Genuine Fractals 3.5
The phrase “resolution on demand” suggests you can take an image and increase its resolution as required depending on the intended output. You might have a photo from a five-megapixel digital camera and need to blow it up to poster size. The result will be less than satisfactory by simply increasing the image size in Photoshop, even if you make the enlargement by small increments rather than in one go, and apply unsharp mask to reduce the inherent softness. This is where a program like Genuine Fractals comes in.
Originally an Altamira product, Genuine Fractals has been around since the mid 1990s. It uses a fractal algorithm to create a smooth image when scaled up, reproducing a higher level of detail by not truncating data. Version 3.5 comes in two flavours, standard and PrintPro, the only difference being support for CMYK and LAB in the latter. In terms of advances from version 3.0, Genuine Fractals now handles 16-bit RGB and CMYK images and works better with Photoshop’s File Browser.
Using Genuine Fractals is easy: open an image in Photoshop, select the GF format (.stn) in Save As, and choose from Lossless or Visually Lossless. The latter produces a smaller file but with some quality degradation.
On opening the saved file, there are options to resize, crop and switch colour modes and quality levels. There’s also a Preview window – though the lack of zoom or cursor controls make it awkward to navigate the image. Change the settings and Genuine Fractals does the rest, opening the scaled file directly in Photoshop. A five-megapixel image gives a 14MB RGB file. Saving this as a maximum-quality JPEG results in around a 3.5MB file.
The results are great – outstanding, in fact. Taking a five-megapixel image and enlarging it five-fold gives sufficient resolution for an A0 poster at 270dpi. Given that the print process, irrespective of whether it’s inkjet, laser or litho, is hardly a perfect science, you’re unlikely to notice any differences in the real world.
Extensis pxl SmartScale is the obvious competition. It’s cheaper (£149) than PrintPro, acts like it’s part of Photoshop rather than a plug-in, and has a number of post-scaling options for sharpness, contrast and detail. Yet in my subjective tests, Genuine Fractals PrintPro shaded it in terms of print quality – but only just. If you already own Genuine Fractals and work with 16-bit files, get the upgrade – it’s cheap. If you don’t own either Genuine Fractals or pxl SmartScale, try them; each is available as a time-limited trial (Genuine Fractals is included on this month’s CD).