Noise suppression with DxO Optics Pro
|Regardless of the camera you use for your photography, however large the sensor is, there comes a point where noise is disturbingly present. And according to Murphy's law, that will of course be in that one shot for which you really wanted to print an enlargement. Time to explore noise suppression? Noise suppression in Lightroom, Camera RAW or Photoshop works reasonably well, but it's not the absolute best. That's why Photoshop plug-ins from Topaz ("Make 1600 ISO look like 100 ISO with Topaz DeNoise noise reduction software"), Neat Image ("best noise reduction for digital cameras and scanners") and Noise Ninja from Picturecode are so popular among photographers who want to get all they can out of their shots. DxO Optics is a photo editing program that recently (with the appearance of version 9), in addition to standard noise suppression, has an extra, high-quality noise suppression (PRIME).|
DxO Optics Pro noise reduction capabilities go waaay beyond what any camera's internal JPEG processing is capable of. ~ Dave Etchels, Imaging ResourcePRIME noise suppression was received with open arms by the press. DxO claims that, with PRIME (Probabilistic Raw IMage Enhancement), you suppress noise without loss of details or introduction of artifacts. Judge for yourself: on the Flickr page of PistonHeads, there's a great comparison of test shots made at different ISO values that were subsequently edited with DxO Optics, Photoshop and Topaz.
I've selected ten shots from my own photo archive, where I wasn't really satisfied with the print quality as a result of insufficient noise suppression. PRIME noise suppression by DxO Optics is indeed very good, it appears. I've been able to satisfactorily print a couple of my problem photos now. But it also takes time to complete a job: even on a modern computer with a fast processor (Intel i-7 4790, 3.6 Ghz) and more than enough RAM memory (16 GB), it took several minutes to remove the noise from one shot. It is thus more of tool to make the right shot even more beautiful than one for editing all of your photos. Fortunately, it's possible to process the noise suppression for multiple files as a batch and to do something else in the meantime.
Simple to use
|What appeals to me about the subject philosophy of DxO Optics is the limited number of settings that you have. If you choose PRIME noise suppression, then you only have one sliding regulator—Luminence—that you can use to set the degree of noise suppression. If you click on the wand next to the sliding regulator, then DxO Optics determines the best setting for you. Even if you choose "Advanced" (move your mouse over the image on the right), you only get three more options. It's a relief in comparison with other noise suppression software, where it's not rare to have dozens of sliding regulators available to get a better result. And the good news is: you can't tell from the end result that you had to adjust so few sliding regulators.|
Photographing in RAW? Worth the "trouble"!
|PRIME noise suppression can only be used on RAW files. Those who only shoot in jpg don't need it. It's not possible to make an error: when you open a jpg file in DxO Optics, then you can't select PRIME noise suppression. How good is it? |
The slogan for Topaz DeNoise ("Make 1600 ISO look like 100 ISO") also applies for PRIME from DxO Optics. Move your mouse over the image to the right to get an impression of what you can achieve. On the right, you see a RAW file with chroma noise suppression; on the left, you see the DxO Optics result.
|Use DxO Optics PRIME to edit a RAW file made with a small sensor, and the amount of noise is less than that of a shot made with an SLR with a full-frame sensor. Edit a RAW shot made with an SLR camera with a full-frame sensor, and you have less noise left over than in a shot made with a large-format camera.|
Striving for perfection or emotion? Exploring your creativity?
The shot here is cheerfully colored, as though made on a sunny day, with Fujichrome Velvia. It wasn't. The photo is made with a Panasonic GF1 on a very cloudy day. In the picture below, you see a partial enlargement of the RAW file, where the colors more closely, but not entirely accurately, approach reality. Do you photograph in order to show reality as accurately as possible? I don't. I usually try to convey the feeling with a photograph that I had when I took the picture. Sometimes, I edit a shot in order to make something totally different from it, an HDR shot, black-and-white, you name it. If I like something, I usually remember the colors as being more beautiful than they really were. And there's no room for noise.
|That's the source of my preference for Fujichrome Velvia, with its saturated colors and small grain. With digital cameras at low ISO values, you need worry even less about the grain, even in an enlargement, than with Fujichrome Velvia. With DxO Optics, it's possible to extensively edit an enlargement and to sharpen it, without the appearance of disruptive artifacts or your shot losing detail. Try it yourself with a free download van DxO. |
Move your mouse over the image below for the result edited in DxO Optics Pro (including color adjustment to Fujichrome Velvia, sharpening and noise suppression).