1 2 3 Previous Next 273 Replies Latest reply on Oct 16, 2007 11:11 PM by (Ivo_Filka)

    ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1

    Level 1
      Hi there,

      I have been participating in a couple of threads in both this forum and the Lightroom forum with regards to additional "baseline" noise-reduction that appears to be happening on high ISO Canon files. To start, here are the links to the other threads:

      ACR Forum (I started that thread):

      Lightroom Forum:

      Here is a summery of the issues as I see them so far:

      1) I, and numerous other photographers, are objecting to what appears to be additional baseline smoothing being done to high ISO raw files in ACR v4.1, even with the luminance NR slider at zero. Most users complaining appear to be shooting with Canon.

      2) At issue is the (apparent) smearing of some micro-detail due to noise-reduction and an overall artificial looking rendering of detailed scenes when examined closely. In addition, out of focus details can start looking a little posterized and indeed, I have seen that all of the above effects can be worsened by the new sharpening controls, if one is not careful in their application.

      3) Not all users are unhappy with this new processing.

      4) I asserted that previous versions of camera raw did not appear to do additional ISO dependent smoothing but was corrected by Thomas Knoll who indicated that they did. Regarding this, I now have confirmed that indeed he is absolutely correct (as he should be!), but the effect is far more subtle in comparison to what ACR v4.1 is doing.

      6) While this might all be construed as "pixel-peeping", several of us have confirmed that the effect is also visible in larger prints. In addition, some users (myself included) are unhappy with this apparent new "direction" that Adobe is taking since many felt that in the past that ACR produced the best compromise raw conversions - lots of fine detail preserved without any *obvious* smoothing. Without the ability to disable (or minimize) this smoothing, one is now forced to live with the default levels of NR on high ISO files in ACR v4.1.

      7) While I claimed that I could not see this smoothing effect in other raw files from a Fuji S5 Pro, a Nikon D2X and a Leica M8 at higher ISO's, I am now beginning to think that the "chunkiness" of the noise in some of these other cameras might simply be making the new high-ISO smoothing less effective and thus less visible than it is on Canon raw files since ISO 1600 noise it quite tight and fine on my EOS-30D and most other Canons tested.

      8 ) Further to point 7, Thomas Knoll also indicated that it was only Bayer-pattern sensors that "benefited" from this new raw conversion. That is why my initial testing did not show the Fuji S5 Pro (which has a complex hexagonal array Super CCD and not a simple rectangular array sensor) to suffer these same effects.

      9) I presume this ACR comparison to hold true for Lightroom v1.0 compared to v1.1 as well.

      In any case, what I have done is take a several ISO 1600 images from my EOS-30D and one ISO 1600 image from a D2X and make two versions of each image. One is the original CR2 or NEF file and the second, I used "exifedit" softare to modify the EXIF "iso-speed" field so that it no longer reads 1600, but rather 100. Opening these two versions of each raw file will show if there is any additional high-ISO-dependent differences in the raw conversions.

      Indeed both ACR v4.0 and ACR v4.1 show a greater degree of noise reduction on the original ISO 1600 versions than when they are "tricked" into thinking the raw was shot at ISO 100. The effect is much greater in ACR v4.1 however and was immediately apparent to me within seconds of opening my first high ISO raw file. However with previous versions of ACR, it was so subtle that I never noticed it at all.

      [...continued, with samples in next posting]
        • 1. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
          Level 1
          [Part 2 ...continued from previous post]

          I have assembled several PSD files, each with 4 layers labeled as such (with description following the -->):

          ACR v4.1 - ISO 1600 as 1600 --> original ISO 1600 raw file converted with ACR v4.1

          ACR v4.1 - ISO 1600 as 100 --> same raw file but with EXIF edited to read ISO 100, converted with ACR v4.1

          ACR v4.0 - ISO 1600 as 1600 --> original ISO 1600 raw file converted with ACR v4.0

          ACR v4.0 - ISO 1600 as 100 --> raw file with EXIF edited to read ISO 100, converted with ACR v4.0

          In both versions of ACR, the luminance NR slider was at zero, the chroma at the default of 25 and all the sharpening off or minimized. I have not found the chroma NR slider to have any visible impact to actual image detail, at least not in any of these samples, so I left it at 25. White balance was As-Shot and other controls at default/zero. No additional processing or sharpening was applied to any of the samples, apart from cropping the image to make it smaller for download.

