In his post Part of Owl butterfly wing - macrophotograph cybermystic
mentioned that fractal sharpening was used. It's a foul day here so it seemed a good opportunity to download the Demo of Genuine Fractals 5
and have a play. As it is a Photoshop plug-in I compared GF5 with the regular tools in Photoshop CS2.
The first test was sharpening. I used the GF5 plug-in and, with help from the manual, tweaked an image until I achieved the best level of sharpening I could without introducing any artefacts I considered too obtrusive. Then I opened a second window with the original file and tried to replicate the effect using Photoshop's Smart Sharpen tool. Here's the result with 100% crops from the original and the two sharpened images combined as an animation:
You can form your own opinion but, for this particular shot, I don't think that GF5 adds anything, apart from the Demo version watermarks. To be fair, the website says "Genuine Fractals 5 is a revolutionary step forward for image enlargements" so they aren't selling it primarily as a sharpening tool.
The second test was enlargement. I took a crop of the original image and enlarged it by a factor of four using PhotoShop's Bicubic Sharper algorithm followed by a little extra Smart Sharpen. Genuine Fractals 5 enlarged the image and applied some sharpening in a single step. Here are the resultant 100% crops from the enlarged images:
To my eye GF5 really earns it's keep here though at $159.95 it's not exactly a casual purchase. I'd be hard pressed to spot the fact the the GF5 crop was actually an enlargement. Maybe it's time to downsize to a 6MP sensor.