Image Trends’ SensorKleen & DustKleen; Some Things Are Just Older Than Dirt

Imaged dirt is always with us. Most times you don't even notice it on a photograph because of the exposure or the subject matter, but when shooting at small apertures or up against smooth backgrounds such as seamless paper or the sky, it's right there in your face. If you've tried to scan film you already know that even the tiniest dust speck becomes a boulder after being digitized.

At PMA 2007 the people at Image Trends, the creative force behind the wonderful Applied Science Fiction Photoshop compatible plug-ins, announced two new applications for removing dust from digital images. SensorKleen is engineered to eliminate dust and grit from files captured with D-SLRs and DustKleen does the same thing for scanned images. While working with these two programs, it came to me that photographers should also do what they can to prevent that dust and grime from getting there in the first place, so I'd also like to introduce you to some other solutions that, together with Image Trends' software, can make your image files spanking clean.

Dirt and dust on a camera sensor are most pronounced when shooting at smaller apertures and on smooth backgrounds, such as the gray seamless used here, but skies are also places where sensor dust rears its dirty head.

Image Trends' SensorKleen is a stand-alone application that uses a SmartBrush to remove dust and specks and their shadows from image files captured with D-SLRs. The default brush size is the expected dust particle size based upon lens aperture, focal length, CCD size, and other parameters obtained from the EXIF data, but all this can be changed by using the Brush Size slider. You can digitally brush over the dust while the program uses EXIF data containing camera and lens information to differentiate between image content and image defects.

Tools in the Control Panel let you undo any changes made to the image. A Brush Strength slider lets you adjust the amount of dust correction. When dust and image content are similar, Brush Strength can be adjusted to remove dust without removing image content. Other controls include Add Touch Up to mark what you want removed, while the Remove Touch Up lets you remove unintentional corrections. If the Brush Strength slider is moved all the way to the left, the brush acts the same as Remove Touch Up. An Undo feature allows the user to undo previous changes in succession, allowing all previous corrections to be undone. Two levels of Help are provided through the "big question mark" button on the floating tool palette.

The attractive SensorKleen interface doesn't always work the way you might think. Clicking the red check box in the upper right-hand corner doesn't completely close the application, you gotta click the big "Close All" button which has its own close box--I found that confusing on the Windows version.
© 2007, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

SensorKleen works well but seems memory dependent and may perform slowly with other applications open. It was sluggish on my Windows XP computer--a Mac OS version is planned--with 512MB of RAM and Microsoft Outlook open. Install more memory or be careful when working with memory-hogging applications.

Image Trends' DustKleen is a dust-removal software for files scanned from negatives, slides, or prints. You start the dust-busting process by opening a scanned image and selecting Image Types from a pop-up menu that includes Default Scanned Print (B&W), Scanned Print (Black and White Dust), Scanned Negative Film (White Dust), or Scanned Slide (Black Dust). By checking the Active box in the Automatic Correction section of an attractive and functional Control Panel floating over your photograph, DustKleen automatically finds and removes dust specks. If you don't get it all in the first pass, you can adjust sliders for dust size, amount, and aggression.

DustKleen automatically attempts to identify dust in the scanned image but occasionally there may be some bits that get missed because they're similar to image content. When turning on the Highlight button, any dust identified by DustKleen can be highlighted in color. An Undo button eliminates all the manual corrections in reverse sequence, taking you back to where you may have overcorrected. You can also use the Remove Touch Up brush to erase all corrections whether made in Automatic or Manual mode in a specific area of the image. Clicking the question mark button on the lower left of the Control Panel will help answer questions as you go through the process. If you're in a hurry to get answers about either of the Image Trends products, hover the mouse over that same button and Quick View Help appears on the left side of the screen.

When selecting DustKleen's Automatic mode you can adjust sliders for dust size, amount, and aggression. The affect of changing one or more of the automatic settings can be seen on the screen after the automatic method recalculates the defects and correction amounts.
© 2007, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

Free trial downloads of SensorKleen and DustKleen are available at www.imagetrendsinc.com with fully licensed versions costing $49.95 each. Initially the products are only available for Microsoft Windows but Image Trends tells me that Mac OS versions will follow. As I write this, a fully automatic Pro SensorKleen version should be available and your purchase price will be credited against the original cost of the non-Pro version.

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