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Test Drive: Exposure X5 Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

24 September 2019

Exposure Software has released Exposure X5, its flagship image editing software designed for creative photography with more extensive film emulsion emulation, special effects, and presets than its competitors.

The new version brings improvements to masking, selection tools, lens correction, lens distortion, custom camera profiling, additional presets and special requests like image flip options and single channel grayscale support. The update also focused on speeding up startup performance.

Jimmy Beech hits the high spots of the new release:

We had a chance to try the new version for a few days before release and we liked what we saw.


System requirements have remained much as they were for Exposure X4 but the new minimum RAM requirement is not 8-GB and the 16-GB RAM is recommended.

Mac OS X from Yosemite (10.10) is supported as is Windows 7 with an Intel Core 2 processor with SSE4 support. A monitor with at least 1280x768 resolution is also required.

Exposure X5 also functions as a plug-in to Adobe Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop CC 2015 or newer and Adobe Lightroom 6 or Lightroom CC 2015 or newer.


We gave Exposure X5 a test drive on our Mid 2010 MacBook Pro (2.66 GHz Intel Core i7) with 8-GB RAM and a 1-TB SSD. It ran just fine with no performance issues.

Test Images

We chose two images to work on. The first was a pretty straightforward crowd shot whose highlights needed some help. The second was a red dahlia whose hue needed saving.

Both images were DNG conversions from camera Raw files.

Basic Editing

Our crowd shot required a typical edit, preserving detail in the highlights while increasing the overall exposure of the image.

You can see in this image that the white hats (there are several) all have detail. At the same time, Exposure X5 was able to hold the detail in the shaded shirt.

That's all the shadow detail we wanted, preferring to let the background go dark. And Exposure X5 let us manipulate those tones easily.

Hue Masking

The red dahlia is a typical problem with the red spectrum and digital sensors. The oversaturated capture looked nothing like the natural scene.

We usually resort to masking the red hue and dampening it down with a highlight mask. In Exposure X5 we can actually create the mask based on the hue.

In the rollover above, you can compare the in-camera JPEG saved with the Raw file to a straight edit, optimizing the image, to what the new hue selection let us accomplish.

Masking by Hue. Here we've set the mask to select the reddest hues in the dahlia.

By setting the mask to the red hues, we were able to evaluate the effect of the Luminance color adjustment to just the masked reds until we recovered some detail in what is usually otherwise so saturated there is no detail there at all.

You might wonder how easy it was to set the mask to the hues we wanted to affect. It sounds complicated.

Actually, we had no trouble at all. It can be as simple, in fact, as using the color picker tool to click on the hue of luminance or saturation level you want to mask.

And you can extend that range by setting the Feathering options to extend the selection, something that wasn't really necessary with this image.

It's worth noting that each layer in an Exposure edit has a built-in global mask. To add a local mask like the hue/saturation/luminance mask, you Add a Layer and click on the new layer's mask. That will reveal the mask options.

Lens Correction

We liked very much how Exposure Software designed the new Lens Correction panel. In a small way it shows the intelligence behind the whole product.

The popup menu makes it easy to select a profile for both the lens maker and lens model.

The number of lenses supported may not be comprehensive, but it's fairly well fleshed out. There were no Canon 18-55mm kit lenses in the long list of Canon optics and the M.Zuiko 12-200mm zoom wasn't included although the Olympus 12-100mm Pro was.

But all is not lost if your lens isn't supported. You can easily make a manual adjustment instead.

Lens Correction. Nicely designed.

Adjustments are available for Distortion, Vignetting or Chromatic Aberration corrections. And it's easy to switch from a Profile to Manual mode with the popup menu.

So if you don't like what the profile does automatically, you can easily change the correction to a manual one and fiddle with it yourself. You don't get the feeling that the manual option is second rate, just a second option. Another tool, in short.

A manual adjustment to Chromstic Aberration is not a bad idea, in fact.

You can easily see the effect as you make the adjustment. Exposure Software provided a before and after set of images, which we'll show as two thumbnails you can enlarge with a click to see both the effect and the controls.

Before. No correction applied.

After. Chromatic Aberration correction applied.


While that hits the highlights of the new release (at least in the time we've had to explore it), Jimmy Beech puts using Exposure X5 in perspective:

That's an articulate summary of what makes Exposure X5 special, from the emulsion emulations (as a history of photography) to the artistic effects that can enhance an image's emotional response.

To illustrate that point, we added another layer to our image for a Vintage 3 border to our dahlia before applying a Saturated Glow whose opacity we reduced and a Scratches 8 paper texture.

The Vintage 3 border focused attention on the dahlia by containing it while Saturated Glow took care of a problem in top left corner. And the Scratches 8 texture brought another dimension to the image, arguing it isn't a flower, it's a photographic print.


Exposure X5 is available now from Exposure Software for $119. Upgrade pricing is available to owners of previous versions of Exposure for $89.

Exposure X5 is also the central app in the $149 Exposure X5 Bundle. This integrated collection bundles Exposure X5 with Alien Skin's award-winning Blow Up and Snap Art tools to add high-quality image upsizing and natural media special effects. Upgrades are $99.

A 30-day fully-featured free trial of Exposure is available. Visit Exposure Software to learn more and download the trial.


With each new release of Exposure, the company brings new efficiencies and tools to the task of Raw image editing and artistic image making. It isn't a list of bug fixes with a new feature tossed on top, like many of its competitors. It's the evolution of a grand plan.

Which says a lot about the company's original vision in establishing not only a solid foundation for the future but also its expertise in moving smartly down the road with each new release.

We called Exposure X4.5 a "creative partner" and that goes to the heart of what makes this image editing tool special. It can wring out every drop of beauty from your Raw capture but it can also transform that image into something more evocative than the capture alone could.

That's saying something.

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