A great way to FLY through your images at Lightspeed! By Tom Tweedel

When I first got my hands on FastPictureViewer I was thinking it was just another photo viewer/organizer.  After using it I discovered it was much less, and much more than I expected.

 

Tomtom tweedel   Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative.  Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area. Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here!  I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.

When Tom agreed to become part of our small select product review team I was both excited and grateful.  I hope you enjoy this and future reviews by Tom.  For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books.  Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: tomsds@austin.rr.com

 

Introduction

When I first got my hands on FastPictureViewer I was thinking it was just another photo viewer/organizer.  After using it I discovered it was much less, and much more than I expected.

The sole purpose of fast picture viewer is to be a front end program for viewing and picking photos from a large collection. It was originally written for sports photographers who had to quickly sort and pick from thousands of images.  But if you're not a sports photographer with thousands of images does it really have a use?  The answer is YES!

We all have our different workflows.  Copying images from a card, loading them into software package(s) for viewing, organizing, processing and forwarding to their end use (print/web/email etc).  Applications like Lightroom and Aperture can almost do it all.  If you’ve got top of the line memory cards, card readers, drives and computers it can be configured to do it fast.

However not everyone has access to top of the line equipment all the time or the desire to configure their settings and workspace just to view images.  That’s when this little program can really shine.

 

Installation

FastPictureViewer installation is both smooth and small. It doesn’t take up a lot of resources (those of you with small SSD drives on your laptop take note of this). For better performance you might have to install and ActiveX plug-in to use a smoking video card if you have it.

 

Configuration

After you have it installed it launches pretty quick (much quicker than larger applications).  After it is running you have to do two things to get going.  You have to designate the folder that contains the images you wish to look at and you have to designate the folder for the “Keepers” you select.  After you're ready to roll.

For those who want to go even faster there is native support for both 32 bit and 64bit operating systems as well as multiple options for configuration and optimization for use and performance.  You can designate how much of your processor and RAM you wish to allocate to it as well as other settings.  One VERY nice feature is that the application can be color managed.  You can designate what ICC color profile you wish to view your images with.

 

Configuraiton

FastPictureViewer has a multitude of options for configuring its feature set and performance.

 

Use

You are presented with a very minimal interface that lets you quickly zip through your collection.

 

Screen

The main screen devotes itself to keeping it clean, easy and presenting a full view of your pictures.

 

It’s really intended that you learn a few keyboard shortcuts, though there is a GUI or menu based support for the main operations.

 

Menu

The all settings and information can be accessed from one simple menu and a couple of buttons on the bottom bar.

 

In optimal use you will use your arrow keys to quickly flip through your collection of pictures.  When you see one that you want you click the Keep/Copy button (or CTRL+K) and this copies the file into the Keepers folder you designated.

 

exif

In addition to your picture you have the option of including a floating window with Vital EXIF data and even a histogram if you want it.

 

In addition to copying them you can also tag them with some rating metadata.  This metadata is read by popular RAW converters like LR and C1 Pro and translates as a “Star” Rating.  So when your flying through your list you can tag a few before transferring them over for better sorting/filtering once your into processing your images.

You can also delete images but you get a confirmation prompt which kind of slows things down.  Ideally your only going to want to keep the ones you tag and then toss the rest.

While viewing the images zooming in is very easy. If you’re using your mouse simply click and you get an instant zoomed view of your file (at a zoom % of your choosing).  Hold the button and you can pan around on the image checking it out in detail.  Very fast, very efficient.

 

zoom

One click zoom on the creatures eye gives us an instant 200% magnification view

 

Moving through images is not limited to the arrow keys or one at a time. There is a small scroll bar if you know where to look for it.  This shows you which image out of how many you are on and you can drag it down to a later point in your collection.

 

bar

The scroll bar, while not very obvious is extremely useful.

 

Once you’re done with your selections you can import this reduced set of images from your keeper folder into your photo processing program and go from there.

 

Benefits

So what does this program give me that I didn’t have before?  The answer is speed.

It is a fast and light front end that can significantly speed up part of your workflow, namely getting images into your photo processing program.

I do a lot of my work on a mid grade Dell Laptop.  Neither the laptop, its hard drive, the card reader or the cards are top of the line.  Copying over the entire card and then loading it all up in Lightroom can take several minutes.  Then sorting from image to image in Lightroom (waiting for views to load) to pick the keepers isn’t the fastest.