          Here are the samples:

          (5.39 Mb) An ISO 1600 D2X raw comparison. I use the word "blur" since we are looking at an out-of-focus background portion of the shot. Sadly the shot has no truly sharp detail to compare.

          (6.06 Mb) An ISO 1600 30D raw comparison. Included to have a similar image to compare to the Nikon.

          (13.14 Mb) An ISO 1600 30D raw comparison. The outdoor shot I had linked to in my other posts.

          (5.79 Mb) An ISO 1600 30D raw comparison. The indoor Las Vegas statue shot I had linked to in my other posts.

          The above files are just crops from the original full images. Decompress the zip and open them up in Photoshop, either at 100% or 200%. Simply check and uncheck each layer as needed to make comparisons between the different versions. When comparing, you might try to apply a small amount of sharpening (one pass of "Sharpen" for example) equally to each layer as the differences might become more apparent. Also, people viewing the samples on a CRT might find the differences less obvious than those using an LCD display.

          My conclusions are as follows:

          1) I believe that ACR v4.1 is indeed doing additional "baseline" smoothing of high ISO files. This is most apparent on the Canon examples but the noise is so coarse on the D2X file that is hard to be certain whether (a) there is no additional smoothing on the high ISO version, or (b) whether the smoothing is of insufficient strength (or radius?) to be clearly visible.

          2) I personally believe there to be a slight reduction in "micro-detail" when using "ACR v4.1 - ISO 1600 as 1600". On some images more so than on others. In addition, there is a "smoothed" and "edge-detected" look to small details as well as some slight "furriness" where the NR algorithm appears to be deciding where edges of detail are and where smoothing should occur.

          3) More to point #2, I prefer all three other versions of the converted files. That is, to my eye, the worst looking ones are "ACR v4.1 - ISO 1600 as 1600", at least on the Canon files.

          4) However the very best version, when all aspects of image quality are being considered, is the "ACR v4.1 - ISO 1600 as 100" version! The ever-so-slight reduction in overall noise does not appear to affect micro-detail to any significant extent, yet there is a significant reduction in "white-specks" in darker areas (especially after post-sharpening) and certain areas of color in the images are identified and rendered better - the last item being really hard to describe. Look at the dark engraved lines on the head of the statue: ACR v4.0 fills them in as slightly "reddish" whereas in ACR v4.1 they are black and look more "normal" to me. On the outside shot, looking and the red brick colour of the wall in the distance (the one with all the patios on the right), ACR v4.1 seems to better identify where the colour should be, whereas ACR v4.0 slightly desaturates portions of that wall between floors.

          5) Further to point 4 is that indeed there is obviously some very complex processing going on, and if one could reduce the level of NR on an ISO 1600 file, down to the level which ACR uses when fooled into thinking it is an ISO 100 file, I would certainly be quite happy with the results. I imagine many others would be too...

          6) Finally, this effect will certainly not be visible in smaller prints however the more you push a file (for example a 20x30 print from a 30D will have a source resolution of about 117dpi) or if you end up cropping an image, thereby increasing the overall magnification and thus also the defects, well then those processing artifacts can become visible upon close and critical inspection - large prints of landscapes for example.

          My humble request:

          In ACR v4.2 or LR v1.2, please have the luminance NR slider, when set to zero, have the same degree of effect as when an ISO 1600 file is processed as though it were ISO 100. Alternatively, put in a "Preserve all texture detail" checkbox in the detail section that does the same thing. That way we'll have the best of both worlds: for some types of images, one can use this new-found intelligent NR but for those where the most natural look and finest detail is of utmost importance, we can turn it off - or at least reduce it to more-or-less the same level as previous versions of ACR.

