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10-10-2010, 11:53 PM   #1
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K7 ISO 2500 noise setting and post processing tests...

Hi all,

Just recently purchased the K7 and am loving it so far. It's a huge step up from the trusty K100D Super I've used for the past two or three years now.

Anyway, I've been wanting to sort out for myself what my maximum ISO setting should be set at, and then also what my noise reduction settings should be.

I am not a JPEG hater at all and until recently only took pics in JPEG as it was more convenient and quicker for me. I am still in somewhat of a test phase, trying to shoot in RAW lately and see if I really do notice/enjoy the benefits of the RAW files. With that said, either way I am more happy taking pictures and trying to get them right the first time than spend hours behind my computer fiddling with the pictures.

So I put the K7 in RAW+ mode (JPEG *** as that is the default) and took four shots at ISO 2500 to test the noise reduction settings. The first shot is with LOW noise reduction, the next Medium, then next High, and finally None.

I loaded the pictures up with the Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4.21. (I enjoy using PDCU because it does a good job of matching the Pentax JPEG colors i've grown to prefer) I noticed under the Noise Reduction tab that the settings for each picture changed along with the in camera settings. I think these numbers are important to note for anyone using PDCU as it gives you an idea of what the stock Pentax noise reduction settings are based on the in-camera settings. The settings were as follows:

The first number is for the "Random Noise Reducion" slider, with the second number representing the "Spurious color signal reduction" slider.

OFF setting: 0 / 130 <--- curiously it looks as though the camera is doing some spurious color reduction at higher ISO no matter what your setting is!)

LOW: 0 / 200

MEDIUM: 30 / 200

HIGH: 40 / 200

Here is what my full test shot looked like:



The first part of my test was to use PDCU to do a stock RAW to JPEG (***) conversion without changing any settings. I wanted to see what differences there would be to the pics from the in-camera JPEG to the PDCU generated JPEG. Here are some 100% cropped comparison pictures in the following order: OFF - LOW - MEDIUM - HIGH

OFF

________________________________________________________________________

LOW

________________________________________________________________________

MEDIUM

________________________________________________________________________

HIGH

________________________________________________________________________


The second part of my test, to satisfy my curiosity was to use Corel Paint Shop Pro's "Digital Camera Noise Removal" utility with default settings and then also use a trial version of TOPAZ Denoise at 0.80 supression and 0.75 amount. I applied it to both in-camera JPEG's with LOW and OFF noise reduction settings. I then applied it to the stock RAW to JPEG PDCU converted pictures with LOW and OFF noise reduction settings. Here are the results, again cropped 100% sections.

LEFT: PSP NR on the in camera JPEG w/ LOW NR ***** RIGHT: PSP NR on the PDCU generated JPEG w/ LOW NR


________________________________________________________________________

LEFT: TOPAZ NR on the in camera JPEG w/ LOW NR ***** RIGHT: TOPAZ NR on the PDCU generated JPEG w/ LOW NR


________________________________________________________________________

LEFT: PSP NR on the in camera JPEG w/ OFF NR ***** RIGHT: PSP NR on the PDCU generated JPEG w/ OFF NR


________________________________________________________________________

LEFT: TOPAZ NR on the in camera JPEG w/ OFF NR ***** RIGHT: TOPAZ NR on the PDCU generated JPEG w/ OFF NR


________________________________________________________________________

I'm going to have to mull over the photos a bit but my end goal is to choose an efficient/simple in camera noise reduction setting and out of camera post processing noise removal setting/system.

Thoughts? Comments?

10-11-2010, 01:41 AM   #2
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Thank you for posting your results. This is always interesting and worthwhile.

However you shoud read the thread started by Adam:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/106600-k-7-high-iso-success.html

The initial post by Adam and the follow-up discussion are both worthwhile.

Kittycat46 explained clearly that there are 3 basic techniques:
"a) Shoot RAW, then process with Noise Reduction later

b) JPEG straight out of camera with NR "Off", then process with Noise Reduction software. It sounds counter-intuitive, but NR software like Noise Ninja and Noiseware work best with image files which have not had any previous NR processing done on it.

c) JPEG straight out of camera with "Strong" NR - as you found.
The K-7's detail retention is quite good up to ISO3200, even with Strong NR."

The 3rd technique (c) is the one proposed by Adam.

Personnally, I prefer the 2nd option (b) since shoot mostly in JPEG. I have NR Off and I PP the photographs with Noiseware. My choice is linked partly with my regular usage of continuous shooting, for which it is best to kill off in-camera PP including High ISO correction.


Lastly you asked about the maximum ISO setting with the K-7. Most Pentacians recommends ISO 3200 as your maximum. That is my setting...

Hope that the comnent and link will assist....
10-11-2010, 01:51 AM   #3
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Great effort on testing(congratulations!)!

