Photographer Michael Almond compares many many noise reduction tools: http://www.michaelalmond.com/Articles/noise_print.html
(this is the printable version but I think is easier to read than the online version)
His verdict is that Noise Ninja does the best job overall, but that there’s not a lot in the top 4 or 5 programs or plugins.
I’ve used Noise Ninja and Neat Image. I prefer Neat Image, but their licensing is a bit crazy, requiring a separate licence for 32 and 64 bit – meaning that I would have to chose which version of photoshop I’d want to use it in, or pay for 2.
Noiseware is one I’d not heard of, I’ll give it a try in the next few weeks.
Also whilst researching came across this bunch: http://www.softwhile.com/index.html
They have a image sharpening tool, which I’m looking forward to comparing to photoshop’s (and lightroom’s)
Now all of these may be moot in a few months if what I’m reading about Lightroom 3 turns out to be true:
Have a look at the pixel comparisons here:
Lightroom 3 appears to produce crisper, less clumpy-grained & more film-like images.
Also a nice post here: http://davidnaylor.org/blog/2009/10/lightroom-3-beta-review/ describing some of the high and lowlights of the beta (although were is the purple fringing in his 1st example?)
Somewhat disappointed to read about the grain module – being a huge fan of grain (coming from using Kodaks high speed infra red film pushed to 1600 ASA and developed in neat HC110 – old photographers will know what I’m on about) – David Naylor makes a good point that we’ll be seing a lot f grainy photos in the near future. His wish list includes automatic lens correction. (Barrel/pincushion distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting.) which I heartily agree with: I want lightroom to be my digital darkroom – I want to use it to get the perfect starting point for any creative work I want to do in photoshop (which generally means I work hard to get a crisp, high detail full dynamic range shot only to mung it in photoshop).
The beta is available here: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/. I’m resisting the temptation to install it – version 1 and 2 took a year to iron out the kinks – version 2.6 addressed the woeful speed problems on my setup – and the 3 beta was released shortly after. You can’t expect to use the beta commercially.