Product Review: Photo Mechanic 4.6.5
OCTOBER 15, 2010
And the winner and still champion is. . .Photo Mechanic. Yes, if you
want digital asset management software that's just flat out fast, this
program created by a small Portland Oregon-based company called Camera
Bits, clobbers the big boys: Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture.
I reviewed Lightroom 3 and Aperture 3 in recent issues of PDN
and while I found a lot to like about both those programs, for
straight-up speedy viewing of your high-res images (including RAW
files), Photo Mechanic 4.6.5 beat them hands down.
this is not really a fair fight. I learned this a couple of years ago
while reviewing an earlier version of Photo Mechanic which, unlike
Lightroom and Aperture, is not a RAW image converter, just a photo
browser. So instead of having to interpret tricky new RAW formats as
its rivals do, Photo Mechanic generates quick previews of shots by
using a JPEG proxy file embedded in the RAW image. That's why when I
drop a folder of 2,000 RAWs and JPEGs I shot in Europe on top of a
Photo Mechanic contact sheet, the images pop up quicker than I can scan
through them. Meanwhile, Lightroom and Aperture are still chugging away.
disadvantage with Photo Mechanic is you'll need to convert those RAW
shots later in another program such as Adobe Camera RAW. Sports
photographers and photo journalists who are the biggest users of Photo
Mechanic couldn't care less however since time is of the essence when
covering a news event. Leave the editing to the guys back at the desks
with the big computer screens.
And unlike Lightroom and Aperture
which keep adding editing functions, Photo Mechanic isn't really a
photo editor at all. Sure, there are some very basic tools such as
being able to rotate and crop images but these are almost
afterthoughts. (In fact, these changes are only visual since Photo
Mechanic prides itself on not altering the original image data in any
way, which is another reason it appeals to news photographers.)
the end, Photo Mechanic's main focus is quickly getting images off a
flash card, CD, DVD or out of a folder and onto one of its virtual
contact sheets where you can start sorting though them, picking
winners, and adding captions. To help you separate the wheat from the
chafe, Photo Mechanic has both extensive color coding tools and five
star rating systems for your shots.
The program's other big
claim to fame is its helpful IPTC Stationary Pad which makes it easy to
batch caption shots, add metadata, photographer credits, copyright
info, rights usage etc. There's also automated caption help via Photo
Mechanic's time-saving Code Replacement function, which lets
photographers and editors quickly add info to an image based around a
text file code. So, for instance, rather than having to spell out New
York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez's name every you write a caption,
Code Replacement allows you to just plug in a code—NY6 for Sanchez, for
example—and his whole name automatically pops up.
people who are familiar with Photo Mechanic already know about theses
functions so what's new with the program since the last time we looked
at it back at Version 4.5.2?
Thankfully, there aren't too many
major overhauls. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it.) The main addition
is something called Live Ingest (ingesting is Photo Mechanic-speak for
importing image) which will keep an eye on several of your folders for
incoming images such as when you're shooting with a wireless
transmitter. This is incredibly helpful since you can program Photo
Mechanic to not only import, er, ingest the images into the program
when they're zapped to a folder, but they can also be automatically
backed up or renamed. A new Live Slide Show feature functions similarly
to the regular slideshow except it too "watches" a folder to see if
images have been added.
I also liked Photo Mechanic's new GPS
functionality which will not only place geo-tagged images on a map much
like Aperture does, it will let you embed GPS coordinates onto photos
manually or by selecting a point on the map, they'll embed themselves.
also a new convert RAW to DNG command which helps you easily change a
batch of RAW images to Adobe's standard so they can be more quickly
read in other programs. While I liked the new Loupe tool in the Contact
Sheet view which lets you quickly zoom in on a shot, it reminded me how
much I disliked the clunky zoom functionality in Photo Mechanic's full
image preview window. Apple Aperture with its handy simulated Loupe
tool is still the best program for getting a close-up view of image
There are also new upload templates if you're moving
your images to a secure FTP, Flickr, SmugMug, Zenfolio and other
services. New customized support has been added for The Associated
Press, which is a heavy user of Photo Mechanic.
Along with a
better Loupe tool in the full preview screen, another thing I wish
Camera Bits had changed in Photo Mechanic since the last time I tried
it is a way to do side-by-side comparisons of more than two images at a
time. Right now you can only do two-ups while the competition lets you
compare multiple shots simultaneously.
THE BOTTOM LINE
it's a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison since it doesn't do RAW
conversion, Photo Mechanic 4.6.5 is definitely one of the fastest if
not the fastest image viewer around. Where Adobe's Lightroom and
Apple's Aperture offer extensive editing and presentation tools, Photo
Mechanic is streamlined and speedy and designed for photojournalists
and sports photographers who need to view, sort and add caption info to
their images quickly. There have been some notable changes to Photo
Mechanic since I last tested it three years ago—including GPS support
and Live Ingest—but it's basically the same program I liked back them:
quick and to the point.
Photo Mechanic 4.6.5
Still one of the fastest photo browsers around; Live Ingest function
helpful if you shoot with a wireless transmitter; added GPS support
includes the ability to embed and read geotags in images.
Cons: Zoom tool in full preview mode is still inferior to the competition; can only compare two images side by side.