Most image-editing software includes sharpening filters. Several companies offer software solutions that provide sharpening capabilities well beyond those built into image-editing programs. Two excellent examples are DxO Optics Pro v3.5 and Nik Sharpener Pro 2.0. Sharpener is a Photoshop-compatible plug-in; Optics Pro is a stand-alone application.
DxO Optics Pro v3.5
DxO Optics Pro v3.5's award-winning Optics Engine corrects lens problems, such as distortion, softness, vignetting, color fringing and astigmatism, in images made with supported cameras and lenses (a list is available on the DxO website). Each correction, based on DxO's lab testing of specific camera/lens combinations, can optimize the image by removing unique defects and aberrations specific to that combo.
The Optics Engine alone is wonderful, but it's just one of four image-quality improvers. The Noise Engine reduces image noise by up to two f-stops: for example, processed ISO 1600 images will have noise equivalent to straight ISO 400 images. The Lighting Engine brings out shadow detail while preserving a natural look and restores highlight detail in RAW images that contain some highlight detail in at least one color channel. And the Raw Engine allows for high-quality RAW image conversions while interacting with the other engines to optimize image quality. Even RAW conversions done in Fully Automatic mode show amazing sharpness, color accuracy and shadow and highlight detail.
Three workflow options let you choose your degree of involvement, from having everything done automatically with a mouse-click to having control over the whole process. Optics Pro v3.5 is batch-oriented, allowing you to process large numbers of images simultaneously, even mixing JPEG and RAW images taken with different cameras and lenses.
Contact:DxO, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dxo.com.
Nik Sharpener Pro 2.0
Perhaps the best feature of Sharpener 2.0 is its Advanced Panel, where you can apply a desired amount of sharpening to specific areas of the image, selected by color. Just use the eyedropper tool to select the color of the area you want to sharpen, then use the adjacent slider to adjust the degree of sharpness in that area. You can do this for up to five colors in an image. Thus, you can easily apply lots of sharpening to, say, the boulders and trees in a landscape, but none to the sky (where too much sharpening yields noise). You can also "paint" a Sharpener filter onto desired areas of an image with the Selective tool. Contact: Nik Software, (888) 284-4085, www.niksoftware.com.
So while you can't really make a sharp image out of a fuzzy one, you can make what comes out of the camera or printer better by using the right software.