3 September 2008

Picasa 3 beta and the Sony Alpha 100

Filed under: Collage, Photoblogs, Picasa, Sony A100 — Howard @ 11:06 pm

At last an update to Picasa – Google yesterday announced the new beta release of version 3, which includes a number of new features – some most welcome. The link on the Picasa blog still pointed to version 2.7 for me, but I am glad to say that kazam media on the Flickr Picasa group pointed to Picasa Tutorials site for this link to the 3.0 beta.

Over the last few years I have found Picasa invaluable as a quick fix for digital pictures and as a means of organising and keeping track of my photos on my hard drive. A big disconnect for me is not being able to upload directly to Flickr, and so I was delighted when I found Picasa2Flickr, which currently harnesses the official Flickr uploader as a means of moving pictures from Picasa > Uploader > Flickr.

Another plus for Picasa is that it does render RAW files very well (and here I discuss only Sony A100 ARW files), even if the snag with Picasa2 has been the loss of EXIF data.

Picasa 3 renders RAW files quicker and happily now includes EXIF data:

Picasa 3, showing RAW rendering and EXIF data

Picasa 3, showing RAW rendering and EXIF data

There are shiny new buttons, and the eagle-eyed will spot the Picasa2Flickr button add-in – sadly this isn’t working at the moment.

New to the Basic Fixes tab are Retouch and Text. Retouch is simple to use (place circle over blemish, click, move circle, click to confirm) and looks promising for working over imperfect photographic scans. Text provides a number of tools (position, size, colour, transparency) for adding text to your pictures. The Tuning and Effects tabs seem unchanged, in terms of the options presented.

The Export button includes an option to watermark pictures with copyright information and the Collage button has been much expanded with new layout and mixing options. A selection of 69 pictures can be mixed into a Mosaic layout to create a 5120×3840 px original. This reduced version shows what can be done:


Mosaic collage in Picasa 3

Mosaic collage in Picasa 3

And an example of the picture pile option

Picture pile collage in Picasa 3

Picture pile collage in Picasa 3

These first improvements are impressive. Picasa is not encroaching on some of the most attractive features of Picnik (Levels, Curves), and it still wins at the basic, ease-of-use level. However, I prefer the power and subtlety of Picnik, but remain frustrated by its web-based limitations (picture size, no memory of preferred settings, no batch mode), so I suspect I’ll be trying out Photohop Elements 7 when it is released in the coming few weeks.


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