Photo Mechanic 4

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, March 2007
Published by: Camera Bits
Requires: Windows 98 through Vista; Mac OS X 10.2 or later
MSRP: US$150.00

No matter how secure I become in my choices and tastes, the things that other people are using still hold an irresistible attraction. It's true for software, cars, cameras, bicycles, motorcycles, watches and just about everything else. So when a well known photographer asked me why Kickstartnews had not yet reviewed Photo Mechanic, a program used for sorting and tagging digital photos, I started digging for some information on the software. It didn't take long to realize that a huge percentage of professional photographers, photo journalists and photography hobbyists think the world of Photo Mechanic. It's about time we reviewed this one.

Photo Mechanic is a utility program used to intake photo files, view and compare them, sort them and tag them with meta data. Photo Mechanic works well with International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) stationery, which means you can create master information for a particular photo shoot or collection and use an IPTC pad to tag all of the photos the same way. For photo journalists that information amounts to time, date, agency, location and so on. Photo Mechanic provides a straightforward user interface which makes it quick and easy to tag and sort digital photo files of any type or size.


Photo Mechanic can intake files from any source on your computer including hard drives, card reader, CD or DVD, and network. It is fully compatible with every digital RAW or digital negative file format we could find including Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus and several others. There were a few we couldn't try because we don't have the cameras. We searched in vain on the rather sparse CameraBits web site but couldn't find a comprehensive file format compatibility list. Photo Mechanic does not offer any photo editing features. Photo Mechanic is not a replacement for Adobe Bridge.

The most striking thing about Photo Mechanic is its speed. On a Core2Duo Intel workstation, Photo Mechanic was flying through images at an amazing speed, displaying large RAW files in less than a second. More important, sorting and comparing photos within the contact sheet display was equally fast, with little or no drag & drop lag. Considering the fact we were playing with several folders full of a little over 1,400 large, high resolution JPG and RAW files, Photo Mechanic's creditable speed turned what is normally a daunting task into something interesting and positive.

As for editing, Photo Mechanic offers only crop and resize functions. So if you use Photo Mechanic the way it was designed to be used, you won't encounter any frustrations. Just don't mistake it for a comprehensive photo collection manager, photo editor or anything of the kind. On the other hand, for viewing, sorting, tagging and tossing photos where you want them or quickly printing good quality contact sheets, Photo Mechanic is hard to beat.

Cons: Professional photographers, photo journalists, busy amateur photography hobbyists, and all sorts of ad agencies and small photography businesses need and use a range of different workflows for digital photo management. Among Photoshop users however, especially since Photoshop CS was released, Adobe Bridge has become the de facto image intake organizer, collator, viewer and file tosser of choice in many situations. Adobe Bridge is also fully integrated into the Adobe CS suite of products. The next logical step for Photo Mechanic is organizing and cataloging and we hope CameraBits has got such a product update in development. Displays lens focal length information, but not the lens type. The CameraBits web site needs work, especially the addition of more detailed product information. Windows Vista does not handle meta data in way that allows other software to properly import some EXIF information; it's not a Photo Mechanic issue as far as we can tell and the software seems to run fine in Vista.

Pros: Well don't a whole bunch of professional digital photographers just love PhotoMechanic. It's probably one of the better kept secrets that's been popular for quite a few years. The RAW, DNG and other digital negative and raw file handling of all the major camera formats is outstanding. Photo Mechanic automatically adjusts to the camera's color space. Resizable contact sheets are very easy to use. Works with dual core processors to take advantage of all the speed available - Photo Mechanic is fast. Color profiling for various cameras seems to be flawless. Batch photo handling works extremely well for renaming, captioning and keywording. Contact sheet printing is handy as is web output, especially when you need to create temporary online lightboxes. Photo Mechanic takes advantage of any available hyperthreading and dual or multicore processors. Moderately busy forums on the CameraBits web site seem to be providing lots of support for Photo Mechanic users. An important utility tool for all busy photographers. Highly recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



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