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                         Review: Photogenics 2.0a
  Guy Nathan                                               jagz@ar.com.au
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Finding the best application to do exactly what you want is hard to find
these days.  Today you can go out and you have an enormous variety of
applications you can choose from.  No matter what the title may be, you
have choice.  And where there's choice, there's confusion.

I have found an application which I believe ideally suits me for most
things I care to do when it comes to the area of image creation and image
manipulation: namely Photogenics 2.0a.

(Note: Photogenics 2.0a is a free patch upgrade from V2.0)

What is Photogenics:
For those who have had their head stuck in the ground like an Emu for the
last few years (to use an overused cliche), Photogenics 2.0a is an Image
Processing and Image Creation package on the Amiga, by Almathera, which has
made its way from V1.0, V1.0a, V1.1, V1.2, V1.2a, V2.0, and finally to
version 2.0a.

Comparisons:
In the beginning most people were comparing the current version of Personal
Paint at the time to Photogenics, and in general Photogenics usually came
out on top (not by much though).  So how does Photogenics 2.0a stack up
against something like Personal Paint 7?  Read on to find out.

Firstly I'd like to say that Photogenics and Personal Paint, while they
both have notable similarities in the feature department serve two
different purposes.  Personal Paint (here-in refered to as PPaint) is much
more ideal for the artist who wishes to create hand-drawn images and wishes
to be able to use Image Processing type effects to 'brush it up' (the
image).  Photogenics on the other hand is the ideal package for one who
wishes to work with alot of high resolution images and rather than creating
images from scratch in general, use existing or scanned images to create a
new image via the means of conventional paint program tools and with the
aid of a variety of powerful image processing affects.

Photogenics 2.0a and PPaint 7.0 both come with a whole set of Image
Processing effects and traditional paint tools, both come with an extensive
set of Arexx commands, both can be bought on CD-ROM with a whole variety of
fonts and images included, both support 24bit buffers (although when
working with Photogenics you can always see the 24bit buffer you're working
with), both support secondary channels, and both support a variety of other
features as well.  As you can see from this list, this may lead to some
confusion when choosing which application to go for, and why the comparison
between the two products have been made.

So what are the differences?  Well, Photogenics 2.0a has many more Image
Processing effects than PPaint 7.0 does, PPaint has better animation
support than Photogenics, PPaint has a more 'DPaint-like' environment for
those accustomed to that sort of working environment, Photogenics has a
custom GUI system of its own (called Widget) which has both benefits and
losses (losses is initially it's hard to get used to, benefits though are
much more extensive when you're used to it).  Photogenics comes with an
on-line HTML manual (decide for yourself on this one) where as PPaint, up
to version 7, came with a printed manual [V7 on mini-CD comes with an
online AmigaGuide manual.] Photogenics can handle more than 2 images
(actually it can handle hundreds, memory permitting), Photogenics is the
better application when dealing with high resolution images, PPaint
requires no high-spec Amiga to work well, and the comparisons could go on.
As you can see while there are alot of similarities, the two applications
also have alot of differences.  Which application you choose will depend on
what requirements you wish of it.

How does Photogenics 2.0a compare with V1.2a?
For a start Photogenics, up till version 1.2a used the Amiga's intuition
system completely for its GUI, V2.0 onwards uses the Widget system, which
can be chosen to look more or less like Intuition and different versions
for High Resolution and Low Resolutions screen systems exist.  This is the
most striking difference in looks from earlier versions.  While the Widget
system takes quite some time to get used to at first, after a while I found
it to be a far more beneficial system.

Other features which are new in V2.0 from V1.2a is Virtual Images (allowing
the loading of images which are bigger than your available RAM), the
Plug-in Effects system (allows for more complex image processing than
allowed through the standard image processing effects offered in the
'Modes' window, and also has the benefit of working with the Virtual Image
system), Animation loading and saving (although you can only work on one
image from an animation at a time) (it supports loading and saving of all
varieties of IFF ANIMs and CDXL Animations), Arexx support (Any function of
the program is basically programmable through this new Arexx port), On-line
HTML Help (some people may see this as a major downfall of this version in
comparison to previous versions, some may find it an advantage), the
loading and saving of Paint Layers (a 'Paintlayer' is a separate layer
'floating' above your image), changes to loaders and savers (a variety of
new file formats have been added here and greater support for older formats
has also happened), and a variety of other (un-listed) bug fixes.

Is it worth the upgrade?  Well, if any of the new listed features above are
things you don't need and you still have Photogenics 1.2a I see little
reason to upgrade, IF though you do believe you need these features (and I
found I have definitely used many of these new features extensively) then I
DEFINITELY recommend the upgrade.

