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Image download: ZoomBrowser EX/ImageBrowser

ZoomBrowser EX is an image management system from Canon. It is software that acts as a hub from which to manage all the images produced by Canon digital cameras, as well as other images on your computer.

The older versions of ZoomBrowser were originally developed to complement the PowerShot and IXUS ranges of Canon digital cameras. However, it soon became clear that EOS digital SLR users would also benefit from the features it offers. To make this possible, Canon has taken the earlier software and improved almost every feature to make it more powerful and feature-filled, yet easier and quicker to use.

Viewing modes

ZoomBrowser has three viewing modes for organising and reviewing your images ? Zoom mode, Scroll mode and Preview mode. On the Mac (ImageBrowser) the viewing modes are called Preview/List and Timetunnel. They form the core of the program and give easy access to your images, allowing you to review images in a way that suits you.

To switch between the three viewing modes, simply click on the appropriate tab.

Zoom mode

Zoom mode is unique to Canon. It displays folders and subfolders as light boxes on the screen, with thumbnails of the images contained within them. The mode allows you to search through multiple folders, viewing the images contained within them and then select on either a folder or image basis. The thumbnail size is determined by the number of images within each folder and the amount of desktop space available to the window.

When you rollover an image, a larger thumbnail pops up so you can get a better view of the image. This feature is particularly useful if you have a large number of images in a single folder, which means the thumbnails are fairly small. You can select any thumbnail image and a double click will bring it up in its own window. This gives you access to the image editing functions. For quick visual browsing of the images within your folder tree, Zoom mode is the method to use.

Scroll mode

Scroll mode is likely to be more familiar to Windows users as it provides a similar interface to standard Explorer navigation. However, it is different in that it gives you the ability to simultaneously open multiple folders. A further advantage is that it allows you to select multiple images from several different folders and then open them in a larger window to compare them.

This method is particularly useful when you have a large number of images in one folder as it allows simple navigation to any of them. As with zoom mode, when you highlight a thumbnail image you also have access to all the image EXIF information as well as the histogram, and it allows you to add comments and keywords to an image, or group of images, to speed up searching as your image collections grow.

Preview mode

Preview mode shows you the folder contents along the bottom of the screen, with a large version of the selected image. It provides you with ‘at-a-glance’ shooting information and allows you to edit the star rating and add comments as well as set image protection to avoid accidental deletion.

In the preview mode it is possible to review the histogram for each image, as well as all the shooting and EXIF data. It will even show you which custom functions were set on the camera.

Task manager

As well as improving the speed with which images are displayed, Canon has developed a clear and easy method of navigation around ZoomBrowser. This is in the form of a Task Bar, which is located on the left hand side of the screen in all three viewing modes, though it can be hidden to provide more screen space for images.

The Task Bar gives you access to all the functions of ZoomBrowser, and leads you through a simple workflow from downloading the images to the computer, to outputting them in an email, as a web gallery, or as prints.

With the Task Bar, you can perform all of the common actions in ZoomBrowser. These have been grouped into six buttons: Acquire & Camera Settings, View & Classify, Edit, Export, Print and Internet. When you click on each of these buttons, they drop down to reveal the extended options inside and guide you through your workflow.

Image comparison

One of the most useful features of the latest ZoomBrowser is the ability to compare images side-by-side. In any of the three viewing modes you can highlight multiple images by Ctrl + clicking on them. A double click (whilst still holding down the Ctrl key) then brings up the images in a display window. From here, you have the option of either viewing a single image, two images either horizontally or vertically, three images vertically, or four in a grid.

This is very useful if, for example, you have shot a bracketed set of images, as you can assess all the images side-by-side to select the one with the best exposure or white balance. Equally, it is useful for assessing focus or sharpness of images in a sequence, because you can synchronise the view and magnification of several images so that as you magnify and scroll around one, they all enlarge and move around to the same position.

From this view, you can also adjust the star rating of each image, depending on how it compares to the other images in the set. This will help you to select only your best images.

The Canon browsers offer basic adjustments for the colour, brightness and contrast of an image. For some images this may be all you need, particularly if you have set the camera parameters to suit your needs. However, for more advanced work, use Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements from the CD supplied with your digital camera.

Macintosh users

Do you use a Macintosh computer? If so, you probably find this Windows dominated world a bit overbearing. However, just because the majority of people use Windows, it does not mean that Canon has stopped making software for those who don’t.

Although ZoomBrowser is not available for Macintosh, there is a piece of Canon of software that is essentially the same thing − ImageBrowser.

The reason for the different name is that the Macintosh version does not have any of the ‘zoom features’ of the Windows software − but is does have the TimeTunnel. This is very clever view in which the date is read from the EXIF information and then used to arrange the images on a timeline so you can see when they were taken. This is very useful because quite often you may not know exactly where to find an image, but you will usually be able to estimate when you took it, particularly if you can see other images around it in the order they were taken.

Most of the other features of ZoomBrowser are included in the Macintosh version, but they are laid out differently. You can edit images, carry out RAW conversion on RAW files, and catalogue and search for images using keywords.

ImageBrowser is just as easy to use as ZoomBrowser, with all the functions clearly laid out and easily accessible. More importantly, it is just as quick to use as the Windows version, with images being displayed on screen in the latest version much more quickly than in earlier versions of the program.