Editor's Choice 2019, Photography, Reviews

Review of Photo Mechanic 6, the MAM with the most powerful metadata support

The management app for professional photographers and photojournalists, Photo Mechanic 6, has been upgraded to version 6. It has a lot of new features and should be much faster than version 5.

Photo Mechanic has been developed by a company that has only one application, and that shows. The people of Camera Bits know their market as their back pocket and their MAM (Media Asset Management) app is the choice of photographers and photojournalists across the world. These users need to be able to quickly organise hundreds of thousands of images per year, create metadata to ingest their pictures automatically in much larger systems used for broadcast and publishing and find back their photos quickly and efficiently.

Photo Mechanic 6 is a 64-bit application which stops macOS 10.14 from nagging about the app needing an update. It also allows more and better caching of images that should result in faster rendering of large high-megapixel images. On my new iMac (2018) the speed results were mixed. Photo Mechanic 6 does generate thumbnails and previews a lot faster than its predecessor, but it’s awfully slow at scrolling through images and selecting them. Camera Bits said that all of these behaviours sound like they are related to an issue with the interaction between Photo Mechanic 6 and macOS Mojave. Despite the Mojave issue affecting less than 2% of their orders, they have contacted Apple about the issue but haven’t received any reply from them with an estimated timeline for the fix.

As a temporary workaround, the company suggests you temporarily move to Photo Mechanic 5. If you already have Photo Mechanic 5 installed on your computer, you can keep using it.

There’s a new “Ingest from Selection” option to copy your images from recording media to disk. It’s very cleverly implemented in that it opens a contact sheet of the memory card and lets you select the images you want to ingest. On some of my cameras’ memory cards, I always end up having .ind files. I can now skip those by using this new Ingest method, although I suspect photographers who have to handle a few hundred images each day will stay with the old method.

Photo Mechanic 6 now does reverse geocoding. Using GPS coordinates embedded in a photo, you can insert location metadata into the image. This works very well, even when you enter the coordinates manually in the dialog window that’s been created for this. Reverse geocoding does need you to connect to the Camera Bits server which costs the company a great deal of server time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would turn this into a payable service after a while.

On my iMac, I could view both the Contact Sheet and Preview in full screen mode. This is supported on Windows too. You can even include both at the same time on different monitors. Photo Mechanic can now also restore all Contact Sheet tabs and all of their settings that were in place when you last quit, but I couldn’t find this feature anywhere in the menus.

A huge improvement is the cropping functionality. There’s now a Crop View mode that lets you see how a rotated – new as well – crop will turn out. A Full Crop button starts your crop as a full-size crop that you can then modify and holding down the Shift modifier key while resizing from a corner constrains the crop to the natural ratio of the image and overrides any default crop constraints.

And the cropping tool takes this further, by showing a fine grid when rotating a crop, with settings changes now applying immediately to existing crops.

The Find and Replace tools have been improved by allowing the use of variables as replacement text with support for regular expressions.

Photo Mechanic 6 now allows for photos to be uploaded to Facebook in addition to the other cloud services already supported by the previous version.

Photo Mechanic has also become more secure. When you’re updating metadata to JPEG files, the app now edits a temporary copy which ensures that file system errors have no effect on the integrity of the photo.

For backing up photos, version 6 adds Blu-Ray disc burning support.

When Camera Bits has found a way to iron out the Mojave issue, Photo Mechanic 6 will once again be the most powerful asset management system for photojournalists, fashion and stock photographers and the rest of us for many years to come.