Price: 50.40 . 35
Company: Nik Software
Pros: Very effective at noise reduction. Includes both automatic and manual tools. Much better than Photoshop’s own filer.
Cons: Niche tool. Zoom lacks options.
Dfine is a Photoshop plug-in that eschews bells-&-whistles for a tight feature set focused on a single task – removing noise from photographs.
Dfine offers two ways of working. First, you can work on the whole image in a plug-in dialog box. The first step is to measure the level of noise automatically, or by manually selecting points of noise. You can then adjust the Contrast Noise and Color Noise settings to reduce variations in brightness and shade.
We were impressed by Dfine’s fast, automatic reduction of noise. This feature has been improved in version 2.0 with more functions. These include horizontal and vertical split views to see before-&-after effects, and the ability to view individual RGB or luminance/chrominance channels to prejudge what settings to go for.
The image above was taken with a consumer camera and is very noisy. Applying Dfine 2.0 created the image below, which is much more usable.
Also new in Dfine 2.0 are U Point Control Points, which allow noise reduction to be applied selectively to objects in your scene, which Dfine makes a decent job of identifying.
The only complaint is minor. The Zoom tool has three settings only: fit, 100 per cent and 300 per cent. With hi-res images such as our 10mp test shots, you are likely to want to zoom in a tad, but not to 100 per cent.
The automated process will make most images usable, but if you’re dealing with a particularly poor photo or need to improve an image for cosmetic reasons, Dfine provides manual painting tools.
There are four tools: Paint, Erase, Fill and Clear. The tools’ properties are governed by the type of effect selected: Skin, Background, Sky, Hot Pixels, Shadows, Fine Structures and Strong Noise. Most types of noise can be easily dealt with one or other of these tools. Dfine 2.0 is an excellent, if niche, plug-in, worth having in your collection even if you only use it on the odd occasion.