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11-23-2017, 04:45 PM - 3 Likes   #1
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Let's compare High ISO noise reduction in post-processing software?

As part of my gradual (and still potential) move from Lightroom 6 to Darktable under Linux, I'm interested in the difference in noise reduction capabilities between RAW processing software, and I figured this might be of interest to others, so I'm asking cordially for your help and input.

I took a simple test shot this evening with my K-3, at ISO 6400. I do venture higher than this for some of my photography, but I figured this is a reasonable limit for most people (and probably even higher than many people would shoot with the K-3). The RAW file of this test shot is shared on my Google Drive, HERE in DNG format.

Here is a re-sized version of the shot:



I've imported the file into Lightroom 6 and reset all default settings to zero, which means there is zero luminance and colour noise reduction, and zero sharpening, while exposure and white balance are "as shot". Of course, we know that Lightroom does a certain amount of processing at the point of import, so "zero" doesn't really mean zero. That aside, so far as Lightroom is concerned, I've zeroed everything.

This first picture shows a 100% (i.e. 1:1, pixel-level) crop of the image without any noise reduction added:



In the black and shadow areas, both colour and luminance noise are very prevalent.

Now, here's the same crop with the colour noise set to a default of 25 (detail and smoothness both at the default of 50), and no luminance noise reduction:



And finally, here's the same crop with colour noise set to 25 and luminance noise set to 25 (detail at 50, contrast at zero, both default values), which is pretty much the maximum I'd go to (due to significant detail loss at higher settings):



Some noise remains. Of course, this can be obliterated at the expense of detail, but I choose to retain some noise for that reason. A little sharpness is lost with this level of luminance noise reduction (most obviously around the lettering) as expected, but this is easily recovered with the sharpening tool - however, that's outside the scope of this test.

So, now, what I'm interested in - and what I think others will be interested in - is how other software compares. I hear great things about noise reduction in various other tools, and I have some limited experience of using them, but I've yet to find anything that matches Lightroom for colour noise reduction. In most cases, there are still blotches of green and magenta visible in dark areas, whereas Lightroom seems to null these very effectively. Luminance noise seems more subjective, but again I find Lightroom preferable in my tests thus far.

If you use something other than (or plug-ins to) Lightroom and can contribute to this comparison, please download my test shot - again, you can find it HERE. Load it into your RAW development tool, see what you can do with both colour and luminance noise reduction, and post 100% crops of the same area in this thread along with the specific settings you used. It doesn't matter whether your result is better or worse than I've posted... This isn't a competition to see which software is, for want of a better term, "best" - it's merely a comparison to find out what we can expect from each piece of software.

Depending on the results from, and appetite for, this comparison, I may extend it to include higher ISO levels - but let's start with ISO 6400 and see how we get on

Thanks in advance for your participation - it's greatly appreciated

EDIT: Post updated with full size crops - I initially posted resized crops by mistake!


Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-24-2017 at 04:05 AM.
11-23-2017, 05:41 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
Have you tried this high iso NR technique using LR?

Extreme telephoto tips? - Page 3 - PentaxForums.com

Works for me... iso 6400, easy... no problem... M
Hi Michael - many thanks for your response.

I'm happy with my noise reduction techniques in Lightroom as I've used the software extensively for some time now, and my approach gets me to a level of colour and luminance noise reduction and detail I'm very happy with (up to around ISO 20,000 on the K-3, actually ). My intention isn't to remove all noise from a 100% reproduction, but to remove as much colour noise as possible and an acceptable amount of luminance noise without sacrificing detail or adding unacceptable artefacts. The example settings I've shown above aren't optimum, but give a good basic idea of Lightroom's impact on noise. The purpose of the thread is to show comparisons between Lightroom (as already shown) and other RAW development / plug-in tools. Sharpening, as I mentioned, is not in scope.

Even though your process is also for Lightroom, I'd be very grateful if you'd post your results (on the downloaded shot) here for the benefit of everyone else - especially if it improves significantly on the example processing I've shown, as that might be a better baseline for comparison.

Thanks again!

Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-24-2017 at 06:24 AM.
11-23-2017, 06:18 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
I understand...

Unfortunately, I was NOT able to download the RAW format file you posted for testing purposes (as a RAW file) via your links using Win 7.1/Chrome.