          In general, the new NR processing does seem quite "intelligent" and is a big step up from the previous version's crude luminance slider. I certainly do not want to change back to the old system as there are many real and visible benefits to the processing in the new ACR! In addition, the new sharpening controls are also a big step up from previous version, offering much more fine control and less artifacting, when used judiciously.

          However, please leave the majority of sharpening and noise-reduction decisions to the individual user. That way, one can selectively apply these effects in layers or by using the history brush. I would be equally unhappy if suddenly there was an aggressive new baseline sharpening applied to all raw conversions, when the sharpening controls were at zero!

          I realize now that maybe there never was a true "zero" in NR and sharpening, but with previous versions of ACR, this processing appeared to be very subtle and lent itself very well to post-NR and post-sharpening. This is why, even after trying out virtually every other raw converter made, I always came back to Adobe Camera Raw, time and time again.

          Please don't give up on progress and on new and innovative ways to improve ACR, but also please don't take away those qualities that have made a legion of photographers use Adobe Camera Raw as their raw converter of choice!

          Best Regards,
          Mike Mander
          • 2. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
            Level 1
            Mike Mander states re Canon rendering:
            > the very best version, when all aspects of image quality are being considered, is the "ACR v4.1 - ISO 1600 as 100" version!

            I agree with that. It appears that high ISO rendering has additional smoothing. It would be good if that was made optional.
            • 3. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
              Level 1
              I agree with this as well. The new "look" to my images is very disturbing. Kind of like a watercolor painting, or an image from a Panasonic digicam. Not pleasant to look at at all!
              • 4. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                Level 1
                why wasn't the "subscribe" checkbox there before I posted?
                • 5. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                  Level 1
                  Mike - Interesting post. Thanks for taking the time to do these comparisons; they really illustrate your point.
                  • 6. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1

                    In the former discussions, Paul III, Hugo and Ralf reveal what their Masking settings were.

                    Have you experimented with this slider, combined with the Detail , Radius and Amount sliders, plus Clarity adjustments?

                    I've found that to achieve satisfying results, I may have to twiddle several or all of these sliders; they all seem to have a certain degree of correlation to how the details in the final image turn out.

                    Could you provide the raw (DNG) images so that others can have a go at different ACR/Lightroom settings?
                    • 7. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                      Level 1
                      I see it in my high iso images too.

                      My suggestion is that the choice of how aggressive the noise reduction is during demosaicing and/or if/when it kicks in would be great. This looks like it should be a 1.1.x release and should happen soon.
                      • 8. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                        Level 1
                        So, an official response from Adobe tech support after they have examined some raw files from my EOS-30D:

                        "We have reviewed your file in multiple versions of camera raw and certainly there is a change in how the ACR 4.1 plug-in handles RAW files..."

                        Okay, so at least they see it and acknowledge the difference, but they didn't offer an opinion on whether the difference was good or bad. Not surprising of course.


                        "There is not much we can do at this time in regards to changing ACR 4.1. However, since Adobe® releases new versions of Adobe Camera Raw 4.1® frequently. It would again like to invite you to make a feature request at:


                        Please note the case number in the request so as we continue to develop
                        ACR we can take your case into consideration when we develop future

                        I will definitely give them a detailed feature request! I had already filed a bug report on the same form.


                        "Also, posting to our User to User forums at adobe.com may be helpful
                        for other Canon Camera users who may be having similar issues with ACR

                        ... which I have done in great detail of course!

                        Anyway for now, I will be reverting ACR back to v4.0 to process any higher ISO files I have but I think I will continue using Lightroom v1.1 since I still think that all things considered, the image quality on ISO 100 or 200 shots is a little better with all the new defringing controls, Clarity and more versatile (if carefully applied!) sharpening tool.

