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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Noise Reduction and Scans from B&W Negatives

Lately, I’ve been waxing enthusiastic about great products from small companies. I sat down this afternoon intending to write up a little blurb about how I use just such a product when making inkjet prints from scans of my 4x5 B&W negatives. The product is Noise Ninja, a great noise reduction program with a stupid name.

But I procrastinated, and instead started browsing interesting photo blogs, and in one of those annoyingly perfect serendipitous coincidences, found that Doug Plummer has written the definitive version of what I was going to write. So instead of writing it myself, I’ll just point you to the post on Doug’s wonderful blog.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI


7 Comments:

Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Thanks for that, Paul. Indeed, Noise Ninja has been an important weapon in my arsenal for a few years. I, too, use it to smooth overly grainy film scans. My most common use of it is to smooth overcast skies and fog in long night exposures. For some reason Canon's normally smooth-as-silk cmos sensors often render such areas quite grainy in long exposures.

I can't praise Noise Ninja enough and encourage anyone who uses a "digital darkroom" to give it a look. (Free demos are available,) And, yes, I also think it's a silly name. How about "Quiet Image", or "Photo Charmin", or "Bit Butter"?

11:59 AM  
Blogger Svein-Frode said...

To Ken: -How about Neat Image ;)

2:35 PM  
Blogger Carsten Bockermann said...

Paul's post is definitely among the most interesting I encoutered on this blog (and there is a lot of interesting stuff here). I cursed my Canon FS4000US scanner for its grainy XP2 scans (for whatever reason the scans from that film seem grainier than from Tri-X or HP5+), but with Doug's technique it seems that using this film/scanner combination is viable again.

Carsten

3:09 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Well, I must be missing something. I have read the reviews of Noise Ninja and based on those and user comments I assumed that it must be quite a good plug-in. However, after seeing the example on Doug Plummer's site I really am reconsidering that view. I have to say that the example he offers really is a terrible advertisment for Noise Ninja. The filtered version just looks awful to my eye. I must be missing something because I know alot of people praise the software. So, is it just me?

6:06 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

svein-frode; Ha! Well the infringement defense would probably be less costly than my "Photo Charmin" proposal! (BTW, for those unaware, Neat Image is a well regarded competitive noise reduction product.)

steve; Well, whether or not you find Doug's tiny screen images compelling, give Noise Ninja a try. It takes a bit of practice but I think you'll be impressed, particularly if you shoot high-ISO and/or long exposure digital.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Paul Butzi said...


However, after seeing the example on Doug Plummer's site I really am reconsidering that view. I have to say that the example he offers really is a terrible advertisment for Noise Ninja. The filtered version just looks awful to my eye.


Well, I certainly understand your concerns. I think there are several issues - one is that Doug might be showing snips of images that got run with the default settings, which are definitely agressive enough that detail loss can be an issue.

Another issue is that he's definitely let the noise reduction work over the rock in the sample image, and I'd probably not do that.

My observation is that some time fiddling with the controls will move you a long way toward getting the results you want; the software itself is very flexible but is not bottled magic, and when run on autopilot, it will not always produce anything like the excellent results that can be gained from directed use.

The final issue is something not mentioned in Doug's blog post, and that's that it's definitely worth building a noise profile for each film/developer combination, instead of letting the software autoprofile each image. Some images have large areas of even tone and autoprofile well, and others are essentially all small detail and autoprofile poorly.

I've been making profiles by contacting printing a stouffer step wedge onto each film stock, developing it, and then building the profile from a scan of the step wedge. This seems to produce excellent profiles.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ken and Paul - thanks for the comments. As I said, I had only heard good things about Noise Ninja so was quite surprised by the example on Doug's site. When it comes time, unless surprassed by another program, I'll definately be giving it a look.

Steve

10:26 PM  

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