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Thread: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

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    Subscriber Member Jonathon Delacour's Avatar
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    Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    On the basis of favorable reviews at Luminous Landscape and elsewhere, I was about to purchase Photokit Sharpener and Noise Ninja. Then it occurred to me that it might be worth spending a little more money on Nik Software's Sharpener Pro and Dfine. Naturally I can download and install the trial versions then compare the competing products, but that kind of comparison will not necessarily reveal the actual advantages in the way that extended use would. So I was wondering if any forum members, based on their experience with these plugins, would recommend one over the other.

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    Jonathon,
    I have and use all four of the apps you are considering. I have been a big fan of PhotoKit Sharpener from the start, and think it does a great job. It has good control for localized sharpening, and provides for a good variety of output requirements, plus it lets you paint in the sharpening as you need it. All good stuff. In comparison, Nik Software's Sharpener Pro is actually much easier to use, in my opinion, and does an outstanding job with its default settings, but you can still tweak things. I think its Display sharpening for Web use is very nice, and something I found harder to get done correctly with PhotoKit. I also like the Sharpener Pro settings for various paper types in the Inkjet sharpening, and the fact that it does sharpen things based on the size of the output. You can see the differences in levels of sharpening for an 8x10 versus a 16x20 for example. Not a "one size fits all" approach. I also like that you can create the sharpening in a layer and further set the opacity of that layer, as well as paint in the areas on a mask for more selective control.

    On the sharpening front, Nik Software's Sharpener Pro has been winning in my book. My only issue is that I would like to see them update the plug-in to work properly with Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) on Intel machines running CS3. Presently, it does not work there, and requires PS CS3 to run in Rosetta, which is dog slow and a waste. I keep my G5 running on Tiger (10.4) just for the better performance of some things like this app. If you are on a PC, that may not matter, but if on a Mac, it is worth considering.

    On the noise reduction front, Noise Ninja has been my favorite since it was released, and I recently got the new plug-in for Aperture, which is blazingly fast. I think the NN controls are good, but still feel that it tends to be a bit aggressive and wipes out a bit more detail than I care for at times. For "busy" images, this may not be an issue, but it can impart a bit more of a "plasticy, too smooth" look too quickly if not used carefully. You can build profiles for various file types and save those. The defaults are supposed to be camera specific, but I have found that forcing the app to profile the image gets better results over using the camera defaults.

    After picking up Nik Software Dfine, my preferences are again starting to change. I think Dfine has a much less harsh noise reduction algorithm, and it works on each image with a profile, rather than camera presets/defaults. It also has nice control over edge contrast and edge sharpness, better than similar controls in Noise Ninja, in my opinion. It can also be used selectively on a layer mask, and also offers quite a variety of presets to deal with specific things, such as noise in sky, or just working on skin tones. I find this can work nicely, and quickly to create a nice skin softening, or to clean up sky and background without hammering the main subject. Overall, I find Dfine to be a bit more flexible and not as aggressive as Noise Ninja.

    So, while all four are very good and useful apps, my preferences have started to swing more in favor of the Nik Software plug-ins over the Noise Ninja and PhotoKit Sharpener for how I use these tools. I still keep all of them loaded, and I do use some for different things, but my first choices are now the Nik tools over the others. They may not be the fastest, and they do create a layer (which can be flattened) in PS, thus making for a larger file, but I feel they offer more overall control to the user in a variety of ways.

    As I said, I just wish Nik would get Sharpener Pro updated to work on Mac Leopard properly, AND to get both Dfine and Sharpener Pro done as plug-ins for Aperture. I think that will happen at some point.

    Not sure it my comments help. I think it is worth downloading and testing them yourself, as all can be downloaded for demo, I believe. They have different approaches and the UI is a bit strange for each, but you can quickly get the hang of it.

    LJ
    Last edited by LJL; 6th August 2008 at 18:31.

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    Subscriber Member Jonathon Delacour's Avatar
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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    LJ, many thanks! The information you've provided is exactly what I'd hoped for when I started this thread.

    For example, I could easily have missed the link on the Sharpener Pro purchase page to the detailed explanation about how the program has to run under Rosetta on Intel Macs. That may or may not be a problem for me (as a Macintosh user) whereas I'm inclined to see the extra layer created by the Nik tools as a plus rather than a minus. In any case, as you say, I can download the trial versions and see for myself.

    One further question, did you buy the Nik software from the Nik site or from an online retailer such as B&H Photo?

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Delacour View Post
    One further question, did you buy the Nik software from the Nik site or from an online retailer such as B&H Photo?
    Jonathon,
    I actually got the "professional bundle" (Sharpener Pro, Dfine, and Color Efex 3.0 Pro) through a vendor contact, getting a better pricing than I could anywhere else. I since have added Viveza, and am seriously considering their Silver Efex plug-in for B/W also. I think they make good apps. A bit more expensive than I prefer, so the bundle and other discounts helped. They have an educational pricing also, if you can use that.

    LJ

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    LJ

    If my experiences are a guide you will love Silver Efex. I find the grain more realistic (i.e. film like) than Alien Skin and the use of the control points are a great advantage. Try the demo only if you are willing to spend some money LOL

    Woody

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by woodyspedden View Post
    LJ

    If my experiences are a guide you will love Silver Efex. I find the grain more realistic (i.e. film like) than Alien Skin and the use of the control points are a great advantage. Try the demo only if you are willing to spend some money LOL

    Woody
    Thanks, Woody. From what I have seen already, this does look like an incredible tool to add. I just have so many things I am sorting through right now that I am not spending enough time playing with some of these. I am sure it will be added to my tool kit soon enough. Glad to hear you are liking it also. Seems like many that have tried it are impressed and pleased with the results. That u-point technology takes a bit to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, the real power starts to unfold from these apps.

    LJ

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    One other nicety to Silver Efex. I bought the plug in for Photoshop CS3 and then installed it in Aperture. The serial number activated immediately so I can experiment in both platforms. Other software developers who charge by the app could take a lesson in customer goodwill here.

    Woody

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    Woody - your B&W example made me look up Siverfx - it really looks the goods to me - thanks for the heads up.

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    I like FocusFixer: http://www.fixerlabs.com/EN/photosho...focusfixer.htm. It seems to be able to focus/sharpen the image even if it was slightly OOF from the start.

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    I like the Nik products, great UI's and work like a real plug-in should in CS. DFIne does an outstanding job on noise. For sharpening I've always used CS and sharpened on layers, so cannot comment other than to add that since I moved to C1 I have not needed any additional sharpening on my files.
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Sharpening and Noise Reduction Tools

    Yeah, C1 does an outstanding job of initial sharpening and noise reduction, especially for those cameras for which it is profiled. It's initial settings vary by camera type and iso.
    I am getting more and more pleased with its behavior, although it is a bit quirky.
    As for noise reduction, The Hippocratic oath ought to apply - "do no harm".
    In that regard, I have been most pleased with Dfine 2.0 as of late. although there is nothing perfect.
    -bob

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