… regardless of what you call it, it’s making a digital image larger, so you can print a bigger version than your camera’s native resolution allows.
Epson printers want 360 dpi, and others want 300 dpi for the best results. (If you’re printing on canvas, you can go down to 240 dpi.)
But what if you want to print a 44” wide photo? You have to enlarge it, and in the case of digital images, that means the software literally has to make up new pixels.
For years, the “bicubic” method was used in Photoshop, and was so blurry as to be nearly useless. That resulted in a plethora of third-party software coming out to do a better job. The first one I remember was Genuine Fractals (now called Perfect Resize.) Then came more, the best of which were PhotoZoom Pro and BlowUp*.
Over the years I’ve purchased all of them, and still own current versions of those three (and DFine, which is more for noise reduction, but…)
I never really cared for the “crowd favorite” Genuine Fractals / Perfect Resize* as I found the diagonals choppy and the result often looked like chunks of plastic. (We’re pixel-peeping here; the printed results were not horrible.)
I landed on PhotoZoom Pro (version 5 and 6) as the best, followed extremely closely by BlowUp.
(NOTE: 12/12/19: PhotoZoom Pro is now at version 8, and is still the best, in my opinion.)
In fact, in the past few months I’ve spent a couple of hundred bucks upgrading all of these.
And today I was introduced to the latest version of Photoshop’s extrapolation… and damn it’s good !
It’s called “Preserve Details (enlargement)” and you reach it thru the Image/Image size… menu. Click the “Resample” box, and choose Preserve Details from the popup. (Automatic will use it too, but if you choose Automatic, you don’t get the “Reduce Noise” slider.)
While PhotoZoom Pro does the job slightly better, and offers finer grained control, it also takes 3x as long to produce the result.
To my eye, PhotoZoom doesn’t “bloom” the image as much as Photoshop and thus produces slightly finer detail without the sense of slight over sharpening on gets with Photoshop. Below are comparisons; Photoshop first, and PhotoZoom second. Before you complain about the quality of both, see if you can find the area in the full image below, to get some idea of how much of an enlargement this is:
(Above: Photoshop. More contrast and more edge sharpening. I’m not a fan of the white edges that result. Also, compare how “fat” this tree looks to the one below.)
(Above, PhotoZoom Pro v 8. I prefer this because I can always alter the contrast and sharpening myself, and avoid the white edges, and it looks “more photographic” and less “krinkly.”)
(See the white peaked face of the barn? See the tiny white dot to the left of that ? (It’s a double-wide horse trailer) Finally, see the tree to the left of the trailer? That little tree under the arrow is what you’re looking at. Bet you didn’t see the horse above. I didn’t see it either until I zoomed in on the original the first time. Nikon D800. 🙂
Now, all that pixel-peeping done, I think you’ll agree that Photoshop does a much better job than it used to do.
Check it out; run your own comparisons; and see if you think the Photoshop “Preserve Details” is as good as I do.
* Here, for the curious are BlowUp 3 and Perfect Resize 8.6 and Akvis Magnifier. (Note that all images were done the same way: everything turned off except the resize itself (400%)
(Above: Blowup 3. Better than Photoshop, IMHO.)
(Above: Perfect Resize 8.6 [aka: Genuine Fractals] ) Way too “crinkly” (it’s the fractals, of course) for my tastes.
(Above: Akvis Magnifier.) Less expensive than any of the others, and avoids the white outlines as well. A tendency toward making strong contrast edges look a bit “plastic” and a boost in the contrast, aka Photoshop. Interestingly, the trunk of the tree is stronger, but the branches are more blurred. All in all, a surprisingly good entry given its cost.
OK: one last side by site with the current version of Photoshop CC (on the right) and PhotoZoom Pro:
For my taste, the PZ Pro extrapolation looks far more photographic/realistic than the over-contrasted result from Photoshop. And while the PZ looks “softer” if you’ll look at thedetails in the building and fence, you’ll see there’s more information there, which is lost with the PS version. Finally, I’d note that if I want more contrast, I can add it to the PZ version, but I can’t remove it from the PS one without making things worse.
Of course, this is just my opinion, and YMMV.
My conclusion is that while Photoshop extrapolates “for free” (as in “included in the price of admission”) the others do a better job, which is why they are still in the marketplace.