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Home » ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 Review – Lightroom Killer?

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 Review – Lightroom Killer?

ACDSee Ultimate 2023 Review

In this ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 Review, we’re looking at one of the best photo editing applications on the market today and an alternative to Lightroom which you can buy and own outright.

With outstanding Face Recognition-powered photo management and AI-augmented layer-based photo editing, ACDSee Ultimate 2023 wants for little. Nevertheless, ACDSee Photo Ultimate faces strong competition from Lightroom and the mid-tier ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2023. So, let’s find out which is the best Jump to Conclusion.

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Table of Contents

What is ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 is an all-in-one photo studio for Windows PC combining extensive photo management, raw processing, and layer-based photo editing. As a result, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 is an excellent choice if you want to contain your digital photography workflow within a single software application.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023

What does ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 do?

Photo Management

ACDSee began life as a photo management tool and can bring order to the most chaotic photo collections. For example, you can rate your images, tag them with any number of keywords, and place them in any number of categories.

The Manage Tab in ACDSee Ultimate 2023

As a result, you can create Smart Categories that, for instance, feature all images taken in 2020 with a Nikon D750 featuring the Keyword ‘Christmas.’ But that’s not all.

ACDSee Ultimate 2023’s headline photo management feature is Face Recognition. Moreover, it works very well. You begin by manually adding the names of those appearing in your photos. As you do, ACDSee Ultimate will automatically crawl through your back catalog and tag all your old photographs.

Face Recognition is effective and convenient.

Photo Editing

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 features two separate photo editors. The first, the Develop Tab, is a Raw developer – similar to Lightroom and enables you to adjust exposure, alter white balance, and enhance color and contrast. Regarding usability, ACDSee Ultimate 2023’s Develop Tab is my all-time favorite raw process, thanks to its instant reaction time, superb ergonomics, and powerful tools.

My favorite Raw development tool

In addition to the Develop Tab, ACDSee Ultimate 2023 also has a Photoshop-like layer-based editor. Instead of writing your adjustments directly to the image, you apply them as adjustment layers which can be stacked upon your image to create compound effects. You can also add shapes and text and delete and replace parts of your image.

As a result, you can do things in ACDSee Ultimate that you cannot do with non-layer-based photo editing applications such as Lightroom.

ACDSee Ultimate 2023’s Photoshop-Esque layer-based photo editor

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 Key Features

Face Edit AI

ACDSee Ultimate 2023’s Face Edit AI is one of the best AI portrait-enhancing tools I have used. Like many other AI Portrait tools, Face Edit AI enables you to brighten eyes, widen smiles, and whiten teeth without brushing masks onto your Subject.

I am manually tuning the Face Edit AI’s auto mask.

Therefore, the only thing you must do to thicken your Subject’s eyebrows is sliding the Eyebrows Thickness slider. But Face Edit AI goes further than most. For example, you can redirect your Subject’s gaze and manipulate someone’s frown into a smile. It is impressive stuff.

Another unusual feature of Face Edit AI is the ability to reshape the automatic mask by pulling on a series of anchor points. Yet this is not to say Face Edit AI isn’t accurate as it is. But unlike many other Portrait enhancers, you have an easy way to adjust the mask should you need to.

ACDSee Ultimate 2023 AI Face Edit

Remove Background

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 features AI-powered object recognition masking, enabling it to identify and mask your Subject and remove their background.

Removing the background is easy and quick with ACDSee Ultimate 2023

And like other background removal tools, its effectiveness depends on the complexity of the photo. You’ll get good results sometimes, but it depends on how closely you look. But being a layer-based editor, you can now slide in a new background or incorporate your cut-out subject into a graphic.

Overall, ACDSee’s Remove Background is as effective as any other I’ve used and, curiously, much faster than most.

Select Subject

Select Subject, assess your photo, and automatically selects your photo’s Subject, enabling you to isolate your adjustments to that area.

It’s hard to see here, but look closely; you’ll see the Fantail is selected.

Overall, Select Subject is very fast and straightforward to use. Plus, it almost always correctly identifies your Subject. However, like most AI masking tools, the final result will always depend on the complexity of your photo and how close you’re looking for aberrations.

Select Sky

Select Sky is an automatic sky-selecting tool rather than a Luminar-Esque Sky Replace feature. Of course, you can use the Select Sky Feature to remove one Sky and slide in another, but you won’t get the same automatic scene relighting and reflections found on other products. In other words, you’ll have to do the work yourself.

Sky Select is not the same as Sky Replacement. But you can use it to delete a Sky and insert another manually.

