Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Buyer's Guide 2006: Image-Processing Software
The digital darkroom keeps getting better with improvements in features and ease of use in software programs
nik Sharpener Pro 2.0
nik Multimedia has a well-deserved reputation for putting together excellent Photoshop-compatible plug-ins that work well for photographers (the term "Photoshop-compatible" refers to the standard; all such plug-ins work in many other programs, including Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro). nik's Sharpener program was well-liked by a large group of photographers who found it made sharpening easier and more effective.
Sharpener Pro 2.0 does a superb job of sharpening, and you don't have to understand any of the mystifying formulas used for Unsharp Mask. It analyzes your image, checking its size and resolution, then makes sharpening adjustments based on your choices for paper, viewing distance and printer. For most people, the Inkjet Edition ($169 list price) will be perfect as they don't use dye-sub or Pictrography printers (I also find that it works fine for halftone purposes).
The nik Multimedia engineers have gone one step further than simply sharpening, however. The software now offers the ability to change how much a particular part of an image is sharpened based on color. There are five slider controls for strength of sharpening, and you can choose the colors to be affected. This is a tremendous tool for dealing with noise as most images will tend to have noise more prevalent in certain colors and tones. Windows and Mac.
Digital Film Tools 55mm v. 5
Digital Film Tools is a group based in Hollywood that develops unique application tools for dealing with movie industry film correction in post-production. These tools have to be both fast and effective or they simply can't keep up with the demands of the film industry. The power of the 55mm filters comes as a plug-in for Photoshop, now upgraded to version 5.0, with excellent new tools.
55mm is a complete set of plug-ins that was designed to simulate popular camera filters, mimic unique lab processes and offer exacting color correction, while featuring photographic and natural adjustments, from mist to graduated neutral-density effects. I find the Ozone and Light parts of the program alone to be worth the cost of the whole set.
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