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Old Sep 17, 2009, 7:40 PM   #1
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Default Noise Ninja, Neat Image, Noiseware

I have a Lumix TZ5 and am ready to take the plunge in the noise reduction software realm. Right now, Noise Ninja is out because it doesn't include a profile for my camera and Neat Image does. I also like Noiseware's free program and like the fact that I can see the changes by just pressing down on my mouse button.

But here's the real rub. I have three computers, my newest a netbook that won't see much use, but my laptop computer might. It's got XP on it, while my desktop has Vista. I also have Photoshop 7 and CS (8) on my system and still use both. Thus, activation also is an issue. Noise Image will let a user install their software on two computers, not three, and they have activation to make sure. So of the three, I'm looking for recommendations. If all three have activation tracking, then I'll have to choose one anyway; however, the Photoshop plug-in will have to work with both Photoshops to be useful to me.

Of the samples I've seen from others, I think perhaps Neat Image does the best job, though I'm thrilled with Noiseware's ease of use. That said, Noise Ninja has a few features the others don't.

What's the bottom line on these programs? After a horrible experience with a legally owned version of Dragon Naturally Speaking, I've about had it with product activations and will most likely go with the product that has the least restrictive activation policy.

Thanks!
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Old Sep 18, 2009, 7:58 PM   #2
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Based on my own tests, I've found Neat Image to be superior to Noise Ninja with my own camera. I downloaded the latest version of NN and was surprised to find that the only slider that substantially reduced noise was "Contrast." But when the noise was eliminated, the highlights were too muted. Still, the resulting image looked good. Very acceptable.

Using the same images with Neat Image, I was at first put off by the progressive screens of the program. But as I got into the settings, there were many, many other settings that gave the user far more control over the image than Noise Ninja. True, I'm not adept enough to use them all now, but the automatic settings I used were almost spot on with but with few other tweaks needed. Once I learn how to use the other settings, I suppose I'll be able to far surpass Noise Ninja.

Noise Ninja, while it removed the objectionable noise, had few other controls. Output was rich and decent, but parts of my photos were left muddy in dark areas. Comparing those parts with the same processed sections of Neat Image, I clearly had more data left with Neat Image.

If I had Noise Ninja, would I dump it to go buy Neat Image? Not unless you're an extremely fussy photographer. One example, wet rocks. With Noise Ninja, the detail was muted, as were the jagged parts of an old house. Still, both programs were excellent. Since I haven't bought the program yet, I'm going with Neat Image (it also has profiles for my camera). I like Noise Ninja's saturation boost, but it's nothing one can't do in Photoshop easily enough (and perhaps more accurately).

From a use standpoint, it's hard to beat Noiseware. Very easy to install and use, but output isn't quite as nice as Neat Image. Still, it would win on sheer ease of use and it probably keeps more data than Noise Ninja.

If any one of the three programs was free, I'd undoubtedly go with that one. All things considered, though, Neat Image gets my vote. It also lets one use all the existing ISOs in one's camera without having to limit it for noise reasons. For Internet and email use, the free version of Noiseware is one's best bet.

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Old Sep 19, 2009, 2:03 PM   #3
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Based on my own tests, I've found Neat Image to be superior to Noise Ninja with my own camera. I downloaded the latest version of NN and was surprised to find that the only slider that substantially reduced noise was "Contrast." But when the noise was eliminated, the highlights were too muted. Still, the resulting image looked good. Very acceptable.
Shouldn't be a need to touch contrast. Using contrast will indeed kill detail. You should be leaving it alone, except for a Very unusual problem.

What's happening is that for one reason or another, the program is not profiling correctly. Manual profiling is a piece of cake, takes a few seconds. Usually the only slider you need be concerned with is "smoothness" which is a threshold control. You shouldn't even have much use for the strenth slider.

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Using the same images with Neat Image, I was at first put off by the progressive screens of the program. But as I got into the settings, there were many, many other settings that gave the user far more control over the image than Noise Ninja. True, I'm not adept enough to use them all now, but the automatic settings I used were almost spot on with but with few other tweaks needed. Once I learn how to use the other settings, I suppose I'll be able to far surpass Noise Ninja.

Noise Ninja, while it removed the objectionable noise, had few other controls. Output was rich and decent, but parts of my photos were left muddy in dark areas. Comparing those parts with the same processed sections of Neat Image, I clearly had more data left with Neat Image.

If I had Noise Ninja, would I dump it to go buy Neat Image? Not unless you're an extremely fussy photographer. One example, wet rocks. With Noise Ninja, the detail was muted, as were the jagged parts of an old house. Still, both programs were excellent. Since I haven't bought the program yet, I'm going with Neat Image (it also has profiles for my camera). I like Noise Ninja's saturation boost, but it's nothing one can't do in Photoshop easily enough (and perhaps more accurately).

