I got to thinking about this after seeing a tweet from one of the Photoshop team about his favorite plug-in.
One line of thinking is that Photoshop is extensible. If there's something missing in Photoshop, a developer can build a plug-in to fill that gap. Some of these plug-ins are free, some are very expensive, some are more than the cost of Photoshop.
Essentially, with each release, Adobe is saying that this is where we are. If you don't like it, get a plug-in. Some think this is cool - opening up the program for developers to fill these gaps. Others think it sucks - that Photoshop is essentially incomplete and will likely never be complete ... and that it's up to the customer to spend more money to gain this preferred functionality. In the case of FFT, the plug in can be very expensive.
The other problem with plug-ins is validation. They're an "as-is" product. How does Blow Up work? I like it, from an artist's point of view. But, I can't defend its use now that Photoshop has become a verb. If it doesn't have a scientific explanation for how it works, I'm going to have a very difficult time defending its use.
Contrast the Photoshop plug-in Blow Up with Amped FIVE's Smart Resize filter. With each of the filters, your get a plain English explanation of what it does, combined with the academic references on which the filter is based.
In the case of Smart Resize, it "Resizes the image with a smart zoom algorithm."
"Details: Smart Resize interpolates the input image by generating an output image of the desired size with an iterative two-dimensional implementation of the Warped Distance algorithm."
For your information, references are provided.
- Anil. K. Jain, Fundamentals of Digital Image Processing, Prentice Hall, pp. 253-255, 1989.
- Anil. K. Jain, Fundamentals of Digital Image Processing, Prentice Hall, pp. 320-322, 1989.
- G. Ramponi, Warped distance for space-variant linear image interpolation, in IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, vol. 8, pp. 629-639, May 1999.
So, plug-ins might be cool for wedding photographers and artists. But they can be problematic for Forensic Analysts.
All this being said, the developers at Amped Software have been very responsive to the Forensic community. If there's something not in the program, and it's a valid addition, they've found a way to get it in the next update. From Color Deconvolution to working with Channels, user submission and solutions to specific problems have found their way into the program sooner rather than later. Best yet, these additions are included in the price of the software - there's nothing else to buy.
As an artist, I still love Adobe products. But as an Analyst, I find myself needing a more purpose built solution. Thankfully, I have one - FIVE.