Noise Reduction Testing – Neat Image and iPhone

In the early days of digital photography I used Neat Image to reduce noise in my images. Early cameras suffered from noise even at low ISO, despite their low pixel counts, and enlarging for print made the problem even more visible.

Recent full frame DSLR’s have significantly improved however so I rarely need to use a specialist noise reduction (NR) program, instead a small adjustment of the NR  sliders in Lightroom is usually sufficient, and while this may reduce sharpness, with 21 MP to start with, it is unlikely to be noticed in print and certainly wont be on screen.

However, I have started shooting more recently with the iPhone (4.54×3.42 mm), the Sony RX100 (1″ Sensor 13.2 x 8.8mm) and a newly acquired – from ebay Sony R1 (APS-C Sensor 21.50×14.40 mm).

The tiny iPhone 4s sensor suffers from a high level of noise and artifacts even at low ISO. The Sony RX100 is surprisingly good – better in fact that the bigger sensor in the “vintage” Sony R1 – which I am finding is surprisingly noisy for a relatively large sensor at 400ISO upwards.

Neat Image works by taking a sample of noise, either from the picture itself, if it can find a large enough – uniform area, or it can use a previously saved noise profile with ideally the same settings for ISO and shutter speed. There is a little skill involved in this as it is possible to do a better job at finding the uniform area than Neat Image can automatically! It is also possible to display a test target on your screen – or print one, and take pictures of it with a range of settings, that can then be processed as a batch by Neat Image to create profiles to be used in future. This works really well when you can alter the settings – but not so well on the iPhone.

The only way to get profiles for the iPhone then is to take lots of pictures in different lighting conditions, and thus different ISOs and shutter speeds and manually “auto profile” each image then, if the score is high enough (over 90% save the profile for future use. Another useful tip is to shoot something uniform whenever you take pictures, under the same lighting as this could give you a useful profile for the images taken on that occasion, and be useful for future use. I should say at this point that I use the “645Pro” Camera app on the iphone which gives me a TIFF output before compression, rather than JPEG.

Several people have uploaded their sample profiles and these can be accessed here


And the iPhone…


Shooting a Calibration Target

Note that it is meant to be blurred! Set your AF to manual and focus on infinity.


Setting up batch Processing

Menu for Neat Batch

Batch Processing

Optimising performance.

Neat Image can carry out a test on your hardware to determine whether it is better to use teh graphics card processor, or the CPU of the computer or a combination of both. Very clever!

Neat Image Performance Optimisation

Neat Image Website
Neat Image Profiles

645Pro for iPhone

How to import raw files from a recently released camera into an old version of Photoshop.

If you have recently purchased a new camera, and want to work with RAW images but are still running an old version of Photoshop there is a work around.

You’re maybe in this situation if you have an old PC running Windows XP as LR4 and Photoshop CS6 require Windows 7. Or if you just don’t want the expense of updating LR or Photoshop.

The process is straightforward. First you convert all the RAW files into “Digital Negative” format, this is an open, non proprietary RAW format – your camera makers format is specific and bespoke. I convert all my images to DNG anyway, and there are some advantages such as slightly smaller (10%) files size.

This conversion is lossless, and the files can then be imported into older versions of Photoshop and Lightroom.

Find the software here.

The important thing to remember is that there are different versions of Adobe Camera RAW – more capability is added as camera manufacturers introduce new features – so you must choose the correct version to save to depending on the Adobe Photoshop version you have, but you must use the LATEST version of DNG converter if you have a new camera.

For example if you have CS3 then choose DNG v4.6 see picture.

So you are converting from a current version of ACR to an older one effectively. Leave the other options as I’ve got them.

Once the conversion has taken place, simply import into Lightroom or Photoshop as normal.

Most recent cameras that the latest version of DNG converter will convert for includes:
Canon EOS 1D X
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EOS 60Da
Canon PowerShot G1 X
Canon PowerShot S100V
Fuji X-Pro1
Nikon D4
Nikon D3200
Nikon D800
Nikon D800E
Olympus OM-D E-M5

RPS All About Imaging Day

A symposium organised by the School of Media, Arts and Design of the University of Westminster and the Imaging Science group of the RPS.

I attened this event in Harrow today, very interesting exploring some of the more technical aspects of digital imaging.

Highlights for me were.

1. Reproduction of texture in artworks. Carinna Parraman from the University of Bristol discussed obtained texture in printed images like brush strokes of a Van Gough painting, a halfway house between 2D and 3D printing.

2. Using photographs (and maths) to visualise the damage on a ceiling at Hampton Court. Lindsay MacDonald. Using a Nikon D200 (hardly state of the art) to photograph the ceiling in very small precise areas, with flash in different angles producing multiple images, including HDR to further analyse to highlight cracks, flaking paint and previous restoration efforts.

3. Video evidence for legal use from CCTV images by Ken MacLennon Brown
This covered the difficulties of getting high quality images from CCTV cameras, good enough to stand up as evidence in court, given the wildly differing lighting quality, bandwidth requirements at different times of day – affecting compression eg. packed station concourse vs empty and quality of installed cameras and locations.

It was an excellent day, I am looking forward to the next one!

British Touring Car Championship March 2012

It was a great day on Sunday for the start of the new season of the BTCC.

I decided not to fill my memory card up with lots of pictures of cars driving around the track this time, as I have SO many of those! I made a point of taking pictures of the people – drivers, mechanics grid girls etc.

I am preferring this up close and personal approach as I think it is giving me better images.

BTCC Photo Gallery

My folding electric car design from 1991!

You may have seen in the press a “revolutionary” folding electric car prototype, shown by the EU president last week. 21 years ago I designed a “remarkably similar” concept that bears more than a passing resemblance to this design. I have written an article about my original ideas and how I came up with them.

Each wheel has power/suspension/steering, rear folds under middle - gives 2m length


Read more details here…

iPhone 4s Camera Problem.

I picked up a couple of iPhones 4s last Friday, a white 8GB and a black 64GB. I was impressed at how easy it was to transfer all the data from my old phone to the new one via iTunes, the snappiness of response and the quality of the screen. I did notice a bizarre problem with the camera of the 64GB black phone however.

Inevitably I wanted to experiment with the much talked about camera. I tried to take some test pictures, but the camera wouldn’t fire, instead I saw a screen with vertical bands of purple colour. I tried all sorts of setting combination’s to find out what was happening. The Face-time camera worked fine, and the rear camera where the flash was turned off and when shooting HDR, but with the flash turned on, or “auto” set in a dark room, the LED light/flash came on, but the shutter doesn’t fire, and the purple bars appear.

I took it straight back and swapped it over for a new phone that is now working fine. Has anyone else had this problem?

Tony Sale who campaigned to save Bletchley Park dies.

It met Tony Sale on several occasions, he rather cleverly built the Colossus computer that is now working at Bletchley Park. I asked Tony to be our after diner speaker at a Raytheon IT event. He gave a superb presentation explaining the intricacies of the Lorenz Cypher, the Von Neumann architecture and the resulting Colossus computer built by Tommy Flowers.

Tony Sale 2
Tony Sale with the Colossus Computer that he rebuilt.
Tony Sale
The late Tony Sale (right) when I met him at Bletchley Park


There is light at the end of the tunnel for Bletchley Park though.

read more…