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Adobe's new subscription-only plan has whipped up a big storm all of its own, but how does Photoshop CC itself rate as an upgrade?

We liked

Photoshop CC is still the best image-editing program you can get. Adobe continues to do a remarkable job in giving such a complex and powerful program such a clean-looking interface. To get the most out of Photoshop you do need to know what you're doing – there's precious little help here for beginners – but once you've learned your way around, it's the best there is.

And while the improvements in the app itself are relatively modest, the new tools in Adobe Camera Raw are terrific – and you can now apply them as filters to image layers, too.

Even the new pricing system has merits. The idea of paying for your software month-by-month may leave you feeling a little uncomfortable, but the initial cost of 'getting' Photoshop is now considerably lower. You also get automatic updates too, of course.

We disliked

The subscription system does pose some awkward questions. How do you open all your Photoshop PSD files when you decide to stop subscribing, for example?

And be aware that some of the best new tools are in Adobe Camera Raw 8, which is also the processing engine for Lightroom 5 – so if you want the Radial Gradient, Advanced Healing Brush and Upright tools, you don't actually need Photoshop to get them.

There are other enhancements in Photoshop CC that will make life easier for illustrators, web developers and 3D artists, but these draw attention to the other issue with Photoshop – it's an all-encompassing tool for all kinds of digital designers, so that whatever your area of interest, it probably does a whole lot of stuff besides that you don't need but which you're still paying for.

But maybe the biggest problem is that as an upgrade it seems a little tame and a little too soon. Photoshop CS6, its predecessor, brought a whole barrage of great new tools, and because it's not much more than a year old itself, it still feels fresh as a daisy.

Verdict

The big news with Photoshop CC is the swap to a subscription-based system. This does have advantages for professionals, but it's less appealing for amateurs and occasional users. The upgrades to the software itself are pretty modest compared to Photoshop CS6, and for photographers who need to keep up with the latest new cameras and RAW formats, there are cheaper ways to do it – Lightroom 5, for example. But even though CC doesn't bring anything new and revolutionary, Photoshop remains the best professional image-editor there is.