Cheers... M
Not sure why that's the case, Michael I've signed out of Google, and if I click on the "HERE" link in the original post, it takes me to the preview of the photo with the download icon at the top right, and I can download it OK which suggests others should be able to also... This has always worked for my shareable files in the past, so please let me know if you still can't access it and we can try some other method. Thanks

Whilst you're re-trying, it may be worth me re-iterating that, with my example settings above, "some noise remains. Of course, this can be obliterated at the expense of detail, but I choose to retain some noise for that reason.". Having read your approach several times previously, it looks great at 100% reproduction but can result in over-smoothed output when re-sized (especially, in this example, with the texture of the flash casing). Again, the reason I allow some luminance noise is to retain detail. However, the colour noise reduction approach you take should work just fine, and won't be appreciably different to the above

Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-23-2017 at 06:44 PM.
11-23-2017, 07:18 PM   #4
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Such a comparison would only be comparable if done with the K-3 sensor. You are barely breaking an NR sweat at ISO6400 on the K-1.

11-23-2017, 07:29 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by jbinpg Quote
Such a comparison would only be comparable if done with the K-3 sensor. You are barely breaking an NR sweat at ISO6400 on the K-1.
That's why I've provided a downloadable RAW file

This isn't about which camera is best at high ISO capture, but rather what various RAW processing software is capable of in terms of noise reduction. It's as relevant to the K-1 at any ISO as it is to the *ist DL, K10D, K-7, since the effectiveness of noise reduction in post-processing is largely camera independent.

Any input and assistance you can provide would be much appreciated
11-23-2017, 08:50 PM   #6
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Have you compared the LR result with what darktable's denoise (profiled) can achieve?
The darktable's noise profiles for the K-3 seem pretty good to me, but it would be interesting to see a direct comparison.

Cheers,
Terry
11-23-2017, 11:08 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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On1 Photo RAW 2018

I can't say I've ever been impressed with the On1 implementation of NR, especially the Colour noise reduction.

I worked on two samples, the second was to see what setting tonal changes did first. The image has no real black point so I could push that down a little, and balanced the shadows whilst reducing the highlights a bit. I put different NR settings in but in the end the result was about the same so here's the On1 NR settings I used. Colour noise was added first:

Luminance 37 / Detail 35
Colour 30 / Detail 22



Developed a second version to push up the NR, the new settings are Luminance NR / Detail 10, Colour NR 45 / Detail 89 (oddly this looked better than how it looked with lower detail settings.




Tas

Last edited by Tas; 11-24-2017 at 12:39 AM. Reason: fixed a typo
11-24-2017, 12:09 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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OK I'll have a go with my newly downloaded (blackfriday 75% off special - see forum banner ad) Topaz Studio Pro pack. I'm not exactly sure what 100% crop means, and understand it is generally poorly understood, but have just roughly cropped your original image to the size shown in your test. I'm not sure either that I'm using the program correctly, as I'm pretty new to the program, and processing in general. I've attached the edited crop, and used the windows snipping tool to show the default basic settings used, and the settings in the reduce noise module. I'm not sure where the luminance control is. Seems to me to be a similar loss of sharpness, a touch less noise in shadows, but some of the green and magenta blotching you were talking about. This blotching seemed to smear somewhat as I moved the fine detail slider up. These settings seem far higher than those either of you have used, but they looked best to my untutored eye - if anyone has suggestions on how I could better use this module please let me know! I've been pretty happy with this package so far, and don't think this will put me off.

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11-24-2017, 12:52 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by rjbrett Quote
if anyone has suggestions on how I could better use this module please let me know!
I've been watching the Black Friday specials all day and have abstained from the credit card. Some excellent deals though, and glad you've found a software package to get into.

A 100% crop will be possible in your software using the crop tool. Click on 100% and zoom into the area in question. This will let you see what it will look like and you can just crop down to the portion of the image you need. If Topaz has a crop tool similar to the one I used it will zoom back out to the full image then you build the frame around the part to be cropped then select that for posting.

So far as noise reduction goes this is one of those personal preferences so what you will accept versus the OP or someone else is as likely to be different as the same. You've gone with a smoother look which sacrifices detail, I prefer some more detail to be left at the expense of some noise. But this also depends on the subject in the image as going smoother might work better for some things like a car or shiny new buildings.