Blur Background

The Blur Background tool adds background blur, or Bokeh, to any photo you’ve ever taken, and like many of ACDSee’s new AI tools, it is easy to use, swift to apply, and effective overall.

Blur Background AI in ACDSee Ultimate 2023

However, Blur Background lacks any adjustment; therefore, you cannot adjust the blur’s severity, depth, or aesthetic. This seems strange since ACDSee Ultimate 2023 already has a vastly more versatile blur adjustment layer. Therefore, you might prefer to ‘Super Select’ your Subject, inverse the selection, and apply a traditional blur filter as demonstrated in the video below.

Watch me remove my background using ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023

Black and White Background

Black and White Background automatically identifies and preserves your Subject’s color while converting the rest of the image into black and white.

The Black and White Background action does what it’s supposed to quickly and accurately.

As with Blur Background, you cannot manipulate the Black and White effect. Therefore, mask your Subject with Super Select, inverse the selection, and apply whatever effect you want.

Smart Erase

Smart Erase is an automatic erase tool that aims to seamlessly remove an object from your photo like it was never there. Sometimes it works, particularly with more minor features on uniform backgrounds. But the more complex the removal, the less effective it becomes.

ACDSee Photo Merge

ACDSee Photo merge combines existing HDR and Focus Stacking features with a new Panorama Stitching tool. And I’m happy to report that the HDR tool has vastly improved since Ultimate 2022.

Photo Merge AI combines HDR, Focus Stacking, and Panorama Stitching into a single window.

Nevertheless, ACDSee Photo Merge only offers basic implementations of these features, and I would direct enthusiasts to specialized alternatives.

Shape Selection Tool

ACDSee Ultimate 2023’s shape selection tool works a little like the Polygonal selection tool in Photoshop, except it leaves a series of anchor points that you can adjust afterward. Plus, you can add additional anchor points to fine-tune your selection.

The Shape Selector Tool. Note the manually drawn lines and adjustable anchor points.

While this may be the age of AI-based auto masking – manual selection remains the most precise method. And the Shape Selection tool is one of the better manual selection tools I have used.

What’s missing in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023

ACDSee Ultimate 2023 is an incredibly mature and refined product with low latency, excellent ergonomics, and great tools. Therefore it’s no surprise that my biggest gripe centers around the new AI tools.

Specifically, the new AI tools are confined to the layer-based Edit tab. While this is not nesecerrily a problem, I tend to use the Develop tab more often, and I would find the inclusion of tools such as Face Edit and Subject selection useful. Technically speaking, I could bounce one photo between the two edit modes. However, this would be as inconvenient as it sounds.

I’m also surprised that ACDSee Ultimate has yet to feature AI-based noise reduction, sharpening, and upscaling – particularly since ON1 Photo Raw, DxO PhotoLab, and Lightroom feature at least one of these technologies. Fortunately, you can buy such tools separately, like Topaz Photo AI, but keep your fingers crossed for 2024. Read Topaz Photo AI Review

How much does ACDSee Ultimate Cost?

You can buy ACDSee Ultimate 2023 outright for USD 134.95 or $74.95 if upgrading from a previous version of ACDSee Ultimate.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to ACDSee Ultimate 2023 for as little as $8.90 monthly and receive five additional ACDSee Applications and 100GB of free Cloud storage.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 alternatives

ACDSee Ultimate 2023 vs 2022

The most notable difference between ACDSee Ultimate 2023 and 2022 is the Edit Tab’s new AI tools. Namely, AI Face Edit and Subject recognition masking tools.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2022

I upgrade my copy of ACDSee Ultimate each year. But if you’re disinterested in 2023’s new AI features, I’d wait to see what ACDSee Photo Studio 2024 brings.

ACDSee Ultimate vs Professional

ACDSee Ultimate has everything ACDSee Professional has, plus layer-based photo editing, Face Edit AI, and automatic subject recognition masking. Therefore, for the first time in years, I think ACDSee Ultimate offers better value overall than ACDSee Professional.

Yet, this is not to say ACDSee Professional isn’t worth it. On the contrary, ACDSee Profession still has Ultimate’s excellent Develop tab and Face recognition-powered photo management and costs much less. Read ACDSee Professional 2023 Review.

ACDSee Ultimate vs Lightroom

Thanks to its layer-based photo editing, ACDSee Ultimate is a more capable photo editor than Lightroom, which is more in common with ACDSee Ultimate’s Develop tab. Furthermore, you can buy ACDSee Ultimate outright for as much as it costs to rent Lightroom for 18 months. Unfortunately, you cannot buy Lightroom outright.

