Prizmo: Scanning via a Digital Camera

Until recently purchasing a scanner, I commonly found myself taking a digital photo of a document to import it into my Mac. Results were rarely perfect, and I was never completely satisfied with the result. Prizmo is a new application which caught me eye, allowing you to adjust the perspective of a digital photo.

Completely altering the perspective of a photograph is a technically impressive operation, and uses the latest technology in OS X Leopard. This review will outline the features which make Prizmo such an interesting photo manipulation tool.

Functionality

When opening Prizmo, you’re asked to drag and drop an image for processing. This window is fantastic (from a completely superfluous design point of view) on account of the delightful shifting background colors:

The Prizmo opening window

The Prizmo opening window

The next step is to actually load up an image. This can be done through OS X’s media browser, or manually through the Finder. Files can be from any camera – whether an expensive SLR or an iPhone – though the quality of results will obviously differ. In general, the higher the resolution of the image used, the clearer the outcome will be.

Once loaded, you draw a ‘prism’ around the area of the image you’d like to focus into, with a preview updating dynamically to the left of the screen. One of the examples I used was a photo of several magazines on a table:

Prizmo in action

Prizmo in action

The result is impressive, as the captured portion is re-drawn from a new perspective. It isn’t perfect, but does a good job of producing a usable outcome. After processing, images can be exported as JPEG, PNG or TIFF files for use elsewhere.

Processing & Camera Data

cameradataAfter taking a crop, you’re able to apply a variety of different post-processing effects. Defaults cover creating a black and white image (good for document input), and boosting the color saturation of a photo. You can also explore the custom settings of brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness.

Better results can be achieved through calibrating your camera with Prizmo. With a good calibration model, Prizmo can better correct lens distortion on your photographs. This can be done automatically (through reading the image EXIF data), or manually.

Examples

Here are a few examples of photos which have been processed through Prizmo:

examples

Criticisms

I couldn’t find any major flaws with the software, though it’s worth noting that Prizmo did seem fairly resource intensive during testing. Even on a new MacBook Pro, it caused a slight system slow-down whilst handling large images. The software is young, however, and I expect that performance and functionality will only improve over time.

The price – $39.95 – may also be a limiting factor for some readers. This makes it slightly more of a specialist tool, rather than a quick purchase for processing a few images.

We have three copies of Prizmo to give away within the next few weeks. Be sure to subscribe to AppStorm so you don’t miss out!

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the technology behind Prizmo is impressive, and the app works remarkably well. The main question to be posed is whether it is actually all that useful. A few of the examples given by the developers include:

  • Scanning readable, correctly sized documents via a scanner
  • Saving a restaurant menu
  • Easily email a readable real estate advertisement to your parents who would like to buy a new house
  • Send your friends the poster of an event
  • Save good looking advertisements for future ideas

I can think of a few times in the past where Prizmo would have saved me a decent amount of time. It’s useful if you use a camera for collecting and recording information on-the-go, and can offer a good solution for scanning documents on an intermittent basis.

I definitely recommend downloading the demo to take Prizmo for a spin. It doesn’t come with a time or use limit, but embeds a watermark in exported images. Perfect for seeing whether you’d actually use the app on a regular basis.


  • http://www.parisvega.com/blog/ Paris Vega

    Reminds of those government thriller spy movies where they “enhance” the image on screen and generate impossible high resolution images from about 7 pixels of data. Ok, maybe not that impressive, but Prizmo is still pretty cool.

  • Barry Wiseman

    Very good review- I had downloaded but have yet to test (ie ‘play’) with it. After reading about it on the developers’ site, I was very suspicious as to whether it could realistically handle the different perspectives– until reading your review and seeing real world results! Impressive!

  • Shishir K

    Seems like a very interesting app, but you are right, a bit expensive. I have a few questions:

    1. What resolutions did you take the test images at?
    2. Would OCR work well with the extracted images?
    3. Does the app support applescript to integrate into workflows?

  • http://www.tagzeo.com Robin

    @Barry Wiseman +1 Very good review… I’ll probably test it too :-)

  • http://www.jonathanpatterson.com Jonathan Patterson

    As pointed out, seems most useful if you do a large amount of this type of thing. Otherwise you can do this in Photoshop pretty easily.

  • http://www.sciamanna.eu/blog Andrea

    Wow! A lot of time saved instead of photoshopping (well, gimping, actually).
    This can be very usefult for me: I must absolutely give it a try!

    … or count me for the give away ;)

  • Mark Bowen

    I reckon you could probably get better results in Photoshop. That or there used to be the Carrara program by KPT that did this sort of thing and a lot better. Can also be done with After Effects if you’re really clever ;-)

  • Mike

    That’s actually a simple transformation for anyone familiar with linear algebra or texture mapping (the main part of the app is essentially a barebones UV editor), but I guess it might be useful if you have to do this kind of stuff a lot. Really expensive for what it does, though.

    Also, making it so that the main window slows my MacBook to a crawl and runs the fans is completely unacceptable. It’s a little disconcerting that they have no problem with a simple dialog taking up so much of the CPU.

  • Mike B

    Would have helped to have added a couple of different sources of photos to the review (which is assuming you haven’t.) While many a camera phone today has a reasonably solid resolution, the target (to some extent) of this software are those out taking ‘snaps’ with limited resolution. My goal in using the software was to capture notes from text material so that I could avoid the 20c per page cost of a photocopy or the illegibility of a handwritten copy. The photos from a 2MP camera-phone were worse than the originals after transformation. Clearly there’s a lower limit of pixels and transformation and really I would like to have seen that examined more. Given there’s a trial without real limits it’s not crucial since we can download and validate. But, if you’re going to review I would like more results from others to compare with my own.

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  • http://toquesdeipod.wordpress.com/ Joao Carlos de Pinho

    Maybe with Prizmo I will be able to do this impossible perspective trick the CSI guys did in a recent episode:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQCkDGdJpts

    Now I only need a 10-TERApixel camera.

  • http://www.chesterhistoricalsociety.com Clif Patrick

    I image many historical documents (some archives will allow photographs of their documents, but not scanning). Some are under glass or in highly reflective protective sleeves. With Prizmo, I can take a photo at an angle to avoid reflections, then quickly and easily “undo” the image’s perspective. Works great! The higher the resolution, the better. In answer to Shishir K, some corrected images, but not all, perform OCR nicely. For the same reasons, this process works well with microfilm readers . Bravo Prizmo!

  • Walker

    this function is incorporated in Ricoh digital cameras- their take is that it’s useful for ” recording presentations” – it is actually perfect for painters, designers, etc- we can spend hours getting an image perfectly square/ perfectly lit- this way its only one job……….

  • http://visionwidget.com Ryan.J

    Prizmo is for scanning all kinds of documents with your digital camera. cool review post for inspired

  • Daniel

    If you have photoshop, just select the crop tool, and make sure the perspective bubble is checked, make your selection, and you’ll get the same results.

  • http://adrusi.com/ adrian

    this can be done in the GIMP which is completely free using its perspective tool

  • http://www.martinvaresio.com.ar/grabado-buril-monogramas.html Martín

    I love to support small developers and I agree that it is becoming sad how everybody does expect software to be super cheap.

  • http://www.cueros-pym.com.ar Carteras de cuero

    For scanning all kinds of documents with your digital camera. cool review post for inspired

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