E-30 Noise Removal with Neat Image

My other articles related to the Olympus E-System cameras.

In another article I'm presenting comparative samples of images produced by the E-30 at various ISO values. Those at highest, especially ISO 3200, exhibit considerable noise, note that the in-camera noise filtering was set to Low there. That setting was chosen to avoid excessive detail loss caused by stronger filtering; also to allow for more flexibility in postprocessing.

Still, even the ISO 3200 images can be made usable if a good noise removal application is used at the postprocessing stage. Here are the same samples after going through the Neat Image application which over the years I have learned to use and trust.

Neat Image provides better results and more flexibility than noise-reduction facilities built into image-processing programs; sometimes much better. It comes as a stand-alone application, or as a Photoshop plugin (which I am using without any problems in Photo-Paint and Paint Shop Pro). It is, possibly, the best noise-removal application on the market — although since the purchase I didn't have a need to try others, so my comparison is a little old.

The program is efficient, frequently updated, and well-supported; I can recommend it highly, especially, if not only, for those who want to exercise high-ISO options in Olympus SLRs. Do not take my word, download and try the stand-alone evaluation version which is not crippled (no watermarks in results!) and does not have an expiration limit.

While checking the links, I've noticed that a version 6.0 of Neat Image, is available, newer than version 5.9 I'm using here. I downloaded it right away, but these results are from 5.9, if that matters.

Here I am showing the results of E-30 picture denoising with Neat Image at various noise removal profiles. For those who use the program, I'm providing a download of the presets I'm using for that purpose at ISO 3200.

The comparison starts from original JPEGs from the camera, and all sample fragments are shown in 1:1 pixel scale. Each next row shows the effects of the next stronger presets I've applied. Links to full frames of some images are provided as well.

Original out-of-camera JPEGs at ISO 100
Original out-of-camera JPEGs at ISO 3200
ISO 3200, Neat Image: my Low preset
ISO 3200, Neat Image: my Medium preset
ISO 3200, Neat Image: auto calibration, Neat Image default preset
ISO 3200, Neat Image: my High preset (too aggressive!)

For me, the Low setup works best. The reduction in noise levels is significant, and detail loss — negligible. Some may prefer my Medium preset, quite similar to what some of other SLRs are doing in-camera. Then, the version using program defaults is, I believe, a bit too aggressive, although it seems to be calibrated for common print sizes, where it may look quite pleasant at 9×12" or less. Finally, my High preset is clearly too aggressive, putting a layer of Saran wrap on top of everything; very much like results from a really cheap camera (or a cell phone). On the other hand, I am tempted to try that preset on some portraits or nudes.

For your perusal, here are full frames of the 3200 ISO buckle sample, which I chose as perhaps most informative for comparisons: original, and Neat Image results: default and my presets: Low, Medium, and High. Copying all into one directory and then scrolling between them with use of a good image browser (ACDSee, FastStone, or IrfanView) will give you an idea of what you can get from your ISO 3200 frames.

If you are a Neat Image user and would like to try my presets, perhaps as a starting point to your own experiments, here they are as a tiny zip file; unpack them to the Presets folder of the application and they will become available in the preset list next time you run it. (These presets are not ISO-dependent; it is the profiles which are.)

Note: these are not profiles, so you still have to use the Auto-Profile function, and then select one of the presets I provided. Keep in mind that the images for which I've been using them were obtained at ISO 3200, Low noise filtering, sharpness and contrast at Natural minus one.

Update of February 5, 2009: I just finished building an extensive set of noise profiles for the E-30, for all ISOs. The package can be found here, with a small text file describing the file naming convention. All you have to do is to unzip the file to the Profiles subfolder of the program, and you are set.

My other articles related to the Olympus E-System cameras.

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Posted 2009/01/26; last updated 2009/02/05 Copyright © 2009 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak