CaptureCameras on smartphones have become much more robust in the past few years, and most everyday users take photos with their phone or tablet rather than carry around a bulky, expensive camera. But even with the improvements in camera technology, we’ve all experienced the struggle of taking a photo that turns out to be filled with noise and discolored pixels. Enter Photo Noise Reducer Pro, an app in the Google Play Store that takes a photo and reduces noise by correcting miscolored or empty pixels within the image. If you consistently get noisy photos with your device, this might be the app for you. They even have a website, check it out here.

Setup

Screenshot_2015-10-20-15-11-44Photo Noise Reducer Pro has the best setup we’ve seen in an app like this. That is to say, there is literally zero setup. You install the app, open it, and you’re ready to start doing some magic on your photos. There is no account to be made or information to be entered. We found this encouraging, considering the app has a very simple but important task that users just want to do without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

Design

Screenshot_2015-10-20-14-51-26For what it’s worth, Photo Noise Reducer Pro is designed very well. It doesn’t incorporate those Material Design animations you may have come to love as of late, but it is very simple and easy to use. You’re presented with two large buttons upon opening the app — one to open the built-in camera app to snap a photo (more on that in a bit) and one to open a grid-style list of all your recent photos to apply noise reduction to via the app. A slide-out menu from the left reveals the Settings button, along with your usual buttons for rating the app and providing feedback. The built-in camera within the app is designed well, with a simple shutter button at the bottom and a flash button at the top, flanked by a camera-switching toggle and an “X” to go back to the main screen.

As far as colors and design language go, this app keeps it simple. Purples and blues dominate the color scheme, although there are subtle yellow highlights throughout the app. Overall, it isn’t going to win many awards for outstanding design, but it gets the job done so users can focus on improving their images and enjoying the functionality of the app.

Function & Usage

cameraPhoto Noise Reducer Pro is one of the simplest photo editing apps we’ve seen. In fact, it might be too simple. Beginning with the camera in the app, we found that it lacked a few features that we took for granted until they were missing. Namely, the camera does not give users tap-to-focus functionality or any real options other than switching between rear and front cameras and enabling/disabling the flash. There are no built-in filters or editing tools or even options to change the megapixel count before taking a photo. Most importantly, the lack of tap-to-focus or even autofocus left us with consistently blurry shots before we could even get to the noise reduction part of the app. As far as camera apps go, Photo Noise Reducer Pro definitely leaves quite a bit to be desired. Thankfully users still have the option to use existing photos, which more or less makes the built-in camera useless.

Screenshot (October 21, 2015 7-54 PM)Once you manage to snap a decent photo with the built-in camera (which is nearly impossible) or select an existing image from your gallery, the noise reduction menu is fairly simple. There are two preset levels of noise reduction: light and medium. If neither of these suits you, there’s also a Custom button that brings up a slider, allowing you to adjust the noise reduction as you please. Below these buttons sits a Smooth slider, which does exactly what you’d expect: it smooths over sharpness in your photos. While we appreciated the simplicity here, it would’ve been nice to have a few more options for background noise vs foreground noise, or even some filter applications or brightness adjustments. Unfortunately, these are all changes you’ll have to make in your designated gallery app, or elsewhere. They’re simply missing in Photo Noise Reducer Pro.

The real question here is, does the noise reduction work? The official website for the app goes into more detail about the specific techniques for reducing noise, but the answer is “it depends.” Not every photo is suitable for noise reduction, and we found that about half of the photos we tried to improve ended up looking either the same or worse than the original. That being said, we tested the app on a Galaxy S6, which has been touted as having one of the best cameras on the market, so we aren’t entirely surprised that the photos taken with the S6 didn’t need noise reduction in the first place. But after manually adjusting our camera settings and capturing a few less-than-spectacular images, we did see a noticeable improvement once the noise filtration was applied. Check below for a few before and after shots. The photos on the left are the originals, and the photos on the right were all “de-noised” via the app using the Medium setting.

Beyond the effectiveness of the noise reduction, we did notice a few things that could be improved upon in future versions of the app. Namely, when you choose a noise reduction level for a photo, the application load time is quite slow. For some photos, it took upwards of two to three minutes before the photo was finished. While it’s at the loading screen, there is no way to back out of it, short of closing the app completely via the recent apps menu. What exacerbates this loading time is that there is no “apply” button or any kind of stopgap before the noise reduction is applied. If you accidentally press “light” instead of “medium,” you’ll have to wait until that level is applied to change anything. We would have also liked to select multiple things to apply at once, rather than just noise reduction. At the time of this review, all that’s available are noise reduction levels and smoothness, but even with just two adjustment options, an “apply” button seems like a simple fix. If you want to adjust a photo’s noise reduction and apply the Smooth feature, you have to do one at a time — and suffer through the slow loading time.

Screenshot_2015-10-20-14-51-35Another hole in the app is blatantly obvious when you open the Settings. The settings — or lack thereof — include, but are not limited to a single toggle to enable/disable a confirmation dialog when you save a de-noised image. This is apparently the only setting that users need when adjusting photos. Obviously we would like to see more options here for users, and it is disappointing that more aren’t included out of the gate.

What We Liked

  • Simple, clean design
  • Very intuitive and easy to use
  • Option to use existing photos

Room for Improvement

  • Extremely barebones built-in camera app
  • Noise reduction only works half of the time
  • Load times can be slow for some images
  • Virtually no settings

Conclusion

In the realm of photo editing tools, Photo Noise Reducer Pro is off to a good start. The goal is to create better photos by fixing discolored or misplaced pixels that create noise in an image. But the execution is far from perfect, and there are quite a bit of places where the app needs some major upgrades to keep up with the competition. It lacks significant settings (or any settings, for that matter), additional photo editing options, like brightness control, that should be considered standard, and a usable built-in camera that takes better photos. This app most definitely has the potential to make a splash in the world of mobile photo editing, but it is off to quite a rocky start. If we had to put a number on it, we’d give Photo Noise Reducer Pro 3 out of 5 stars. If you’d still like to see Photo Noise Reducer Pro in action for yourself, you can pick it up from the Play Store below.

Download Photo Noise Reducer Pro here.

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