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08-20-2013, 04:06 PM   #1
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Comparison of Noise Reduction Plugins

Noise reduction programs analyzes images, usually shot at higher ISO, and reduce the noise, improving the final image. I have been using Noise Ninja 3 with success to improve my images for years. At the time of my purchase of noise ninja, I had tried a number of noise reduction plugins, and liked noise ninja best. Over the years, these programs have been upgraded to higher versions, and I was curious how they stacked up to my Noise Ninja 3. Is it worth purchasing an upgrade? To answer these questions, I compared the current versions of a 4 noise reduction plugins, and compared them to my Noise Ninja 3. The five most current noise reduction plugins are that I compared: Neat Image 7.4, Topaz DeNoise 5, Photo Ninja 1.1.0, NoiseWare 5.02, and Define 2. The comparisons are meant as a guide, and of course everyone has their own preferences. I tried to get the best noise reduction in all of the samples as I could, and went back and forth many times between plugins to get each image as clean from noise as I could. These are my observations.

Descriptions:
Noise Ninja comes as a plug in and stand alone program. When initiating it, it starts with auto selecting regions to map the noise, that can also be done manually. I really liked this because I felt I had control over the optimum regions to select. Also there are a wealth of pretty logical controls to optimize the image.

Photo Ninja, is a raw editor like Bibble, Lightroom, etc. When calling it as a plugin, it loads the whole program the first time (patience!), and leaves it open after sending the image back to photoshop. The Noise Ninja 4, that is part of it, has dramatically simplified controls compared to version 3. However, images can be tweaked in other menus (such as exposure and sharpening)

Noiseware has a wealth of controls for advanced tweaking, but also has plenty of presets to simplify the use of the program. It does not allow the user to select regions, but instead allows the user to adjust the noise from the autoprofiler.

Neat Image has similarities to Noiseware in adjusting the autoprofiler, but gives the user more control over the mapping of a noise region. In addition to autotune, it also it has a couple of presets. Noise Ninja 3 actually let the user select many noise regions.

DeFine is a plugin that embeds itself along with the whole Nik Collection in a window, and is not yet compatible with Photoshop CC.... it wiped out my settings... One can manually select multiple regions and control the noise reduction separately using additional control points.

Ease of Use:
By far I found Topaz Denoise to be the easiest plugin to achieve satisfactory results, with relatively few sliders. Photo Ninja also is relatively easy for initial adjustments, however, being that it is a raw editor, you have to adjust the image in other menus or in photoshop for further improvements. Noiseware has a steeper learning curve because of all the different adjustments that are available. Neat Image also takes a little practice to get a feel for the program. Noise Ninja 3 has pretty decent default settings, and is pretty straight forward. Nik's Define was incredibly easy to use, even easier than Denoise.

Speed:
Noise Ninja 3 and Neat Image were fastest. Noiseware and Define were pretty fast also. Denoise and Photo Ninja were significantly slower. One thing I noticed is that Photo Ninja allows the user to make adjustments while it is calculating the preview, where Denoise needs to finish the preview calculation before allowing the user to make adjustments.
Samples:

Samples:
Here is a 100% crop of the original ISO 6400 image:
Name:  Dance TopLeft.jpg
Views: 24391
Size:  130.4 KB
Noise Ninja 3:
Name:  Dance TopLeft NN3.jpg
Views: 24168
Size:  50.6 KB
Photo Ninja 1:
Name:  Dance TopLeft PN1.jpg
Views: 24171
Size:  49.0 KB
DeNoise 5:
Name:  Dance TopLeft TDN5.jpg
Views: 24242
Size:  37.8 KB
Noiseware 5:
Name:  Dance TopLeft NW5.jpg
Views: 24084
Size:  56.6 KB
Neat Image 7:
Name:  Dance TopLeft NI7.jpg
Views: 24065
Size:  51.9 KB
DeFine 2
Name:  TopLeft DF2.jpg
Views: 23876
Size:  38.6 KB
Notice the details in the hair and face of the lady, the overall softness of the image, the quality of the out of focus man with the hat, the artifacts in the top left orange and red sections on the wall, and the overall graininess.


Last edited by Eric Seavey; 08-21-2013 at 03:11 PM.
08-20-2013, 04:11 PM   #2
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Here is another 100% crop of the original ISO 6400 image:
Name:  Dance Center.jpg
Views: 23872
Size:  123.3 KB
Noise Ninja 3:
Name:  Dance Center NN3.jpg
Views: 23841
Size:  81.4 KB
Photo Ninja 1:
Name:  Dance Center PN1.jpg
Views: 23768
Size:  62.5 KB
DeNoise 5:
Name:  Dance Center TDN5.jpg
Views: 23745
Size:  57.5 KB
Noiseware 5:
Name:  Dance Center NW5.jpg
Views: 23797
Size:  54.4 KB
Neat Image 7:
Name:  Dance Center NI7.jpg
Views: 23745
Size:  61.5 KB
DeFine 2
Name:  Dance Center DF2.jpg
Views: 23678
Size:  58.2 KB
Notice the details in the dress, the smoothness of the movement blur of the hands, the details of her bracelet, the smoothness of the out-of-focus girl in the black dress and man with colored shirt.

