January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann


Genuine Fractals

This photograph was taken with aCanon S10, a 2.1 Megapixel point-and-shoot. At 300 dpi (the resolution needed for photo-realistic output with an ink-jet printer) this amount of resolution is good for just a 3.5 X 4" print. But, what about making an 8X10" print? Without "ressing-up" the image you’ll be at 120dpi, nowhere near good enough.

At a demo of the then brand-newNikon D1in Toronto, in the fall of ’99, I was shown quite impressive 11X17" prints that I was told had been run though aPhotoShopplug-in calledGenuine Fractals 2.0. It was claimed that this utility did a much better job ofressing-upan image than does thebicubic interpolation, the technique used within PhotoShop. I also read some reviews which had high praise.

Since I’m a natural-born skeptic I decided to try this out for myself. The program sells for U.S. $159 and is available for download over the Net. Not inexpensive for such a utility, but worthwhile if it could do the job. 

PhotoShop Bicubic Interpolation

The frame above was scaled to an 8.8 X 10" size at 300 dpi using PhotoShop’s built-in bicubic interpolation. To save space it is shown cropped to the center section only, and of course is reproduced here at 96 dpi for web presentation.

Genuine Fractals 2.0

This frame was similarly scaled and reproduced but usingGenuine Fractals 2.0.

What does one see on a print, and how does it compare to what’s displayed above? Essentially the same. On the prints theGenuine Fractalsimage isslightlysmoother and appearsslightlyshaper. But, not a lot. There isn’t a whole lot of difference. 

The reason for this is that the program apparently works best when used with a largeoriginalfile, something in the order of 20MB or better. Consequently I can’t recommend the program for enhancing images created with small digital cameras.

Operational Issues

Genuine Fractalsis somewhat awkward in operation. It installs as a PhotoShop plug-in (or with any other compatible photo editing software). You prepare your file for printing as usual and then "save as" an .STN file,Genuine Fractals’proprietary format. At this point you can save the file with "lossless" compression and get about a 2:1 compression ratio or as "lossy" and get about 5:1.

Here’s the issue though. This capability, one of the program’s two major capabilities promoted byAltamira Group(Genuine Fractals‘ publisher), only is worthwhile if storage space is an issue for you. Frankly, with 25 Gigabyte drives costing just a few hundred dollars and CD storage at less than $1 for 650 Megabytes, this just isn’t an issue for most people anymore.

When you "load" an .STN file you can then specify the amount of "ressing-up" that you require. So, whereas with PhotoShop’s built-in utility you simply perform the task, withGenuine Fractalsyou need to save the file and then reload it to change resolution.

Another downside ofGenuine Fractalsis thatyou can’t save your files withAdjustment Layersintact. This makes the program inappropriate for me as a primary storage format since I require archiving files withAdjustment Layers. Consequently any space saving provided byGenuine Fractalsis negated because I would now need to save both a .PSD file withadjustment layersandan .STN file.

What About Larger Files?

A couple of months after I started usingGenuine Fractalsto enhance prints from my digital point-and-shoot I began using it with very high quality images done with myImacon FlexTight Photoscanner. I needed to make some 13X19" format prints from 35mm images, to match the size of some prints made from 6X6 scans. This meant either dropping below 300 DPI or ressing-up them up slightly to achieve that size. The quality usingGenuine Fractalswas very good indeed. The higher the quality of the original the more the program has to work with. For this application I now can recommendGenuine Fractalsmuch more than for use with low-end digital images.

The Bottom Line

This is a worthwhile program for anyone working with large digital files that needs to make them a bit larger but without losing too much quality. Just remember that nothing can add resolution to an image that doesn’t have it to begin with. All you can hope to do is smooth the jaggies.

Michael Reichmann

Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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