REVIEW: Cyberlink PhotoDirector 2011 vs Adobe Lightroom 3

Last month over 75,000 people participated in the beta program for Cyberlink’s new photo editing tool PhotoDirector 2011. I had the opportunity to take a look at the program, and compare it to existing programs, i.e., Adobe Lightroom 3 & Apple Aperture 3.

Many initial reviews have compared PhotoDirector to Lightroom, and you cannot deny the striking similarities bordering on an exact clone of Adobe’s software. The product is Windows only, so Mac enthusiasts can keeping using iPhoto, Aperture or Lightroom. Also, I cannot speak for the final release, but the beta version I tested was 32 bit only. This may be fine for consumers, but professionals using Windows 7 will want full 64 bit capabilities.

PhotoDirector imports image information into “projects” which are similar to catalogs in Lightroom. The database design is the same; edits & changes to images are written to PhotoDirector’s project file, not directly to the images stored on your computer hard drive. Photos are managed in the Library section which offers the same utilities as Lightroom’s Library module. You can view images as thumbnails, singles or do comparisons of two or more images. Marking photos is done with Pick & Reject Flags, Colors or Stars.

Start to edit photos in the Adjustments section and the similarities to Lightroom continue right down to the Spot Removal Tool & Adjustment Brush. Anyone familiar with Lightroom will be able to dive into PhotoDirector as the tools work almost identically to how Adobe wrote them. Panel options in the Adjustment section include White Balance, Tone & Sharpening. You won’t see any Lens Corrections or Camera Calibration, but Cyberlink has made it clear they are targeting the consumer market.

The Slideshow section came as a surprise because while sparse in features, I have to say I like it better than Lightroom. Simply adding a Ken Burn’s style motion makes this section 10x more useful than Lightroom’s Slideshow module. Exported images are copies of the originals with the adjustment settings provided in the software.

Cyberlink will be releasing PhotoDirector 2011 soon for a retail price of $99. Essentially a competitor’s version of “Lightroom Elements”, consumers could easily grow into Lightroom later. That being said, the only thing innovative about PhotoDirector is its price point. I’m not versed in “intellectual property” but given how closely this product resembles and more importantly functions like Lightroom, I would expect to see some action from Adobe. I’m sure there are some who will take my tone as overly harsh, I’m not saying there isn’t a market for this product. Imitation is a form a flattery after all. Look at the iPad.

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