Enter FastPictureViewer.  Rather than copying the entire card over to the hard drive and then loading all the images in Lightroom you can simply point the images folder to your card and then view the images directly from the card without copying.   FastPictureViewer is quick and efficient enough to do this in more or less real time. The delay from image to image is much smaller than in Lightroom even when reading from a card.  Then when you run into an image you want you can copy it over to your keepers folder.  The copy happens in the background as you continue zipping through your images.  When your done you have a pared down collection of files, rated if you want and in a folder on your hard drive ready to import into your photo processor.

In addition to a photo choosing utility FastPictureViewer makes a good photo viewing program.  There have been times when I just wanted to quickly look at some images.  Using large programs like Lightroom can be somewhat cumbersome.  You have to wait for it to launch, possibly switch to the proper catalog (and wait for it to relaunch) then import the files into Lightroom making sure that it either does or doesn’t get copied to some directory, then wait for them to import.  If there are a bunch of files this can take a while.

With FastPictureViewer you can launch the application, point it to the proper directory and then start looking.  Much less overhead, much faster results.  In this way it makes it a good go to program for viewing photos, even after they have been processed as it can read many types of files.

An emerging market I see for this program is for photographers who have updated their laptops with SSD flash based hard drives.  Often these drives are not much bigger than a couple of memory cards that will get filled up in a shoot or two. Especially as the megapixel count continues to climb.  While and SSD equipped laptop might not benefit as much from the raw speed of using FastPictureViewer to select the pictures it will benefit from the ability to do it in real time from the card copying only the keepers.  This keeps down the amount of space used and saves you the trouble of having to clean out all the culled images after the fact to conserve space.

 

Conclusion

If you’ve got a state of the art computer, superfast hard drives, UDMA cards and SATA Bus card readers this program may not do as much for you as most operations might be almost instant anyway.  If you don’t have top level hardware (or your having to work away from your main machine in the field) this is a cheap an easy way to get some of those gains in speed without investing hundreds in upgrades.  If you’re looking for a boost in speed it is well worth the consideration to see if it will find a place in your workflow.

 

Steve's Comments

First, I want to thank Tom for his excellent review.  He's done an excellent job of putting forth his personal viewpoint and keeping the benefits to his workflow in perspective.  Coming from a different perspective I'd like to give you mine.

My computer hardware is pretty much leading edge so I have the processing power to use more function intensive programs like Lightroom to import and view my images.  And in fact I prefer it this way because Lightroom is a much more feature rich platform (compared to FastPictureViewer) and I use many if not most of these features, which ultimately saves me loads of time in the processing department.

I installed FastPictureViewer on my PC several months ago when we received the licensing information.  I initially set it up and was impressed this viewer took advantage of powerful hardware.  You can probably tweak FastPictureViewer for better performance with advanced hardware more than any other imaging software I use.  So while I can totally understand how this program could benefit the user of a less powerful system, I'm left wondering who this viewer was designed for.  Certainly most professional sports photographers use modern hardware, but I suppose in the field they're often limited to laptops and then FastPictureViewer would indeed have some advantages.

But for someone using a fairly modern desktop, or even the latest laptops, I don't see it.  I can import images to Lightroom (which I consider null time anyway since I can do something else while the images upload) and once loaded I can run through them as fast as I need for any practical means, fast enough where I really can't tell any difference between moving through images in Lightroom or through FastPictureViewer.  The difference is that in Lightroom once I find/reach/segregate the image(s) in question.. I can then do something with them without having to open another program, import them into that program (can you say Lightroom?), and THEN start working with them.

So while I admire.. no.. actually I marvel.. at the beauty of this viewer, it is still essentially a viewer and on today's machines users expect and need a lot more from their digital imaging programs than just "viewing."  We want a program that processes the images, manages the images (database functions), and lets us view and present the images in a variety of ways.

If you're running a marginally powerful PC then I recommend this as a viewer without reservation.  But if you're running a machine based on the faster Core 2 Duo processors (with plenty of RAM) or any of the new i3, i5, and i7 processors then I believe it makes a lot more sense to go with something like Lightroom or Aperture.. which is exactly why Lightroom is the most popular imaging program out there.