What features does Photogenics 2.0a have:
For those of you who have never used Photogenics before here is a list of
its features: (based on the manual)

* Natural paint tools (AirBrush, Pencil, Chalk pastel,
  Watercolour, Ballpen, Neon, etc)
* Edit multiple images simultaneously (each in a resizeable
  window)
* Powerful Undo/Redo System
* Virtual Image System (Edit images much larger than you
  can fit in your computer's memory)
* Preview any paintmode effect instantly
* Support for multiple file formats (IFF-ILBM, JPEG, GIF,
  BMP, PCX, PhotoCD, PBM, QRT, Raw, Impulse, IMG, Targa,
  TIFF, CDXL, Framestore, etc)
* Paint in 24-bit with real time HAM8/24bit preview
  (Realtime 18-bit HAM8 preview really is fast and no
  24-bit graphics card required (only AGA))
* Full CyberGraphX Support (Direct support for running
  under 15/16/24-bit CyberGraphX screenmodes with HiColour
  and TrueColour previews) (CyberGraphX supports most graphics
  boards)
* Support for additional hardware (Video Toaster, CyberVision64,
  OpalVision, Picasso-II, VLab, Retina, EGS cards. ProGrab24RT,
  etc)
* Easy to use alpha-channel support
* Open Architecture (in terms of its plug-in system for
  adding and deleting loaders, savers, effects, brushes)
* Drag & Drop User Interface
* Dozens of paint modes and effects (Add Noise, Alter Hue,
  Balance, Blur, Brightness, Cloner, Contrast, Displace Map,
  Emboss, False Colour, Flip, Gradient Tint, Greyscale, HueMap,
  Limit, Line Art, Matrix, Mix, Monochrome, Motion Blur,
  Negative, Paint (standard painting), Pixelise, Posterise,
  Randomise, Rub Through, Rub Mix, Saturation, Sharpen, Shift
  Hue, Solarize, Tile, Tile Brick, Tint, and many more)

As you can see from this list, its feature list is quite extensive, and
provides a great many number of tools for the artist.

Manual:
The included manual is in HTML form (ie.  World Wide Web pages), and has an
old version of AWeb (Unregistered) included for the purposes of viewing
these documents.  You can within Photogenics though, configure it to use
any Amiga Browser you wish (as the on-line HTML Manual is called up when
you press the Amiga HELP button).  The manual covers all aspects of the
program and all the descriptions and capability lists of all the Loaders,
Savers, Modes, and Effects the program.

It also includes tutorials for beginners and/or advanced users.  The
tutorials are generally very useful, but it would be alot easier to have
printed documentation so you can look at the manual as you do it
step-by-step in the program.

The manual is fairly well indexed (they could have done better), and
usually finding help for the feature you're after is generally very easy. 
The inclusion of HTML On-line documents Vs's AmigaGuide is sensible, but as
for HTML Vs's Printed, or HTML and Printed, is quite as good.  It would
have been much better if they had included printed documents as found in
V1.2a and versions prior to that.

Ease of use:
Photogenics 2.0a has been described as complex/complicated to learn in
comparison to packages such as ArtEffects.  While this is right, once
you've got the hang of the Widget system and learn how to use the program
(which really doesn't take all that long) it's a VERY easy program to use.
Finding a feature takes next to no time, and its interface is well designed
and laid out, as are the menus.  Photogenics 2.0a I found much easier to
learn than a package like ImageFX 2.6.1 or PPaint.

System Requirements:
Normally this information would go at the front of a review, but to avoid
any bias the review may have as a result of it, I have included it near the
end of the review.  Why?  Well I believe that if you CAN afford to upgrade
your system to use this program then I believe you should do so, if your
system can't currently support it.  Upgrading your Amiga will help to make
it more powerful, allow you to do more things, allow you to run more
applications (and games), is a positive step towards supporting the Amiga.

So what does Photogenics 2.0a require to run?  You must have an Amiga (any
chipset) with 4mb of RAM, Hard Drive, and Kickstart 3.0 or higher, and to
use the CD-ROM version of this program, a CD-ROM Drive is required (a disk
version also exists).  NO 24bit Board is required to use this program, but
if you have one it can do wonders for you when using Photogenics.

Conclusion:
So is this the package for you?  Well if the above sounds like the sort of
thing you want, or has enough reasons to justify an upgrade, do so.  If you
own no package like this, then I definitely recommend picking up this
package now.  V3 of Photogenics is currently being written, and owners of
V2.0a will find upgrade paths exist.  Overall, Photogenics 2.0a is a highly
professional Image Creation and Image Processing tool for the Amiga, and a
product well worth supporting.

Photogenics 2 sells for UKP100.

Almathera
Southerton House
Boundary Business Court
92-94 Church Road
Mitcham, Surrey
CR4 3TD England
http://www.almathera.co.uk