                        I will be (im)patiently waiting for the next round of updates, fervently hoping that they consider all the negative feedback as constructive criticism and put in an off-switch for all that nasty smoothing...

                        Mike Mander
                        • 9. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                          Level 1

                          I have tried all manner of combinations of all the relevant controls and one can never totally get rid of the smoothing effect at high ISOs. On some images, I find with small radius (0.5 or 0.6), detail at 80-100%, masking at 0% and then the amount at whatever looks good (usually 30 or less I believe), it is possible to get a good looking file, certainly at the lower (below 400) ISO range, but not at the higher ISO settings. If I edit the EXIF to read ISO 100, I am also quite happy with the results at higher ISO's but I do not want to have to edit the EXIF in every single high ISO image!

                          Generally I prefer to convert files with zero sharpening in the raw converter as I have a nice action that combines Focus Magic with some other PS sharpening steps. However the new sharpening controls are actually pretty good if used carefully, at least for the "capture sharpening" stage.

                          I really am hoping for an incremental release for ACR so I don't have to wait until "4.2"! Probably too much to hope for unfortunately, as far as an incremental release of Lightroom though.

                          Mike Mander
                          • 10. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                            Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                            The regular releases of ACR have been coming at regular intervals. I'd hope that 4.2 won't be that far off.
                            • 11. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                              Level 1
                              Excellent research Mike. I too would appreciate a truly zero noise reduction setting. I think Mike's recommendationss are sound and allow the user the option of choosing which noise reduction scheme to use.
                              • 12. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                Level 1
                                > "I too would appreciate a truly zero noise reduction setting".

                                Was ACR 4.0 "truly zero"? Or just "less than 4.1"?
                                • 13. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                  Level 1

                                  No, it seems even 4.0 is not truly zero. However if you download my samples, you'll see the the high ISO baseline NR was very subtle and nowhere near as dramatic as in v4.1, so not just "less than 4.1", but I would say "much less than 4.1". It was so minimal and inoffensive that I never noticed it in v4.0. No so with the latest version of course...

                                  As far as low ISO NR in ACR v4.0, that is hard to tell. However in ACR v4.1, there is still some differential NR going on at low ISO's... clearly visible as smoothing in shadows versus less smoothing in brighter areas. Often not a problem or not really noticeable, but again in landscape photos with, for example, foliage areas transitioning from bright to dark, you can see this effect, especially if compared to earlier versions of ACR or Raw Developer for instance. However, the degree of differential sharpening seems to vary from image to image - frustratingly unpredictable. Sometimes conversions in ACR v4.1 look great with no visible issues, other times terrible. Really pulling my hair out...

                                  I am still in the process of trying to come to grips with all that ACR v4.1 is doing, definitely no simple matter. My initial reaction at really liking the conversion in v4.1 at lower ISO's is starting to wane... the more I look at it, the less I like what I am seeing - on some images. In some cases, I really think ACR v4.1 can be great, but I *really* am feeling the need for an "off switch" for all this differential processing that is going on now, even at low ISO's - the unpredictable nature of the quality of the conversions is really annoying.

                                  I never really found older version of ACR unpredictable in this way because they weren't trying so hard to make "intelligent" decisions on how an image is processed. Now I just feel as though I am fighting the raw converter for control over how I want the image processed. Sometimes I feel like I am winning the fight, but many other times not.

                                  As far as Lightroom, I like the workflow too much to abandon it, but I may need to take the selects for any given shoot and batch them through ACR v4.0 or maybe even Raw Developer, and reimport those converted TIFFs back into Lightroom for printing or web-gallery creation. What a pain...
                                  • 14. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                    Utterly horrific, I thought that it was just due to the new sharpening and wouldn't appear as I had sharpening set to preview only, the fact that this smoothing is there in the file in PS prior to any changes is horribly disappointing. I like many of the features of ACR 4.1 but at present am using 4.0 to check sharpness as the smoothing is throwing me off so much, and having to use 4.0 to process all my high ISO files due to the horrible look of the 4.1 rendition of over smoothing. I shoot a brace of 5D's because Canon is the best at high ISO's, I'm damned if I'll let Adobe turn my camera's high iso files so that they look like they came out of a D200!
                                    • 15. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                      don solomon Level 1
                                      I thought the conventional street wisdom was that D200's were more noisy but less watercolory--as I recall 5D shooters start with a more 'artifical' but smoother texture :) I certainly get more 'micro detail' or at least the 'appearance' of it out of a D200 at 800 than a colleague who shoots a 5D. No need to run another wash over an existing watercour in any event :)

