Review: Blurity photo de-blurring utility tries to bring CSI one step closer to real life

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Blurity

    PCWorld Rating

    This handy utility offers a simple interface for fixing photos damaged by motion blur. It doesn't always work, but it's worth a try if you have an important photo marred by blur.

The idea of taking a blurry photo and making it sharp again sounds exciting. Like speech recognition, it is one of those technological visions that firmly belonged in the realm of futuristic fantasy just a few short years ago. But while powerful, reliable speech recognition is here, image de-blurring still has a long way to go. Blurity ($49, demo with watermarking) is a utility that’s trying to blaze a trail into the difficult field, and it can de-blur certain types of photos if you’re skillful and lucky.

At first glance, Blurity's interface is simple and inviting.

You put the blurry image on the left, click a part of it to demark a selection frame, and click Process. Blurity crunches some numbers, and shows the result on the right half of the window. In a perfect world, this review would end here: You would now be looking at a beautifully sharp version of your previously-blurry photo. In my testing, however, things proved to be more difficult.

Despite repeated attempts and tweaking, Blurity doesn't always get the desired result.

To Blurity's credit, it doesn't set unrealistic expectations.

When you first run Blurity, the application launches into a short interactive tutorial explaining the different settings, as well as how you should use the selection frame. This frame is very important, because Blurity tries to figure out the shape of the blur using the data within this frame.

Some spots on the photo are good for the frame, while others won't provide Blurity with the information it needs. The tutorial carefully demonstrates this point, and shows some of the other settings. It uses a sample image, and shows the kind of results you can hope to achieve with Blurity: Photos that are significantly clearer, but still have some blur and artifacts.

Blurity features a simple and effective tutorial.

Photos can be blurry either because they're out of focus, or because the subject or the camera were moving during the exposure. This is called motion blur, and that's what Blurity knows how to fix.

The first photo I fed into Blurity was one of a dolphin leaping out of the water. When I originally took the shot, I was tracking the dolphin with my camera and using a too-slow shutter speed. The dolphin ended up sharp, but the audience in the background had severe motion blur.

No matter how much I played with Blurity's settings, I couldn't get the photo to de-blur. It turns out this is one kind of shot Blurity can't handle: Your entire picture has to have the same kind of motion blur. In other words, Blurity is at its best when fixing camera shake.

I then tried Blurity with a street photo I took of construction workers. I took the shot from the hip while walking, so it had some camera shake (not much, though, because I was using a stabilized lens and it was a bright, sunny day). With this photo as well, no matter how much I played with Blurity's settings and the location of the selection frame, no joy. The end result was worse than the one I started with.

At its best, Blurity recovers lost detail from badly blurred photos.

Finally, I decided to take an image just to test Blurity. I took a photo of an artwork while vigorously shaking my camera, resulting in a very blurry shot. The image itself was ideal for Blurity. It contained a good amount of detail, and uniform motion blur. And indeed, this was my most successful attempt.The de-blurred image showed details that were completely smudged over in the original image.

If Blurity disappoints, it is not for lack of trying or unrealistic marketing.

Blurity's website features a comprehensive manual and two videos showing how to use the program, and the output shown reflects what you'll really get with the application (if you know what you're doing).

What Blurity is trying to do is very complicated, and complicated things don't always work like in the movies. Still, if you have an irreplaceable photo that's been damaged by motion blur, Blurity is worth a shot, and is free to try.

Note: The "Try it for free" button on the Product Information page, where you can download the latest version of the software directly from the vendor's site.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This handy utility offers a simple interface for fixing photos damaged by motion blur. It doesn't always work, but it's worth a try if you have an important photo marred by blur.

    Pros

    • Simple interface
    • High-quality documentation
    • Realistic marketing (does not set expectations too high)

    Cons

    • Can de-blur specific kinds of photos only
    • Getting good results is a matter of luck and skill
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