Have you considered taking an image at nominal ISO to help contrast your results with(might be helpful)?

Also, I've found K-7 RAW's to respond best with ACR followed by Denoise by removing color noise only with ACR, then doing luma only with Topaz. This way the red and blue channels remain intact throughout the entire NR process.

PS. my own tests and observations also ended at/or around the same sensitivity(ISO2500).
10-11-2010, 09:49 AM   #4
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Thanks for the responses guys,

HCC, thanks for posting that link. I actually was reading that yesterday prior to doing this test. Part of the reason I still wanted to test things out is that I have been using PDCU quite a bit lately as I like the fact that the colors are very similar to the out of camera JPEG's. In my case, using PDCU, I would need to make sure to turn NR OFF a second time when i'm using the software since I found that even with NR OFF in camera, it was still applying some noise reduction automatically in PDCU.

Johnbee, in hindsight I wish I had taken a good low ISO image as a comparison and I think after looking at the pictures some more, I would also have been better off posting 60% crops or something instead of 100%.

I think one of the first things I noticed was the pretty big difference between the noise reduction of the in camera JPEG vs. the PDCU converted RAW's. Despite carrying over the in-camera noise reduction settings into PDCU, it looks like there is a lot more grain or coarse looking grain left in the RAW converted photos at all settings. I guess this shows the PDCU software noise reduction isn't as advanced as ACR and other RAW converters. I think I was hoping for more of an advantage from the post processing of RAW with PDCU. It goes to show how good the JPEG engine is, especially when you consider Adam's example with NR set to HIGH.

I'm wondering...what are people's opinions to which sample has the best applied noise reduction?

10-11-2010, 01:10 PM   #5
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Koenig:

Thanks for sharing this.

While I realize that Falk Lumo and JohnBee (links below are just samples of their work - they have much more done) have done some serious work with the K7, this is good to see yet another experiment on high-ISO noise with the K7.

Falk Lumo: Pentax K-7 Concluding Review Report

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/digital-processing-software-printing/1016...anagement.html

HCC points to the link re: Adam's thread (above in HCC's post).

With all of this said and done, I am wondering what actual settings one would prefer using for high ISO shooting.

Questions which would need answers would be:

1. Do you now use NR OFF all the time with the K7?
2. Do you turn the NR OFF in Pentax DCU4 before working with the RAW images?
3. If YES to the question No.2, how do you set this up? I know where the NR setting choices are in DCU4 but more precisely, what do you now do with those settings? I realize you have described some of these settings in your opening post, but now, what settings would you definitely use?
4. Taking into consideration the choice of in-camera NR OFF or ON, what NR software would you now use/prefer after having saved the images in JPEG? Here, I know that JohnBee prefers a combination of ACR and Topaz Denoise and he actually showed a good noise reduction workflow with that.

My K7 is set so that NR reduction starts at ISO400 OR 1600, depending on the lighting conditions and type of subjects photographed.
The NR is set at "LOW", and I have never tried anything higher (medium, High), nor did I ever tried at no NR.
The highest ISO setting I have used was 2500 and it was for testing purposes, not "real life" pics.

Just curious on how you would, after your own tests and those of other's, set your K7 from now on.

Cheers.

JP
10-11-2010, 04:21 PM   #6
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Plus, when referring to jpegs out of camera, how ,much sharpening to apply.
10-11-2010, 07:19 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Arpe Quote
Plus, when referring to jpegs out of camera, how ,much sharpening to apply.
Yep agree

Also important make sure to have fine sharpness off, only normal softness in the camera if doing a jpeg. It makes a huge difference. Not how much but what type, fine or normal. But I still would not increase sharpness past 0 for really high ISO.
10-11-2010, 10:06 PM   #8
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James and Arpe, all of these comparison pics were done in "Bright" mode so that means they had +1 to sharpness (as you stated, not the best for high ISO!) That was an oversight by myself and I think doing some testing/comparisons on in camera sharpness settings and the end result on noise would be very interesting with the K7.

James you speak of fine sharpness being "Off". The only area where I can see that being set on the K7 is in the custom image settings and it appears to be defaulted to regular sharpness? Is that the setting you are speaking of? I assume you mean not to change that sharpness setting to "fine" or "fine sharpness 2" (which I can't find mentioned anywhere in the manual so I have no idea what it does!)

QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
Questions which would need answers would be:

1. Do you now use NR OFF all the time with the K7?
2. Do you turn the NR OFF in Pentax DCU4 before working with the RAW images?
3. If YES to the question No.2, how do you set this up? I know where the NR setting choices are in DCU4 but more precisely, what do you now do with those settings? I realize you have described some of these settings in your opening post, but now, what settings would you definitely use?
4. Taking into consideration the choice of in-camera NR OFF or ON, what NR software would you now use/prefer after having saved the images in JPEG? Here, I know that JohnBee prefers a combination of ACR and Topaz Denoise and he actually showed a good noise reduction workflow with that.
JPZK, thanks for your reply. There is a lot to think about regarding your Q's and this topic in general. I'm still not 100% decided on which way I want to approach high ISO noise and the K7.