However, Lightroom’s weakness is also its strength. Specifically, for just $9.99, you get never-ending updates, 1TB worth of Cloud Storage for your backup, and the ability to edit, view, and distribute your images to any computer, tablet, or phone with an internet connection. If this sounds appealing to you, $9.99 a month is a bargain.

But if you don’t care about continual updates, automated backups, and the distribution powers of the cloud, you may as well save some money and buy ACDSee Ultimate outright and own it forever. Read Lightroom Review.

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Even before you factor in its low price, ACDSee Ultimate 2023 remains one of my favorite all-in-one photo management and editing suites. Its photo management is world-class, and I adore its Raw Develop mode.

But ACDSee Ultimate remains my go-to Photo Studio because of its supreme ergonomics and low latency. It’s lovely to use and spends more time waiting for me than I for it – which is how it should be. Yet, in previous years, ACDSee Ultimate looked slightly stale compared to its AI-embracing competition. But not anymore.

AI comes to ACDSee Ultimate.

The AI features in ACDSee Ultimate 2023 are remarkably effective and are comparable to similar features in products such as Luminar Neo and ON1 Photo Raw. Surprisingly, they run much faster in ACDSee Ultimate but lack options and adjustments – except one.

Face Edit AI is terrific and possibly the best portrait enhancer I’ve used yet. It’s responsive, practical, and offers a few things I’ve not seen, such as frown-smile conversion and the ability to turn your Subject’s gaze. I also like the Subject Select tool as it does exactly what it’s supposed to do and quickly. However, not all is well,

What about the Develop tab

ACDSee’s Develop tab is my favorite way to process my raw files. It’s fast, well-equipped, and ergonomically superb. Unfortunately, it features none of the new AI tools. If I want to load up Face Edit AI or auto-select my Subject – I must switch to the layer-based edit tab. Shame.

ACDSee Ultimate Compared

Compared to ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2023, I consider ACDSee Ultimate 2023 to be of better value thanks to its new AI-powered tools and layer-based photo editing. However, if you don’t care about any of that, the cheaper ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2023 still has Ultimate’s Face Recognition and near-perfect Develop mode.

Choosing ACDSee Ultimate 2023 over Lightroom depends on how you feel about Lightroom’s Cloud capabilities. Lightroom is a bargain if you want automated backups to the cloud and the ability to untether your photo collection from your PC and view, edit, and distribute your images with ease. If you don’t need any of that, you might as well save some money and buy ACDSee Ultimate.

Is ACDSee Ultimate 2023 worth it?

If you are new to ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate, Ultimate 2023 is the best version yet and one of the best all-in-one photo studios you can buy – especially considering its low price.

If you’re an existing customer holding out on an older release, Ultimate 2023 is the most significant upgrade since Face Recognition arrived in Ultimate 2020. That being said, if you exclude the new AI tools, Ultimate 2023 is much the same as Ultimate 2022, so your decision hinges on how much you want Face Edit AI and the company.

Overall, ACDSee Ultimate 2023 is one of the best ways to edit and manage your photos. It’s well-featured, quick, and pleasant to use. Highly Recommended.

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Read More about ACDSee Photo Studio

ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2023 Review – Not for Photo Editing

ACDSee Home delivers outstanding photo management for an affordable price. Just don’t use it for photo editing.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 Review – Lightroom Killer?

ACDSee Ultimate 2023 is a significant upgrade on 2022 and features one of the best AI portrait enhancers I’ve used.

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2023 Review

ACDSee Professional is the best all-in-one photo studio on the market today.

ACDSee vs Lightroom – Why Subscribe when you can own?

Why pay forever for Lightroom when you can own ACDSee outright.

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2021 Review

ACDSee Professional 2021 is best all-in-one photo editor under US$200

2 thoughts on “ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 Review – Lightroom Killer?”

  1. Hi Richard.
    Looks like your website is going well. You have some great reviews. I’m definitely interested in ACDSEE ULTIMATE 2023. Any deals going at the moment? I’m going to update my computer, as it’s too old for these new programs. So have to make big decisions there – a computer that will cope with what is needed for this program. And all the photos!!!
    Hope fully catch up with you again soon. Those gorgeous kids will be growing up!!!
    Sue Mulvey

    1. Thanks Sue, thanks for the kind words and I hope you and family are doing well. There has been some excellent deals on ACDSee but, for you needs, you might also consider Lightroom. Because Lightroom includes 1TB of storage, it takes away many of your storage concerns. Plus, its an excellent photo editing app in its own right. Check it out 🙂 –

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