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All three of the programs you mention will do the job. From reading your comments, it's apparent that, at least with Noise Ninja, you have not learned how to use it. I own both Noiseware and Noise Ninja, and have extensively used Neat Image. I give the edge to Ninja, but all three are superb programs, I could live quite happily with any of the three. I believe it's a matter of taste more then anything else which causes one person to pick this or that one over the others, and that includes me.

In other words if one of these programs is not working for you, you're not using it properly.

Dave
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 4:53 PM   #4
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I had uninstalled Noise Ninja, so I went back reinstalled it, reopened my image, reprofiled it and ran the remove noise again. I don't know why, but this time it worked perfectly. The default results were very close to Neat Image's except that NN was just a tad more aggressive in removing the noise, though not significant enough to write home about.

Thanks for inspiring me to retry it! I'll try to meddle around with the controls a little more and see which one suits me the best.
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 5:22 PM   #5
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I had uninstalled Noise Ninja, so I went back reinstalled it, reopened my image, reprofiled it and ran the remove noise again. I don't know why, but this time it worked perfectly. The default results were very close to Neat Image's except that NN was just a tad more aggressive in removing the noise, though not significant enough to write home about.

Thanks for inspiring me to retry it! I'll try to meddle around with the controls a little more and see which one suits me the best.
Glad to hear you gave it another shot. As I said, any of the three will do the job. NN has some weird bugs. For example sometimes if you mouse click in the before and after window, the program just doesn't do anything.

If the noise removal is too great, it's better to use the Smoothness slider then the strenth slider.

There's also the nifty option to paint over parts of the image which need less noise removal.

But what the heck, I like Noise Ware as well...

Dave
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 6:31 PM   #6
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My biggest problem with any of these programs is activation. Not that I give software to friends and family, but I had a program a couple of years ago that stopped working when its company went out of business. The program wouldn't work, neither would it reinstall on my system. I had to spend about eighty bucks on an entirely different product that did the same thing.

Some of these programs require a constant connection to the Internet, which I can't always provide, and that's the only part I'm worried about. I have three computers, one of which is always connected to the Internet. The other two rarely are and one, in fact, almost never is.

If Noise Ninja doesn't have constant connection requirements, then I'll go with it most likely. But like you, I've come to regard all three favorably. The paint brush is definitely a plus, though the software is so good it's hard to pick betwixt them.
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Old Sep 19, 2009, 7:58 PM   #7
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My biggest problem with any of these programs is activation. Not that I give software to friends and family, but I had a program a couple of years ago that stopped working when its company went out of business. The program wouldn't work, neither would it reinstall on my system. I had to spend about eighty bucks on an entirely different product that did the same thing.

Some of these programs require a constant connection to the Internet, which I can't always provide, and that's the only part I'm worried about. I have three computers, one of which is always connected to the Internet. The other two rarely are and one, in fact, almost never is.

If Noise Ninja doesn't have constant connection requirements, then I'll go with it most likely. But like you, I've come to regard all three favorably. The paint brush is definitely a plus, though the software is so good it's hard to pick betwixt them.
Because of the "lens" I use for wildlife photography (A Swarovski scope) I shoot at ISO 800, and with a Nikon D2x, quite noisy. So I used this program and that program. Pathetic. As is the Photoshop noise removal filter.

Suddenly these great programs came out. I couldn't believe the results. How do they do this? Mind you, I suffered for years, with the old style noise removal, which basicaly consisted of blurring away both noise and detail.

Since I aquired these two programs, (and I have a working demo of neat image) I've been in heaven. As far as I know none of them require an internet connection.

Here's an interesting tip. Using unsharp mask on my images, a great number of artifacts are produced. I discovered that these were from chroma noise as opposed to luminesceince. So I run NN and set the smothing to zero. This eliminates the Chroma. I THEN use unsharp mask, and finally run NN again to get rid of luminesensce noise - Bingo, no artifacts!

Dave

Last edited by Chato; Sep 19, 2009 at 7:59 PM. Reason: typo
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Old Sep 20, 2009, 1:16 AM   #8
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That's nice to know.

I just got my Lumix DMC-TZ5, which Steve's Digicam gave a good review. Camera Labs, however, complained about the noise and said the camera was virtually unusable at speeds of ISO 800 and above, and wasn't much good at all at 400.

Having seen some of my own results, I find the noise about average, though I did find the ISO 1600 noise horrible, again, as in most cameras. Running Noise Ninja or any of the others, it's as if the other ISOs just open up, so clearly the software is worth it.

As for using the unsharp mask, the Lumix TZ5 seems to have already sharpened the image in a fairly aggressive manner. I used to use unsharp mask quite a bit, but with this particular camera, I doubt I'll ever use it except for the sharpening brush. But speaking of brushes, do you ever use Noise Ninja's paintbrush?

