NoiseFixer 1.0 & ShadowFixer

Introduction

The single-largest failing of all budget digital cameras is the built-in flash coupled with the lack of a shoe for an external unit. Why? Without sufficient light, photos exhibit an odd, coloured mottling in shadow areas. Also, the built-in flash is good for no more than a couple of metres, and as the flash points directly at the subject, the result is over-exposure at the centre of the photo and under-exposure elsewhere with a vignette effect between the two. UK-based FixerLabs has released NoiseFixer, a Photoshop plug-in that goes some way to alleviating the coloured mottling. In fact, it can help in any circumstance where there has been insufficient light for the camera's lens to function fully. What it attempts to do is to remove the colour blotches in shadow areas while leaving the rest of the photo's detail intact. Its dialogue box has four preview windows. The first shows colour (chroma) noise, the areas it perceives to be adversely affected by lack of sufficient light. The second (termed ‘luminance') shows noise in greyscale areas. Each has a slider that can be moved until the balance between noise removal and detail retention is achieved. The other two previews show the original and final images. If there is little noise, the result is generally subtle. If, however, there are copious coloured blotches in shadow areas, NoiseFixer appears to remove them without having any noticeable effect on other coloured areas in the photo. ShadowFixer is intended to improve under-exposed photos. It's even easier to use with just two sliders for radius and amount. As use of the filter lightens the image, using Photoshop's auto-contrast afterwards re-balances the photo. It's a very powerful filter that appears to use a level of sharpening to bring out detail. Bearing in mind that this is the company behind FocusFixer (reviewed previous issue), it should come as no surprise that the results are very good. Of course, lightening an image with noise makes the noise more prevalent. Using NoiseFixer first followed by ShadowFixer gives even better results.
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