Review, BreezeBrowser Pro

Introduction

Breeze Systems $69 BreezeBrowser Pro has been installed on my computer(s) for close to seven years.  It's a software product which I used to find invaluable, but about a year ago my latest renewal expired and I found myself for one reason or the other not that motivated to renew.  So I didn't.  Over a year has passed and I found myself wondering if anything with the program had changed much, or if a revisit would remind me why it was still on my computer.

BreezeBrowser Pro is a mature and refined image browser which has almost every major function a professional would expect a top level image browser to have.  More, as a mature product there are no glitches during use or problems during installation.  Breezebrowser Pro just works, and it works great across multiple platforms including a P4, Core 2 Duo, Dual Core, and a new i7 workstation, all of which I've personally tested.

The folks at Breeze Systems sent me the keys and in less than ten minutes I'd downloaded and installed the latest version and started browsing through my rather large image library.  It felt like hooking up with an old friend who I hadn't see in a long time.  Comfortable and rewarding.  We knew so much about each other, but time had passed and we had much catching up to do.

Why did I stop using BreezeBrowser Pro?  One word:  Lightroom.  Adobe's Lightroom came on the scene hot on the heels of Apple's Aperture and it was love at first click.  Before my workflow was Windows Explorer, Breezebrowser, and Capture One Pro before finally making it to Photoshop.  Suddenly it was only Lightroom and Photoshop.  Lightroom has most of the image browser features I needed and the convenience of having them integrated into a top quality RAW converter should not be understated.

Let's take a closer look at BreezeBrowser Pro and see what's under the hood, and then see if perhaps it has evolved in such a manner that I'll want to reintegrate it into my workflow alongside Lightroom.

 

The Main View

 

Breezebrowser Pro Focus Points viewing

AF Point Overlay (notice the single AF point is directly on the eye?)

 

The main view in BreezeBrowser Pro puts a large preview image, exfil data, a histogram, and some simple controls for rotating the image, moving to the next image, or bringing up more exfil details.  The normal expected menu choices run across the top and icons for common functions are located underneath the menus.

Under the "View" menu one of my favorite functions can be enabled. "View Focus Points."  See in the sample above the 45 AF points overlaying the image?  Notice the enabled/used AF point on her left eye is red?  BreezeBrowser Pro reads your original image and knows which AF point you used, where it was on the sensor, and then overlays it onto the image for your review.  This function is invaluable!

Many photographers both amateur and professional routinely turn out softer images than I personally find acceptable.  And it's not necessary.  By paying attention to your lens selection, settings, AF mode, and where you place your autofocus point, you can ensure your images are always tack sharp.

The problem is that most photographers don't have a way to review their autofocus points so they never catch their errors.  Usually, only your factory software will allow you to review which AF point was used and we all know most of you have never broke the plastic cover on the software that came with your camera much less installed it.  We shun OEM software for a reason, the reason is most of it is junk and a waste of our time.  More, we don't want to clutter our hard disk and registry with such software.

BreezeBrowser Pro allows us to review our AF points, where they are on the subject, and this ability to review can help improve your images by magnitudes.  Whenever I get a new camera and learn its AF system, its habit to go over each and every shoot with BreezeBrowser with the AF points view enabled.  I do this with difficult shoots, or any shoots where I seem to be getting too many soft images.  This is especially true with portrait or wedding shoots.  BreezeBrowser doesn't lie.  If you missed your AF point it will be right there for you to see.  You'll no longer need to blame something else.  Has anyone noticed many photography forums are full of posts about "defective lenses?"  I've never had a defective lens.

 

Thumbnail View

 

Breezebrowser Pro Thumbnail view

Large Thumbnail View

 

The thumbnail view lets you navigate your computer and network through the folder tree on the left, and your thumbnails are on the right.  Breezebrowser Pro is FAST!  It creates and displays thumbnails faster than any program I've ever used.  Display is near instantaneous.  You also get a choice of thumbnail size.  What you see in the image above is the "large" thumbnail size.

 

Breeze Browser Pro Navigation

Extra Large Thumbnail View

 

The "extra large" thumbnail size is special in that you can set the size to whatever you like.  In the above image the thumbnail size is set to 320 x 320 pixels.  You can also drag the folder structure window pane along the width to take up any extra room that remains.

 

Breeze Systems, extra large thumbs

Small Thumbnail View

 

Above you can see the "small" thumbnail size.  I wonder if anyone notices there is no "medium" choice?  Only small, large, and extra large.  As you move over the thumbnails a customizable set of exfil shooting data appears in the status bar that runs along the bottom of the working space.  The thumbnails themselves show the type of file (TIF, RAW, JPEG) along the top, and the file name along the bottom.  The layout is both informative and intuitive.

