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As camera makers have shoved more and more pixels onto tiny imaging sensors, digital pictures have become increasingly noisy and so filled with grain that the old craptacular Disc Camera seems superior at times.
Enter PictureCode’s Noise Ninja, an application that takes a +3 katana to the digital noise that can ruin an otherwise good picture. Ninja comes in a dizzying array of flavors but we looked at the stand-alone professional version (a plug-in for Photoshop is also available). The pro version supports 16-bit images, batch processing, and multi-threading.
We tasked Ninja with cleaning up a couple of grainy images from our own collection, one of which was a candlelit JPEG image taken with a Canon 5D at 3200 ISO. (While the 5D’s full-frame sensor is more than capable of producing clean, sharp pictures, a candlelit shot at 3200 ISO is a challenge for any digital camera.) To compare the Ninja’s performance, we also ran our images through Adobe Photoshop CS2’s built-in noise-reduction filter. There was no contest. CS2’s “free” functionality doesn’t hold a candle to Ninja’s noise reduction, or speed. Furthermore, Ninja is aided by prebuilt profiles that are available for a host of digital cameras models.
What really impressed us was the program’s efficiency. Tweaking an image often requires a lot of back and forth, as you “clean” areas, then revert back to the original, turn a few knobs, and clean again. With other products, it can get pretty tedious because of the slow pace at which the changes are processed. We had no complaints about speed with Ninja. Even on a single-core 3.8GHz Prescott Pentium 4, the performance was snappy. What’s more, Ninja is multithreaded, so users with dual-core PCs and PCs with Hyper-Threading should see an even greater boost in speed. We applaud developers who support today’s hardware instead of pandering to the unwashed masses of ancient Pentium IIIs.
Ninja isn’t just about the hardware support though; its snappy performance, ease of use, and batch processing make it a must-have for anyone who is serious about his or her digital pictures.
Month Reviewed: April 2006