As far as Mitch matching PhotoKit Sharpener. . .well, he's tried to copy it right down to the terminology. But he still doesn't know the magic numbers. He hasn't done the extensive testing. On the other hand, Bruce Fraser, a noted and respected author and imaging expert HAS done the testing. . .perhaps that's worth something? His actions are error prone and his scripts are un-batchable from Bridge. So, workflow wise, you're still back to trying to delude yourself that you can "see" what you should do to an image on a display.
Flexibility. . .
When I saw the kind comments about my TLR Professional Sharpening Toolkit, I knew this sort of conversation was certain to evolve.
Although I am replying to a message from Jeff, my comments are not personally directed at him or his partners. I am making general comments. I will do my best to be fair and candid and not enflame matters.
My comments also come after reading three pages of threads replies on this thread. So they wander wider than Jeff's message.
I have not tried to match PhotoKit Sharpener. The stimulus for my scripts was a reaction to comments elsewhere from the three Pixel Genius partners participating on this thread (enough said about that), but from the start I intended to offer the best features I could incorporate into the scripts, whether those features were incorporated in PhotoKit Sharpener or other products.
My scripts offer people a free set of sharpening scripts that they are free to download, see if they meet their needs, and use in their work. I encourage people to try them and see if they help. If not, there are lots of free and commercial alternatives to consider.
I have freely admitted that much of the methodology in the scripts came from Bruce Fraser's writings. I cite them, etc. in the documentation for the scripts. Why attempt to change terminology with which everyone is familiar? I have no quarrel with Bruce's terminology (or crediting him with it). I have no problem crediting him with the three-pass sharpening methodology. He deserves to be credited for it.
The scripts include features not available in PhotoKit Sharpener, such as enhanced masks that combine tone and color boundaries to define edges that tone-based masks can miss, support for Smart Sharpen (which is being enhanced in version 2.0 and will include edge mask support), etc. I have tried to offer people a sophisticated set of sharpening scripts (and actions) that include features from a range of sharpening tools.
I am not aware of any outstanding issues with errors or bugs in my scripts. If anyone is having a problem with any of the features, I would be glad to know about the problem so I can fix it. E-mail me or post a message on the Yahoo! Group forum for The Light's Right. I have tried to be responsive to the user community with fixes and enhancements. PhotoKit Sharpener has not been without its maintenance releases. No software is.
Regarding magic numbers . . .
Jeff does not know how many hours I spent on the presets in my scripts, so he really should not comment. Like the partners at Pixel Genius, I invested hundreds of hours, hundreds of printed samples, etc. on images of my own and images supplied by the Photoshop user community to develop the presets in my scripts. It was literally several months of work. I also compared the results against a number of sharpening products, including PhotoKit Sharpener, Focal Blade, Nik Sharpener, and Power Retouche Sharpness. I found you can get equally good results with my scripts or any of these products. None of them consistently or clearly out performs the others. Once you understand sharpening and become familiar with the features in any of these products, you can get equally impressive results.
Left to my own preferences, there would be no presets whatsoever in my scripts. I do not accept the argument that there are magic numbers that are optimal for a wide range of images. I have seen no independent, scientific evidence to support the claims that the presets in PhotoKit Sharpener are optimal.
I invested all that time and energy on the presets in my scripts to help others. I give away all of the result from that effort. It really is not fair to have that effort diminished by understating the effort that went into them.
It was already mentioned, my scripts are totally open to examination. You can see the values for the sharpening settings. You can change them, if you like. Version 2 will make those settings even more transparent and user configurable.
I have encouraged the partners of Pixel Genius to be forthcoming about their sharpening settings. If you are going to claim optimality, prove it. Publish the settings and people can easily put them to the test. There would still be much to recommend PhotoKit Sharpener as a commercial product, even if the world knew those "magic numbers" in PhotoKit Sharpener. I own it and the other products I mentioned, and I have not been unsatisfied with PhotoKit Sharpener. It's a competent package that can give you excellent results. But it's not unique in that regard.
In the end, the argument about the optimality of the settings in PhotoKit sharpener has always come down to trusting the reputations and expertise of the Pixel Genius partners. That's an argument I do not accept. I'm not diminishing their expertise. But you can test the results for yourself and trust your own judgment when it comes to selecting a sharpening tool.
Run PhotoKit on a set of images of your own choice. Then see if you could improve on their apparent sharpness in any way. If you can, then clearly the settings were not optimal. See if any of the other products can do an equally good or better job. My experience was that for any given image, using the available presets in the tools I mentioned and my own scripts, the "winner" varies and in many cases is way too close to call. In almost every case, you could improve on the result from the presets in PhotoKit Sharpener and the others.
Trotting out testimonials is not proof that the settings are optimal. It tells you that some people are satisfied with the product. Heck, I'm not dissatisfied with it.You even have to be careful with testimonials. There are friendships, business relationships, and the like that can also affect testimonials. I can post lots of glowing testimonials, even testimonials from people who own PhotoKit Sharpener and prefer to use my scripts. I'm sure that Harold Heim, Jan Essmann, and others can do the same. It really doesn't prove much.
I have always said that PhotoKit Sharpener is a fine product. There are other fine tools out there for sharpening, too.
For an add-in, my preference is Focal Blade. Harold Heim provides an excellent product on which Michael Reichmann has also heaped praise. Harold provides excellent customer service, and he does not feel the need to belittle the efforts of others who offer people alternatives.
I fractured my spine at the end of February while doing landscape photography in Zion National Park. I slipped on some new snow over ice. I am just now free of the narcotic painkillers, muscle relaxants, etc. That has slowed my plans to release an upgrade to the sharpening scripts. I am sorry about the delay, but it has been unavoidable. Coding scripts is best not done under the influence of narcotics. (Although it does enhance the experience of listening to Pink Floyd, etc.)
Version 2.0 will be significantly faster. The mask generation alone will be orders of magnitude faster. There will be even more user configurability. The Smart Sharpening settings will be enhanced and edge masks will be an option when using Smart Sharpen. Color masks and tone masks will be available to further restrict sharpening. Etc.
No one has asked for Adobe Bridge batch support. If there are features that others would like to see in the scripts, I am open to incorporating them in version 2. Contact me.
What should matter most is the result you can achieve with the tool. Does it provide you with Web images, prints, etc. that you and others find pleasing? Yes. If more than one does, then you should coose on the basis of cost, workflow, support, etc.
I'm obsessive compulsive about crafting a fine art print. I have found that you can get equally good results with Photoshop alone, my scripts, or the tools I've mentioned in this reply. The workflow will be different in each case. The amount of experience required and the amount of effort you might require will vary, too. Some tools automate more. Etc. Those are important considerations.
That's why I suggest people try the various tools rater than rely on claims, especially from the very people selling the tools. Put my claims to the test, too. The commercial tools all offer free trials. My scripts are completely free to try and to use. See what works best for you.