I Can Now Live With Noise

Because I use an 11 year old desktop computer (iMac) some software programs just won’t work on it; most notably “denoise” programs.  I do have a new laptop so I purchased Topaz Photo AI to test it out with some of my recent pictures.  I’m amazed at what it can do!

I’m sure most of you who use post-processing software already take advantage of something like Topaz Denoise or the latest version of Lightroom to denoise your pictures, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with denoise let me share a couple of examples.  Recently I was walking through the Morton Arboretum and we spotted several Fox Sparrows, which are one of my favorite sparrows.  They are large (for a sparrow) and have a beautiful color – about the same color as a fox.  Unlike some birds, Fox Sparrows are often seen out in the open: either perched at eye level or on the ground digging for seeds.  The one that I saw was on the ground beneath a bush in the deep shade and I was able to get some pictures of it at a reasonable distance.  Even though I had a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/400th of a second the ISO shot up to 6400, guaranteeing a lot of noise.  As you recall noise looks like the whole picture is covered in colorful little dots and excessive noise ruins a shot.  Here’s one of the shots with the noise still in it:


As you can see, the picture above looks soft or blurry.  If you look carefully, you can see all the little dots in the picture.  A click of a mouse button sent that image to Topaz Photo AI and a few seconds of computer magic later out popped the picture below:


Pretty amazing!  The noise is gone and the image is also a bit sharper!  Note that the feet look blurry – that’s because it was digging for seeds and the slow shutter speed didn’t “stop” that action.  Topaz Photo AI can’t correct blurry or out of focus subjects (maybe a future version?), but it does a heck of a job otherwise.  Here’s another example – first the original, then the “improved” image:



If you look carefully at the second image it looks like too much “sharpening” was applied, making it look hyper-realistic.  This can be adjusted while in Topaz Photo AI and I’ll have to be more careful in the future, but overall I’m quite pleased with the quality of the images that have been “denoised.”  Now I don’t have to be afraid to take pictures with higher shutter speeds which may result in high ISO/noise images.  Within some boundaries they can be “fixed.”

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My old eyes see a subtle difference, at the same time my old ears hear music that others would be critical of the quality. If that makes any sense.