AST Tech Photo Real Stockholm Review
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Photo Real Stockholm
For FSX/P3D Published by AST Tech
Reviewed by Mikael Stockfors
January 2014

Introduction

Stockholm, Capitol of Sweden, the Venice of the north, self-proclaimed Capitol of Scandinavia, and incidentally, the city where I was born. Given FSX add-ons covering Sweden are few and far apart, and even though I generally prefer landclass / texture based scenery, I was very pleased to see AST Tech publish a scenery covering Stockholm. I shall, however, do my utmost to look beyond my preconceived views on photo scenery and deliver a fair review based on what is in the package.

What’s Included

The scenery covers the city of Stockholm and most of the surrounding suburbs, but sadly, it doesn’t stretch far enough north to cover the suburb where I grew up. Based on my measurements in Google Earth, the area covered is approximately 900 square miles (2,500 square kilometres), and according to the specifications from the developers, the images used have a resolution of 1.19 metres / pixel.

Coverage

It is also worth noting the scenery does not stretch far enough north to cover Arlanda Airport, the largest airport in the area.

The scenery is available from SimMarket as a download only product for the very reasonable price of £10.15 (€11.90). Also available as a separate free download from the developers website is a zip file containing files which will adjust the AFD of all four airports within the scenery to the latest AIP available when the scenery was released. More details on the effects of this download later.

Download and installation

The installation file weighs in at a hefty 3.02 gigabytes, but the bandwidth on the host meant it could be downloaded fairly quickly. Installation was straightforward to start with. No impossibly long serial number or key code to type in, just click next and the scenery is installed in a sub-folder to your main FSX folder. However, the installer does not add a layer to the scenery library automatically, so the user has to do it manually.

Documentation

The only documentation that comes with the scenery is a single html file and all the content in it can be displayed without any scrolling on a 1920 x 1080 resolution screen. However, this really contains all the information needed, including instructions on how to add the scenery to the scenery library and a few pointers on FSX configuration.

The Scenery

Before I get into my views on the scenery, I feel I need to elaborate on the reason I prefer landclass / texture based scenery over photo scenery.

In my opinion, photo scenery has two major drawbacks. Firstly, I miss the seasonal variation (a lack of which is even more prominent in areas that are, or tends to be, covered in snow during the winter time) and secondly, the very flat sensation which the lack of autogen leads to as you get closer to the ground. From my perspective, this scenery, like most photo real sceneries, suffers from both these issues.

However, based on the assumption a flight simmer who chooses photo real scenery over landclass / texture / autogen based solutions, does so, and compromises this part of the immersion in the sim in favour of the unmatched precision and relatively low impact on performance which comes with photo real scenery, I will take this into account in my final verdict. In truth, this is not a flaw in the product as such, but rather a limitation in the chosen production method.

Enough of my ranting, let’s get back to Stockholm. Once above 1,500 to 2,000 feet, the scenery starts to kick into gear, and in my opinion, it looks at its best when you cruise at around 5,000 feet. The images used are generally very sharp and detailed, although when you get to the border of the scenery and compare it to the lush and full bodied textures from FTX Global the photo scenery does feel rather pale and under saturated. While on the subject of the borderline to the surrounding area, the alignment of the roads to those provided by UTX outside of the photo real area are, more or less, perfect.


ESSA - Stockholm Arlanda a few Miles North of the Border


North Eastern Corner


Stockholm City Centre

The Royal Castle - Wasa Museum and City Hall

In determining the age of the imagery, as far as I can tell by reference to the progress of some high profile construction sites (dare I mention 'Friends Arena' on an English based web site without fears of retribution from the diehard football fans here), the images look to have been taken during the summer of either 2011 or 2012 (subsequently confirmed by the developers to be 2011). So considering the release date of February 2013, they could not be much more up to date.


Friends Arena Construction Site

Stockholm Globe Arena

As expected, the area is more or less void of 3D objects, but I have now found out that Stockholm comes with a healthy serving of specific points of interest in default FSX as these are still visible on top of the photo scenery. Thankfully, they appear to have been placed in more or less the correct spot by Microsoft so no anomalies can be seen from the sky. At night, the images have lights along the roads, and even though they are not actual 3D lights, the effect does look rather realistic.


Stockholm Archipelago


The Experience by Night

Now, earlier I mentioned there is a free download available from AST Tech that updates the airports within the scenery to comply with the current AIP. Overall, the effect of these files are good, and in the case of Stockholm-Bromma (ESSB), it is essential since the default FSX version of the airport does not line up with the location in the photo scenery, visually turning this single runway into a two runway airport. The installation instruction says to just place the files in the FSX\Addon Scenery\scenery folder, and for most users that should suffice. However, if like me, you have Just Flight's Traffic X installed, I suggest adding the adjustments from AST Tech to its own scenery layer located above those for Traffic X. I must admit it took me a while before I figured out why the airport would not line up with the ground photos.


ESSB with AFCAD from AST Tech


ESSB with AFCAD from Traffic X


ESCN with Removed Airport Data from AST Tech

ESKB - Barkaby with Default AFCAD

Conclusion

I only have a few complaints about in this package. Firstly, I felt the colours might be a tad too washed out. A bit more colour saturation I think could have given a more life-like result. However, as I have not seen the original photography, it is hard to say if this is the result of the photography or a conscious choice from the developers. Secondly, I really would have liked the entire beautiful archipelago along the coast, east of Stockholm, included. Though, considering the low price of the package, any complaints about the coverage does tend to make me feel like a bit of a scrooge.

 Verdict:   silver
• Level of detail : 8.5/10
• Performance : 10/10
• Scenery coverage: 9.0/10
• Documentation: 10/10
• Value for money: 10/10
A total Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.5/10, with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award!


Mikael Stockfors
Review machine Spec:
Intel Core i7 860 @ 2.8GGhz | 16 gb DDR III Ram @ 1600 mhz | GTX 560 TI OC 1GB Graphics |Windows 7 64bit Pro