                                      However, that doesn't detract from the need for a switch for those who want it.
                                      • 16. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                        I really don't like this noise reduction on high iso images. I hope adobe listens and allows users to turn it down to the levels it was in the old version
                                        • 17. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                          Level 1
                                          I converted a 1D mark II image using both v4.0 and v4.1 leaving the same settings in the XMP file. Obviously the sharpening looked slightly different and 4.0 is missing one control on the first tab so its conversion had slighly less local contrast to it. Comparing all four the v4.1 versions clearly have the luminance smoothing or glass filter distortion to the bokeh areas whereas the v4.0 versions did not.

                                          As a result I'm back to using v4.0. I like 4.1's sharpening tools and its local contrast enhancement adds to the look I'm after but I cannot stand v4.1's texture. Hopefully there will be a resolution to this soon because v4.1 clearly has the better tool set.
                                          • 18. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                            Level 1
                                            Sorry for the cheap bump but I'm surprised that more users haven't commented on it. The effect makes v4.1 too objectionable to use and if it is the result of user error, ie. the wrong combination of some things, I haven't seen the solution. If it has already been offered I apologize. Someone knock me on the head and point me in the right direction.

                                            If the effect is the result of basic changes in the way the ACR decodes CR2 files I would sure like to see a v4.2 with 4.1's tools and 4.0's smooth texture.
                                            • 19. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                              Level 1

                                              Just looked at the relevant threads for the first time in a while. I agree... am surprised at the lack of comments myself. Adjusting the controls can act to reduce the effect, but I cannot reduce it to the point of being happy in many cases. Even with ISO 100 images, certain aspects of the new raw conversion bother me.

                                              My final response from Adobe tech support was that they see the issue and cannot help with regards to ACR v4.1. They suggested I put in a "feature request" for an "off switch" on their support page to be considered for the next version of ACR. I have done so, and fervently hope that it's implemented in both the next ACR and the next Lightroom!

                                              In the meantime I am rediscovering how much I like RAW Developer when converting images to make larger prints. Its flexible sharpening and subtle noise reduction controls in the newer versions always impressed me - I only wish it had chromatic aberration correction and highlight recovery! Nothing is perfect...

                                              I am also a little surprised at the lack of comments from Jeff or Thomas in the relevant threads, but then they have probably just flagged me as a "trouble-maker" (who writes way too much!) and are ignoring these comments... ;-)

                                              Seriously though, from a few scattered remarks I've seen, it appears as though Jeff Schewe is quite happy with the look of the new raw conversions so what can he say? And as for Thomas Knoll, well despite the fact that he is no doubt proud of the new found "sophistication" in ACR and Lightroom, I only hope that he can also see things from the perspective of those users who want the mostly hands-off approach to raw conversions that were the hallmark of previous versions of Adobe Camera Raw. In fact, I am *really* hoping he does, since I sincerely want to keep using Lightroom. There are already enough options out there for "over-processed" raw converters - SilkyPix and CaptureOne for example. Actually, on a few photos I tried recently, the baseline NR that CaptureOne does at high ISOs I actually now find preferable to the new ACR! Sheesh, I certainly never thought I'd be saying that...
                                              • 20. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                Level 1
                                                I also hope that TK considers this. After all it is a philosophical design change and he should be open to offering a switch for minimal processing.
                                                • 21. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                  Level 1
                                                  "I am also a little surprised at the lack of comments from Jeff or Thomas in the relevant threads, but then they have probably just flagged me as a "trouble-maker" (who writes way too much!) and are ignoring these comments... "

                                                  No...but to the best of my knowledge, you've yet to provide a raw file whose processing through 4.1 is objectionable...