 

Multiple Monitor Support

 

Breezebrowser Pro small thumbnails

Spanning Two Monitors

 

As you can see from the image above BreezeBrowser Pro can take advantage of multiple monitors in several ways.  One of the most common ways is to simply stretch the program across your entire monitor or two monitors side by side like I did in the sample above.  If you have one of the new 30 inch monitors you can stretch the BreezeBrowser Pro along it's entire width and fill your screen(s) with hundreds of thumbnail images.  You can also place an "actual image" window on any monitor and control it through the UI on another monitor.

 

Breeze Systems Breezebrowser Pro Actual Image

"Actual Image View" across two monitors

 

At any time you can right click and choose "View Actual Image" and this will bring up a separate window with the actual image and not  preview.  Using your mouse's scroll wheel you can easily zoom in/out as desired.  If you have two monitors side by side you can view the actual image across both monitors like I did in the sample above.

You can also go to "Preferences" and set up BreezeBrowser Pro so that the sequence of windows suits your tastes.  For instance, I have my installation set up so that clicking on a thumbnail automatically brings me into a large preview image.  I can then flip through individual large preview images, or go back to the thumbnail view.  At any time I can right-click on an image and choose "View Actual Image."  You can change this order in Preferences.  For instance you can click on a thumbnail and have it automatically bring up the actual image vs. a large preview image.  Almost every feature in BreezeBrowser Pro is customizable.

 

Extra Features

 

Breezebrowser Pro Preferences

Geo-Tagging Options

 

In the above image you can see I've clicked on the "Tools" menu and highlighted the "Geo-Tag images using GPS Data."  There are several more GPS choices as "Geo-Tagging" is becoming quite popular.  In fact a regular contributor to this column, Akulka, has purchased a geo-tagger hardware device and has promised a full review after he's used it awhile.  I can't wait, sounds like a lot of fun and very useful to boot!  I've been entering the coordinates of some unusual and hard to find shooting locations using my hand held GPS for years.  Now it appears to have become a lot easier and automatic.

 

Breezebrowser Pro Tools

HTML Web Gallery Setup

 

Another great feature is BreezeBrowsers ability to build a HTML image gallery to post on your website.  Depending on your web skills you might find this very useful.  Personally I don't find it nearly as useful as Lightroom's Web Gallery module which allows you to easily build and upload Flash or HTML web galleries, nor nearly as capable.  Still, it's a nice feature nicely integrated.  There is also a slideshow function.

 

Breeze Systems Breezebrowser Pro HTMO Image gallery

Many View Options

 

Under the view menu you can see many choices including overlaying grid lines on the image.  You can choose a host of view options to suit most any need.  There are also options for updating IPTC and exfil data.  Basic RAW conversion is also featured.

 

Summary

Overall I really enjoyed using BreezeBrowser Pro after such a long break from its use.  It reminded me of just how fast and easy to use a image browser should be.  Installation was very fast and smooth, no errors or issues over the last few weeks I've been reviewing the program, and did I mention it's fast?  It's very fast!

Will I integrate BreezeBrowser Pro back into my workflow?  No.  While Lightroom's browse function isn't nearly as fast nor intuitive as BreezeBrowser Pro, its compensated by me already being in Lightroom to process RAW images.  I think we're going to see image applications more and more workflow specific, or in other words tailored to the most common workflows photographers use.  Each products feature set assumes a photographer's workflow to need a certain set of features and this assumption will make or break the success of an application.  To be fair, these companies don't really assume anything.  They put a lot of effort into customer feedback and research.

And this brings me to the sticky question of if I'll renew my BreezeBrowser subscription?  I'm not yet sure.  I do like being able to bring up such a capable browser when searching for images but I miss not having a exfil or keyword search engine as Lightroom does.  I'll also GREATLY miss the ability to review each shoot with the AF point overlay.  For now I can use my old version with the cameras I have to do this, and when I upgrade my cameras I'll probably find myself upgrading so BreezeBrowser will support my new camera and allow me to review my AF points.  Which in effect is allowing me to review my photography skills.  I'm not exaggerating this.  If you're having issues with soft images download a trial version of BreezeBrowser Pro and see where you've been going wrong.

I really like BreezeBrowser Pro.  It's one of the best browsers on the market.  If you have a need for such a browser you won't go wrong with a Breeze Systems product.  In the near future we'll be reviewing DSLR Remote which I can tell you now is the best such product on the market.  Look for the review soon.