Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Software Review - Adobe Photoshop Plug-in nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 From nik Software

Written by T. Michael Testi

nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is the latest update to nik's collection of digital photographic filters and effects for Adobe Photoshop. The goal of nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is to simplify sharpening of your images.

So, with three methods to sharpen your photos from within Photoshop already, why would you want to pay for someone else's method? Well, the first reason would be that it takes a bit of work to do it the old fashioned way and you have to learn some skills to do it well. Second, even if you are a seasoned pro, nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 can do it faster.

System requirements are Windows 2000 or better, Mac OS 10.4 or better, 128 MB RAM (512 MB Recommended), 60 MB of disk space, and Photoshop CS2, CS3, Photoshop Elements 4.0, or any image editing software program that accepts Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins.

To do sharpening well, it takes more than just random radius and threshold manipulation. You have to take into consideration variables like image size, intended viewing distance, paper type, and printer resolution. Using traditional methods, you are really only effectively sharpening for the monitor that you are working on. With nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 you can plug in these variables and come out with a much more effectively sharpened image.
nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 allows you to sharpen during two different stages of workflow. The first is known as pre-sharpening. It adds a small amount of sharpening without introducing sharpening artifacts or unwanted details The second is as the very last step and is the output sharpening stage. This is the important sharpening and it works based on the needs of your printer.

There are four main methods of output available: Inkjet based which include generic, Canon, Epson, HP, and Lexmark filters. Continuous tone printers which include Photographic & Dye sub, Fuji, or Lab. Halftone printer such as lithographic, gravure, flexographic or any other printing process that uses an ordered dither halftone pattern to create image detail. Finally there is electronic display device for images to be projected on to a screen.

So what is new with nik Sharpener Pro 2.0?

• First is the ability to work directly with 16-bit images. In the past you would have to convert to 8-bit to implement sharpening.

• Selective tool now allows you to brush on where you want to implement your sharpening. If you want to sharpen the eyes while leaving the skin less sharpened you now can.

• Advance panel gives you more control over the amount of sharpening to the entire image as well as to specific areas within the image. There are five sliders that control the amount of sharpening across a different color range.

• Raw presharpening allows you to sharpen based on images converted from a raw format. Raw files are generally less sharp than their processed JPEG counterparts.

• Larger Preview lets you see more of your image as well as display before and after panels as well.

• Analysis Modes give you two overlay modes to show you what will be sharpened and just how much it will be sharpened.

I think that nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is a must have addition to your photographer's tool box. Remember, sharpening does not make blurry images clear; it makes clear images crystal clear. It is one of those improvements that without it, your images will be ordinary. With it, they will look professionally done.

The biggest downside to nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is the price, but fortunately there are two versions available. The Complete edition which retails for $329.95 USD and contains all output devices; the version reviewed here, and the Inkjet edition which retails for $169.95 and contains the filters for Inkjet and Display output. You can get a full demo version to try it out for 15 days.

There are a lot of plug-ins that are available for Photoshop and most specialize in one fix or another. nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is probably one of those unique products that you will use for every photo you process to display and to that end, it is probably the one you need the most. nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is highly recommended.


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