Topaz Denoise review
I am writing this review having in mind that Topaz is offering a half price discount for one of their best products: Topaz Denoise. You can downloaded as a free trial for 30 days from Topaz Labs page: Topaz Denoise . The product is now 39.99$ instead of 79.99$ with the coupon code "mardenoise" (type it without quotes), until the end of March. I would mention that I really appreciate that Topaz guys do not have differentiated prices for European and US customers like other vendors (making European customers paying about 40% more for the same stuff).
So what is Topaz Denoise? It is a plugin for Photoshop CS, Elements, Lightroom, Aperture , Irfan (and I even managed to use it within Gimp with some emulator couple of years ago before entering into Photoshop world). It is the first noise removal plugin that I use and the only one that is part of my workflow at the moment and that has been constantly part of it in the last 2 years). Despite some attempts to try other similar plugins from different vendors, I never replaced Topaz Denoise with something else as it is my favourite noise removal tools.
If you mind about spending a minute or so to have the noise removed in one image (of course depending on your Computer speed and image size) , than Topaz Denoise is not for you. According to Topaz own vision, they focus mostly on the quality without compromising it for the speed. And the quality is exactly what I am looking for, so I do not mind waiting few extra seconds to achieve it.
The user interface is pretty much similar with all the other Topaz Products. The view is split into 3 main areas: Presets, Image area and Parameters area.The Presets comes with 11 predefined sets of parameters, pretty simple to figure out which to use, depending on the source image( jpeg or raw) and the quantity of noise that it has (from lightest to strongest). Of course, you can save your own presets.
The image panel can display processed image or Original image ( with a simple click on the image you can see its original). You can inspect the image at 100% or 200%, giving you a very good base for understanding the quantity and type of noise that you are dealing with.
If you are not willing to spend too much time with learning the plugin parameters and how to fine tune them, using a builtin preset works pretty well. This is an image shot with 3200 ISO; I quickly used Raw-strong preset and I am quite happy with the results.
Digging into parameters, we can see some very obvious ones and some that might require some experiment and/or reading the documentation (which is well done by Topaz guys in the form of a large PDF document where everything is in depth explained). Overall Strength is controlling the amount of noise reduction that is applied to the whole image. I recommend that you do not start with a very large value for it, but rather gradually change and observe its effect on the image. Try to choose the value that solves most of the noise, so if you have some areas that are still not ok you can try to fix them with one of the next parameters. Adjust Shadow and Adjust Highlight are adjusting the noise independently in the shadows and highlights (relative to the Overall Strength). So if you have more noise in the shadows for example, is better to use a smaller value for Overall Strength and a higher one for Adjust Shadow. Adjust Color - Red and Adjust Color - Blue deal with noise reduction on the red and blue channels (which can be seen by selecting that particular Blue/Red channel from the Preview Mode). Clean Color corrects the random bits of colour in your image while Correct Black Levels restores the richness of your blacks.
Detail recovery section is quite helpful to restore the small details that are lost during the removal of the noise (especially during more aggressive denoise settings). The details can be restored using Recover details or Reduce Blur sliders. Add grain is some option that I use a lot as it is very helpful to remove the banding caused by gradients (do not confuse it with the Debanding section of parameters that is dealing with something else). I quite like the grain that is added by Topaz Denoise.
Debanding section is something I do not use too much. According to Topaz people, it deals with long banding noise, the ones that extends from one end to another of the image.
How I am using Topaz Denoise in my workflow? I am not shooting with large ISO because I use tripod most of the time. However there is still a bit of noise in any image that gets multiply by various steps during post processing. So I am using Topaz DeNoise as one of the final steps of my workflow, to remove this noise, protect the details and add some grain. All the time I am applying it separately on various sections of the image, using the masks that I usually create at an early stage.
As I said before, Topaz Denoise is the only noise removal plugin that I use. I am happy with it and I recommend it to any person that is asking me about such a tool. And I never recommend something that I didn't use or I consider it a bad product.
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