So after well over 10 years of concert photography, it’s been pointed out that I am what you call a “tech guy”. I often get annoyed if the focus is not exactly where it needs to be if there is motion blur etc. In the last few years thanks to Canon Slovenija and Foto Format most of my tech needs were covered by them, thus allowing me to get my hands on the latest stuff Canon has to offer. But then COVID hit, and it hit hard. Most of the Slovenian entertainment experts (light and sound techs, etc) moved to different branches of the industry or just left the industry completely, resulting in more and more bad lights at concerts. This is not a thing only in Slovenia but people with over 20 years of experience had to find new employment in Austria, Hungary, Italy, and all the surrounding countries.
Bad light = not technically perfect shots. So this is when I decided to try some of the newest AI-powered denoise software.
I’d like to point out that this post IS NOT sponsored by any of the software manufacturers mentioned in this post (Topaz this is a hint for you :)).
First, let’s get something straight. The only people saying “it doesn’t matter what camera you have it’s about the person shooting” are the ones that have a new Canon R5 (input a Sony or Nikon equivalent here) in their other hands while explaining this to you. While this is somewhat true when it comes to some landscape photography but when you are in Graz, Austria in a dive bar that lights up the stage with a single red Chinese lampion with a 3W bulb inside it, where you can hardly see anything on stage even with your bare eye and your camera’s max ISO is 3200 (full of grain of course), your f is at 2.8 and you are shooting a metalcore show where anything below 1/320 is just a blurry fuzzball you quickly realize that that is just a BS sentence told to you by people that never worked in a bad environment in their life. Luckily for me days of owning 10+ years, old DSLRs are over but still, sometimes even the R5 needs a bit of help.
Recently I was contacted to photograph ALESTORM in Budapest, Hungary. Due to some contracting stuff, I’m not supposed to publish images that were actually published by another publication so for my example, here I shall be taking a very bad photo but with some noise to show what this new AI-powered software can do.
All of the software used here had the same settings “AUTO” (not including Lightroom where I dragged the slider to where it didn’t mush up the image too much). All of the images here are uncompressed.
While Lightroom does not use any advanced AI-powered technology (yet) I still felt it was worth mentioning on this list. It’s the simple denoise with a single slider drag that kind of does the job in most situations. It’s best if you already own it you don’t need to buy any extra licenses and it’s already built-in. Of course, it also made the list for being a point of reference for the other denoise software. Here the denoise settings are set to 25/100. When I used more, the faces got to “artefacty” and you can also still see the grain in the background.
ON1 No Noise AI:
First up is the ON1 No Noise AI. Praised by many and I can see why. Full disclosure; it’s not my favorite among these but still it does a pretty decent job. The issue is mostly on the singer’s head, face, and hat where you can clearly see some extra artifacts, the rest is totally usable. Again please note that this is set to AUTO. I am sure that with a bit of fiddling the results could be better, but for some reason, it kept having random bugs while using it (sliders stopped working, previews stope, etc), which is also why I decided to make this post about the AUTO features of this software.
The downside (besides the obvious bugs) is that it’s also the slowest of all of the software I tested.
So while browsing the internet I came across DxO Photolab. Praised by so many with its denoise function I simply had to test it out. Again fully AUTO, but you can see a bit of issue on the guitarist and singer’s faces but overall incredibly usable. If you work in Lightroom and would like to use DxO Photolab just for denoise it’s a bit of a haggle. The exporting from and back to Lightroom is a bit of a nightmare but the worst this is, when the image is imported back to Lightroom, it ones up a whole new Catalog, closing your previous one. Such an annoyance I decided not to explore this further with Lightroom but still, I like the results.
Topaz DeNoise AI:
A king among men! Topaz is my king when it comes down to denoise. They also offer “sharpen” tools that supposedly make your blurry and unfocused shots usable again, but I have yet to try it. Topaz offers 4 different AI Models when it comes to Denoise; Low Light, Clear, Standard, and Severe Noise. For this image, I used Standard and AUTO setting all the way.
Topaz makes my list since its previews are faster than the others, the exports are quicker (well except of course for the Lightroom one) and it usually works. Sometimes some weird “ghosting does happen like in the image below (didn’t have the original anymore but I sent it to a friend via Facebook Messenger so the quality is totally horrible but you can see the issues):
Overall Topaz came in first on my list – to be fair I was already a fan but when I decided to get the full version instead of the trial they upped the prices by 50$ so I started looking for alternatives. Alas, my search led me back to Topaz, but which one do you like best? Drop a comment if you know of any software other I should test out!