Genuine Fractals 6; Blowups And More

When I first worked with and reviewed Genuine Fractals (GF) back in 2006, I posited that it made the megapixel race moot in the way it allowed even small files to be used for big enlargements. A lot has changed since then—the megapixel race did not become moot, even digicams have 12+ megapixels, some D-SLRs are kicking out, via raw, 16-bit 72MB files, and Photoshop has improved upon its resampling algorithm. Does all this make Genuine Fractals moot? To check it out I worked with GF6 to resample some images old and new, plus worked with some of their new features that are in the software mix.

When you have an image open you go to the onOne plug-in on the menu bar and open GF6 and get this screen. It encompasses the image file in a workspace that allows for re-sizing in a very simple manner. You can type in any of the parameters and the others will change accordingly. For example, you can change height or width, resolution or output size, and all the others snap into place.

GF works in essentially the same way it did a few years back, albeit in enhanced fashion, but still using the same idea—a patented scaling algorithm that “looks” for repeating patterns in an image, samples blocks of pixels of various sizes, and patches them together to create a larger version of the original. Sampling and recreating blocks of pixels multiple times in this manner is said to preserve fine details like edges, smooth areas, and textures.

There are a couple of things to sweeten the pot of this program ($159.95 full version, $99.95 upgrade), including a very neat tiling feature, which divides an enlargement into smaller pieces so you can a) get artsy if you like and b) make large prints via creating a mosaic using a smaller printer. Also included is the ability to batch process an entire folder of images to create new versions of the image in whatever size, resolution, and file format you desire. There are also the standard sharpening and grain sets (grain can actually help mask any pixel problems, I have found, and actually adds a nice visual touch when you go big) as well as texture presets in the workspace.

Here’s the workspace for an image that started as a 2.5MB file enlarged almost 300 percent to 17.8MB. This image (a) shows a deep crop into the original fiie without any work in GF6, while this image (b) shows the same crop at 300 percent resampling in GF. Even at 300 percent there is no degradation; in fact, because sharpening was part of the options I chose, it looks, on close inspection, even better.
All Photos © 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

Being a plug-in (once you install it, it sits atop the menu bar between Window and Help) you are free to work on layered .psd files, and you can store the final images in GF’s .stn file format, which is a lossless format that cuts image size of the enlarged files in about half, something you’ll appreciate when you get into the 200+MB realm for the biggies.

So, how big can you get with GF6? The company claims really good results up to 800 percent, which is not a wild claim, although I tend to keep the images at about 200-400 percent. One file I worked on, for example, was shot with a Canon EOS 5D, which in raw 16-bit kicked out a 72MB file, or about 12x18” at 240dpi. I did a GF conversion keeping it at 240dpi up to 24x36”, with 100 percent sharpening at a Radius of 1 (yes, the program has sharpening built-in) and the addition of 16 percent film grain, yielding a 284MB file that was indistinguishable in image quality when put side by side with the smaller “native” file. Impressive, and a decidedly handy tool when you want to kick up the image size.

Here’s another part of the GF6 workspace where you can choose sharpening and film grain as well as tiling. Experimentation with sharpening and grain will tell you how much to apply to your images. The Gallery Wrap feature is part of the Pro version.