Eating crow (just a little bit!)

Published: 05/21/2020

I'm not totally alone in this, but I think likely in the majority, when I say I really don't like Topaz AI DeNoise / Sharpen / etc. In general I think the Topaz software gives weird artifacts and is very noticeable when used -- I just often see these weird color artifacts and it just has "that" look. So I generally avoid it and, given its popularity, avoid complaining about it! 

But, with that said, given its popularity, I did pick up a copy of DeNoise a while back to try. Every time Topaz updates it I check it out thinking "this will be the moment I understand!" and then I'm kinda like "meh...". Obviously people can use the software effectively, so I must just be doing something wrong, but still, I never get an output I'm happy with.! They added a "Severe Noise" feature for...well you can guess. I do have some images that are just brutalized with noise. I decided to check out the update and was very pleasantly surprised!

This Short-eared owl in particular was taken with a D500 + 500mm at 1/400, f/4, ISO 8,000 after sunset and was pretty underexposed. I like the look through, but the noise is pretty unbearable in the original file.

Below is the original image, just RAW converted with no NR applied at the RAW step compared with the three versions of Topaz.

The original looks pretty horrible. Just...really bad.

"Standard" IMO isn't much better, and honestly "Low Light" isn't great. It has a lot of what I commonly see -- weird blotches and uneven sharpening vs NR. 

But..."Severe" actually looks pretty damn good given the input. I played around with the sliders a bit, but basically left it at the default or AI setting. Taking that file and doing some tweaks in Photoshop I came up with an output I was pretty happy with, shown below.

I overall think this looks pretty good! I like the dark mood, hence why the file was never deleted, but it was just too noisy to process. 

I don't think I would buy DeNoise just for this, but given I already have it and have been pretty underwhelmed by the software, this is a pleasant surprise! So, to that end, I do have to eat a bit of crow, but only a little :).

If you're a Topaz Guru, please comment or message me and let me know how you work your magic! I'd love to learn how to use this software effectively given some of the outputs I see.

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