Tonality Pro review

Recently I heard about a new tool for Black and White conversion called Tonality Pro. It is on of the interesting product produced by the guys from MacPhun and it addresses only to Mac users. Tonality Pro can be downloaded and tried for free for 15 days. I will write this informal review having as a reference Nik Silver Efex Pro which is what I currently use for my black and white work all time. As Nik Silver Efex is generally recognised as a market standard and a product of high quality and maturity in the world of photography plugins, I must admit that the bar is very high for any competitor.

Tonality Pro comes as standalone application or as plugin for Photoshop CC/Lightroom/Elements/Aperture. I am going to test it only as plugin for Photoshop as my workflow is entirely in CC, so going out in an external application and importing image back to CC does not really make sense for me.The first think I must say is that it is a bit slow. Both lunching it and applying some preset to the image seems to take a bit more then other plugins on my Mac Book Pro. The interface is looking very good and intuitive with presets at the bottom, controls in the right and a bunch of quick access tools at the top of the screen. Presets can be toggled on/off to allow a much larger view of the image. One funny thing is that the presets are shown in landscape format, even if the image is a portrait, but thats just a minor issue that doesn’t bother me too much. There are quite a lot of presets, so everybody can find something interesting and useful and start from there doing his/her conversion. They are grouped based on  type of image (Street, Architecture, Outside) or by type of effect they want to achieve (Vintage, HDR, Film Emulation).

Tonality pro offers layers. You can easily stack up various adjustments, with different opacity and even more, you can mask in/out various parts of the image using the brush mode. If this is vary handy for standalone mode of Tonality Pro or for the Lightroom/Aperture plugin; even for a user of Tonality Pro from Photoshop it can be very helpful because as you can stack up multiple presets directly in Tonality Pro without having to go in and out of it multiple times and then have to use Photoshop masks to combine effects. One very cool feature is the fact that a layer can be applied either on top of the previous layer or on top of the original image. Of course applying a layer on top of original image with full opacity will ignore the effect of previous layer.

The plugin controls offers pretty much the standard functionality of a B&W conversion tool plus some creative effects that are usually found in different plugins for other vendors:
  • Exposure (standard and adaptive) and  Contrast (standard and smart – according to their online help, it ads a glow to the image when increased and flattens the image when removed)
  • Highlights, Shadows, Midtones, Whites and Blacks
  • Clarity and Structure – that offers controls on both Structure and Micro Structure (take care with the later as it seems to amplify the noise as well)
  • Color filters and Highlights/Saturation for each colour channel. Here I can notice that colour saturation can help bringing back some colour in some of the channels, and I could see a usage for muted colors processing
  • Tone curve
  • Split toning that allows you to colorize highlights and shadow with different tones for split effect
  • Glow for creating a soft feel to the image
  • Lens blur
  • Texture overlay for adding one of the many predefined textures
  • Vignette
  • Grain
  • Photo frame
  • Opacity – in order to apply a smaller opacity to the current layer
In the end, I must list a few observations and conclusion based on the quick review that I did:
  • Tonality Pro offers lots of predefined plugins, much more then what Silver Efex has. Running through them, I can find a few of them that I can use in my processing. I could say that it will be always something from everyone.
  • The amount of options that are available in Tonality Pro is higher then in Silver Efex Pro, however there are things that are absolutely useless for a black and white photographer like me (like textures or glow) . My impression is that the guys from MacPhun tried to hook up many different categories of users with this plugin: both the classic photographers like me that are looking for another powerful black and white conversion tool and those artists that are more touched by glow, blur or texture.
  • The interface is working ok in general , but I could see some glitches. However there is nothing that makes it unusable or that cannot be workaround and I am pretty sure those issues can be easily fixed.
  • The Film presets are quite cool, something that I could use for my street photography work.
  • A nice cool feature is that if you apply some adjustment from some particular setting (lets say Contrast Smart) and the collapse the contrast controls, you will gonna see highlighted the Contrast section , as a reminder there is something that you have used.
  • Overall Tonality Pro positions itself right next to Nik Silver Efex and can be a good alternative for it. As a Nik user I will probably stick with it as I am very used with Nik and I have my preset collection in there.  But keeping in mind that Tonality Pro was released this summer, its impressive how it positioned itself as a strong player in the market and depending on the future plans of the guys from Macphun, I can see a bright future for it. I will definitely keep an eye on it and take a look at the next version when it comes.


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