Some of the latest compact digital cameras, like the Casio EX-Z1200, offer as much as 12Mp resolution, so why would you want more? For one thing, most only have a 3x optical zoom lens, so you can find yourself wanting to crop in and enlarge small areas of photos.

Furthermore, if you want to create a 6 x 4-foot poster print while taking advantage of a 300dpi printing system, you'll require a whopping 300MB image file. Genuine Fractals 5 is a plug-in package designed for use with Adobe Photoshop CS2 or CS3, or with Photoshop Elements 4 or 5, to enable photo enlargements of up to 1,000 per cent in size.

On the edge

In truth, both Photoshop CS and Elements make a good job of enlargements in their own right. Genuine Fractals 5 adopts a more ingenious approach, though.

Fractals 5 works by analysing images and looking for repeating patterns, through ever-decreasing sizes of pixel blocks. These can then be worked into enlargement process to give more lifelike results.

Better still, the new version includes adjustable texture controls and sharpening tools, as well as an option to inject grain into the final image, all of which can make the finished image look sharper. Everything is controlled via a simple interface, which launches directly from within Photoshop CS or Elements.

The only downside is the processing time. In our tests, we cropped original 12Mp photos to create 3Mp images, then resized them to 500 per cent (75Mp) and 1,000 per cent (300Mp) enlargements, using both Elements 5's built-in Bicubic Smoother resizing option and Genuine Fractals 5.

Completion times for the 500 per cent image were two seconds flat in Elements, but almost two minutes in Fractals 5. For 1,000 per cent enlargements, Elements still did the job in less than a minute, but Fractals 5 took 34 minutes.

The bottom line, however, is that completed images were sharper using Fractals 5, especially in edge definition, making the clever processing worth the wait.