Review: PhotoPatcher


Somewhat bizarrely being yet another application with two names (also filed as 'Unwanted Item Remover'), PhotoPatcher is the prolific Oleg Derevenetz's attempt at a photo retouching utility, cloning parts of a photo to replace unwanted detail somewhere else. The interface and general concept is beautifully realised, but ultimately PhotoPatcher cripples itself in terms of output resolution - and that's the only real reason why this application isn't a must-have.

Author: Oleg Derevenetz

Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

The problem that PhotoPatcher tackles is a common one. You've snapped a scene and there's an annoying rubbish bin or passerby or dog in it. Without the offending entities, the scene would have been perfect. The solution: touch the image up in a desktop editing package, cloning an area of the image nearby to cover up the miscreant. 

All very well, but wouldn't it be nice to do the same thing on your phone, ready for immediate upload to your favourite sharing site? Yes, it would, and that's the aim here. PhotoPatcher lets you load images from your Symbian smartphone's Photos gallery - rather oddly, a thumbnail appears at the bottom of screen so that you know you're picking the right one - having it in place of the err... placeholder icon would have been clearer. Meanwhile, a detailed help screen demonstrates what you have to do - it's not hard.


Screenshot Screenshot


Oleg has thought about the main interface, and it shows. Core to your use is the zoom control, top right. Cleverly, the cloning tools from the central panel are of fixed width but by zooming in you can effectively make each tool apply to as fine an area of detail as is needed. An 'undo' tool (with around half a dozen 'steps'), top left, proves very useful too.



So, you pan (the default mode/tool) to the detail you want to remove and then use the cross-hair tool to choose some detail nearby with the desired (similar) background. The idea then is to use the clone tool (the 'stamp') to carefully paint on detail as needed. A zoomed in view shows you clearly what you're doing (note that in the screenshot below, I was already zoomed in far enough that the two views were identical) and it's fair to say that there's a degree of experimentation needed here: different images will need slightly different techniques in terms of the clone detail chosen and how near or far away it needs to be from the item being removed.



With that in mind, forgive my slightly clumsy attempts here to remove two people from beside the monument - I'm sure you can do better on your own photos, whether here in PhotoPatcher or in an equivalent desktop tool. The final stage of 'patching' is to smooth out the jagged edge detail inevitably created by the cloning process, by using the smoothing tool (the 'teardrop'). I think I rather overdid it with the bush below, but you get the idea!



Tapping on the floppy disk icon prompts you for a save file name and you're done. Or at least you may be. The resulting image will upload perfectly to Facebook, should that be your intended low resolution destination. But examining the new image in Photos on the phone reveals a horrible limitation of PhotoPatcher - the saved images are only 1 megapixel in size, 1154 by 866 pixels:



Now, one argument might be that the touched up image is not going to be usable at original resolution, since your amateurish brushstrokes are going to reveal your tampering, therefore best to stick to a massively downsampled version, where it can be passed off as original. But I suspect the output resolution limitation is more due to Oleg wanting to keep processing and saving times fast. 1 megapixel is low though, even by casual standards - I'd have hoped for 3 megapixel output at least, even if it meant a ten second 'saving' delay at the end.

As it stands, PhotoPatcher ('Unwanted Item Remover') is very much for the Facebook/social crowd. Many of whom are unlikely to be too concerned with pixel-perfect images or touching up anything, while those who want to take the time to make photos better by removing items are more likely to do it in comfort and at full resolution later on, on the desktop - making the potential market for PhotoPatcher in its current form somewhat limited.

Full marks to Oleg for having a crack at the problem, but I'm looking towards a version 2 before I take it seriously on my N8....

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 15 March 2012

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