I was excited to hear about Photoshop’s new “Preserve Details” scaling mode, as I had recently needed to do a big upscale for a car wrap (if you see a giant blue toothbrush driving around Portland, that was me). The tool I had used for that purpose was onOne Software’s very well-designed Perfect Resize application. This app contains a multitude of tools to effectively enlarge images by fairly high factors and end up with usable results. When I saw what Perfect Resize was capable of, I was surprised that Photoshop didn’t offer similar abilities. As just about any PS user knows, the only option before CC came along was the “Bicubic Smoother” method of image resizing, and, well… it sucked. I mean seriously, if you blew your image up more than 20%, Photoshop couldn’t do much more than offer Unsharp Mask as a last-ditch effort.
So the new “Preserve Details” mode was one of the first things I tested out, hoping to see a lot of clean edges appear in a blown-up test photo where they should have been implied by the low-res original. The results were… [drum roll]… lackluster. Pretty weak, actually. Let’s have a look:
Now, if your goal with this photo is to include a 5x5” shot of Gladys in Obsessive Greyhound Owners Daily magazine, this just ain’t gonna work. You are not going to fool anyone who looks even reasonably closely that it’s a full-resolution pic. So let’s have a look at the Perfect Resize result, and note here that this is with zero modification of the image using the many masking and detailing options available in the software. Photoshop gives you one “Reduce Noise” slider, that’s it, but PR gives you a slew of additional options including fractal engine adjustments, film grain and sharpening. Granted, PS has some of this functionality for after the enlargement, but PR brings it all into one UI that you can tweak in real-time.
Anyway, here it is with the default setup:
…and here’s a revision based on a few adjustments:
Does this pass the OGOD magazine test? In all honesty, probably not. But for my money, it comes a lot closer, and a better test might be which version I would be more willing to print on glossy paper and hang on my wall. The answer to that is, sadly, not the one that came from Photoshop.