Photoshop really offers a broad range of sharpening tools-especially
since the introduction of Smart Sharpen-we took a glance around
slightly different, alternative sharpening solutions. This is how
we stumbled upon Focus Magic, which is a real 2-in-1 solution
instead of a simple "sharpen" plugin.
version of Focus Magic can be downloaded free of charge from
the developer's website, and the first good news is that it's only
4.4MB. The trial version is unlimited in its functionality but unfortunately
expires after 10 uses. The license costs $45. The plugin can be started
after the trial period has expired, but the results cannot be saved.
installing, you don't only get a Photoshop plugin, but also
a separately usable picture sharpening application. In this application,
you can choose from five different filters, each responsible for sharpening
and blurring. But let us keep our eyes on the Photoshop plugin
instead. This offers two features, and we think you'll be satisfied
with both. One is sharpening and the other is motion blur reduction.
Filter/Focus Magic in Photoshop's menu to activate the
plugin that offers two choices:
Motion Blur - Motion blur reduction
Fix Out-of-focus Blur - Simple sharpening
photos (Fix Out-of-focus Blur)
camera (or its user) has set an incorrect focus, but the details are
preserved in the photo, it is time to use a sharpening filter or plugin.
If the focus is completely messed up or the photo is totally blurred,
post-production won't do much good. So what's the difference between
sharp, soft and blurred?
part on the left is sharp. Edges have contrast, details are easily
visible. The middle picture is soft, slightly blurred. Contrast differences
of the edges are more difficult to get, but the details are still
nicely distinguishable. This picture is perfectly fit for sharpening
in post-production. The right-side photo part is blurred. Details
are gone for good, which means sharpening will create rough or false
edges and details. You shouldn't try sharpening on such photos.
Magic's most taking characteristic is the strife for simplicity.
There are numerous sharpening plugins but most of them tends to throw
out the baby with the bath water: they usually offer several dozens
of different options but this means that after a certain time you
won't be bothered with the regiments of sliders, check boxes and dropdowns.
Three or four settings, and an accurate detail-emphasizing ability
is all you really need, and Focus Magic does have this potential.
four controls in total to deal with.
Source lets you specify whether the photo has been taken with
a digital or a traditional camera, a DV cam, perhaps scanned from
Newspaper or from an old, battered (Forensic) photograph. The
plugin does the sharpening according to this selection. Obviously,
a soft, noiseless digital photo needs different treatment than a heavily
grainy paper photo.
Width lets you specify the extent of blurring. The lower the value,
the smaller details can be sharpened. Using higher values is recommended
for heavier blurring, but, as explained above, you shouldn't have
great expectations in such cases. A downsized digital photo for Web
publishing usually requires a value of 1 to 2.
a few examples on how to use Blur Width. We've set it to 1
for this soft photo to treat the finer details nicely.
illustration shows the same photo part with a Blur Width value
of 6, telling the plugin that the photo is seriously blurred.
As it could be expected, it produced an excessive sharpening that
ruined the existing details of the photo. Try increasing the value
in steps of 1, and adjusting the other settings accordingly.
lets you specify the extent of sharpening as a percentage. A slider
would have been nice for even more accurate control, but the scale
from 0 to 300% (in steps of 25%) will have to suffice.
setting is Remove Noise. Sharpening may increase the existing
noise level of the photo, and thus it can produce an unpleasantly
grainy image. The option can also be used to remove Dust and Scratches
from scanned paper photos. By Blur Width values of 4 and
above, this option becomes available and can be used to reduce
noise as follows:
Yes: forces noise filtering
No: prevents filtering even by high Blur Width values
Dark Only: filters only dark areas
Lights Only: filters only light areas
The extent of removed noise is displayed in the lower status bar of
the dialog (Noise Removed=...%).
see the result of your settings in the After preview pane on
the upper right, and the original picture in Before on the
upper left. Click an area in the preview image on the left to select
which part is displayed in these panes.
motion blur (Fix Motion Blur)
we'll have a somewhat harder job than with soft photos, since motion
blur shows in pictures in a rather special way and in truth it cannot
be fixed perfectly. Let's rather say reducing or cloaking instead
of elimination. The software will be unable to cope with more severe
Motion Blur works the most efficiently if the direction and extent
of the motion can be determined. If you take a photo by hand, with
a long exposure time, the final blur can be composed from movements
in several directions.
The image below shows a motion blur of a single, almost vertical direction
that makes the horizontal edges look like they were duplicated.
Direction of motion
Fix Motion Blur dialog is almost identical to that of the plain
sharpening feature. The only exception is the Blur Direction
field for the information we just mentioned. It has to be specified
in degrees and there is a small compass to help. In this example,
the direction is 290 degrees.
Source, once again, lets you specify the source of the image (e.g.
digital camera, analog photo, scanned picture).
important setting is Blur Distance. It is basically identical
to Blur Width, discussed above. It needs to be specified in
pixels, in this case it is about 5.
is the extent of reducing motion blur (as a percentage). If you manage
to identify Blur Direction and Blur Distance accurately,
you should try lower values for Amount first and increasing
it in smaller steps. An excessively high value produces rough or false
edges. Slightly rough edges cannot be avoided anyway when fixing up
stronger motion blur. Sorry, it's part of the job. You shouldn't expect
fine details and edges.
setting is Remove Noise, the same as above. It can be used
to remove stronger noise, or dust and scratches.
the result of the settings displayed above.
is even more spectacular if you take a look at a characteristic part
of the blurred and the sharpened photo each. To the left, you can
see the blurry one. You can easily spot the duplicated edges on the
petals and the stamen. In the fixed picture on the right, the blurred
edges are gone. The resultant sharpening looks a bit rough, but most
of the details can be seen better. If the photo is large enough, and
you want to publish it on the Web, downsizing can produce fairly nice
3.0 of the Focus Magic plugin (and the stand-alone sharpening
tool) can be downloaded for Windows and Mac OS systems from this