Last edited by Eric Seavey; 08-21-2013 at 03:12 PM.
08-20-2013, 04:15 PM   #3
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This 100% crop is of the original ISO 12800 image:
Name:  Bunny Head.jpg
Views: 23712
Size:  205.7 KB
Noise Ninja 3:
Name:  Bunny Head NN3.jpg
Views: 23758
Size:  115.4 KB
Photo Ninja 1:
Name:  Bunny Head PN1.jpg
Views: 23709
Size:  89.9 KB
DeNoise 5:
Name:  Bunny Head TDN5.jpg
Views: 23765
Size:  74.7 KB
Noiseware 5:
Name:  Bunny Head NW5.jpg
Views: 23682
Size:  80.3 KB
Neat Image:
Name:  Bunny Head NI7.jpg
Views: 23629
Size:  129.7 KB
DeFine 2
Name:  Bunny Head DF2.jpg
Views: 23590
Size:  86.1 KB
Notice the sharpness of the grass in the rabbit's mouth, the smoothness of the out-of-focus areas, the details in the rabbit's fur, overall graininess, and artifacts.

Last edited by Eric Seavey; 08-21-2013 at 04:29 PM.
08-20-2013, 04:19 PM - 3 Likes   #4
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This is the same rabbit, where I reduced the image size, starting with the original ISO 12800 image:
Name:  Bunny.jpg
Views: 23722
Size:  251.5 KB
Noise Ninja 3:
Name:  Bunny NN3.jpg
Views: 23676
Size:  184.2 KB
Photo Ninja 1:
Name:  Bunny PN1.jpg
Views: 23704
Size:  709.9 KB
DeNoise 5:
Name:  Bunny TDN5.jpg
Views: 23717
Size:  579.0 KB
Noiseware 5:
Name:  Bunny NW5.jpg
Views: 23634
Size:  754.2 KB
DeFine 2
Name:  Bunny DF2.jpg
Views: 23535
Size:  666.7 KB
Neat Image 7 had no full photo trial option...

Discussion:
To me, the best noise reduction capabilities are a toss up between Photo Ninja and Topaz DeNoise, depending if you value smoothness or detail recovery. I think for the ease of use, combined with the quality of the result, Topaz Denoise and DeFine are the best option. DeFine is very easy to use but doesn't quite bring out the details as well as Photo Ninja and Denoise. However, he full image photos of the rabbit shows a very natural and smooth photo, while keeping reasonable detail that are produced very easily. If you do not mind spending some time on an image, and tweaking it, Photo Ninja has a slight edge in terms of the end quality, with fewer artifacts, slightly more detail, but less smooth out-of-focus areas. There are better programs available today, compared Noise Ninja 3. I found the final quality of an image using noise reduction software not only depends on the program, but also user preferences, and experience with the program. I spend quite a bit of time learning each program, and perhaps I could practice each program more and improve it's performance. I felt that ease of use and processing time was also important, and I am leaning towards Photo Ninja and Topaz DeNoise. DeNoise has slightly better detail recovery, both produce similar artifacts, and DeNoise is overall smoother looking.


Last edited by Eric Seavey; 08-21-2013 at 03:27 PM.
08-20-2013, 04:44 PM   #5
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Very cool, I'm impressed....
08-20-2013, 04:47 PM   #6
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+1 Denoise!
08-20-2013, 05:31 PM   #7
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What were your settings for the Topaz DeNoise images. I have DeNoise but basically rely on Lightroom for noise reduction since DeNoise 5 seemed to be too much work. However maybe I need to re-visit Topaz.

08-20-2013, 06:05 PM   #8
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Interesting post. I'm using Denoise now but have used Noise Ninja. I don't really understand the advanced functions though. What I liked about Ninja was the ability to exclude selected areas from the NR (for example a sharp, well-lit bird against a dark, noisy blurred background. I can't do that with Denoise and somehow I seemed to lose that ability when I upgraded Ninja. I'd like to recover that ability--any suggestions?
08-20-2013, 11:09 PM   #9
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One thing you always have to ask is how much are we comparing software and how much are we comparing the reviewer's skill at using the software. Also it depends a lot on how you work. For myself I'm very much a careful one at a time processor so speed and the use of quick and dirty presets means little to me.

For the way I work I have found Noiseware , assuming you have mastered it's advanced settings, the most powerful if not the easiest and fastest.
But it's not for everyone.

K5@ISO25600 with FA35@f/2 and run through Noiseware.

Last edited by wildman; 09-15-2013 at 06:21 AM.
08-20-2013, 11:14 PM   #10
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Noiseware seems to be adding grain back into the mix, which looks good but not really strictly part of the noise-reduction process. (We usually do that too, but later.) Hard to beat Denoise for preservation of detail...
08-20-2013, 11:27 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by vonBaloney Quote
Noiseware seems to be adding grain back into the mix, which looks good but not really strictly part of the noise-reduction process.
Which is my point - Noiseware didn't add grain - I told it it to add grain which, in my judgement was exactly right for this particular file.
08-20-2013, 11:36 PM   #12
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All the Noiseware examples seem to have it, so didn't know if it was standard. Naturally they all have a million options. We've tried a few, Denoise always wins. Don't know if we've tried Noiseware.
08-21-2013, 01:11 AM   #13
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With a little bit of practice I can get a better result with Topaz DeNoise 5.





No treatment made except DeNoise 5.

More details could even be emphasised with Topaz Detail...
08-21-2013, 01:12 AM   #14
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Useful information in the never-ending quest for perfect post-processing! It would be really useful to compare with the results from noise-reduction by Lightroom 4 or later - that is, does LR perform well-enough so plugins with non-reversable processing would not be needed?
08-21-2013, 05:35 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by vonBaloney Quote
We've tried a few, Denoise always wins. Don't know if we've tried Noiseware.
In addition to Noiseware I have Define and DeNoise.
They all have their place depending on the file and what you want to accomplish but if I had only one it would be Noiseware for the detailed control it gives me over the process especially at very high ISOs. For quick and dirty maybe not.

At the end of the day it boils down to how we see which is very subjective - different strokes for different folks.

Last edited by wildman; 08-21-2013 at 05:44 AM.
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