I regularly use several general purpose noise-reduction programs to reduce the noise in my digital camera photographs, my film scans, and in the print scans I do as part of my restoration business. Noise reduction in all its varied forms is a staple of my work. I ’ve tested many and settled on three: Neat Image Pro+, Noise Ninja Pro, and NoiseWare Professional. (I did not test or investigate noise-reduction programs that use camera- specific profiles, of which there are many.) All are available as Photoshop plug-ins and stand-alone apps.
I use all three often enough to say they all have their merits. They all also have substantial differences, and you may very well find that one or more of them suit you not at all, or that one is so perfect for your needs that you don’t need to bother with the rest. It’s one of those cases where your mileage almost surely will differ from mine.
Customizability matters as much or more to me than the program’s default behavior and just what noise-reduction algorithms it uses. I’m always running into situations that require me to customize the noise-reduction settings to get the very best results, so how well a program lets me do that is extremely important to me.
Overly aggressive noise reduction tends to make everything look like it’s made of vinyl—smooth, shiny, sharp edged, and completely lacking in surface texture. The plastic look does not appeal to me at all. In almost every case, I didn’t care for the results I got using the software’s default settings. Most of the time, it was because the plug- in worked too well! It so thoroughly obliterated noise that it wiped out too much f ine detail and produced that “vinyl” look that I want to avoid. Hence, simple raw noise- reduction horsepower is a poor measure of quality; I care about how much noise I can eliminate without overly compromising subtle photographic detail.