Digital Focus: Take Your Camera Under Water, Part I

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Dave's Favorites: Sharpen Blurry Pictures With Focus Magic

Among photographers, it seems there's no regret worse than the one caused by getting a blurry picture. "It could have been great," you tell yourself, but a little motion blur or the jiggle caused by a slow shutter speed ruined the shot. You can always try the sharpen tool in your image editor--but Focus Magic from Acclaim Software is designed expressly for just this sort of job.

Focus Magic has a handful of modes that fix motion blur, sharpen an out-of-focus picture, and despeckle a photo to remove digital noise. The program is surprisingly sophisticated. Choose to remove motion blur, for instance, and Focus Magic asks you to enter the direction of the offending motion and the "distance" of the blurring effect. The program's manual explains that you can calculate the blur distance using a mathematical formula that looks like this:

Blur Direction = Inverse Tan (Vertical Distance / Horizontal Distance)

I don't know about you, but the last time I saw an inverse tangent was college--this bit of so-called help left me scratching my head. Fortunately, you can set these options by trial and error, then preview the effect on your picture in real time. That's a far better solution than breaking out the programmable calculator.

The program worked well on some of my hopelessly blurry pictures. No program can go back in time to add detail to a picture that wasn't there to begin with, but Focus Magic impressed me with its ability to sharpen a shot without adding too much unwanted noise. You can download a free trial at the Focus Magic site, or buy it for $45.

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