Digital noise is the equivalent of film grain, but unlike film grain it can be reduced or virtually eliminated by software. Vincent Oliver takes a look at six noise-reduction software packages to see how well they perform

Neat image

Price: From $39.90 (around £29)
Website: www.neatimage.com

Neat image is available as both a standalone application or as a Photoshop plug-in. The interface is minimal in appearance, but clicking on the Auto profile will place a rectangle over an area containing noise. From here, click on the Noise Filter Settings tab to make all the necessary noise-level adjustments, noise-reduction amounts and sharpening. Different values can be applied for high, mid and low frequencies for full control on all areas of the image.

This plug-in is very fast in use. Noise reductions can be previewed on the whole image or you can view the colour channels as separate windows. Settings can also be saved, making it faster to apply noise reduction to a number of images.  

Score: Four out of five

Nik Software Dfine 2.0

Price: $99.95 (around £66)
Website: www.niksoftware.com/dfine/usa/entry.php

Dfine 2.0 is a Photoshop plug-in that automatically seeks areas containing noise and places a selection box over each. An automatic algorithm is applied to reduce the noise. You can override the Automatic setting and choose Manual for greater control.

From here you can apply control points on the image to selectively reduce noise in different parts or select a colour range to apply the noise reduction. By default, three colour areas can be defined, and more colour areas can be added by clicking on the ‘+’ symbol.

Dfine produced excellent results on our test file, with the processed image placed as a new layer in Photoshop.

Score: Five out of five

Imagenomic Noiseware

Price: $79.95 (around £69)
Website: www.imagenomic.com/nw.aspx

Noiseware is a Photoshop plug-in with an excellent range of adjustments that include noise level, noise reduction, detail protection, frequency and tonal-colour range. There are several predefined presets that can be used and tweaked to suit the image being processed. All adjustments or settings made can be saved as a custom preset for use on other images.

The interface is easy to use, with the option to split the screen for a ‘before’ and ‘after’ view. There is also the option for multiple previews. Noiseware offers lots of control for noise reduction, although it is easy to produce a soft-looking image.

Score: Four out of five

Topaz Labs DeNoise

Price: $79.99 (around £53)
Website: www.topazlabs.com/denoise

DeNoise has an easy-to-use interface. On the left are JPEG and raw-file settings plus the ability to add your own custom settings. The controls are on the right. These include noise reduction, detail recovery and debanding. A useful feature is the ability to preview the image as RGB, Luma, Colour and Red & Blue channels. The Auto Brightness settings will assist in previewing any adjustments.

The main window displays a section of the image, but there is no facility to view the entire image. The ease of use and quality of noise reduction are excellent.

Score: Five out of five – Best in test

NDNoise

Price: Free
Website:
ndnoise.free.fr

NDNoise is a standalone application with a good selection of controls, plus an Expert window. The Noise filtering, Dots/spots/edges smoothing and Retexturing sliders are in increments of 5-100. A fast preview rectangle is available so a portion of the picture can be seen with any adjustment applied. A dropdown list enables the Original or Filtered file to be viewed. However, there is no facility to save your settings and PNG is the only file format available for saving.

NDNoise may not have the same stylish interface as others on test here, but it does reduce most noise, albeit with some softening of the image.

Score: Three out of five

PictureCode Photo Ninja

Price: $154 (around £100)
Website: www.picturecode.com/showcase/noise.php

Photo Ninja is a standalone application that offers full raw-file processing and Noise Ninja 3. The interface is well laid out, with a histogram in the top left along with the file’s Exif details. Below this are the available raw-file adjustments. At the base is a browser, where you double click on an image to open it in the main window.

Noise Ninja offers tools that smooth out areas of an image, and remove residual noise and colour fringing. The noise-reduction options are basic, but they worked well on our test file. When used with the other adjustments and the browser, the Photo Ninja suite becomes
an attractive option.

Score: Four out of five


  • Ronnie

    Any comments on how these compare with Lightroom or Photoshop?

  • Dawid

    One can also try out Smart Image Denoiser which is very cheap. http://smartimagedenoiser.com

  • Terence Davis

    These reviews are OK, but how do any of the above compare with Photoshop, Lightroom or Capture NX2, all of which have very good noise reducing features? This is the crunch because if they are no better, why spend money on them?

  • Richard Wozniak

    Pretty shallow round up with few results and no real conclusions or recommendations.
    There’s nothing here that you couldn’t get from the manufacturer’s advertising blurb.