What’s Your Opinion?

Blackpool Beach after sunset. Fuji X-T3 with Fuji 18-135 lens.

Not too long ago I was praising Topaz Labs on this blog for having reinvented themselves. I had noticed a huge improvement in their AI software and was impressed by the results. Then yesterday I received an email that there was a new major update to DeNoise AI. Excellent I thought and wondered what improvements there would be. But the shocker came when I read the email detail, telling me that I needed to buy an annual license to receive the update.

So, here’s my dilemma. I purchased my DeNoise license quite a few years ago (probably 10 years if I’m honest). At the time the Topaz website said that buying a license entitled you to free updates for life. Now I’m required to buy an annual license to get the update.

Do I upgrade or not?

Now you could argue that DeNoise AI is a new product and the old DeNoise product has been retired. But ultimately, they both do the same thing. Apparently, Topaz announced the change of licensing in the spring although this is the first that I’ve heard about it.

For some reason, I feel cheated by this even though I know that I’ve received tremendous value from the free updates in the past.

But I also have a nagging worry. Topaz Labs has/is shifting some of its other products to the annual licensing model. This includes Gigapixel, Mask AI and Sharpener AI, all of which I own. The cost of the new annual license for DeNoise AI is $49 but then what about the other products. That would present me with a sizeable bill that I don’t think I can justify.

Now let’s look at the alternative view that’s also nagging at me.

Software development requires a lot of investment, especially if we want cutting edge, excellent products. It was always beyond my comprehension how Topaz Labs could continue for so long with their old model. It required them to constantly find a new stream of customers which is very costly. They also released regular updates that were valuable (unlike some of their competitors). If we want good companies to survive and thrive, they need a recurring revenue stream.

As for the AI-based products like DeNoise and Sharpen AI, they are quite literally in a different league. I now tend to use DeNoise AI or Sharpen AI on all my images where I want a full resolution (or higher) image. I NEED THIS SOFTWARE.

So, what do I do?

Do I pay the annual license fee and get the upgrade? But then it could cost me a lot to upgrade all my products each year.

Or do I just keep using the existing software which I love? But then I could be missing out on something great.

I’ve published an update to this post with further developments.

The Friday Image

As for the image, this is one I recently captured in Blackpool where I experienced a sunset of what I can only describe to be “biblical proportions”. This image of a dogwalker on the beach was shortly after sunset when the light turned everything pink and there was a lovely soft haze.

I shot the image handheld using the Fuji X-T3 with Fuji 18-135 lens at 60mm. The exposure is 1/18” at f/7.1 and ISO400. I didn’t need to use any filters because the light was everywhere, making the scene quite well balanced.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend. And if you have any thoughts about my upgrade dilemma, please leave a comment below.

23 thoughts on “What’s Your Opinion?

  1. My thoughts exactly Robin, though I did know they were going to the annual subscription approach. I like what the AI products currently do for me, and I can live with them as they are. I won’t buy the upgrades until reviews by others make it absolutely clear that I am missing something important or really cool. So if you buy, let me know what you think as the products evolve!

  2. That’s interesting… I have Denoise AI & Sharpen AI too. I didn’t have to pay for the latest Denoise AI update as “This update is included in your current license of DeNoise AI”. However, I wasn’t even aware there was going to be an annual subscription – I don’t recall anything mentioned when I bought it and can’t see anything on their website about annual subscriptions.

    I don’t use Sharpen A! so much but Denoise AI on nearly every shot.

  3. I am in the same boat, Robin. Yesterday, I had a debate through email with the Operations Manager, Eric Lowery. I escalated my frustration (through Eric) to the CEO to no avail. The only satisfaction you can get is for them to refund you the money that you spent on their apps – they offered that.

    I almost wish someone would start a class action law suit or something, but that seems unlikely. So, I don’t know what I will do to be honest. One thing I am considering is their so called “upgrade plan” that covers a year worth of upgrades for one or more of their new apps, but I am not completely certain of how that works. The plan is on sale from $99 to $68 at the moment, but I don’t know how long the discounted offer will last.

  4. I understand your dillema and feel the same. I have the Sharpen AI a recent version and it is good. However my license allows me to download onto a second PC. I did this but it will not open. Have tried uninstalling and reloading to no avail.
    Eventually contacted Topaz for help. Have had many emails suggesting things to do, none of which helped.Finally agreed for a telephone link which would allow them to make changes to the PC. Nothing helped and a senior Developer was called in to assist. You’ve geussed it nothing changed. Then they said they would email a link to a good versionfor me to try. I downloaded and wow it opened and worked BUT I saw that it was in fact an older version which had a link to update. After doing so it refused to open! They say they will keep my details on file and get in touch if they think of a solution.Meanwhile I have on that PC a very old version that opens but is very ineffectual By the way my PCs may be a few years old but are top of the range Chillblast and almost identical in specification.
    I also pay monthly for Adobe Photoshop / Lightroom etc and although not cheap all the software upgrades arrive automatically and would be cheaper than upgrading all of the Topaz items.