                                                  Looking at somebody else's processed files don't cut it for testing...as for me, on all the images I've processed (1Ds, 1DS MII, Digital Rebel, Rebel XTi, 10D & 20D) shot at ISO 1600, 4.1 does a better job than 4.0. So, I ain't seeing what you're seeing...
                                                  • 22. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                    Level 1

                                                    Honestly, I didn't want to drag you into this discussion as I think I know what your take on all this is...

                                                    However in response to your query, I have posted plenty of examples comparing v4.0 and v4.1 of ACR. While you might not find the v4.1 results objectionable, I certainly do... and so do many others.

                                                    No, I have not posted a raw file, but trust me please - I have not resorted to any trickery (additional NR etc.) to obtain those results. I did ftp a raw file to Adobe tech support, at their request, and they confirmed the differences I'm seeing. If people are genuinely not trusting my comparison, then I will post an original CR2 for people to download. However, I did all the "hard work" by converting the files, superimposing them in a PSD etc., so I'm not sure how a raw will be of much benefit.

                                                    I did acknowledge in my posts that some people seem to prefer the way v4.1 handles raw conversions and I know you are one of those who do. I am not trying to persuade you, or anyone else, to like the older versions of Camera Raw better. I am only trying to clearly point out the differences in processing and explain why *I* do not like the new version. Ultimately there appear to be numerous people who agree with me and I am only humbly requesting that Adobe give those of us who prefer the older style processing, a choice in how ACR operates. The recently oft-requested smoothing "off-switch"...

                                                    My only other question to you is: are you really not "seeing what I'm seeing" with respect to higher ISO conversions? Without arguing about the pros and cons of the "look" of the new processing, do you not notice far less grain in high ISO images in v4.1 compared to v4.0 when the luminance NR is set to zero in both? Because if you are seeing the same level of grain in v4.0 versus v4.1, then obviously there is something seriously wrong with how ACR v4.1 is operating on my computer and, apparently, on many other people's computers!

                                                    Or do you simply mean that you see the differences but are indeed happier with how v4.1 renders images? I am suspecting the latter.

                                                    Lastly, I deal with many pro photographers on a daily basis and I have now gotten a number of calls from people who think there is something wrong with their cameras or lenses (I manage the digital imaging dept. in a pro camera shop). They are looking at images and describing them to look a little smeared, blurry in spots, with some strange artifacts and posterization in out-of-focus areas at times. Turns out that it is due to their upgrading to ACR v4.1 or LR v1.1 - when they go back to ACR v4.0 and re-process their raw files, the problems disappear. Even if there are not more complaints on the forums, I know there are pros who are unhappy with this new processing - mainly landscape, wildlife and architectural photographers. For portrait, wedding and product work, the new processing certainly can be beneficial in some ways, although even there, not everyone I know is happy either.
                                                    • 23. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                      Level 1
                                                      "so I'm not sure how a raw will be of much benefit"

                                                      Because Thomas can build special versions of Camera Raw while fine tuning the noise reduction in the demosiacing for that particular model and compare it to other models to see if it may be a camera difference or an improper scaling of the noise reduction for that model.

                                                      Camera Raw supports over 150 cameras (I think) at this point so while testing is extensive, I don't know that EVERY ISO for EVERY CAMERA model has been specifically tested...

                                                      "My only other question to you is: are you really not "seeing what I'm seeing" with respect to higher ISO conversions?"

                                                      As I said, I'm not seeing any problems on my cameras for ISO 100 all the way through ISO 1600. I'm seeing smoother base demosaicing which is better suited to sharpening. I'm seeing improved noise reduction on higher ISO with luminance noise reduction in the 15-40 range (the highest I generally process through Camera Raw).

