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Software That Really Supports
Kodak Photo CD

The ultimate would be a utility that converted PhotoYCC to Lab color preserving the entire range of "Y" values as "L" values in Lab. If you find such a thing, let me know. Until then, we'll have to settle for these applications.

The following software packages at least claim to support PhotoCD directly. I've organized them based on how good they are in general, and specifically how good they are at dealing with the "Lost Highlights Problem". If I've forgotten any, please email me with the info.

Personally, I use pcdtojpeg. pcdtojpeg is a command line utility, so it isn't for the faint of heart. However, it does an excellent job of converting PhotoCD images and can be coaxed into doing batches of images when used with the features available at the command line.

Solving the Lost Highlights Problem

The following packages help you get around the Lost Highlights Problem. First, a quick comparison matrix to help you decide. After that you'll find more detailed information.

Software Fixes Lost
Lab Price
pcdtojpeg Yes Brightness Yes2 No Free
pcdMagic Yes Bright/Cont Yes Essentially $79
SilverFast Yes Yes Yes Yes $335
Picture Window3 Yes Yes, No Histogram Yes, "Workflow" No $90
Ted's Hacked Library Yes No Depends No Free1
ThumbsPlus Almost No Yes No $75
Paint Shop Pro, et al. Almost No Depends No Around $100

1 My hacked library may be free, but you'll need to find software that uses it. This will probably cost you somewhere around $100.
2 pcdtojpeg doesn't do batch conversion directly, but using features available at the Windows or Linux command-lines, batch processing of files is possible.
3 Picture Window only supports PhotoCD in its 32-bit version. See Picture Window Pro 6.0 Beta.

Finally, the perfect utility for scraping all the data there is out of a PhotoCD image. Well, some might be intimidated by the command-line interface, but it's well worth figuring out for the results it gives. The brightness option allows you to adjust important images that are dark. Using other command-line features (such as "for" in Windows), batch conversions can be had.

A GUI-based converter for Windows and the Mac that is based on pcdtojpeg above. I've not been able to test it, but it does provide a free trial that should help you make a buying decision. According to its author, the conversion to TIFF and DNG formats does offer an extended gamut that covers all of PhotoYCC, so this is similar to using Lab color.

SilverFast PhotoCD
[Update: SilverFast appears to no longer support PhotoCD with special software. Their HDR software appears to support loading PCD images, but the highlights may be lost. Make sure you can get their demo version to do what you need before buying the current versions.] LaserSoft Imaging's acquire module for Photo CD. SilverFast lets you set black and white points using a histogram display and do various color corrections that are applied during the conversion from PhotoYCC to your target color space. No highlights are lost. CIE-Lab space fully and properly supported. A bit pricey at $335. LaserSoft will also be releasing an "SE" version of SilverFast PhotoCD that retails for $49.

Picture Window
From Digital Light and Color. You can set black and white points that affect the conversion from PhotoYCC but there's no histogram to guide you. No highlights are lost, but the colors tend to be a bit too saturated. Batch conversion can be had via the "Workflow" feature.

My Hacked Photo CD Library
Well, it's hard to be impartial about something you've done. This hack gives you results very similar to Picture Window. It modifies the behavior of software like Paint Shop Pro and ThumbsPlus. Unfortunately, the black and white points are fixed at maximum, so you run the risk of losing some detail throughout the tonal range. Still, the full range of highlight information is preserved. It is tricky to install, so it isn't for everyone. Maybe someday the bonehead author will write a nice install program. (Hmmm, maybe you can be impartial when reviewing your own stuff) Although this hack is free for the taking, you'll still need a full-blown imaging application to take advantage of it.

Paint Shop Pro, ThumbsPlus, LivePix SE etc....
I've grouped these packages together because they all use Kodak's PCDLIB32.DLL to load Photo CD files, so they all perform the same. The highlight compression curve is not as severe as Photoshop's, so only a small amount of highlight information is lost. If you use them in conjunction with My Hacked Photo CD Library, you can get all the highlight information. You can't choose source/destination profiles, so assume sRGB for the destination. Most imaging software falls into this category since this is the easiest way for a software developer to add Photo CD support to their software. Prices tend to be in the $100 range, with Paint Shop Pro being the real standout of the group, offering a huge array of image manipulation tools second only to Adobe's Photoshop.

