Photography

Exposure X5 gets innovative, user-friendly masking tool

exposure x5 image catalog and editing app

Exposure X5 is the newest release of the RAW editor developed by Exposure Software (formerly Alien Skin). Exposure X5 can be used as stand-alone app or plug-in to Photoshop or Lightroom. I don’t have either of these on my system, so I tried Exposure X5 as a stand-alone only.

Exposure X is an award-winning RAW photo editor that that handles a full photography workflow in its a standalone version. Exposure X5 introduces significant new creative enhancements including an innovative 3D colour masking tool.

Photographers can easily target foreground or background areas, skies, skin tones, specific color ranges, and more. The improved masking tools integrate seamlessly with Exposure’s existing brushing and gradients for even more flexibility. Access to the new 3D colour tool is enabled after selecting the mask icon in the layer inspector and scrolling down to the Color Constraints panel. Here you get to use an intuitive control system for setting the exact hue, saturation and luminance of the colours you wish to adjust. The one thing that I would like to see is that you can change the colour of the mask preview; as far as I could tell, the colour is fixed to something that looks like magenta, which pops out really well on, for example, blue, but less so on red.

The new colour masking tool puts Exposure X5 firmly on the same level as DxO Photolab 2 and even Capture One Pro. Its metadata support surpasses (but the previous version did as well) DxO’s flagship app and is on par with Phase One’s app.

The new version also significantly improves on previous versions’ lens correction capabilities, putting it close to DxO’s lab-driven capabilities in this area. Vignette correction counteracts unwanted darkening around the edges of photos, and chromatic aberration correction addresses colour fringing caused by lens refraction. Both corrections can be applied via a lens profile or through manual adjustment, enabling even finer control over correction. The new chromatic aberration correction is complemented by a full-featured fringe removal tool.

Exposure’s lens distortion correction has been improved as well, with new manual correction controls that enable removal of barrel and pincushion distortion.

Also new are custom camera profiles, but these require you to at least have the equipment to create these for your own camera. If you don’t, you’re stuck with whatever there is available on the web or in Adobe or other software that can create these profiles. These aren’t always as useful as you’d like them to be as they are generic.

But, if you have the equipment, you can now assign custom camera profiles that let you control the interpretation of colour from RAW data, resulting in even more accurate colours in your work. Camera profiles created by X-Rite or other software can be automatically applied by matching the camera model or serial number, and can optionally match a particular lens or ISO range.

Of course, Exposure X5 has a load of colour and film presets that no other software comes close to, including new ones like Light and Airy, new season inspired presets, complementary colour presets, more B&W films like Ilford FP4 Plus, Ilford Pan F Plus, Kodak Recording 2475 and Polaroid Chocolate.

Exposure X5 now also supports grayscale TIFF and JPEG images.

Finally, Exposure X5 was way faster than Capture One Pro and DxO Photolab 2 at opening and rendering my 7K+ images on my system.

Conclusion

Exposure Software has improved Exposure X in areas that now put the software in the same league — albeit with different functionality accents — as Phase One’s Capture One, even surpassing DxO’s Photolab 2. In my opinion, that is no small feat as these two apps are more or less the gold standard for RAW editing.