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Pro Review: Image Trends DustKleen and SensorKleen software

Is this what Mom meant when she said you’d clean up in photography?

By Joe Farace

Is dust the bane of your existence? Lady Macbeth a personal hero? Image Trends now offers two applications to get rid of the dust bits that can make an image look so untidy. DustKleen is a dust removal program for files scanned from any media, including negatives, slides or prints. It is designed to identify defects that are not part of the image and remove them without harming the photograph. SensorKleen is a standalone application with a SmartBrush that removes artifacts created by dust on a digital SLR’s imaging sensor. It uses camera and lens metadata to differentiate between content and defects and aims to remove only artifacts while restoring the underlying image content. Both programs are currently Windows-only applications.

Start the dust-busting process by opening a scanned image and selecting Image Types from a pop-up menu that includes choices for Default Scanned Print (B&W), Scanned Print (Black and White Dust), Scanned Negative Film (White Dust), or Scanned Slide (Black Dust). Next, check the Active box in the Automatic Correction section of the attractively designed and functional control panel that floats over your image. DustKleen then automatically finds and removes dust specks. Turn on the highlight button and DustKleen identifies any dust by highlighting it in yellow. If you don’t get it all in the first pass, you can adjust sliders for dust size, amount and aggression. The interface quickly reflects any changes with visible on-screen results and delivered better-than-acceptable performance on my aging Windows XP computer.

Caption: DustKleen cleans scanned images from negatives, slides, and prints. It automatically detects dust, dirt, and scratches on your scanned image, and lets you optimize results with manual brushes and controls. Unlike most applications, DustKleen’s interface is a floating palette that hovers over an image so you can move it around as you make changes and corrections. [Click image for larger view.] ©2006 Joe Farace

DustKleen automatically attempts to identify dust in the scanned image, but may miss some defects that  are similar to something in the image’s content. By adjusting sliders for dust size and brush size, you can use the program’s Manual mode to get more precise about which elements of the image are to be corrected and which should be left alone. If you like (I did), you can turn yellow highlights on and off to assist in image correction. 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—in automatic or manual mode—in a specific area of the image.

If you’ve ever spent any time spotting prints with a sable brush and Spotone, you’ll find that using DustKleen is intuitive. If not, it won’t make your brain hurt. Clicking the big question mark button on the lower left of the Control Panel helps to get answers to your questions as you go through the process. If you're in a hurry, hover the mouse over that same button and Quick View Help appears in the View window on the left side of the screen. Nice touch.

SensorKleen’s SmartBrush is slightly more complex, but by no means harder to use, than DustKleen's tools. It's also much faster and more comprehensive than using Photoshop’s Clone Stamp or Healing Brush to remove sensor dust. You digitally brush over the dust and defects in your image while the program’s SmartBrush technology uses the image file’s metadata to separate photographic content from the shadow created by dust on the sensor. Tools in the control panel let you undo any changes made to the image.

A Brush Strength slider in the Touch Up control panel lets you adjust the amount of the dust correction. The default brush size is the expected dust particle size based upon lens aperture, focal length, sensor size, and other parameters obtained from the camera’s EXIF data, but you can make it larger or smaller using the Brush Size slider. On transitional areas where dust and image content are similar, Brush Strength can be adjusted to remove dust without removing image content. As with DustKleen, two levels of help are provided through the big question mark button.

Caption: Similar in concept to DustKleen, SensorKleen’s floating Tool palette can be placed over or next to your digital image file. It removes the visual evidence of any dust or defects on the camera sensor. SensorKleen uses the camera and lens EXIF data to help differentiate between image content and defects. [Click image for larger view.]  ©2006 Joe Farace

Other controls include Add Touch Up, which marks areas as defects to be removed. Conversely, Remove Touch Up lets you remove erroneous corrections. TIP: If the Brush Strength slider is moved all the way to the left, the brush acts the same as Remove Touch Up. Undo allows the user to undo previous changes in succession, allowing all previous corrections to be undone.

Given the software's impressive performance and significant image files improvement, $49.95 (each) for SensorKleen and DustKleen is a modest price. SensorKleen is particularly suited for less-than-full-frame digital SLR shooters. If you’re scanning more than just a few prints, you’ll find that DustKleen will become an indispensable studio productivity tool. Initially the two products are only available for Microsoft Windows but Image Trends says that Mac OS versions will follow. A fully automatic Pro version of SensorKleen is coming later in 2007, and SensorKleen users who purchase the Pro version will receive a credit for the original purchase price.

Free trial downloads of SensorKleen and DustKleen are available at