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Band Aide noise reduction filter released  
Thursday, June 22, 2000 | by
While it's tempting to buy Camera Bits' Band Aide noise reduction filter based on the strength of its catchy name alone, there is, fortunately, an additional reason: it's the best way on the Mac to prepare noisy Nikon D1 photos for printing, and the only way on both Mac and Windows to effectively remove D1 luminance noise from within Photoshop.

The problem

D1 images exhibit two unwelcome traits in darker areas, especially in high-ISO frames:

  • Light/dark striations that run horizontally across a horizontal frame, often referred to as banding.
  • High-frequency noise that shows up as a mild to overwhelming white pixel pattern when the photo is sharpened for printing. Newsprint-level unsharp masking.

The second problem is more pronounced than the first in print, because sharpening enhances the high-frequency noise as much or more than the image detail. Taken together in a particularly dark high-ISO frame and the noise can start to consume the photo. In fact, the nature of the noise is such that Photoshop's own range of filters will blast away image detail at the same time as they blast away the noise. Often, however, the noise will reappear when the image is sharpened, though the image detail remains ruined.

The solution

Enter Band Aide. Building on a clever selective blurring algorithm developed by QImage Pro author Mike Chaney, Dennis Walker of Camera Bits added additional control and speed to the filtering, then incorporated it into a Photoshop plug-in that's similar in appearance to Quantum Mechanic Lite. In effect, the filter whacks darker areas more than lighter areas, while minimizing the loss of image detail. Be warned, however: D1 noise resides in the image's luminance, and as a result is sometimes inextricably woven into key image detail. As a result, even Band Aide can soften image detail unacceptably, especially if too strong a setting is chosen, or the photo lacks contrast. But it offers the best balance between noise removal and image detail retention of any D1 noise zapping software I've tried to date.

Both Mac and Windows versions of the Band Aide Photoshop plug-in are available for US$99 until July 31, directly from Camera Bits. After that the price increases to US$149, with 5 packs selling for US$500. Fully-functioning, 20-use Mac and Windows demos are available.

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