Smooth, yet refined with an impeccable attention to detail.
Noise has become less and less an issue for digital photographers over the last few years as sensor technology gets better, in camera processing is capable of shouldering more of that load than ever before and digital asset management software/RAW converters are up to the task for much of the noise reduction needs. Still, with analog to digital information translation, there is an inherent signal:noise issue that can always be further helped by a good noise reduction software. Add to that, pro-sumer 35mm format models breaching the Medium Format pixel counts, or compact sensors pushing the pixel pitch to near immeasurable dimensions, there is, and will be a need for a manual noise reduction control through post processing. While Lightroom and Aperture have good noise reduction algorithms, they are the swiss army knife of image processing, giving you many handy tools, but what happens when you need a power tool? That little Swiss army knife’s mini-saw ain’t gonna cut through that noise riddled log for you, you’ll need a chainsaw. Enter, Topaz DeNoise5, your powerful, noise reducing chainsaw. You can download a free trial, or purchase DeNoise. If interested click HERE to go to Topazlabs.com. I’ve used Noise Ninja and Nik Define in the past, and I think both of those have just been pushed out of my workflow. Read on for examples and my take…
Here are 100% crops from the image above, click on any of the images to see a larger version:
Proof is in the pudding. No need for me to ramble on… Here are images processed using Topaz DeNoise 5 with 100% crops to show before and after. Click on any image to see it larger.
This first example was shot using my Canon 5D (the classic) and a Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL lens. The settings were: ISO 3200 (H1), 1/500th sec, f/2.8, EV +/- 0
While this was a situation where I unnecessarily used ISO 3200, I still wanted to see how the files would hold up using DeNoise AND NIK Define2 which has been my go to noise reduction software up until now.
Now, I’m not sure if NIK has updated Dfine, but I’ve used it for the last few years with no complaints. I’ve lost most all interest in the NIK plugins over the last few years because A) they’re way too expensive and B) there are better comparable plugins (in my opinion), most of them for less money, and this is a good example. One thing I appreciate with Topaz DeNoise5 is how well it attacks the banding noise which has a user definable width slider to handle both vertical and horizontal banding. The NIK Dfine image to me was trickier to retain detail and it showed some pretty substantial posterization by comparison, and this was after I did my normal noise measuring and custom application within Dfine2. With DeNoise5 I started off with one of their RAW presets and adjusted a couple of the sliders. Saved that as my default “5D 3200” preset and viola. (see the screenshot lower down to see the DeNoise5 interface).
The next example was a shot using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and 12-50mm kit lens ISO-6400, 1/40th sec, f/5.6, EV +/-0 and shows a very average example of using these amazingly high ISO settings to gain just enough room to capture kids indoors without flash. Downside? Noise. Until…..
I will say this, DeNoise5 does a great job with its presets, and further tweaks to the sliders are intuitive and effective. I do think that larger files will bog down the overall speed, and the refresh rate when making any changes, or dragging to another point in the image was sluggish, to be fair, there is a lot of information needing to be processed so I’m able to temper any frustration when I see the results. That being said, while I started with the heaviest preset available to obliterate the noise, I was still impressed with the amount of detail that it did in fact retain. As you can see in the screen shots below, there are quite a few perameters that are user adjustable. I found that going extreme on most any of these sliders, created unwanted artifacts and destruction of detail as you’d probably imagine it would do. With a light hand, I was able to bring back a little detail by decreasing the “Overall Strength” slider and slightly increasing the “Recover Detail” slider which proved to me, to be a great balance of detail and noise reduction. I then clicked on the “SAVE” preset button on the bottom left (below the preset bar) and entered “EM5 6400” so that I could easily revert back to this as a preset if and when I bring any of my other images in from this camera at this ISO setting (which I know I will be doing) and using this as a starting point.
Finally, I wanted to see how DeNoise, and Dfine handled banding. Recently I’ve written about the banding issues on the Olympus OMD EM5 in the OMD vs G3 article (click here to read) when shot at ISO6400 and I was curious to see if either of my noise reduction programs could remedy it. Now, this may be a more accurate test for any noise reduction software and a shooting scenario where you cannot really get away from shooting at very high ISO’s. This is where your darker tonal values will most certainly be challenged by noise. Small venue stage lighting is notoriously tricky and dealing with noise will always provide a task. Again, click on any of the images for a larger version.
With the above example, I tried adjusting the NIK Dfine version to the best of my ability. I’d either lose tons of detail, or I’d not get rid of enough noise. The result was the best that I could do balancing those two factors. The Topaz DeNoise version seems to me to be in all ways better, and certainly more effective with the vertical banding. The two versions took about the same amount of time, and the controls within the Topaz software were so much better and more acute. For me, it’s a closed case.
With a plugin like this, I won’t worry about shooting in situations where I may need to crank my ISO to get the exposure I need. Much of my shooting ends up in low light situations, so a good noise reduction plugin is important, and I am very happy to say that DeNoise 5 will be my noise reduction plugin of choice, replacing Nik Dfine2 in my workflow (which had unseated Noise Ninja a couple years ago for me). I feel it will be that extra little specialized bump that can help me tone down, or entirely eliminate noise all while doing a great job at detail retention. The fact that there is so much room to adjust with this software between this toning down or complete annihilation of noise makes it such a wonderful tool for me.
DeNoise5 is compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS3-CS6, PS Elements 6-10 and is also compatible with Aperture 2&3, iPhoto and Lightroom 2-4 via Topaz Fusion Express. DeNoise5 retails for $79.99 and I’d highly suggest giving it a try. With a fully functional 30 day free trial, you can see for yourself how useful it may be for you. Use the TopazLabs.com link below to go straight to the plugin page to see what’s on offer.
Get a free trial code to use the fully functional program for 30 days, or purchase DeNoise, along with any of the other awesome, affordable Topaz plugins here: TopazLabs.com
For more reviews on some of my favorite Topaz plugins click on the links below:
Thanks for the read and happy shooting,