PhotoLine is a powerful photo editor which comes packed with useful image processing features.
The program can import and work with many digital camera RAW formats, for instance: Canon, Casio, Fuji, Kodak, Konica, Leica, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung, Sony and many other manufacturers and models are supported.
Once you've opened an image then PhotoLine can carry out all kinds of corrections. Whitepoint, brightness, light and shadow, colours, unsharp masking - and they're just the options available in the Correct Wizard. Explore the Quality and Digital Camera sections of the Filters menu and you'll also find options like Optimize Contrast, Remove Dust/ Scratches, Descreen, Remove Dirt, Chromatic Aberration, Lens Correction and more.
If you're happy with the image quality, then you can get creative by applying more interesting filters, for example turning photos into drawings or paintings. Which is a very familiar idea, but PhotoLine's options are generally extremely configurable, and capable of producing all kinds of spectacular effects.
The Drawing filter, for instance, allows you to choose a background, a brush type, size and mode, step size, density and drawing tool. Just when you think you've mastered that, clicking the Options tab reveals settings like Intensity, Direction, Length and Saturation. If you'd prefer a simple life then you don't have to worry about this kind of complexity - there are some great presets which you can select from a list - but it's good to know that this level of fine-tuning is available, should you need it.
And there are stacks of other options here, everywhere you look. Painting and retouching tools; full layer support; the ability to create image maps and web buttons; some quality warping and distortion tools, the ability to create Flash and GIF animations, run batch conversions, build HTML galleries, and a whole lot more.
It's not cheap, but then PhotoLine is a very impressive image processing tool. If the standard freeware tools don't deliver the power you need then give this a try.