I really don't know which program to go with now, after playing with them all. I'm leaning towards Ninja for its photo profiling feature, which I think is a bit better than the others. I have the profiles for my Lumix camera for Neat Image and, after comparing the results using those profiles against NN's "auto" profiling, I actually like NN's results just a tad better. The only thing I'm a bit blank on is making other adjustments once my photo has been auto profiled. If I boost or change any other setting, suddenly processing time increases dramatically.

I'd like to see the effects before I process the image, and I'm not sure NN will do that on some of the other settings.
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Old Sep 20, 2009, 11:07 AM   #9
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That's nice to know.

I just got my Lumix DMC-TZ5, which Steve's Digicam gave a good review. Camera Labs, however, complained about the noise and said the camera was virtually unusable at speeds of ISO 800 and above, and wasn't much good at all at 400.

Having seen some of my own results, I find the noise about average, though I did find the ISO 1600 noise horrible, again, as in most cameras. Running Noise Ninja or any of the others, it's as if the other ISOs just open up, so clearly the software is worth it.

As for using the unsharp mask, the Lumix TZ5 seems to have already sharpened the image in a fairly aggressive manner. I used to use unsharp mask quite a bit, but with this particular camera, I doubt I'll ever use it except for the sharpening brush. But speaking of brushes, do you ever use Noise Ninja's paintbrush?

I really don't know which program to go with now, after playing with them all. I'm leaning towards Ninja for its photo profiling feature, which I think is a bit better than the others. I have the profiles for my Lumix camera for Neat Image and, after comparing the results using those profiles against NN's "auto" profiling, I actually like NN's results just a tad better. The only thing I'm a bit blank on is making other adjustments once my photo has been auto profiled. If I boost or change any other setting, suddenly processing time increases dramatically.

I'd like to see the effects before I process the image, and I'm not sure NN will do that on some of the other settings.
There are seven icons on the right side of the screen. The center one, with the blue arrow is meant to give you a before and after view. Simply click and hold, and the image reverts to before. Let go, and it shows after.

If there is no change, then the filter has "crashed."

And yes, I often use the paint the noise brush. And from time to time set it at a percentage, so as to allow the noise removal, but to leave detail in a specific area.

I actually found Noise Ware more difficult to use - But now find that it can also do the job.

Dave
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Old Sep 21, 2009, 2:58 PM   #10
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After some intensive testing, I decided at last to go with Noiseware. Although Noise Ninja does a fine job, I not only used my own photos, but the photos of others who had posted before and after images using various noise removal packages. I found that in nearly every instance, Noiseware did at least as good a job as Noise Ninja. This surprised me, as NN seemed to use a more sophisticating profiling method. By setting my photos to "Default" and comparing them to profiled and filtered examples, I found that in almost every case I liked Noiseware better. (In some cases, Noise Ninja left some splotchy noise that Noiseware corrected. Detail was more than acceptable in all.) In short, if I used only the default setting, most of my images would have been adequately filtered. Using the other settings only made them better.

With both programs doing so well, however, the cost of the program became a determining factor. Noise Ninja sells for $69.95 for the Photoshop plug-in. Noiseware plug-in goes for about the same price, but if you use the coupon code SANDMANIA or STUCKINCUSTOMS, you get a 10% (plus a penny) discount. That's $7 off the price! Noiseware also can be purchased with PayPal, while using PayPal to pay for Noise Ninja, you have to pay an additional $3.50 processing fee.

I have no use for the standalone programs of either, but if you do need them, Noise Ninja's standalone seems easier to use than Noiseware's (or if not easier, just a little better). But Photoshop does just fine anyway, and not going with the standalone knocked off a few dollars more.

All in all, I could have lived with any of the three. If Noise Ninja had been discounted and the others hadn't, I would have gone with it. I also like the fact that Noiseware has a FREE version for people who just take snapshots and it works fine for most people. If I had the time and money, I'd experiment and do some actual printing. Having been a one-time editor, I originally used only tif or RAW images. But as technology got better, I found I could live with high quality JPEGs. Noiseware's free program actually kicked out filtered JPEG files that were a little larger than the originals, which means the loss of detail may not be horrendously significant for the needs of most people.

Finally, when doing comparisons, most of us do these horrific blow-ups to where we can see the individual pixels. In most cases, if one were to filter one's photos, then print them in high detail, the differences between the major noise filtering packages would be insignificant.

If all three were available FREE, and I had to pick one, I'd pick Noiseware. If all three were the same price, I'd also pick Noiseware; and if all were the same price and one of the companies offered a 10% discount, I would have gone with that company's package. In this case, that happened to be Noiseware, too.

As a postscript, I will say that those who want to try out Noise Ninja without the annoying grid, simply contact the company and they'll send you a 2-week license free. There will be no restrictions and the number will unlock both the standalone and the plug-in, so be advised.
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