What is the best noise-reduction software?

September 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm  •  Posted in Q&A by

When I use ISO 1600 with my four-year-old digicam the photos are extremely grainy, useless for a print larger than 4 x 6 inches. Should I buy a special noise-reduction software? And if so, which one would be best? I want to be able to make letter-size prints of very good quality.
Mary Banica

Some digital cameras—like the latest D SLRs, especially the full-frame models—are much better than others Mary, but sure, digital noise can be a problem at high ISO regardless of the equipment. Several companies market noise-reduction software as stand alone programs or, more typically, as plug-ins for Aperture or Photoshop. I have tested only one, Noise Ninja. Its automatic mode was reliable and useful but the manual features were somewhat complicated. When used with a bit of expertise it produced very good results.

The Noise Ninja plug-in is the most popular software and it worked well in my tests. Other options are available from Nik, Topaz, Neat Image and Noiseware. © Peter K. Burian 2010

After some searching, I found a Web site that provides comparative reviews of Noise Ninja, Topaz Denoise, Nik Dfine 2, Noiseware and Neat Image . The reviewer declared Topaz the winner (because of its simple interface and great effectiveness). Because it was the slowest however, he recommended Noisware or Noise Ninja instead because of their greater speed.  Do note however that most of the programs have been improved since that review was published; the new versions may be quite different than the ones he tested.

Noise-reduction software can provide a significant improvement, but it does produce some softening of the image. I used Noise Ninja to improve this JPEG made five years ago with a camera that produced obvious digital noise at ISO 3200. © Peter K. Burian

I don’t know if the ISO-1600 JPEGs from your camera could be adequately improved for making satisfactory 8.5 x 11″ prints. That would require extensive testing with each of the programs and a full appreciation of your definition of a “very good” print. Try experimenting with a few of the software options, available as free download trials on most of the companies’ Web sites. You might also use a Google.ca search to find reviews of the latest version of each product. None of them can work miracles so if you must often shoot at high ISO, consider upgrading to a D SLR such as the Nikon D3000 ($550 with an 18-55 mm lens). It will definitely provide “cleaner” images than your current camera.



  1. Nichole with Topaz / September 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm /

    Check out the new Topaz DeNoise 5….it’s twice as fast as the previous version and specializes in High ISO noise reduction. http://www.topazlabs.com/denoise

  2. Dan Favarger / September 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm /

    Regarding noise reduction apps – I use nik define for the tough stuff and lightroom has a handy colour noise reduction (luminesence slider) that works really well, even on skin. I admit I haven’t tried other apps.
    A hot sensor is a noisy sensor. Keep your camera out of the hot sun if you can. Obviously the other noise factors come into play as well. Don’t shoot up-sun without a fill flash assist. Long exposures can be noisy as well. Knowing the limitations of your equipment (like what ISO produces noise) helps.

  3. Hagen / September 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm /

    I use Noise Ninja and Nik’s DFine. However I have used Topaz DeNoise when it was 3.0.

    Noise Ninja is very quick and very good at whole image NR. For quicky NR is use it.

    DFine is incredibly powerful in that you can use the automatic analysis which will vary the amount of NR on different parts of the image, you can fine tune that auto analysis by pointing out specific areas you want it to analyze and you can do manually all the way as well as using their uPoint technology.

    Topaz’s solution (I have not used 5) is and has been great. They are easy to use as are all their plug-ins, and are very attractively priced. Definitely value for the money if you can’t or don’t need the full monty with DFine.

  4. Gaetane Ferland / September 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm /

    I don’t know about software but they seems to be interesting when we have bigger photos to print out. It is good to know.

    I wonder which software would be the best to work with. LIGHTROOM or
    APERTURE . I have a Mac. I think that Lightroom has more features than Aperture. What would you recommend ?

    Thank you very much


  5. Ron Palmer / October 4, 2010 at 6:44 pm /

    I use Imagenomics, Noiseware Professional, it allows for auto noise reduction, but also allows for manual override as well as sharpening the image while reducing noise and adjusting specific colour ranges.
    The thing I like is that, as a photoshop action, it works in batch mode as well. Works with Photoshop Essentials, and Photoshop to CS5 (64bit for vista and windows 7) also available as a stand alone


    Although it may not be the fastest, I have found that it works quite Well on raw or Jpeg, 16bit or 8bit. For the price you can’t go wrong.

  6. Dave / October 5, 2010 at 2:36 am /

    I tried a couple of passes with Topaz DeNoise5 on a noisy picture today. It took a minute or two to process but did an excellent job of removing noise while leaving the detail. It was very easy to use.

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