Even at f1.8 and 1/10s I had to raise ISO to 800 in this image. That’s not very high, but I had plans for brightening the sky. That’s always a dangerous endeavor in digital images.
Approximately at that time Google had released their Nik suite with Dfine 2, a noise reduction plugin that I had tried years ago. I took the chance to pitch it against Topaz DeNoise 6 (also acquired years ago and upgraded with the old license for free – thanks Topaz!) and against Lightroom’s built-in noise reduction. And while I was at it, I decided to also test it against DxO Optics Pro’s PRIME noise reduction.
My suspicions were justified. In order to get anything out of Dfine and DeNoise that is as good or better than the results from Lightroom, you need a lot of fiddling. You may get better results in Photoshop, because there you could use different strengths and settings on different layers and then work with masks, but in Lightroom I see no advantage of such a plugin over what you already have paid for.
DxO was a different beast though. Basically it blew everything else out of the water. The difference was so obvious, that I don’t bother you with 100% crops.
You most likely see it in the blue of the sky. I had wanted to raise it from what the camera recorded, and due to the peculiarities of Bayer array sensors, blue is a very vulnerable color. Red is so as well, but most of the time you don’t have big dark red areas with smooth gradients in an image. If the sky is red, it’s brightly so, and your consideration is normally not to raise its level, but to keep it from burning out.
DxO PRIME was introduced years ago and I have already tried it in the past. On my old laptop it was marvelous but slow. Processing one single image took between five and eight minutes.
I have no idea how they managed it and it can’t only be my not-so-new-anymore Macbook Pro. Somehow DxO has sped up PRIME by a factor of 10. Now processing an image takes around 40 seconds. I still don’t do it for every image, but it pays off for very high ISO or if you want to strongly brighten up dark areas.
It’s not only detail noise though. Color noise reduction may be much less obvoius than detail noise reduction, but it is responsible for the washed out look of high-ISO images. In fact DxO’s color noise reduction is vastly superior to everything that I’ve seen before.
I’ll show you some more examples in the course of the next few days.