I am leaning towards taking the following approach:

-NR OFF at all settings and doing post processing using Topaz Denoise or Noiseware on a case by case basis on only the noisier images.
-I will not be using PDCU for noise adjustments, so that means I will need to make sure I turn off even that little bit of "spurious color signal reduction" that I mentioned taking place even when NR is turned OFF in the camera. See the pic below from the DP review example:

-the easiest way I can see to do this, is just to double check that you uncheck the box to the left of the "spurious color signal reduction" prior to converting your RAW -> JPEG. I tested this on these example pictures and it does make a slightly more noisier JPEG but at least leaves all the noise reduction to be done at once this way.
-Lastly, in response to #4, I will honestly admit I don't have ACR, Lightroom, etc. I've just used PDCU for my RAW since day one...so that leaves me with out-sourcing the noise reduction. At this point I think I will go with Noiseware Community Edition as it's free and somewhat comparable to Topaz Denoise which appears to be one of the best. I will post some final comparison pics between these two programs, PDCU's noise reduction, as well as Paint Shop Pro's NR.

And finally, to your last point John, I am still not totally sure what I will do with all the NR settings in the K7. If I'm going to continue using PDCU and RAW instead of reverting to straight JPEGs, I think I will keep NR in camera set to OFF and just leave it set to "enable" at ISO 800, the default setting.

To be honest, since I only use PDCU, can anyone else explain how changing the in camera NR settings will change anything if you are using RAW programs like ACR or Lightroom? Do they pick up on what the in camera settings were like PDCU and automatically increase NR for when JPEG's are saved? Can anyone help answer this for me?


Last edited by Arrvon; 11-12-2010 at 12:34 PM.
10-11-2010, 10:48 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Koenig Quote
I will post some final comparison pics between these two programs, PDCU's noise reduction, as well as Paint Shop Pro's NR.
Here they are as promised!

So what I wanted to compare ultimately, is whether or not I liked the JPEG results enough with HIGH NR set as in Adam's recommendation on the thread linked previously, or to find a convenient and quick way to deal with noise in post processing using RAW.

So I admit that pixel peeping is actually somewhat addicting and I had to tell myself more than once that unless I'm going to print a poster out of my image, I shouldn't be going over these comparisons so intently! In any case, I compared the following images:

1. K7 produced JPEG with NR set to HIGH in camera.
2. K7 produced RAW with NR set to HIGH in camera and PDCU using those settings to apply it's version of "HIGH" NR to the subsequently produced JPEG(see my first post for the different PDCU settings relative to in camera NR settings)
**** The next three examples were created using a K7 produced RAW image with in camera NR set to OFF. They were saved as JPEG's using PDCU with ALL NR turned off. See my previous post for more details. This left me with what should be a RAW converted JPEG with no NR applied to work with. ****
3. Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 "Digital Camera Noise Reduction" tool. Set to a value of 50/50.
4. Topaz Denoise using a bit of a higher setting than previously close to 1.80 Suppression and 0.80 Amount.
5. Noiseware Community Edition with DEFAULT NR v2.6. (freeware that appears pretty effective even if it strips your exif info on the free version!)

So here are the above pics in the order as mentioned:

1

______________________________________________________

2

______________________________________________________

3

______________________________________________________

4

______________________________________________________

5

______________________________________________________

So there we have it!

My observations so far?

Photo 1, the in camera JPEG has also smoothed away a lot more fine detail IMO than all the other NR methods...
Photo 2, PDCU is the noisiest still but also appears to keep the most fine detail.
Photo 3, Corel PSP NR after some reducing of the settings, produced a decent example but I still think it lags behind Topaz and Noiseware.
Photo 4, Topaz Denoise, I think is the best of the bunch, but only slightly better than Noiseware.
Photo 5, Noiseware, did an excellent job and I actually found the blue area to the left of the stuffed animal pen (it's the wife's pen!! seriously it is! lol) to be a bit better handled than the Topaz Denoise.

As with anything, I know I could spend a lifetime playing with settings to get the best of the best settings. This is definitely not the be all end all of NR testing by a long stretch, but in my case, I think it has me leaning towards the workflow method I mentioned in my previous post.

-shoot RAW (looking at the picture above, I really think the RAW post processed images retain more detail than the in camera JPEG which makes it worthwhile to me)
-NR set to OFF in camera, leaving the ISO 800 activation setting at default (not sure but I don't think this will have any impact either way it's set with NR OFF?)
-Sort the RAW images after shooting in PDCU, fixing any quick exposure, white balance, and other settings as I go.
-Batch export to JPEG, ensuring that I turn off all NR in PDCU before converting.
-Take any JPEG's with a high level of noise and process them with Noiseware (it's a standalone program)
-Finally, since I use Picasa to host my pictures, load Picasa, maybe have a second check of exposure or hit the I Feel Lucky button on a few just for fun , and then select the keepers and upload to my online albulms / storage.

