Photography by Jim Doty

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Neat Image 4.0

Neat Image 4.0 was released earlier this month (April 2004). It is a noise reduction filter and it can remove noise from digital images and grain from scanned film images. There are several versions available.  If you aren't sure which one to get, download the freeware version for non-commercial use. You can always upgrade to another version later on.

Even with the basic versions you have a lot of control. You can use the standard mode with automatic settings and let Neat Image do its thing, or you can switch to the advanced mode and take more control over the various parameters available.

CHOIR. Canon 10D at ISO 1600. Canon 75-300 IS lens at 195 mm with image stabilization on. Shutter 1/60, aperture f/4.5. Digital noise filtered with Neat Image 4.0

This photo was been posted on the internet without any noise correction and will appear in print later this month. The above version was run through Neat Image in the standard mode so the software chose all of the settings.

This is a 100% crop (actual pixels) of the lower right corner of the original (non-filtered) image. You can see the digital noise in the faces, although this is still a remarkably low level of noise for digital ISO 1600. This is a plus for the Canon 10D camera. This is also much better than any ISO 1600 film image would be, one of the advantages of working with digital in low light.

Even at that, I wanted to remove some of the noise.  The two insets are from the top, filtered photo so you have a before and after comparison of what Neat Image can do in the standard mode. The faces look cleaner and smoother in the insets from the filtered photo. With some tweaking of the settings in the advanced mode, the results would be even more impressive.

Neat Image is a good tool for removing digital noise, but it also removes film grain from scanned images. Last summer I submitted a photo to a magazine that was taken on 400 speed film in low morning light back in 1985.  400 speed slide film was very grainy back then. I filtered the scanned image through an earlier version of Neat Image and sent both versions to the editors. They chose the filtered version and it ran as the magazine cover in September 2003.

If you don't already have a good noise reduction filter, I highly recommend Neat Image. You can download a copy and get more information at their website.

April 22, 2004

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