NR should be one of the first steps in your workflow for high noise shots, this way if you add contrast or sharpening you're not sharpening the noise in the image. The most objectionable noise is usually colour noise, it's probably better to remove that first then concentrate on luminance noise. Luminance noise tends to appear as grain as opposed to coloured speckles or blotches, and often when trying to reduce luminance noise the most smoothing will occur. The software you have doesn't appear to have detail sliders but with the controls you do have, including the opacity slider you probably have more control options than I do. Well worth taking some high ISO shots to test the programs NR limits and work out what your noise 'acceptance levels' are.

Tas
11-24-2017, 01:35 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tas Quote
I can't say I've ever been impressed with the On1 implementation of NR, especially the Colour noise reduction.

I worked on two samples, the second was to see what setting tonal changes did first.
...
QuoteOriginally posted by rjbrett Quote
OK I'll have a go with my newly downloaded (blackfriday 75% off special - see forum banner ad) Topaz Studio Pro pack.
Grant, Richard - thank you, this is exactly the sort of participation I was hoping for, and it already gives us some idea of the NR effect in those applications vs Lightroom.

QuoteOriginally posted by Tas Quote
So far as noise reduction goes this is one of those personal preferences so what you will accept versus the OP or someone else is as likely to be different as the same. You've gone with a smoother look which sacrifices detail, I prefer some more detail to be left at the expense of some noise. But this also depends on the subject in the image as going smoother might work better for some things like a car or shiny new buildings.
Precisely. I tend very much to apply a low amount of luminance noise reduction, since I always end up re-sizing my images to around 15" (80cm) width or so. However, green and magenta colour noise can still be readily observed at this size, so effective colour noise reduction is important.

Lightroom is certainly capable of stronger luminance noise reduction than in my original example, but it robs the image of detail and takes on an unnaturally smooth appearance. Below, the same crop with colour noise set to 25 and luminance at 75 (in reality I would never go this far ):


Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-24-2017 at 03:25 AM.
11-24-2017, 01:42 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by tduell Quote
Have you compared the LR result with what darktable's denoise (profiled) can achieve?
The darktable's noise profiles for the K-3 seem pretty good to me, but it would be interesting to see a direct comparison.

Cheers,
Terry
I haven't yet, Terry. I'll do so later today and post the results.

One issue I have with the profiled denoise in Darktable is that - so far as I can tell - it doesn't allow for separate control of colour and luminance noise. As I've already mentioned, colour noise is the most troublesome high ISO artefact, IMHO. The importance of luminance noise varies depending on the size of final reproduction and intended viewing distance, as well as the content of the captured scene. As such, independent control of this is key for me...
11-24-2017, 02:12 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Google Nik Dfine 2

Here's the result using Google Nik Dfine 2, using the auto-measured default (which takes noise measurements from several areas of an image before calculating the best settings). It does a pretty decent job, but has two fairly obvious weaknesses that I can see - (1) the colour noise reduction has resulted in some blotchiness, but more importantly, isn't completely effective on the white lettering; and (2) the luminance noise reduction introduces some painting-like artefacts that don't look very natural. That aside, not bad at all


Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-24-2017 at 03:28 AM.
11-24-2017, 02:44 AM - 1 Like   #13
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In attachment, in order
- DxO standard denoise algorithm, 40% lum, 100% chrominance (what you get on every image without doing anything special)
- DxO prime denoise algorithm, 40% lum, 100% chrominance (what you get by clicking on prime setting)
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11-24-2017, 02:52 AM - 1 Like   #14
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More crops with Prime in attachment
- 20% luminance
- 10% luminance
- 0% luminance
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11-24-2017, 03:29 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nicolas06 Quote
In attachment, in order
- DxO standard denoise algorithm, 40% lum, 100% chrominance (what you get on every image without doing anything special)
- DxO prime denoise algorithm, 40% lum, 100% chrominance (what you get by clicking on prime setting)
Thank you, Nicolas! I was looking forward to seeing DxO, as I've never played with that software - at least, not recent versions

QuoteOriginally posted by Nicolas06 Quote
More crops with Prime in attachment
- 20% luminance
- 10% luminance
- 0% luminance
Excellent - thanks again. The 0% and 10% luminance versions are very nice, and rather film-like. Probably my favourite so far

Is there some sharpening applied? I'm just wondering about the edge artefacts around the white lettering...

QuoteOriginally posted by Nicolas06 Quote
Beside, the crops provided by BigMackCam are not 100% crop.
Yes, I just noticed that this morning I'd forgotten to de-select the resize option in my export dialogue. I've now corrected all my posts in this thread to include 100% crops

Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-24-2017 at 03:36 AM.
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