Thursday, June 15, 2006

Picasa Web Albums: Trouble in Paradise

I've been testing the beta (or "Test") version of Google's Picasa photo-sharing software, which is much-anticipated because it allows web photo sharing a la the Yahoo-owned Flickr. So far, the web interface is great and communication between the desktop app and the website is almost seamless. There's no tagging option, but Google may just expect users to put that in the "caption" field.

But Picasa's web albums have one big problem, and a killer one at that: the image resolution is abominable. I have uploaded identical photos to Flickr and a Picasa Web Album; take a look at each, then compare the quality with that of the website they were taken from. The Flickr upload looks great, as good as the original; Picasa increases the display size by about 10%, creating significant distortion and lots of junky jpeg image ghosting. This may be a simple browser-resizing problem, but this is not a setting that can be modified in your website account, and it looks just plain bad.

The uploading settings available from Picasa 2.5 suggest there may be a bigger problem here:

If you can't read them, they are:

  • Optimized: Large size, fast upload (1600 pixels)
  • Medium size, fastest upload - 1024 pixels
  • Slowest upload, largest size
So why is Picasa making decisions about what size to make my photo? I tried uploading photos using the "Optimized" and "Slowest" settings, and couldn't see any difference. But could there be some interpretive act going on when I upload my photos that result in lowered image resolution?

I played around with uploading a lot of different images at a lot of different upload settings, and found that the quality of all images appeared to remain consistent regardless of the upload "size" selected, but that the reduction of image quality varied dramatically, with some images displaying only a slight reduction and others a much more dramatic decline. This lends further evidence to the theory that Picasa is "reading" the images during the upload, rather than simply copying the file. Strangely, a web-based upload interface (a nice touch) allows users to browse and upload files, but offers no quality/size choices at all. Presumably, all images uploaded through the website are "optimized."

Few people on the usergroup forums seem to have been allowed access yet, so my posting in search of similar experiences has not yielded anything instructive yet.


matthew said...

Hmmm... If you right-click on the image in Picasa Web Albums and select 'view image', you get the same image as viewed on Flickr, with none of the crapness you describe. It would seem that when viewing photos through the Picasa online interface, you are viewing a 'stretched' image. That is weird and a little worrying. I suppose that's why it's got that big 'TEST' banner on the top of the page though...

mikaelc said...

Your Google image has been resized to 512x512 and compressed to 56 KB - probably to provide previews in the same size.

If you take a look a look at the right column, you will see a 'Download Photo' link, just under the '441×441 pixels - 76KB' description. This links to your original picture without any artifacts.

Sorry, but I cannot see that Google is doing anything wrong here...

adventures in odyssey said...
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