Best Free Photo Noise Reduction Software

 
Introduction

Noise on a digital image looks like random speckled color dots in areas where the color should be more even. The more you zoom into the image the more prominent the noise becomes. All digital images include some noise just as all traditional photographs have some grain. The amount of noise varies considerably between cameras but it also varies with how you use your camera.

On an automatic camera taking photos in poor light conditions increases the noise as it forces the camera to a higher ISO or sensitivity setting. Similarly on a manual camera; setting a higher ISO invariably increases the noise. Generally speaking the problem is worst with cheaper cameras but even the most expensive cameras have noise problems in extreme conditions.

Noise-reducing programs cannot eliminate noise from your digital photos but they can make it less obvious. But, there is a cost: any noise improvement you make will inevitably lead to some loss of detail to your images.

There is no outright winner in this review for a top noise-reducing program but there are two excellent contenders.

 
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Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

Noiseware Community Edition has a drop-down-box that enables you to make simple choices (automatic noise profiling), but I considered this to be a blunt instrument. If you want to start using the automated profiles then I would recommend starting with weaker noise. If weaker noise has too little effect then further adjustments can be done manually with the preview box turned on. This is a gentle start and as you get to know these programs you will quickly learn to only do things in very small steps, otherwise the image is very easily spoilt. All of options in the More Controls section are not available on the free version, but very good results are still possible. Just how good, will depend on your skill and patience as it is unlikely the automatic fixes will give a satisfactory result. Thankfully, there is a good help file.

Helicon Filter is really a general purpose image correcting suite but it includes an excellent noise reduction filter. Other filters in the suite include:

    * Noise Reduction
    * Red Eye and Sharpening
    * Color Adjustment, Text Inscriptions and Frames
    * Crop & Resize and Distortions
    * Clone brush and Change Brightness brush
    * Change Color brush
    * Change Saturation brush
    * Blur/sharpen brush and Fix Red Eye brush
    * Erase Changes brush.

The noise filter has an excellent visual interface as well as a useful help system to guide you through the noise reduction process. It offers some automatic noise profiling, with the ability to make your own. It supports RAW, TIFF, JPEG2000, JPG with support for external PS-plug-ins but the free version cannot itself be used as a PhotoShop plug-in. The free version also has fewer noise reduction options than the paid but excellent results are still possible.

And the other filters in the suite are just as good as the noise reduction filter. So good in fact, that you'll be tempted to use these even if you have Photoshop, Gimp or another image editor as Helicon is quicker to load and easier to use.

NB: This software is fully functional for 30 days, after that it will revert to free mode.

NDNoise is a complete rewrite of a previous product AbsoluteDeNoiser. NDNoise is Java based freeware that works with Windows/Mac and Linux. It is best suited to serious users who are adventuring for the first time into the world of noise reduction software. Very good results are possible but patience and experimentation is required as the help file is minimal and some of the controls are ambiguous. NDNoise is a stand-alone program whose features include:

    * load/save multiple image with the same filter tuning
    * three sliders that allow tuning for basic use : noise removal, dots/spots/lines smoothing, retexturing
    * direct visualization of filtering effect by alternate visualization
    * differential view for filtering control
    * zoom in/out at any level.

TIP: Just remember to use the drop-down-box below Calc to ensure you can visibly see your changes. When you have done your adjustments you can have two ways of viewing them: Fast, which is not very precise or Calc which is slower but more accurate.

 
Related Products and Links

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Quick Selection Guide

Noiseware Community Edition
4.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Results are not bad if done in small stages.
Automatic is a blunt instrument and will definitely ruin your image.
2.6
1.9 MB
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP/ Vista/ 7/ 8

Open JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF (24 and 48 bpp), saved results as a JPEG.

Helicon Filter
4.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
This is not just a noise reduction software, it enables you to adjust and correct your image in many other ways.
For thirty days it is fully functional, but then some of the filters and actions will stop. This doesn't make it any the worst as it's excellent free software.
5.2.4
275 MB
Time limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000/ XP/ Vista/ 7/ 8

From the HeliconSoft website: To get a FREE license to our products, you could submit a tutorial, an article or even an useful tip, that may be of interest to those visiting this site.

For more info: http://www.heliconsoft.com/free_license.html

View the change history here

v5.2.4 released 18 June, 2013

NDNoise
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
It works with Windows, Mac and Linux. Multiple image format support : PNG, JPEG, GIF, ... (prefer lossless PNG compression !)
Takes time to get to know, help files are minimal. Fast noise reduction is not very good so opt for the more precise 'Calc'.
http://ndnoise.free.fr/
http://ndnoise.free.fr/
0.4
870 KB
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS-X, Linux

You need Java to enable the software to work. http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.4.2/download.html

 
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