Sunday, January 1, 2006

Genuine Fractals vs. Enlarger PRO: which is better?


By David Gewirtz

Back in July, we ran a review of Enlarger PRO, a program by Bearded Frog (a name still makes me chuckle) that uses fractals to help you enlarge your digital images and still retain some degree of sharpness. Although the product had some user interface quirks, we liked it, and gave it three bearded frogs out of five, noting that the program did do enlargements better than Photoshop.

After the review ran, we got a number of reader letters asking us about a program called Genuine Fractals, perhaps the best known of the enlargement add-ons for Photoshop. This is that review.

Genuine Fractals was originally from a company called Lizard Tech (yep, bearded frogs and lizards -- you can't make this stuff up!), but has since been acquired by onOne Software.

To keep things consistent, we're going to use the same 768x508 test image we used back then, shown in Figure A.


Courtesy of our clip art collection, we're reusing this test image. (click for larger image)

In our earlier Enlarger PRO test, we scaled the image up 200% and 400%. To be fair, Genuine Fractals explicitly claims "Genuine Fractal's scaling ability is best within a 500-600% increase range in size or resolution." Later in this article, we'll look at a 600% enlargement, but since we've got the 200% and 400% test images, that's what we're going to compare against first.

Scale-off #1: 200%

In our first heat, we ran Enlarger PRO against Genuine Fractals at 200%, as you can see in Figure B.


We test Enlarger PRO against Genuine Fractals at 200%. (click for larger image)

Interestingly, it appears the enlargement done by Enlarger PRO is substantially cleaner than that done by Genuine Fractals, a result we frankly didn't expect.

Take a close look at Figure C.


Enlarger PRO wins at 200%. (click for larger image)

If you look closely at the two necklaces, both have some image corruption. But while Enlarger PRO's image corruption is limited to the area just around the necklace, there's clear discoloration on the young lady's neck area in the Genuine Fractals enlargement.

Likewise, the woman's lips and teeth look quite clean when enlarged using Enlarger PRO, but the same enlargement level shows pixelization in the Genuine Fractals enlargement.

The same problem can be seen around the girl's eyes. On the Enlarger PRO side, you can see she's got smooth coloration, where there's definite pixelization around the eye in the Genuine Fractals enlargement.