The lines that streak the length of some high-ISO Nikon D1 images have been the source of much consternation, especially for digital newcomers. Prominent on screen (though normally not a significant factor on newsprint), the lines have been difficult to clean up until now, primarily because filtering tended to knock down image sharpness along with the lines. DigiCam Pal 0.45's D1 Banding filter is designed to neutralize the appearance of the lines without affecting the underlying image. It's slick, and it works.
As the version number suggests, the Windows-only DigiCam Pal 0.45 is a work in progress. In fact, it's best to consider it as more of a technology demonstraton than a tool to be incorporated into an efficient news photographer or newspaper pre-press workflow. Still, if you have a D1 photo in which the noise lines are likely to detract from its printed appearance, it may be worth the effort to run it through DigiCam Pal before it heads to press.
Previous versions of DigiCam Pal would not run under Virtual PC 3.0, which is software for emulating Windows on a Mac. V0.45 does, albeit slowly, giving Mac users with speedy G3 or faster computers an opportunity to put DigiCam Pal through its paces.
DigiCam Pal tips:
- The D1 Banding filter's interface is at first intimidating, with no fewer than 8 parameters to set. In my testing, the settings that appear to induce a noticeable change in the filtering are the bottom 4. The screenshot above shows the defaults; if you're finding that the noise lines are not sufficiently subdued, try increasing the Red, Green and Blue Channel Threshold values first. Don't tread lightly! I've found that to see a change I've had to sometimes double the default value. The Read Me that accompanies the software suggests to also try a lower Bright Area Threshold value if the photo is extremely noisy.
- At the moment, DigiCam Pal only saves out files as TIFF, though it can import the JPEGs that most news photographers will be throwing at it.
- Mac users: DigiCam Pal is stored on the Internet in the compressed ZIP format. If you're having trouble decoding the downloaded file, simply drag and drop it onto Virtual PC's desktop to copy it to Virtual PC's virtual hard drive, then drag and drop it onto the Aladdin Expander shortcut.
- DigiCam Pal does little to knock down the sharpening artifacting that can accompany the banding lines in high ISO images. For that, try running the despeckle luminance feature of Quantum Mechanic Pro 2.1 for Mac.
It's unclear at this point whether DigiCam Pal will morph into a Photoshop plug-in or some other commercial form. In the meantime, however, author Jeff Lee is making the program available for free.