Michael Almond Portfolio

Noise Reduction Tool Comparison

printable version

Version History

Oct 2002 Initial version.
Nov 2002 Added two new tools (DCE AutoEnhance and Fred Miranda ISOx) and updated Neat Image to version 2.
Aug 2003 Added five new tools (DFine, NoiseFixer, dSLR Tools, UltraISO, SmarterNR) and updated two with newer versions (Neat Image 2.5, Grain Surgery 2)
Nov 2003 Added one new tool (Noise Ninja)
Feb 2005 Added four new tools (PureImage, Noiseware Pro, Digital GEM Pro, PictureCooler) and updated two with newer versions (Neat Image 4.4, Noise Ninja 2)



There is a lot of discussion about how best to remove noise in digital camera images and a lot of tools to do it. For this article I have compared just about every tool possible to try and find the best one.

CCD noise comes in two parts, luminance noise and chroma noise. Luminance noise makes an image look grainy on screen, but is usually not visible when printed. Chroma noise is visible as random red and blue pixels and is usually less obvious both on screen and printed. Removing luminance noise reduces the sharpness of the image and removing the chroma noise damages some of the correct color. So noise reduction is a balance between how much softness and color damage you are willing to accept vs. how much noise you want to remove. Unless you use an uncompressed mode with your camera, JPEG artifacts also get added into the mix.

I was interested in seeing how much noise each tool could remove before the image got too soft (for my tastes). I did not do any sharpening after the noise reduction (even if the tool had that capability built in), that will be another test.

I used the following three source images, each one providing a unique challenge. Click on the thumbnail for the original, straight out of the camera images.

Camera: Olympus C-3000
Quality: HQ
ISO: 100
Shutter: 1/160
F-Stop: 2.8

This image has quite a bit of chroma noise, especially in the dark tree line.

Camera: Minolta DiMage 7i
Quality: fine
ISO: 100
Shutter: 1/125
F-Stop: 8

This image has quite a bit of luminance noise with little detail (so should clean up very easily).

Camera: Minolta DiMage 7i
Quality: fine
ISO: 100
Shutter: 1/125
F-Stop: 3.5

This image has a lot of luminance noise in the sky, but needs to retain the detail of the mountain.

Due to disk space constraints I can only show a 400x400 sample patch from each image. Rolling over a sample will show the original, noisy image. The sample patches for the top four tools are presented as PNGs to prevent introducing new JPEG artifacts, but for the runners-up I used JPEGs set to 90% for disk space and bandwidth considerations.

I tested the following 22 products:

My results and recommendations can be found on the last page.
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