IrfanView 3.25
Thanks to Hari Vattyam for running the experiments on IrfanView. He found that IrfanView does use the PCDLIB32.DLL, for loading the higher res versions of a PCD image (1024x1536 and up). But the name of the DLL has been changed from PCDLIB32.DLL to PHOTOCD.DLL. Rumor has it that IrfanView is now shipping with my Photo CD Library instead of Kodak's.

Corel PhotoPaint 8
Thanks to Charles Sweaney for running the experiments on Corel PhotoPaint 8. To me, the results look great. Exactly what you'd expect from a linear LUT. Click here to see the image and judge for yourself.


Other software of interest. Not necessarily just for loading/viewing/changing Photo CD images.

Software from CyberLink that plays Photo CDs on your computer. Haven't tried it to see how well it supports the various capabilities of Photo CD.

Yet another utility by me. This one lets you examine and change the rotation flag in a Photo CD image.

Glenn Davis' Photo CD Index Print plugin for Photoshop. Lets you automatically create index prints from a Photo CD. Haven't tried it.


These are packages I haven't tried yet, but intend to.

I got a tip from a reader that Kodak's Access Plus software includes a monitor setup profile called "NIFRGB" that does a good job loading PCD images. This reader didn't test the lost highlights issue, however. Might be something to do if I'm real bored one day, though I doubt it will do much good. This reader says he also patched the NIFRGB table into pcdlib.dll and had great results.

Adobe PhotoDeluxe - I haven't tried this one, but in light of Photoshop's performance, I'd be surprised if it was good. I've heard PhotoDeluxe 4.0 dropped Photo CD support.

hpcdtoppm - Hadmut's PCD to PPM converter. Open source (but non-commercial license) converter from PhotoCD to PPM format. I worked on this code for a while, but then gave up. Then pcdtojpeg was released and that made this completely obsolete. Boris van Schooten released a patch for hpcdtoppm. You can get his patch for hpcdtoppm here: Boris van Schooten's hpcdtoppm patch.

PhotoSee - Software based on ACDSee32 to view PhotoCDs and PictureCDs. Haven't tried it, probably same quality as ThumbsPlus. At Dale Labs' site you can download the "SE" version for free.

Digital Zone International - makers of PhotoImpress. Claims to load PhotoCD images properly, but for Mac only, so I can't try it.

Not Recommended

These packages either handle Photo CD images poorly, or are just plain bad.

Adobe Photoshop - Photoshop is a great imaging program, but its support for Photo CD is very poor. It's not Adobe's fault. The Photo CD File Format Plug-In v3.0.7 was written by Kodak, and it contains the worst possible highlight compression curve. Kodak's Photo CD Acquire Module v3.0.2 is no better.

M$ Picture It! 99 (v3.0) - Microshaft doesn't use PCDLIB32.DLL like most other packages. So their software doesn't act like ThumbsPlus, Paint Shop Pro, et al.. Unfortunately, it is much worse (possibly as bad as Photoshop) and can't be fixed with my library patch.

Corel photoCD Lab 2.1 (1995) - A very old program that was shipped with Corel's image libraries on Photo CD. Uses an old version of PCDLIB.DLL and has the same highlight compression curve as Kodak's PCDLIB32.DLL that ships with Paint Shop Pro, ThumbsPlus and the others. If this version of PCDLIB.DLL can be patched, this application would be moved up in status. (interesting LUTs are at 132c8 [8-bit] and 13ea2 [16-bit, probably the one])

binuscan PhotoPerfect - This software claims to specifically support PhotoCD. I found it just to be very bad software. The user interface is difficult, you MUST have the PhotoCD in the drive (it won't read .PCD files on your hard disk), and it only supports Pro PhotoCDs. On top of that, the results were horrible when I used it, though it could be the way I have things set up. I cannot recommend this software at all.

ImageMagick - Command line utility, freeware/sourceware. Boris van Schooten evaluated this one for me and he has observed the lost highlights issue. Chris has verified these results, click here to see his test image. Since it is open source a patch should be easy to do. It does convert from Photo CD (up to 1024x1536 at least), and even to Photo CD, but only at Base resolution (512x768). A command-line like:

convert img0009.pcd[4] img0009.tif

will convert from pcd to tiff using the Base*4 resolution (1024x1536).

xv - X-Window System image viewer by John Bradley. Boris van Schooten tested this one and found that it loses highlights. This is open source, so a patch should be easy to do.

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