Depth of field as post-processing

Although it is quite easy to use it in an ‘extreme’ way, DOF could be very useful sometimes for isolating the subject.
Rendering DOF in a scene during the ‘native’ process – although this could result the best quality – is very time-consuming.
That is the reason why in CGI it used to be replaced with rendering a Z-depth pass and then using the depth information to achieve the effect.
In case of rendering stills, we have several options to make this composited result.

1. Photoshop has a built-in Lens Blur filter with a decent result as output (not ‘outstanding’, but fair enough).

Cons:

– Photoshop is pricey

Pros:

– It comes for free with PS

2. Blender Compositor gives us this post-processing effect with nodes

Cons:

– It is slow
– It is an additional ‘element’ in the pipeline so it is not so comfortable to use

Pros:

– It is free
– It results affordable quality

3. DOF PRO for Photoshop

Cons:

– It is slow like hell (previewing is extremely slow, too)
– It doesn’t support 64 bit versions of PS
– I was not able to run it under other hosts (I tried some like PhotoPlus, no luck)
– It is pricey (USD 100) for a single filter
– GUI is outdated

Pros:

– Image quality
– Supports image sequences without additional costs

4. LensCare gives great speed and awesome quality with some compromises:

Cons:

– The workflow is extremely stupid (I’m not kidding, I was shocked, how idiotic it is).
– The built-in ‘reversing’ function of the Z-depth image resulted image errors on my sample render
– it is pricey, too (USD 89) for a single plugin (After Effects version comes separately and for additional fee, what sucks)

Pros:

– Image quality is great
– It is fast (beats everything in speed)
– Has a version for After Effects (although that is a different product)

5. Serif PhotoPlus offers a built-in Depth of Field filter

Cons:

-It doesn’t worth a penny. Crap. Piece of shit. (I’m talking about the built-in plugin, not the app itself!)

Pro:

– PhotoPlus could handle some of the PS plugins and LenscCare works on PhotoPlus
– PhotoPlus is the only affordable PS alternative for indies I saw until this time; even with buying LensCare it is far-far cheaper than PS itself and results better quality output

6. GIMP has a free plugin called Focus Blur

Cons:

– It is a GIMP filter and GIMP is something what I hate by heart for its GUI
– No previewing for the settings (one of the reasons why I hate GIMP)

Pros:

– affordable quality
– it is free

Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

OK, the title is a lie.
All things considered there are no alternatives to PS at all.
But for working in RGB there are several options.

I made my last ‘2D graphics apps test ‘ 2 years ago, mainly focused on RAW converting (I choosed and bought ACDSee Pro), but I found a pretty usable app, called Serif PhotoPlus.
It has similar GUI and features like PS has.

Serif offers a free version of the app with limited functionality (which is still pretty usable for retouching).

Unfortunately there is no trial version of the full app, but I had a chance to take a look on it and as far as I know, this is the only 2D app on Win which has comparable  layer functions and operations to PS.
Of course it was slower than PS, but still was more usable than Corel Paint Shop Pro.
It only costs 85 EUR, which is quite acceptable.

By the way, the lack of the full app trial and the stupid way of downloading the free app (you have to register, etc.) deserved to put Serif (as a developer) to the ironic ‘How to develop an app’ posts soon.
On Mac it worth to give a try to Pixelmator (I will check it when I will have access to Macs again; I heard good things about this one), and soon I will try PS Elements again (I have an old one; I’m curious what has changed).

Maybe you are surprised that I don’t consider GIMP as a choice; well, although I use it a lot, I don’t like it at all.
It needs recoding and GUI change, too (in my opinion).