Thoughts???

After this, I've realized I need to go out and take more photos and start enjoying all the K7 has to offer!
10-12-2010, 12:01 AM   #10
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Is there any way you can avoid converting the RAW to JPG between the NR phase?
The reason I ask this is mainly where I found that grain quality ended-up being one of the biggest factors in end-results when it came too advanced NR.
And when we convert a RAW file to JPG, that most often end-up having a negative impact on grain in that respect.

Also.. here's a very small but significant tip(which I've never shared with anyone ), if you process a high ISO RAW file in LR3 or ACR6.x and you enable chromatic aberration correction(set to all edges), you will reduce chroma noise(slightly) without affecting detail in any of the color channels.

Other than that, I think your samples look good.
Though its always hard to get a final verdict without seeing the files at 100%.

On the issue of pixel peeping, one of the biggest oversights in NR capacity is where we often overlook the value of clean files with advanced sharpening methods. Which can play a major role in pulling back detail and texture in an image to unprecedented levels. One such example of this would be with a plugin similar to focalblade or Topaz Detail.

Whatever the case, it looks like you're well on your way to having a great post processing time with your camera
10-12-2010, 04:16 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Koenig Quote
I think one of the first things I noticed was the pretty big difference between the noise reduction of the in camera JPEG vs. the PDCU converted RAW's. Despite carrying over the in-camera noise reduction settings into PDCU, it looks like there is a lot more grain or coarse looking grain left in the RAW converted photos at all settings. I guess this shows the PDCU software noise reduction isn't as advanced as ACR and other RAW converters. I think I was hoping for more of an advantage from the post processing of RAW with PDCU. It goes to show how good the JPEG engine is, especially when you consider Adam's example with NR set to HIGH.

I'm wondering...what are people's opinions to which sample has the best applied noise reduction?
You already got some good earlier advice.

Personally I tried and bought Noiseware. The free version can do most NR, but do not save the EXIF nor peform batch processing. I am pretty happy with the outputs from Noiseware, thatI use and bought Noiseware to save the EXIF and do batches. It is worth its fairly small/moderate price.

PDCU is not bad for some simple (everyday) NR, but I would not use it for high ISO NR. For high ISO NR, leave it to the dedicated softwares like Noiseware or NoiseNinja. (The post of Koenig is a worthwhile comparison also of NR softwares.)
10-12-2010, 02:26 PM - 1 Like   #12
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John, thanks for the reply. I'm at work and can't reply in length but since PDCU won't accept other plugins, i'm stuck using it's sub par noise removal or converting to jpeg and do it witi another program. For my level of photography this method will have to suffice i guess.

Thanks for sharing your tip with us as well. Very interesting! I will have to give that a try.

When I get home later I will try and post some 100% crops of the examples.
10-12-2010, 08:13 PM   #13
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Hi again,

As promised, here are 100% crops of the pictures I posted last night for anyone who wants to see both. They are in the same order:

1. K7 produced JPEG with NR set to HIGH in camera.
2. K7 produced RAW with NR set to HIGH in camera and PDCU using those settings to apply it's version of "HIGH" NR to the subsequently produced JPEG(see my first post for the different PDCU settings relative to in camera NR settings)
**** The next three examples were created using a K7 produced RAW image with in camera NR set to OFF. They were saved as JPEG's using PDCU with ALL NR turned off. See my previous post for more details. This left me with what should be a RAW converted JPEG with no NR applied to work with. ****
3. Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 "Digital Camera Noise Reduction" tool. Set to a value of 50/50.
4. Topaz Denoise using a bit of a higher setting than previously close to 1.80 Suppression and 0.80 Amount.
5. Noiseware Community Edition with DEFAULT NR v2.6. (freeware that appears pretty effective even if it strips your exif info on the free version!)

So here are the above pics in the order as mentioned:

1



______________________________________________________

2



______________________________________________________

3



______________________________________________________

4



______________________________________________________

5



______________________________________________________
10-13-2010, 05:40 AM   #14
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Thank you Koenig for following up and posting these photographs. These are really helpful and inline with the genuine spirit of this Forum.

It also follows an excellent discussion and it was nice to see inputs from many.

I will not enter into the argument of whcih method is different. Different people, different needs. Yet your comparative crops are very explicit and informative.

Cheers
11-12-2010, 12:59 AM   #15
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Great thread Koenig
Like you I am about get a K-7 after years with a K100D
so reading all I can about setting up the K-7
cheers
Pete
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