Focus Magic's hidden strength is its
ability to sharpen images that are already in focus.
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T e c h n o f i l e
New version of Focus Magic enhances photos even better
May 18, 2003
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2003, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2003, The Post-Standard
If your digital photos are fuzzy or out
of focus, don't give up. Use a little magic.
That's what I've been doing over
the last few weeks. I've been trying out two magical
image-enhancers. I'll tell you about them this week and
The first and most exciting is the
latest version of one of my favorite programs, Focus Magic,
from www.focusmagic.com. It
miraculously turns those goofy out-of-focus pictures you
took at the family reunion into images you could hang at
the Louvre. The latest version of Focus Magic is vastly
improved over the older one -- it's easier to use and
figures the proper settings out for you, so all you have to
do is click once to rescue your masterpiece.
Focus Magic runs only under Windows.
There is no Mac version yet.
I've been running the beta version
of Focus Magic. I've used the previous program, version
1.23, for many months with great satisfaction, but I
wasn't prepared for the dramatic improvement in the
current version. It does everything for you except make you
a cup of coffee.
Photo of Joe, the author's
Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot, shown before (left) and after
(right) treatment by Focus Magic. Notice how everything in
the image seems sharper.
There's no work at all when you fix
your blurry images. Focus Magic spends a few seconds
examining the image, then tells you how much blur
correction it thinks the image needs. It even changes its
settings to match the blur factor. All you do is click on a
"green light" in the toolbar.
Focus Magic's hidden strength is its
ability to sharpen images that are already in focus. In my
example photo here, I've used Focus Magic to sharpen a
picture I took of our parrot, Joe. You can see the amazing
improvement in clarity by looking at his eye. The standard
method of sharpening, called unsharp mask, cannot make such
I'm an unqualified fan of Focus
Magic. In addition to the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't
way it gets rid of blur, Focus Magic also has a separate
function that enlarges images without making them blocky
and ugly. If you do a lot of resizing -- especially if you
have to enlarge some of your photos to get them to print
better -- you need Focus Magic more than you might realize.
The method Focus Magic uses to resize images without
telltale jaggies makes other methods, such as the built-in
image resizing in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements,
look like amateur night at the programming office.
But you need to know that Focus Magic is
very, very slow. If you work on truly large images the way
I do -- mine tend to be 2,000 to 4,000 pixels wide --
you'll find Focus Magic is an ideal excuse to make a
sandwich, drive to Topeka or take a nap. Processing a
single large photo can take a few hours unless you have a
fast computer. You can always do other tasks while it's
working, of course, but you won't be able to use Focus
Magic to fix up a panorama three minutes before that
Another problem: The standalone version
of Focus Magic is brain-dead when dealing with non-JPEG
images. It can't load or save any other kind of image.
But the plug-in automatically installed with Focus Magic
does not have that JPEG limitation.
This version of Focus Magic will cost
$89 starting June 1, but it's only $39 now. Get the
free trial version from www.focusmagic.com, then
buy it if you like it. (Support this kind of excellence. It
matters more than wee usually think.)
Here's a tip: Buy version 1.23 and
install it, then download the much improved beta version
and install that. Your registration will work with the beta
Next: Resize Magic's special