Those "Crazy Texans" have done something very special !

I rarely endorse products, but occasionally something remarkable comes along that makes me stop and take notice. At the Recent Daintree Photographic Workshop, Dr Les Walkling was waxing lyrical about the incredible strides that have been made with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning in image processing. Such a product is Denoise AI from Topaz Studios. This piece of standalone software ostensibly is used to reduce noise in high ISO and/or long exposure images, but it does a lot more. Using Lightroom’s Sharpening and Noise reduction tools as a comparison, I have tested several images to see how the software performs. Each image was well focussed and more or less correctly exposed, some at high ISO and some at lower ISO settings. All images were shot with a Nikon D850 DSLR with the RAW files initially processed in Lightroom. The test images used for comparison in Denoise AI did not have any sharpening or noise reduction applied, the comparison RAW files shown have been adjusted to the Sharpening settings I normally use.

Above: Detail section of a bed of rotting kelp at 100% view. Shot hand held with ISO set at 2800. At left the RAW file with Lightroom sharpening and noise reduction, at the right the file with Topaz Denoise AI applied. The difference is night and day. The Topaz version has extracted details that are blurry at best in the Lightroom processed version and has made a much better job of reducing the luminance noise.

Above: Detail at 100% of an image of a Polar Bear taken with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens at 600mm, with ISO set at 250 and f8. At left the RAW file with Lightroom sharpening and minor noise reduction. At right the image with Topaz Denoise AI applied. The Topaz version has removed the luminance noise from the sky (the image was taken through light mist) and brought out the very fine details of the fur and around the eyes.

Above, another detail of the Polar Bear at 100% from the same image as above. At left the RAW file with Lightroom sharpening and noise reduction. At right the image with Topaz Denoise AI applied. The Topaz version has brought out the fine hairs and the ice below the bear while still removing the luminance noise.

The worklow for using Denoise from within Lightroom is a little convoluted. First, complete all processing of the RAW file, except for any sharpening or noise reduction (I have found that this works the best), then go to Photo>Edit In and select Topaz Denoise (the trial version does not work from within Lightroom so you need to export as a TIFF first if using the trial version). Choose Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments and choose TIFF as the file format, 16 bit and ProPHoto Colour space to retain as much information as possible. With these settings, click on Edit to create the TIFF file and open in Topaz Denoise AI.

Topaz denoise AI has two settings, Denoise AI and AI Clear. I have found that Denoise AI has worked the best on these sample images. Select “Auto” to let the software make some adjustments and create a preview.

Above: The Topaz Denoise AI workspace. There are three sliders to try. Each time you make a change, the software regenerates the preview. When satisifed, click on Apply at the bottom right hand side. The image is now fully processed and may take up to 5-10 minutes depending on ther power of your computer. The TIFF image is updated in Lightroom and you can then open the file into Photoshop (always choose Edit Original) for final adjustments and enhancements.

This software is quite remarkable, but given the processing time for each image, use it for the “hero” images that you are willing to invest some time into, prior to printing your masterpiece. To download a trial version, go to www.topazlabs.com