Review – Topaz DeNoise AI
As Travel Photographers we are constantly shooting in all sorts of lighting conditions and quite often we have no alternative but to increase our ISO to get a shot especially when it is impossible to use a tripod. This is not a major problem on our Full Frame sensor camera that can handle higher ISO settings, however, on crop sensor cameras it becomes a problem at high ISO settings and especially if an image is underexposed. This is where Noise Reduction software comes to the rescue.
There are lots of Noise Reduction options on the market including a tool within Lightroom which reduces noise that does an average job of reducing Noise. However, for better results, you will need a more powerful Noise Reduction tool.
Third-Party plug-ins, as far as we’re concerned, always seem to have better results as the plug-in is dedicated to perfecting the results that it’s been designed for. They are always far more intuitive than the features that are built into the major editing suites available and give you far more control. Several companies are now including AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms in their apps.
Topaz DeNoise AI is an excellent plug-in for anyone that loves low-light handheld photography where the only option is to increase the ISO without the use of a tripod and especially for those that use anything other than a Full Frame sensor. For those that use a Full Frame sensor camera – you will love this plug-in for those shots that need higher ISO settings than they would normally shoot. Topaz fed their algorithm millions of noisy/clear images until it actually learned what noise is, and how best to remove it. In the latest iteration of the software (V2.0.0), they have introduced ‘batch processing’ which will be invaluable for anyone that shoots in Continuous High Drive Mode in low light such as Sports Photography. This is not really a feature that we would use in our photography but guaranteed there will be a lot of grateful photographers who will find this improvement to be a godsend.
“When you need pixel-level perfection in your results, DeNoise AI offers the absolute best quality currently available anywhere. Existing noise reduction tools like Lightroom give you a choice: keep some noise or remove some detail. DeNoise AI’s technology allows you to get the best of both worlds: to remove noise while actually strengthening detail” Topaz Labs
Although every image will not need Topaz DeNoise AI, you will be able to shoot high ISO images with the confidence that you have a plug-in that will save an image if needed. In our work, we shoot in constantly changing light where the ISO is constantly being changed. Topaz DeNoise has given us the confidence to shoot outside our comfort zone when it comes to high ISO settings.
In the past, many Topaz plug-ins have had a great range of Presets which are excellent for giving you a starting point but as this is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) app they are not needed. DeNoise AI examines the whole image and holistically determines the difference between detail and noise in that photo. For best results always apply DeNoise AI to your images prior to any major processing.
Please Note: we have not tested all the plug-ins that are available for Noise Reduction so there may be other apps that will give you a similar result.
Topaz DeNoise V2.2.2 – In late May 2020 Topaz updated Topaz DeNoise AI to include some exciting new features. One of the features we love most about the Topaz Sharpen AI application is the ability to selectively apply changes using masking but this was not available in the DeNoise AI app – until now. The latest version (V2.2.2 on both Win/Mac) gives you the same flexibility of masking as Sharpen AI which is excellent for those images that would look best with noise removed from only certain areas of the image, like a sky or darker areas of an image. The software now gives you full control over where you apply your noise reduction.
Another great feature added in the update is a Low Light Mode. This feature will help eliminate Colour Noise from high ISO images. Apparently, it is particularly useful when applied to high ISO RAW images, however, we have not tested this yet. Quite honestly, we don’t seem to get a lot of colour noise in our images so not sure how often this feature will be used in our workflow. Should we come across an image that requires colour noise reduction, we will post our findings in this post.
Topaz DeNoise V2.3 – In late September 2020, Topaz released a new version of the software. This has a couple of features that we are excited about. Firstly, the processing speed has been ramped up big-time. Secondly, and what seems to be the best feature with this upgrade, is the addition of the Comparison View (see image below) This can be accessed by clicking on View at the top of the interface next to Brightness. This feature will let you split the screen into 4 sections – Original, DeNoise AI, Clear AI, and Low Light. Why is this so cool? It’s cool because you can now make changes in each the 3 Modes and you will be able to compare the results to the other 2 modes. You can keep tweaking the settings in each mode and updating. Then you can decide which of the 3 modes is providing you with the best results. Just keep in mind, if you move to another part of the image you will need to update for each mode again.
Above: The “Comparison View” feature added in V2.3. Hover over image for a closer look.
Below is an image we shot in Japan at ISO 6400 on a Full-Frame Sony A7Rii camera. We have only straightened the image in Lightroom. The image is displayed at 100% and cropped in (check out the thumbnail in the top right-hand corner). Noise reduction has been applied to the whole image, however, with the latest version of the software (V2.2.2) we could now selectively just reduce noise in the most noticeable parts of the image such as the sky. Hover over the images for a larger view.
Above: Original Image – Shot at 35mm – f2.8 – 1/30th – ISO 6400 – No Editing
Above: This is the original image without any Noise Reduction applied
Above: Processed using DeNoise AI at the default settings. The original image is on the left half and the processed image on the right.
This has done a superb job even at the default setting. There are a few small areas that the software has not fixed (just above the light and underneath the drainpipe), however, this was easy to fix by moving the Remove Noise slider from the default setting of 0.15 to 0.20 (see below). The amount of detail that has been retained is incredible.
In the past, Topaz Clear was also in their arsenal for removing Noise from an image. Why they have both, we’re not sure. They have now incorporated AI Clear into DeNoise AI and you can access it via the drop-down field next to “Select a Model”. We suggest you try both to see what best works for you. Below are some of the results using AI Clear.
The image above is using AI Clear at the default settings. The Remove Noise is set to Low. The original image is on the left half and the processed image is on the right. This is the worst setting for this particular image. In fact, it didn’t improve the image much at all. This setting is probably more suitable to reduce noise on images with a lower ISO than the ISO 6400 that this was shot.
The image above is using AI Clear at the default settings. The Remove Noise is set to Med. The original image is on the left half and the processed image is on the right. This is a much better result for this particular image. Still not perfect but pretty good.
The image above is using AI Clear at the default settings. The Remove Noise is set to High. The original image is on the left half and the processed image is on the right. This is the ideal setting for this particular image. In fact, it is extremely difficult to separate the difference between this image and the default settings using DeNoise AI.
Below is another image that was taken in Japan. This image was taken on a Sony A7Riii with a Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 UMC FE lens at ISO10,000 and has not been edited. It has been cropped-in significantly to show you Topaz DeNoise in action. This image required higher settings in Topaz DeNoise than the first image. Remove Noise was set to 25, Sharpen was set to 72, and Recover Original Details was set to 25. We are just blown away by how much detail is retained when using Topaz DeNoise!!
TIP: When editing an image we always find it easier to untick the Auto Update Preview box and click the update button each time we select a different area of the image to preview. This will prevent the software from updating every time you move the image. Also, you will find it better if you use the sliders in small increments until you achieve the result you want.
We STRONGLY RECOMMEND this software even more so since the update which allows selective noise reduction with masking.
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From late September 2020, Topaz DeNoise is only available as part of a subscription product. For users with expired licenses of DeNoise AI, they can still use the previous version of DeNoise AI, but to experience the new features in v2.3 released on the 25th September 2020, users will need to purchase a one-year license renewal for USD$49.00.
There is no additional purchase required for the V2.3 update for users with an active upgrade license of DeNoise AI. Users with an active license can simply visit www.topazlabs.com/downloads and download the update from there. You can check your license status by logging into your Topaz account and clicking “My Products.”
Regardless, in our honest opinion, if you are shooting a lot of images that are being handheld in low light or shooting on an APS-C/ Micro 4/3 sensor then the yearly license renewal fee is worth every cent.
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