Serif's new Mac-based Photoshop rival is now a free beta

Affinity Photo is a high-speed, stripped down Photoshop alternative at a fraction of the price

Serif Affinity Photo

Like Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo is an all-new Mac app designed from the ground up to exploit the latest technologies and provide a fast, efficient – and inexpensive – alternative to Adobe's 25-year-old monolith.

Forget Serif PhotoPlus, which is Serif's long-standing amateur photo software, designed for cost-conscious home users with Windows machines. Affinity Photo is completely unrelated, a brand new app aimed specifically at the professional market.

It uses an advanced processing engine, developed by Serif, which it shares with the company's existing Designer app. Ultimately, the file formats will be interchangeable – it will be possible to swap documents seamlessly between Serif's Affinity applications.

Serif Affinity Photo
Affinity Photo includes advanced selection tools for tricky subjects like human hair.

Tony Brightman, head of Affinity development, says, "We want as many people as possible to use the free Affinity Photo beta for their photo editing and creative raster work—feedback from the public beta will make the differences that really matter in a professional setting. You can download and install Affinity Photo on your Mac, enjoy getting your hands dirty with some editing, then join the conversation on our forums."

You can download the beta from https://affinity.serif.com/photo and join in the forums at https://affinity.serif.com/forum.

The final version will go on sale at £39.99/US$49.99, subject to any Apple price restructuring and, as Serif is keen to point out, this is a one-off payment, not an ongoing subscription.

Key features

Affinity Photo goes beyond regular amateur image editors, with support for CMYK colour (as used by the commercial print industry), 16-bit editing, LAB color, raw processing, ICC color management and 64-bit Photoshop plug-in compatibility.

These may not mean much to the average consumer, but in the professional photography market they are key features.

This plug-in compatibility will be a major factor, and Serif assured us that it is in discussions with software vendors to get support for Affinity Photo included in plug-in installers.

Serif Affinity Photo
Affinity Phto can carry out perspective correction on two planes.

Serif came down to the TechRadar offices to demonstrate the new software and showed off some pretty impressive features, including 'Inpainting' (Serif's equivalent of Adobe's content-aware fill technology), and an interesting Frequency Separation mode for removing regular artefacts like scanning interference patterns, or more irregular blemishes and spots in portraits.

Affinity Photo looks a little different to Photoshop, but the principles are the same, with non-destructive 'adjustment layers', layer masks, filters and blur effects. The emphasis throughout is on real-time editing, with no previews, no 'apply' buttons and no waiting to see what an effect looks like once it's rendered.

Affinity Photo
Blur effects can be applied 'live' – the whole emphasis behind Affinity Photo is fast, real-time editing.

The 'lossless scaling' feature was especially impressive. If you downsize a layer in Photoshop, pixels are removed and lost permanently – in Affinity Photo, the reduction is reversible. The Lighting filter looked rather good too, displaying effects directly on the image in real time (see the main image, top).

We'll give Affinity Photo a full review when it's finished, but in the meantime you can try out the free public beta from https://affinity.serif.com/photo.

We'll be doing exactly the same. We can't remember the last time a genuinely new photo editing app appeared on the market, so this is actually rather exciting!

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