Topaz Lens Effects isn't quite a traditional filter either. Rather it's a separate application that uses the plug-in architecture to pass it to its application.
The list of features as follows:
The only specific filter that interests me is being able to control the bokeh. Although many of my lenses are pretty fast apertures, occasionally I'm not completely happy with the subject isolation.
The interface in this version is a little kludgy. At least on my MacBook Pro, it jumps around on the screen and seems to have some issues with screen refresh. But despite this annoyance the interface is relatively simple to use:
The interface is somewhat similar to working with Lightroom so this won't seem too different to those users, but those used to Photoshop will need to get used to the split panes and application browser based menu options on the right hand side.
Testing out the specific Bokeh control was pretty easy to do. In this example I chose a subject that I wanted to get a little more isolation from the background, but also to bring a little more focus on it. Along the Left hand side, there's a few preset options to start with, much like Lightroom and its own presets.
Painting the depth map was not very intuitive. However to be fair, I only did a cursory glance over the manual and started to just go to work with it. The options do have a few menu tip helps, but I do recommend reading the manual thoroughly to get a good understand of what each slider can do. Once I figured out things, it was pretty easy to isolate and paint my depth field map. Much like Photoshop's magic wand, Topaz Lens Effects does a pretty good job of automatically selecting areas that you're hoping to paint. It's not perfect, and it doesn't follow any standard UI rules so I spent a lot more time clicking around to get things right.
The speed of the whole application isn't too bad. I monitored my CPU and saw it chugging away and giving me a relatively snappy preview. Having the ability to paint and see the instant results is certainly important in modern day image editing software.
Overall the ability to paint my bokeh is much better than Photoshop's built in filter option. I can even control the lighting in the selected areas which is somewhat similar to some Dynamic Range Increase techniques. The fact that this can turn your more inexpensive lenses into a more expensive BOKEHish lens might be something that is worth consideration.
Until the May 27th, the filter is on sale for $49.99 (Reg. $79.99). Visit http://www.topazlabs.com/lenseffects/ to download the 30 day trial and give the other filters a try.