Serif launches full on Photoshop rival at one third the price

Serif Affinity Photo

Serif is best-know for its budget Windows image-editing, illustration, web design and layout tools. Its brand new Affinity range, though, is designed solely for Macs and aimed squarely at professionals.

Affinity Designer, Serif's brand new professional graphic design and illustration tool, was the first Affinity product to arrive in October 2014, and scored a Mac App Store 'Best of 2014' in the process. Affinity Photo, announced in February 2015, uses the same core processing engine and aims to do for image-editing what Affinity Designer has done for illustration and vector art.

Professional features

Many so-called Photoshop rivals are actually much more basic consumer-orientated editing tools aimed at people who don't really know any better, but Affinity Photo is the real deal. It offers key tools and technologies essential in a professional environment, including 16-bit editing, RGB, CMYK and LAB color modes, ICC colour profiles and RAW development. It can also import and export Photoshop PSD files.

Its layout and operation is similar to Photoshop's, with a clean and simple vertical tools panel on the left of the screen and stacked (detachable) palettes on the right. It takes some acclimatization after Photoshop, but the basic principles of layers, masks, selections and adjustment tools are the same. The difference lies in Serif's processing engine, which has been designed to exploit the full potential of today's 16-bit hardware with fast, real-time adjustments that show changes 'live' as you work so that you don't have to close a dialog first or wait for the image to redraw between fine adjustments.

Serif Affinity Photo

Read: Serif Affinity Photo hands on review

The low price may pitch Affinity Photo in with a whole bunch of other Photoshop wanabees, but it's a very different, much more powerful product that just happens to be cheap – how often does that happen?

Affinity Photo is being sold on the Mac App Store at an introductory price of £29.99/US$39.99 until July 23rd 2015. After that it reverts to its regular price of £39.99/US$49.99.

Its introductory price makes it less than one third of the cost of a one-year subscription to Adobe's Photography Plan. The Adobe plan does include both Photoshop and Lightroom, but not every photographer will want to use both, and many still resist the idea of paying subscriptions to 'rent' an application. Affinity Photo is an alternative that combines the latest software technology with a classic one-off payment model.

Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.