Topaz DeNoise AI for night photos reviews

Tips & Techniques

Topaz has recently launched its newest version of DeNoise AI, and I have tested the software on a night image. Does this latest iteration of Topaz’ noise reduction program live up to the hype? According to Topaz, DeNoise AI has received several updates and improvements.

When you run the program you can choose between two modes: manual and auto. Auto comes with only one slider (Chroma Noise). In manual mode, you can also adjust the level of sharpening and noise reduction applied. In addition, you can also decide how the program displays the changes in real-time. I have only used the split-screen option when testing the software. The real-time preview isn’t very accurate. The processed image looks quite different from what the preview suggests.

The image I ran through DeNoise AI was shot during October in Ringerike, Norway. I have already covered some of the editing for it when I talked about double exposures.

Ringerike, Norway

Manual mode default settings

The default settings in manual mode are: Noise Reduction 15, Sharpening 15 and Chroma Noise 0. I upped Noise Reduction to 17 when I ran the program since that was necessary to activate the preview. Before we have a closer look at some before and after images, let us examine the preview window:

According to the preview image, the software has removed all the noise in the water. This is not completely true as we will see the following before/after images.

DeNoise AI does a tremendous job with the sky. It has effectively reduced the noise without erasing stars. On the contrary, the stars are actually slightly enhanced by the program.

According to the preview, all noise in the water should be completely gone, but as we can see there is still grain left. What impressed me, though, is how well DeNoise preserves the details. Also notice how well it sharpens the branches and how it evens out speckles of noise.

In the original image, some areas right above the tree line were very grainy and noisy. The software has reduced noise in the trees and softened fine detail, but the noise in the sky is still prevalent.

Manual mode noise reduction set to 60

I ran the program again, but I now considerably increased the noise reduction setting.

The sky is now even cleaner without obliterating any stars. This is a strong achievement. The software actually does such a terrific job with the sky that it for me cancels the need to shoot and stack many exposures for noise reduction. Some of the smallest stars may or may not have been erased. I have studied the two images for several minutes and am actually unable to decide.

The water is also cleaner, but details are now softer.

That problematic area in the sky is now much improved at this noise reduction setting.

One thing I notices is that the software smooths and softens the grass (see above photo). This means that if we run the program with noise reduction set to a high value, we have to carry out some masking work in Photoshop to restore fine detail. In manual mode, there is a slider called Recover Detail. I set it to its maximum value to see how well it could recover detail in the grass:

The software has managed to recover most of the detail in the grass, but our problem area in the sky is now rather grainy. The Recover slider is, in other words, a double-edged sword.

Auto mode

Lastly, I set DeNoise to its Auto mode. Here I will only provide one set of example images since I couldn’t see much difference between Auto and the default settings in Manual mode.

Conclusion

I am impressed by how well the DeNoise AI handles noise in the sky and at the same time protects and enhances the stars. At its default settings and in Auto mode the program produces images that are more than good enough for social media. However, we must prepare for some manual masking work if our aim is to make a large print. It is also an idea to run the program twice for particularly tricky areas, with different settings each time. I haven’t tested the Chroma Noise function extensively, but I notice that it reduces and smooths out color casts.

Disclaimer: The program is in this review only tested in one setting and can, therefore, yield different or even better results for less demanding scenes and images. Night images are generally the most difficult images to handle in terms of noise reduction and at the same time preserve detail.

What I liked

  • Very easy to use
  • Pleasant interface
  • Noise reduction is very good – in particular the sky
  • Sharpening
  • Preserving detail
  • Enhancing stars
  • The best noise reduction software I have tested

What I didn’t like

  • May confuse noise and details
  • Softening of fine detail at high noise reduction values
  • Artifacts at high values if we do some pixel peeping
  • Preview not very accurate

You can buy DeNoise AI here for $79.99

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