Adobe Lightroom 3 – Noise Reduction (NR) Comparison

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Adobe Lightroom 3 has added and improved many features to make Lightroom 3 a one complete workflow package. I have listed many of its new features, but one of its new improved feature is its noise reduction engine. This is what Adobe says about its superior noise reduction:
“Achieve amazing, natural-looking results from your high ISO images with all-new state-of-the-art noise reduction technology. You won’t need more than what’s built into Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3 to get the cleanest images at any ISO.”
There are many noise reduction (NR) packages out there that also claims to be number 1 in removing noise and grain from digital images.
Here, I present the images (100% crop) after applying some of the most common NR software. The test candidates are:
 
 
Let’s first check out the test image -  An image of Hong Kong skyline taken with a Nikon D700 @ ISO1600, f/2.8. It has a lot of dark/shadow areas where noise is a lot less tolerant.
 


Here is a comparison of the NR results (100% crop 800×600) from the five different NR software. The NR settings used are as follows:

  • Lightroom 2 – 70% luminance, 80% colour
  • Lightroom 3 – 70% luminance, 80% colour
  • Noise Ninja – Default settings, automatic profiling
  • Noiseware Professional – Default settings, automatic profiling
  • Define 2 – Default settings, automatic profiling
  • DxO 6 – Default settings, automatic profiling
Click image for full resolution
_ND17028_NR comparison.jpg

My preferences

  1. LR2 – Maintain a lot of details similar to the original, some noise still presence
  2. Noiseware Professional – Similar results to LR2, but reduced contrast
  3. DxO 6 – Still some noise especially chromatic noise, a bit smudged
  4. LR3 – Very clean , but image became a bit soft. Perhaps a lower NR setting will help
  5. Define 2 – Similar results to LR3, but losing contrast and details
  6. NoiseNinja – Feels a bit smudged, image became a bit soft, losing contrast and details

Second test image – An image of Xiamen skyline taken with a Nikon D700 @ ISO5000, f/2.8. It also has a lot of dark/shadow areas where noise is a lot less tolerant.
_ND17028.jpg

Here is a comparison of the NR results (100% crop 800×600) from the five different NR software. The NR settings used are as follows:

  • Lightroom 2 – 70% luminance, 80% colour
  • Lightroom 3 – 70% luminance, 80% colour
  • Noise Ninja – Default settings, automatic profiling
  • Noiseware Professional – Default settings, automatic profiling
  • Define 2 – Default settings, automatic profiling
  • DxO 6 – Default settings, automatic profiling
Click image for full resolution _ND17028_NR comparison.jpg

 

My preferences

  1. NoiseNinja – Some noise remains, but maintained most details and contrast
  2. DxO 6 – Some noise remains, a slightly soft
  3. Define 2 – Some smudged and image became soft
  4. LR3 – Very soft, but not as patchy as others
  5. LR2 – Smudged and patchy, image became soft
  6. Noiseware Professional – Smudged and appears to have halo effect

Remarks
LR3’s NR algorithm is capable of removing image noise very well without adding artifacts to the image. However, in the test results above,  the images became a bit soft. Perhaps the NR settings at 70% luminance and 80% colour were too strong. NR is a compromise really, you are prone to lose some of  image details (i.e. image becomes soft) when you remove too much noise.

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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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Comments and Feedback? Fire away !

avatar Kent Photography Blog says:

James, you are correct, having been using LR3 for quite some time now, I also noticed that it actually doesn't need that high (70%) to remove noise to an acceptable level.
thanks for your comment.

avatar James F says:

For what it's worth, I've been loving LR3 noise reduction but I'd NEVER use settings as high as you have. Most of my images use something like 0% luminance and 25% colour. As a general rule it's the luminance slider that makes the image soft, personally I prefer the slight "grain" look in LR3 (with a luminance of 0) but obviously you can choose to remove this if you like but even then I wouldn't go above 50 even with an ISO 3200 image.

avatar Kenneth says:

Thanks for the comparisons. I've been trying to decide whether it's worth getting NoiseWare Professional on top of processing through Lightroom 3. Not sure it's necessary given your tests (and my own)…

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