Worth purchasing a Noise Reduction addon for Aperture 3?

Started Apr 28, 2013 | Discussions thread
Najinsky
Veteran MemberPosts: 4,598
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Re: Worth purchasing a Noise Reduction addon for Aperture 3?
In reply to BandofBrothers, Apr 29, 2013

Noise comes in two types, luminance and chroma, but more importantly 3 levels of intensity:

  • Normal - An inherent part of the process
  • Excessive - High ISO shadow noise
  • Extreme - High ISO raised shadow (eg under-exposed shots) visible across the whole image.

Apertures handling of Normal noise is excellent, every bit as good the best in class, in fact the results are so close to Noise Ninja, I suspect they may have licensed NN. It is pre-optimised to deliver an excellent balance and can only be tweaked, never fully turned off (even setting the slider to zero in raw fine tuning) as it's built into the raw conversion process.

It's in the area of Excessive noise where it doesn't perform. The problem is it doesn't let you differentiate between Luminance and Chroma noise, it just smears them together giving blotchy results that look just as bad as the noise.

Third party tools and plugins give much more control and do a much better job here.

In the area of Extreme noise, nothing really does a good job here and you have to make decisions about how to rescue the image and what you are willing to sacrifice; how much resolution loss, how much saturation loss, which details are important, how much time you can spend, and so on.

The first decision is whether the image is worth rescuing. The plug-ins have the advantage that they are quick to use and easy to see what sort of rescue they can give you.

I was explaining some features of my camera to a neighbour and took some photos of his kids taken in near darkness at a barbecue, they really liked one of the photos, but the noise was both extreme and excessive, so I tried numerous tools to rescue it. Counter-intuitively, I actually got the best result from Aperture.

I didn't use the NR tools, instead I used of cocktail of adjustments to target the specific issues.

I used the colour tool to target the green and magenta elements of the noise, adjusted the saturation and luminance and then selectively brushed the adjustment where needed.

The blur tool to reduce any excessive grain or blotches. The contrast and sharpness tools to emphasise the important details, the tint tool to deal with some colour shifts, and so on.

And not just one version of each adjustment. Aperture lets you have multiple versions with different impacts, selectively applied to different parts of the image.

In essence, I repainted the image!! But the result was far better than what the dedicated NR apps could give me. I wouldn't want to do it for any old snap, but for an special or important image, Aperture has the tools to do it (Although photoshop would have been quicker, I haven't re-install it yet and it seems a good chance to really push Aperture).

Anyway, that's really an aside. Returning to the question of plug-ins, it's a good idea to consider all your likely plug-in requirements, rather than individual ones as they arise.

For me it's a three way consideration between Nik Suite, Photo Ninja and DXO.

Nik suite is much more of a creative package. It's pure imaging tools are D'fine for noise, Sharpener Pro for detail, and Viveza for colour. The other tools are all about creative enhancements.

It downsides are: Tied into Apertures raw engine, No lens correction tools and no perspective correction tools.

DXO and Photo Ninja both have their own raw processing engine, which gives you an extra choice on an image by basis. The both have excellent noise reduction, lens correction and perspective correction. The both can do some neat tricks with colour but lack any way of applying it selectively.

So the decision probably comes down to what you are looking for in addition to Noise Reduction.

If lens and perspective correction are important, PN or DXO have the edge. Of those, PN has better integration with Aperture while DXO arguably has the class leading tools in all areas. DXO is more expensive, especially if your camera requires the elite version (a bit of a con as better cameras/lenses need less correction!).

If it's creative output, the Nik suite is a lot of fun.

-Najinsky

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