Mon, 18 Mar 2013 PhotoZoom 5 review: Tidy up images for print
Rescue small images, clean up artefacts and make them fit to print
- Manufacturer: BenVista
- Pros: Make large scale resizes and retain detail, clarity and sharpness. Also has options for downscaling and cropping. Presets allow for a wide variety of image types, faster than previous version.
- Cons: Interface is drab, cropping options aren’t clearly explained, image is refreshed even if you move it only slightly.
- Min specs: OS X 10.5+, 1GB RAM, 60MB HD space, PowerPC G4/G5 or Intel CPU. Standalone or Photoshop CS3+ and Elements 6 and 8+ plug-in.
- Price: £139 (£69 upgrade)
- Star rating:
If there’s one phrase you never want to hear from an art editor or designer, it’s that the photo you just gave them is too small. With printing dpi being a heft 300 you need a lot of pixels to fill pages and often the source image just isn’t big enough. In the world of 3D as well, bigger images require inordinately more time to render, never mind the resources in terms of hardware. The solution is resizing software. The worst crime is when you have to use a low-res, artefact-strewn JPEG someone got off the internet. Photoshop has some built-in tools but they aren’t good enough for tasks like these. You can probably tweak an image by +20% before getting jagged edges. PhotoZoom 5 from BenVista is a dedicated resizing solution that has two install options – either a standalone app or as a Photoshop plug-in.
Once launched the options all appear on the left and the image being resized fills the rest of the screen. There’s a thumbnail as well showing which part of the image is zoomed into. The main image automatically updates with whatever settings you are using to show the result. Moving the viewer or dragging the image around manually then triggers a full-screen recalculation. This isn’t slow, and indeed is faster than previous versions, but it isn’t instant either. If you simply wanted to see a bit more of part of the image, it’s a little tedious to rescan and recalculate for everything that’s on screen.
Increasing the size of older digital images while removing JPEG artefacts and retaining background detail is easy thanks to the presets.
The options then also include viewing and resizing to a welter of size presets, or inputting your own new measurements. As well as increasing an image size, it can also decrease or decrease to a specific crop and resolution. This isn’t as clear as it could be, but if you need to perform these actions it’s a quicker way of doing it.
Most image resizing can be done either by percentage, actual pixels or using measurements tied in to the image density. Normally the aspect ratio is kept but it can be overridden. The interesting element is the resize method and here’s there’s a great list of them. Now, most other resizing software doesn’t give you this option, it uses a software routine of its own making. The only real advantage to having this is that you can see just how bad a bilinear resize looks in comparison. At the top end, there are three versions of the S-Spline algorithm that the plug-in champions. Really, you’ll be hard pressed to see much difference between them on most images. Leaving it on S-Spline Max is as good an option as any. There are then parameters for unsharp masking with intensity and radius and fine tuning the result with sharpness, film gran and artefact reduction. An alternative to these is to use a preset which have helpful names and explanations such as Photo – Extra Detailed which would be ideal for landscapes, or Reduce JPEG Artefacts – Heavy which would sort out your lo-res internet image. You can also save combinations of the settings as your own preset.
Even increasing the resolution nearly threefold, the system can retain and magnify lots of detail without the result becoming too painterly.
The presentation for the interface is clear, but dated. However, it’s the results though that will sell this and here it’s a clear winner. Whether cleaning up lo-res photos or preserving detail in complex ones, the results are very good. Other resizing packages can do a good job of avoiding jagged edges, but the rest of the image starts to look painterly. Not so here, there’s incredible detail retainment and enhancement. You can easily double the size of an image and no-one would be any the wiser. For graphic items or 3D artwork it’s just as impressive, with smooth edges and also plenty of sharpness. The Pro version allows for batch resizing and cropping but is fairly pricey whereas the home photography version doesn’t but is much cheaper at £59.