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RAW conversion (contd.)

Noise Reduction

Both Nikon Capture NX and Adobe Camera RAW have adjustable noise reduction systems. In Nikon Capture NX you can choose two methods; either Fast or Better as well as optionally Edge Noise Reduction (which appears to enhance the visibility of edges). Either method has parameters of Intensity (0 - 100%; default 27%) and Sharpness (0 - 10; default 5). Adobe Camera RAW provides control of Luminance (LS) and Color noise reduction (CNR).

The test image below was shot at ISO 1600 (1/320 sec, F9), crops are a 100% portion of the same RAW file converted using Nikon Capture NX and Adobe Camera RAW as well as a JPEG of the same scene (with the same exposure).

Nikon Capture NX, ISO 1600 RAW NR test

This comparison demonstrates how well the in-camera noise reduction actually performs, we got the best results from NX with the default parameters but the Better method. Interestingly if you turn the Intensity parameter up much beyond 40% you can get significant color loss / bleeding.

JPEG from camera (Normal NR)
Nikon Capture NX, default NR (Fast, 27%, 5)
Nikon Capture NX (Better, 27%, 5)
Nikon Capture NX (Better, Edge, 27%, 5)
Nikon Capture NX (Better, 50%, 5)
Nikon Capture NX (NR off)

Adobe Camera RAW, ISO 1600 RAW NR test

Adobe Camera RAW maintains more detail at higher sensitivities than Nikon Capture NX but at the expense of visible noise 'grain', this can be reduced slightly by turning up Luminance Smoothing but of course you're then treading the line between loss of detail and visibility of grain.

JPEG from camera (Normal NR)
Adobe Camera RAW, default NR (LS 0, CNR 25)
Adobe Camera RAW, default NR (LS 50, CNR 50)
Adobe Camera RAW, default NR (LS 0, CNR 0)

* Adobe Camera RAW; LS = Luminance Smoothing, CNR = Color Noise Reduction

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