Enlarger PRO from Bearded Frog (www.beardedfrog.com)
gives photographers the ability to crop large sections off digital images and
still permits making "full-size prints." The third and current release
of Enlarger PRO offers powerful photographic enlargement capabilities yet is
easy to use: Just select your input image, select an output file name, choose
your enlargement factor, and click the Process button. Enlarger PRO does the
rest. It can't invent detail that does not exist in the input image but
the Frog-in-Chief explains, "We are able to use our algorithms to keep
sharp areas of the image remarkably sharp and retain the texture and feel of
more subtle areas."
Genuine Fractals 5.0 is a major step forward in interface design
and functionality. While previously you had to save the file in
Genuine Fractals' proprietary .stn format, then re-open it
and scale it to the new desired size, it's all a one-stop
As I was finishing this story, onOne Software (www.onOnesoftware.com)
launched a public beta of Genuine Fractals 5.0 that offers compatibility with
Photoshop CS3 and PowerPC and Intel-based Mac OS computers. Genuine Fractals
5.0 has an improved scaling algorithm to deliver "even better results
than before" and offers improved batch processing support for scaling
multiple files in one step. Genuine Fractals 5.0 gives users the option to sharpen
a file during the scaling process. It has built-in film grain controls, giving
you the option to add simulated film grain after a file has been scaled. Genuine
Fractals 5.0 supports 8- and 16-bit RGB and Grayscale images as well as support
for CMYK and Lab Color modes. Anyone who purchased Genuine Fractals 4.1 or Print
Pro 4.1 on or after December 18, 2006 will receive a free upgrade to Genuine
The Blind Test
My test file for this comparison of scaling products was a portrait of a young
model, Carolina, which was made at a Shutterbug photo workshop in Miami. During
the workshop, I loaned all of my memory cards to students and kept a tiny 16MB
CompactFlash card for my use. When the opportunity came to make a series of
studio portraits of Carolina I could only make a few photographs using an Olympus
E-20N at one of its smallest resolution settings and an 8:1 compression ratio.
This resulted in a tiny 293K file that was more suitable for e-mail than making
prints for reproduction.
My test image file was a portrait of Carolina made using studio
lighting and a 4-megapixel Olympus E-20N in Manual mode. Exposure
was 1/125 sec at f/8 and was captured at the camera's lowest
resolution (1280x960) with maximum compression, producing a tiny
Like Photoshop itself, all of the software used to enlarge this photograph
is available for Mac OS or Windows computers. I tested the Mac OS versions because
that's the main computer I use for imaging, and that is reflected in all
of the screen shots. To test the effectiveness of each software I scaled the
3.2x4.2" file up to 11x14" using a Power Macintosh computer running
OS 10.4.8. Then I made a set of borderless prints with an Epson Stylus Photo
R1800 inkjet printer. Before printing I made sure that all the ink cartridges
were full, replacing two with brand-new cartridges. Then I ran Epson's
test utility making sure the heads were clean. All prints were made on Epson's
Premium Glossy Photo Paper during a single session.
When I laid the prints on a countertop the first thing I noticed was that the
print made with Enlarger PRO was slightly warmer and contrastier than the others.
It looked great but lacked the smooth tonal gradations of the others. At 11x14"
the image quality of the other prints were so close together that I decided
to make a set of four 13x19" files/prints. At 13x19" all of the
prints were still incredibly close in quality but Genuine Fractals 5.0 and PhotoZoom
Pro 2 were clearly the best by a tiny amount and PhotoZoom Pro 2 was better
literally by an eyelash.
Wanting other opinions, I showed the set of 13x19" prints to many other
people. Some were pros, others were amateur photographers, and some were those
everyday people that Sly sang about. The prints were viewed under real world
conditions, varying from daylight to tungsten to fluorescent to a mixture of
all three. When asked what print looked best, most pros narrowed it down to
a choice between the Genuine Fractals 5.0 and PhotoZoom Pro 2 prints. While
admitting a final decision was difficult, the pros generally chose Genuine Fractals
5.0, while other photographers' choices produced no consensus between
the two finalists. What was most surprising is how many people liked Photoshop's
Bicubic Smoother print!
Keep in mind that I was running a beta version of Genuine Fractals and this
was the result obtained with one particular image file. As companies strive
to constantly improve their products imaging software is a fast-moving target,
so I recommend that you download trial versions of any program that's
of interest and try it with your own photographs.
Acknowledgement: All prints used in the prints made for the
blind tests were made on an Epson Stylus Photo R1800 inkjet printer and I would
like to thank Epson and Walt & Company for providing all of the ink and
media used in producing all of the prints used in this testing.