August 10, 2007

Review: PhotoAcute Mobile

I've been a fan of the 'original' PhotoAcute (v2.0 and v2.1) ever since it first came out for the Nokia 3650 and Nokia 6600. With its remarkable capability of taking a full 1.3MPix snap using a tiny 0.3VGA camera, it was sure to make waves.

And it did too, since it wasn't really as gimmicky as it sounded. The 'superresolution' algorithm employed by it basically worked by using a series of continuous snaps and combining them together to produce a larger sized and higher quality image.

Although it wasn't as good as a dedicated 1.3MPix camera, it still did do a fairly decent job at getting a greater amount of detail as compared to the installed VGA camera.

However, with the introduction of newer handsets -- the 6630/80/81, N70 etc, the software market saw another, updated release of PhotoAcute (v3.1) for the newer platform. Since this app offered nothing new, the original hype wasn't really there. After all, it was just a port to the newer version of Symbian OS and nothing else. Quality was quite pathetic too and the installed camera always seemed to yield better images than the ones processed by PhotoAcute.

Come 2007, and there's yet another version of PhotoAcute (v3.5) out for S60 3rd Edition devices. I tested it recently and found it to be better than the previous release, but obviously not as great as the first release.

The reason why I said 'better' and not 'revolutionary' or anything else is simply because the N73's 3.2MPix camera is a delight to use by itself. The only problem lies in the high amount of jpeg compression that it does in saving the final snaps – most probably to keep a check on the file size, which is quite ridiculous as the N73’s supposed to be an imaging specialist! You can spot these compression artifacts in areas where colours sharply contrast. And the problem seems to have been made worse with newer releases of the N73's firmware. Another caveat is the blue haze you encounter on some photos under ordinary room lighting conditions.

Anyway, the latest version of PhotoAcute transcends this barrier somewhat, yielding 7MPix images with a resolution of 3072 x 2304 pixels with lesser compression artifacts. That’s more than two times the resolution of the N73’s camera. Check these comparisons out and decide for yourself:

P.S All snaps to the left are taken with the N73’s default 3.2MPix camera. The ones to the right are processed with PhotoAcute, after setting jpeg compression to low and enabling brightness as well as geometry correction, and resized to make the comparison easier to understand. Finally, to your extreme right is the self-explanatory magnified view :)

- Have a look at the first picture of the calculator keypad. Although both snaps look quite the same at first glance, it’s only when you magnify portions that you see the difference. Notice the area around the “Multiply” key in both photos.

- In the second photo of the calendar, you can immediately make out the varying levels of compression in the unprocessed photo.

- The final photo’s more of a closer match, even though PhotoAcute does show lesser compression artifacts than the default camera.

Verdict: I'll be frank. The latest version of PhotoAcute isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, you can in no way compare it to a top-of-the-line 7.2Mpix digital camera, but it does tend to improve on the images taken with the default camera, albeit slightly.

However, the reason why I wouldn't give it a 'Recommended' rating is because practically, it is quite stunted since photographing anything in motion (and I mean even the slightest motion) is totally out of the question as it gets you blurred results.

Also, I feel future releases should definitely offer something more than just selecting a group of photos and clicking OK as has been the case for so long now. A nifty photo editor, maybe...or perhaps the option of selecting the final image resolution would be some welcome additions.

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