Starting from Photoshop CC, Photoshop is no longer available under a 'perpetual licence'. You don't just pay a single up-front cost and use the software for as long as you like. Instead, you must take out an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and choose a plan that includes the applications you need. These are then available to you for as long as your subscription continues.

If all you want is Photoshop, that's fine, but the cheapest deal you can get works out at £17.58/$19.99 per month (if you take out an annual subscription). That's pretty hard to swallow when you're used to software licences you buy outright, and bad news for users who like to save a little cash by skipping a couple of versions between upgrades.

On the upside, that's less than most people pay for their phone contracts, and if you're a Photoshop professional, why shouldn't it be just a routine business cost, like paying rent or leasing vehicles? It also makes it possible to get started with Photoshop for a lot less outlay.

What else is new

The arguments over Adobe's subscription plans aside, what else has Photoshop CC got to tempt new users and upgraders?

For a start, it has two new ways to achieve sharper images. One is an all-new Smart Sharpen tool designed to maximise clarity and reduce noise, and the other is Adobe's new Camera Shake Reduction tool.

Photoshop CC
Smart Sharpen in action

It analyses the direction of movement ('trajectory') and then attempts to reverse the blur digitally. On Adobe's sample images it works really well, but not all shots provide the right kind of blur, so don't expect it to be a fix for every shaky shot.

Reversing the blur
Reversing the effect of Camera Shake

Photoshop CC's 'Intelligent Upsampling' feature helps you scale up pictures for big prints without the image degradation normally associated with upsampling, and means you no longer have to turn to third-party plug-ins like OnOne's Perfect Resize. You don't get any more detail, but sharp edges are better preserved.

But the biggest cluster of new features centres on Adobe Camera Raw 8, Photoshop's companion RAW conversion tool. In fact, you can now carry out so many everyday photographic enhancements in Adobe Camera Raw that you may need Photoshop itself less and less. By the time the photo opens in Photoshop, you'll have already done everything that needs doing.

Camera Raw has been updated
Camera Raw has also been updated

For example, the new Radial Gradient tool can be used to highlight the focal point of your picture by darkening, blurring, desaturating or otherwise subduing the surrounding areas. It comes with grab handles you can use to change the shape and size and a central 'pin' you can drag it around with. It's very good, though it could do with a wider feathering range to blend in the effects more subtly.

The Radial Gradient tool
The Radial Gradient tool

And the Advanced Healing Brush is very effective too – you can how 'heal' irregular areas by painting over them, whereas previously you could only heal circular areas. It's not as sophisticated as the Clone Stamp and Healing tools in Photoshop, but it can cope with simple touch-up jobs very easily.

Best of all, though, is the new Upright tool, which can detect lines in your image which it thinks should be horizontal or vertical, and automatically straighten them, correcting perspective problems such as converging verticals. It works so well it's almost uncanny.

Lens correction