for zooming. Overall, the zoom tool was effective in giving the user control.
On the left side of the interface is a larger version of the photo that users can select "Before" and "After" views of. The plug-ins would benefit from the addition of a side-by-side comparison such as a split screen of two equally sized "before" and "after" photos. That would alleviate the problem of having to oscillate back and forth between the two options.
All the plug-ins offer help and tutorial functions and online guides for beginner users. Novice users can use these simple plug-ins tools without having to seek additional manuals. The Kodak plug-ins are compatible with Adobe Photoshop versions CS, CS2, Elements 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and Photoshop 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, 7.0, as well as Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.0, and JASC Paint Shop Pro 7 and 8.
**Kodak Digital ROC
Kodak Digital ROC Professional
**The Kodak ROC plug-in, like the other Kodak plug-ins, is a quick and easy solution. The standard version of Digital ROC, priced at $49.95, offers color scales, similar to the color balance options that Photoshop users will be familiar with. Users can control cyan/red, magenta/green, and yellow/blue colors with a sliding scale but cannot manually entering number values to change colors.
For an additional 50 bucks at $99.95, users can upgrade to the Digital ROC Professional version. Users will gain a brightness scale, contrast adjustment for black and white clipping, and an image source option to change between digital or film looks.
The picture above is a test image of an old family photo from the 1970s run through a trial version of the Kodak plug-in. Similar to a Photoshop plug-in geared to restore color balance and tint, the Kodak ROC plug-in had limited success in providing an image with true color values. Although the ROC plug-in made significant changes, the color alternations were too drastic and made the photo look unnatural. Because of the limited controls, even with the advanced options in the Professional plug-in version, users will sigh at such a semi-restored photo.
For a sentimental photo, consumers are better off sending their photos out to a professional Photoshop expert for restoration. The Kodak Digital ROC plug-in would only be useful to photographers looking to batch process and restore digital images who are willing to sacrifice some quality in order to save some time.
**Kodak Digital SHO
Kodak Digital SHO Professional
**The Kodak Digital SHO plug-in was much more impressive than its ROC counterpart. Kodak promises that the SHO plug-in can automatically reveal hidden highlights and shadow. The plug-in effectively fulfilled that promise.
The standard version of Digital SHO at $49.95 includes controls for highlight and shadow details. For the full professional version at $99.95, users will get added options for threshold of more highlights, color saturation controls, and image sources for digital or film styles.
The test image above is a backlit portrait. Kodak Digital SHO successfully lit the foreground without overexposing the background, like a Fill Flash option on more advanced versions of Photoshop. The faces were still natural-looking and simple to use with little or no alteration needed from the default changes.
The Digital SHO plug-in has applications for a wide base of consumers from professionals to everyday point-and-shooters. The plug-in can correct highly underexposed or overexposed images that every photographer is guilty of. Instead of losing those images, the plug-in provides a recommended quick solution for saving those photos.
**Kodak Digital GEM
Kodak Digital GEM Professional
**For noise and grain, Kodak offers a plug-in to reduce the problems associated with images shot at high ISO settings.The standard version, priced at $49.95, includes settings for noise control of highlights and shadows.
The standard version is a step up from the tools that Photoshop already offers. Even though, with advanced versions of Photoshop, users could also correct troublesome images with the "Despeckle" tool on Elements or the "Noise Reduction" tool. On advanced versions of Photoshop, the Kodak GEM plug-in does offer slightly more control for grain and noise reduction at a price.
The professional GEM version at $50 more than the standard version adds a few more tools, including blending options, clarity control of amount and radius, and suppression type for changing the coarseness of noise and the fineness of grain.
The image below is from a nighttime street scene.
Most general users will likely be satisfied with the included Photoshop tools for working with night landscapes. However, for those who want a bit more control, the Kodak GEM plug-in, particularly the professional version, could be a useful addition. Users won’t see striking results on smaller images, but those who like to print large-scale images could be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Kodak Digital GEM Airbrush Professional
Although the GEM Airbrush plug-in shares the same name as the other Kodak plug-in, the Airbrush plug-in is not for grain or noise reduction but for smoothing skin. With these editing functions, this GEM Airbrush Professional would be most beneficial to studio photographers. The Kodak GEM Airbrush plug-in is only available in the professional version for a retail price of $99.95.
Kodak Digital GEM Airbrush includes blending control and scaled options for details of "fine," "medium," and "coarse."
The Airbrush plug-in was successful in retouching the portrait above, with the ability to eliminate beard stubble and fine lines without making the photo look unnatural or the portrait plastic. Even better, the user still has control with the editing functions to change retouching levels.
Portraiture photographers who deal with large volumes of retouching pictures, such as school photographers or wedding photographers, would greatly benefit from this under $100 plug-in to make quick retouches to their photos.
Overall, the Kodak plug-ins are geared towards different niche photographers. All the plug-ins worked to some degree, with the Digital SHO and Digital GEM Airbrush being the most success on the tested images. Users might find the Kodak plug-in names are a little confusing, especially with two plug-ins named GEM. Unlike their plug-ins titles, the editing options are properly labeled and easy to navigate. The layout and interface of the Kodak plug-ins are self-explanatory and should be simple to use, even for beginner Photoshop users.
Other software manufacturers offer more choices for Photoshop plug-ins, but Kodak offers a well-rounded option base. Another software developer, Imagenomic, offers similar plug-ins with split-screen comparisons and more control options for prices that range $49.95 to $169.95. For consumers who like to match their software to the camera and printer, Kodak will most likely find a strong fan base for those who like to keep brand compatibility. Interested users should do some more comparisons, but Kodak does offer their version for under $100, and that is arguably one of the best selling points.
Users can download trial versions of the Kodak Photoshop plug-ins at http://asf.com/download/downloadmatrix/.