OSXcellence – Neat Image Review

You know the feeling – great light, perfect composition, beautifully exposed; but ruined by grain. And whilst many image processing apps have noise reduction on them, the results are often very poor. For this reason, many swear by the grain-combating qualities of Noise Ninja, but this isn’t the only app that does a fine job of reducing noise – Neat Image should also be considered as an option.

The look of Neat Image – very dull, very functional (almost Windows-like…) – belies a highly polished noise-reducing app. Whether you choose the Home edition ($39.90 for the standalone app, single-user) or the Pro edition ($69.90 standalone, single-user), noise is almost eradicated, with only a small amount of detail being lost.

When you input an image into Neat Image, the image exposure may be corrected before moving on to noise reduction. The Home edition allows for up to 100 images to be batch-processed, whilst the Pro edition allows unlimited batch images. Additionally, the Home edition is restricted to 8 bit image processing, whereas the Pro edition allows up to 32 bit. Essentially, the Home edition is designed for images originating from compact cameras.

Noise reduction begins with image profiling – the auto setting seems to be very accurate, but fine-tuning is available for control-freaks. You can also load previously used profiles.

The Noise filter settings stage is where Neat Image really comes into its own. Luminance and chrominance reduction, sharpening, and a vast array of other settings can be adjusted, and the results can be previewed using a sample box – click and hold within this box to see the “before”, release for the “after”.

Once this is complete, images can then be outputted at 8, 16 or 32 bit (depending on which edition of Neat Image you have).

Neat Image is not hugely refined, but I really couldn’t care less. When I have a noisy image, I don’t want to spend hours fiddling with it just to get rid of the grain, and for this reason, the simple (and pretty speedy) workflow that Neat Image provides is great.

Best of all, Neat Image also comes as an Aperture or Photoshop plug-in.

You can try a demo version of Neat Image for free, and purchase a Home or Pro edition from Neat Image’s website.

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