In ST7 without KeyShot, you can only render using the View Overrides which does allow you to assign textures, set shadows/reflections, use anti-aliasing, and a few more things, but photo-realistic it is not.
I think that earlier in ST6 and before, the VP+ (VirtualStudio+) you refering was also only part of Classic and Premium license package.
In Foundation license package was and in ST7 is the functionality in "View Overides" command as Ken mentioned.
In pre-ST7 foundation licenses, there was access to basic capabilities of the VirtualStudio portion that were still beyond the simple view override changes that are now the only option in ST7 foundation licenses.
I just loaded ST6 with Foundation Licence.
I opened an existing assy and went to E-R-A environment. There are buttons "Render", "Render Area" and "Render Setup". But if I hit both render buttons, nothing happens. If I select "Render Setup" button, it shows the "View Overides" window (please see atached image).
I may be wrong, but this is what I see in ST6 Foundation version.
I do not want argue with you, it may be something wrong with my ST6 installation. But I always thougt that VP+ was only in Classic and Premium packages. I think that other tools in ERA environment present in Foundation license in older SE are Exploded Views and Animation.
So, now what you have is a dropdown that no longer includes ray tracing, and cannot render a windowed area. So you set up the textures and the options, flip the View settings on, and then walk away as the computer freezes for however long it takes to complete the render. Have fun trying to get a semi decent render of a larger assembly while swapping in and out lighting and other options, because you're going to be waiting a while between each round of adjustments. No, it was no Keyshot, but it WAS helpful in quickly creating prettier images, and I DID use it.
Below is an older snapshot of a home project that I can actually show here. Imagine the wait time if I was changing things around in View Overrides, knowing that Solid Edge will force me to 'render' the entire image every time now, rather than being able to render an area at a much smaller time penalty and seeing how it came out.
I fully agree with you that actual posibilities for render in ST7 Foundation may be PITA.
I just was not sure, that some VP+ posibilities were present in Pre-ST7 Foundation License. If I load Foundation License to my ST6, I can not see any VP+ functions available, that is all.