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By Sean Duggan
Topaz Labs (http://www.topazlabs.com) recently released Lens Effects (US$79.99), a plug-in that offers the ability to add a wide variety of lens-type effects to your photos. This includes bokeh effects (shallow depth of field, blurry backgrounds); tilt-shift or creative blur (think Lensbaby); toy camera-like color and focus deficiencies; graduated neutral-density filters; or modifications like fixing geometric distortion, adding grain, or simple vignettes.
Lens Effects is available as a plug-in for Photoshop, as well as Lightroom and Aperture. The interface is very Lightroom-esque with effects and presets on the left, a center preview area, and specific controls for each effect on the right. There are several presets for many of the effects, or you can create you own presets.
For the Bokeh – SLR Lens and Bokeh – Selective effects, you can make a depth map to define what areas should be in focus. Overall, it does a good job at defining these areas and creating a mask of gray values from foreground (black) to background (white), though there are occasional inaccurate edges.
The interface and procedure for creating and editing these masks is very promising, but on some images I found myself wishing that I could make fully manual edits to the depth map to address errors in the automated process (the edits you do make are user-directed, but the program computes the change, so the tools aren’t totally manual).
Lens Effects is a useful plug-in for those who want a wide variety of lens effects easily accessible in one place. It provides very good results for many of its offerings (the weakest in my opinion are the pinhole and toy camera effects). The focus and blur effects that don’t require a complex depth map all produce very good results. Creating selective blurring on images with more complex foreground to background relationships that do require precise depth maps is likely to still be a challenge.
Rating: 7 out of 10
(This review is brought to you courtesy of "Layers Magazine": http://layersmagazine.com/ .)