I have often mentioned that Adobe products only do an adequate job with noise. Lightroom 3 has some promising improvements, but from what I have seen so far, I still find Nik Software Dfine to be superior.
There are other good noise reduction programs on the market, including Noise Ninja and Imagenomics Noiseware, but I find Dfine is easier to use and offers one thing that no one else does, the ability to control where and how much noise reduction is applied based on color and tone. Often noise is stronger in certain colors and tones, plus sometimes you don’t want to reduce noise in a color or tone because that can help hold sharpness better.
Now I have said these things before and once received a comment from a photographer who felt that the program wasn’t that good and the only reason I said it so was because I must be paid by Nik. I am not paid by Nik, although I admit that I think so highly of their products that I would never feel bad about doing any work for them. From what I have seen of Dfine on my images, I have to think this critic either had not used Dfine or did not know how to use it. But to be fair, I should show you real results rather than just talking about it.
I took my Canon G11 to a banquet and decided to shoot a cheese cake sitting in front of me at ISO 3200. That ISO is really not usable straight from the camera, which is why I used it for this test. The resulting photo is not all that great (it has had some basic adjustments). Small, it will look OK here, but look at the magnified portion of the image. This would be good if you like special effects!
enlarged image but with Dfine noise reduction applied (above)
Editor notes: Rob Sheppard teaches many online photo courses at BetterPhoto's online digital photography school, including The Magic of F-stops: Choosing the Right Aperture, Guaranteed Better Photography and Impact in Your Photographs: The Wow Factor .