  5. Agree re. the dilemma. While I understand the desire to increase revenue (and presumably provide more/better updates), we purchased with a lifetime update. If the vendor doesn’t want to offer lifetime updates for “free”, then don’t offer a “lifetime update” when selling. I had a one-year upgrade offer for US $52+ when I followed the “Update Plan Required” link, and took that offer to see where things go. In the future, perhaps only upgrade every 2-3 years. The annual upgrade plan for all photo apps is nominally $99.
    Jorge mentioned a class action lawsuit, and that occurred to me too. I had an XM car radio “lifetime” car transfer deal, then they merged with Sirius, changed to a policy of only one car transfer in a “lifetime”. Joined a class action suit, after years, they finally agreed to let us have unlimited transfers per original offer. Just not sure there is enough money here to attract a class action law firm. So will see how this plays out. It is good product, but I think it has become confusing with the proliferation of apps- “which one would be better here for what I need?” I think they need to rationalize the offerings. And the update downloads take forever to finish.

  6. For most of my working life I developed software or managed software development. AI tends to be a marketing ploy. To be truly AI the software should learn from your photographs and how you use the software to alter them and apply that knowledge to your further use of the software. Every user should have a unique file or set of files containing the data collected to learn your photos and how you process them, ask them to explain exactly what it does and where the data is stored. If it does not learn from your use and apply that knowledge it is not intelligent.

  7. It does seem that everywhere is slowly embracing the subscription model, not just photography. But just like the subscription TV channels we are being seduced into, no one product provides all our needs. With TV you can at least dip in and out and watch a series or two and move to the next. Not so with photography, we want our tools available all the time, but I don’t really want the pick n mix of the best of the various softwares. Currently I remain bound into the photo subscription for Adobe. For my needs the system can achieve what I need along with the DAM part of managing a large library. Yes I have indulged in additional software to take advantage of areas of superiority (learning from yourself Robin) but would be reluctant to add them as subscription models when I know I don’t need exhibition quality prints. That said, I remember my objection to Adobe’s proposed change to subscription when they first announced their intentions and swearing I would never do it….. now I’ve been happily paying up for a few years.

    1. I echo Steve’s thoughts. If we want the software to continue, money has to change hands or the companies will go out of business. I am happy with Lightroom, which delivers what I need. I pay the subscription and have found some of the more recent improvements very beneficial – so much so that I recently offered to produce an online lecture for my photography group and realised that images from 8 years ago could be reprocessed to greatly improve the end result. Now need more time to finish what I expected to be a quick job!

  8. Be sure to watch for an offer from Topaz to update all your Topaz products for one price. I saw them do this some months ago, but I didn’t buy it, but it was more reasonable than updating the individual pieces. And also, make use of discount coupons such as what can be found at http://plugsandpixels.com which is 15%. I will just keep using what I already have until I see a sale that satisfies me.

  9. I happily subscribe to Adobe CC and feel their subscription, with the regular updates, are good value.
    I have purchased the Nik software filters and would happily pay for theIr occasional upgrades.
    Between the two applications, they satisfy my processing needs.
    In the past I have purchased outright, a few other programmes, but have never bothered updating as I have thought the upgrades were poor value.
    Subscription software appears to be the future.
    Regards, John.

  10. I bought Denoise AI not long ago, do not remember; 1-2 years maybe. I had no problem to upgrade directly from software and they did not ask any payment. I reckon, upgrading say to version 3 will cost something. Or they tell me one day, that they have subscription model. Let´s wait what happens.
    The promise of old you mention was made rather naively, it cannot be done. They would have to work without pay, at least after the market got saturated. Simply not doable economically, therefore I do not expect it or ask them to fulfill. Better they stay in business…
    Perhaps they should communicate a bit better – explain that they have made a mistake and lay out clearly new conditions. On my part I expect to pay, the only question is the relation of price vs worth for me.
    Keep taking fine images, do fine videos and stay healthy!
    Regards, Robert

    1. Earlier this year (1st Q), I received a “broadcast” email stating the new purchased upgrading policy, the rationale, etc. I assume they sent it out to registered users.

    1. Have you looked at their website, under Your Account/Purchased? That will show for each application the date your one-year license expires.

      1. Hi Rick, you are right, thanks for sharing!
        I must say, I was a bit surprised – my Sharpen AI, bought last year, just expired. Renewal would be USD 49 for one year. Seems rather expensive to me, there are other softwares too, not that bad either. I use four softwares from them and do not plan to spend USD 200 yearly on their renewals. Oh well, they have to live, of course, but that good? Off me? I doubt this very heartily. Renewals with them would cost more than e.g. PS subscription. From my point of view it is out of proportion, overstretched (we call it “Abzocke” over here, I think it means “rip-off”). Never mind, they just lost a customer.

        Sharpen AI saved one of mine stitches, where one image was blurred. No other software did the job as well as Sharpen AI. (And I mean well, not perfect.) But it was one image in one year! Very expensive.
        It reminds me again: Do it right the first place, not only in the post. Perhaps better to let a not optimal image go.

  11. I purchased most of the software from Topaz within the last year with the expectation of not having to pay an upgrade fee for a while, so this is news to me.

    What these businesses need to understand is that the cost of various subscriptions add up. Fortunately, I’m not yet a retiree on a fixed income, but when I do retire in a few years, I could see myself dropping many of those I do not use on a daily basis. Topaz may be one of them.

    1. I am retiree on fixed income, which might sounds ominously to some. Yet do not be afraid: At least for myself I noticed, that I need less money for regular living and have more to spend on photography and travels! Btw. I enjoy my retirement. There is so much to do! As a freind of mine said after his retirement: I have a lot to do. I do not know how I found time to go to work before 😉

  12. All of these products are annual subscription if you want the latest gizmos.. Their model works because professionals and geeks will need to buy the latest subscription. It either pay or, return to the analogue darkroom which will cost a fortune as nearly all the kit has been binned.

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