PhotoFinish. (image processing software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Steven Anzovin
Sooner or later, every desktop presenter learns that dull slides will send an audience to snoozeville quicker than warm milk. Likewise, experienced desktop publishers know that readers who see a tackily scanned photo on page 1 won't bother reading that hot story on page 2.
One of the best ways to keep audiences awake and readers reading is to use good-quality scanned art in your presentations and publications. But few businesspersons have the time to become skilled scan artists, and most scan-editing programs are expensive and not always intuitive.
PhotoFinish, a new Windoes editor for 256-color, gray-scale, and true-color 24-bit scans, makes working with scans almost simple. It's geared to beginners, but it has enough tools to satisfy more experienced users who simply want to save time and effort.
PhotoFinish incorporates drivers for most popular flatbed and hand-held scanners and video frame grabbers, so you can scan art directly into the program. Unlike the "lite" scanning programs bundled with scanner hardware, PhotoFinish has a robust preview feature and lets you make corrections and apply halftone screens and other effects to the scan before you capture it. You can also automatically stitch together partial scans of a large image. Once you've calibrated PhotoFinish for your particular needs, chances are you won't have to choose more than image size in future scans--a great help for people who need to grab a scan and get on with their work.
Captured scans are loaded directly into PhotoFinish's main work area. There you'll find a wide range of clickable image-editing and retouching tools, including softening and sharpening brushes and tools for tinting and cloning areas. Image-processing filters allow you to adjust brightness and contrast, modify individual color levels, add or remove noise, enhance edges and shadows, and add motion blur. Filters can be applied to the whole image or selected areas and colors. You can even display multiple versions of the same image and cut and paste between then--something few such programs on any platform can do. Even if you never used the scanning features, PhotoFinish would still be a standout paint program. If all you want is simplicity, however, you can just apply a cleanup filter to get rid of stray pixels and save the scan as any of several file types that work with popular presentation and publishing programs.
Sometimes you have to work with a variety of images, both color and monochrome. It's no problem for PhotoFinish to convert between gray-scale, 256-color, and true-color images. You can edit any image even if your video adapter doesn't support a particular color mode. For example, you can edit true-color scans in 256-color Super VGA; you'll see only 256 dithered colors on-screen, but all the original color information in the true-color scan will be preserved.
PhotoFinish's feature set is impressive, but the program becomes even more attractive when you consider that many other scan editors cost two to three times as much. But don't assume you can run this program--or, for that matter, any 24-bit, 300-dpi, fulpage scan-editing program--on a plain-vanilla AT. PhotoFinish snailed along on my 25-MHz 386 with 2MB of RAM, especially when editing 24-bit files.
The main bottleneck seemed to be PhotoFinish's own virtual memory scheme. The program stores large picture files and some of the program code on your hard disk; then it swaps parts of them into RAM as needed. That allows you to work with pictures too big to fit in memory, but it also means the program is constantly reading from the hard disk. Screen refreshes crawl, and you might as well go out for a cup of java while applying a complicated filter. If you have more RAM to work with, however, things speed up considerably. I wouldn't want to run PhotoFinish on anything less than a 25-MHz 386 with 4MB of RAM--8MB would be better. A fast hard disk is a necessity.
If you want to produce good-looking scans with minimal effort and expense and you've got the hardware to handle it, PhotoFinish definitely does the job at a better price than any competitor.