Over the past year or so, there have been a couple of new pieces of software that have come on the scene, promising to do one thing — reduce noise.
In addition to Topaz DeNoise AI, DxO PureRAW and ON1 NoNoise AI have come to the market to help photographers get rid of noise in their images. They promise to do a better job at reducing noise and preserving details than, say, a program like Lightroom Classic.
But how do these three software packages stand up, and which takes the crown?
Why you might want denoise software
I’ve found myself in several instances where I’ve cranked up my ISO just a bit too high. I know that the result won’t give me a high-quality image for a client because of the amount of noise that’s introduced. I’ve also had cases where micro four-thirds cameras — like those from Olympus or Panasonic — don’t allow me to crank up the ISO as much as I want in-camera, and therefore I have to do more in post-processing … which can add even more noise.
Needless to say, we all want to achieve the best quality photo possible.
All of the following tests were done with the software in standalone versions instead of plugins. By doing this, I was able to account for things like performance between applications. The below photo was taken with my Sony a7 III at ISO 10,000 and was edited in Capture One.
Topaz DeNoise AI
Tried and true, Topaz DeNoise AI is pretty straightforward to use. You load your photo, it uses the Standard AI model to render your image, and then you’re shown a preview. You can use a few different sliders to optimize your results, too.
Results with Topaz are natural and aren’t overdone. The fact that it allows you to control the levels of noise reduction and sharpness here is key — I’ve found that a little can go a long way.
Topaz DeNoise AI was also the only program I tested that worked with my TIFF file. No warnings or anything — it processed the TIFF just like it did my RAW file. I found that with this image, the Severe Noise AI model was best. It did a great job reducing noise and not adding in other distractions.
- Available as a plugin for Lightroom Classic and Photoshop
- AI model presets make it easy to look at different options
- Does a great job at keeping details and not over-sharpening
- Supports most file formats
- Realistically cleans up noise
- No plugin available for Capture One or other editors
- Can be slow to load and slow to process photos
ON1 NoNoise AI
NoNoise AI is the latest entry into the noise reduction market. It prefers RAW files, but it will technically work with other file formats … albeit with a warning telling you it works best with RAW file formats.
I originally tried my image as a TIFF file and it ended up leaving some odd distortions on the image, especially where gradients were present in the image. It also seems to over-sharpen the image in certain areas. Once I loaded in the original, unedited RAW file, it did a much better job.
Still, the results here weren’t perfect. You can see that one of the lights in a window of the shop has a weird purple/blue effect to it, whereas DxO PureRAW and Topaz DeNoise AI did great at reducing this effect. The other thing to note is because NoNoise AI doesn’t work great with pre-edited files like a TIFF, if you need to make any exposure adjustments, noise could be reintroduced into your image. If you use the software as a plugin, it seems to completely ignore all the adjustments you’ve made.
NoNoise AI does have some controls. However, I was surprised that the sliders were cranked nearly all the way up at their default settings. Compare that to Topaz DeNoise AI, and there’s not much room to work with when using NoNoise AI.
- Available as a plugin for all major editors
- Most amount of control options
- Very slow to load in photos
- Non-RAW files can leave some weird distortions on the image
- Sliders exist, but seem to be at very high levels by default
DxO Pure RAW
PureRAW comes with three “methods” to processing a RAW image — HQ, PRIME and DeepPRIME. DeepPRIME uses DxO’s most up-to-date technology for assisting you with editing your image. The program not only helps in reducing noise but also helps to reduce lens defects.
The downside to PureRAW comes with the fact that you really have no control over how the program processes your images. It also only works with RAW or JPEG images, so for this test, I had to use the original image, without any corrections made.
The good news is DxO PureRAW did a great job with the image, virtually eliminating noise and bumping up the exposure. However, it almost cleaned up the file too much.
For instance, I’m noticing that it changed my color balance and exposure. It also cleaned up the person’s face to a point where he’s looking a bit too nice for a really cold night! PureRAW might be great for studio and portraiture, but it might not be right for every scenario.
- Eliminated the most noise, with no work from the user
- Cleans up an image nicely, adjusting other aspects of your image
- Workflow can be a little confusing, as it’s meant to be a preprocessor instead of a plugin
- Can over-analyze your image and apply edits that you might not want
- No native plugin functionality
- Lacking controls to optimize functionality
- Limited file support
- Can get some uneven noise reduction in gradient areas
Which takes the crown?
All three apps offer benefits like batch processing and can do a great job when reducing noise. But there are a few limitations that might be deal-breakers.
DxO PureRAW leaves you with a really nice image, but no controls. It cleaned up my image too much. ON1 NoNoise has very limited file support outside of RAW files, but works as a plugin with pretty much every editor imaginable. Topaz DeNoise AI? Well, it takes the crown here, as it offers different AI models to choose from in addition to sliders you can use to tweak the end result.