                                                      I've tested processed images all the way through to prints...to my eye, Camera Raw 4.1 does a better demosiacing, better noise reduction and has considerably better capture sharpening. I've even done some proof tests to CMYK and even those are better-with proper output sharpening applied before conversion...
                                                      • 24. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                        Level 1
                                                        Hi Jeff,

                                                        "Because Thomas can build special versions of Camera Raw while fine tuning..."

                                                        Fair enough, but I would honestly think that Thomas has lots of samples on hand for each (major) supported camera already, wouldn't he? It's not like I have a rare model...

                                                        If Thomas actually wants some CR2 files from me, I would be more than happy to oblige of course.

                                                        As far as the differences in conversion that you mention, well at least I know that you too are seeing a significant change in v4.1 compared to v4.0. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on whether or not we like the changes! I just hope Thomas realizes you're not his only customer... ;-)

                                                        [Edit]: BTW, what cameras do you shoot with. I have access to quite a few different models so maybe I can test the same camera(s) you shoot with? If I can find the spare time...

                                                        In all fairness I should probably try ACR v4.1 on a PowerPC Mac or on a Windows machine. So far, all the tests I have done have been on an Intel-based MacBook Pro. Off the top of my head, the customers who've contacted me with issues were also running Intel Macs... if I recall correctly. Although in the forums here, some reporting the same issue were on Windows machines I believe...
                                                        • 25. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                          Level 1

                                                          There may be differences depending on photographic style.

                                                          Assuming that Thomas (or whoever!) has sample images of every
                                                          conceivable photographic style and kind of subject is a bit overly

                                                          When I try to figure out what's going on, I sometimes feel like one of those legendary blind philosophers touching a part of an elephant's anatomy, since almost everybody seems to have a differing opinion of what the elephant looks like.

                                                          The problem with not allowing others to see the raw files, is that you not only leave them blind, you also don't let them touch the elephant.

                                                          That being said, I've been using Lightroom 1.1 for a while now, and I now see similar effects to what's been described, too (although I at first was really skeptical, as my previous responses in these threads have shown).

                                                          I don't think it's limited to ISO 1600; it's also visible at ISO 800, 400, 200 and 100, though to a lesser extent.

                                                          In some cases, the effect is not pleasing, though I think it also works very well for some subjects. It is more visible in transitions of tonality in mid-tones and darker, and medium- to low contrast detail. This effect was also partially visible in ACR 4.0. Parts of the effect seems to come from something similar to sharpening artifacts, also when the amount is set to zero.

                                                          Perhaps part of the perceived problem is that ACR 4.0 was more aggressive in sharpening, as well as that it performed a different kind of sharpening.

                                                          While we can almost safely assume that your choice of leaving chroma NR set to the default also removes some detail, as it appears to do in many (if not most) of my photos, this doesn't explain everything.

                                                          I must admit that I don't have the output processing know-how to make good prints, so I haven't been able to see how the effect translates to a printed end product.

                                                          As for your PSD files, they seem to imply that you should always process your ISO 1600 images as ISO 100, even in ACR 4.0, since there is visibly less loss of apparent detail from noise reduction (or whatever we should call it).

                                                          In the case of my own files, I don't have a computer where I didn't upgrade from 4.0 to 4.1, and I'm a bit too fond of other improvements in Lightroom to attempt to go back, so it's not practical for me to perform a direct comparison.

                                                          PowerPC vs. Intel is not likely to be an issue, since I'm working off one of those clunky old quad G5s.

                                                          So here's what: I'm providing a set of six DNG conversions of raw files at ISO 200, 800 and 1600 under various conditions. With the exception of IMG_2781.dng, all images have previously also been processed with ACR 3.x and 4.0, and I believe I see similar changes in processing to those you've seen. If other people are willing to have a look at them and see if they agree or disagree, that's fine.

                                                          The files can be found here:


                                                          What to look for? In the pool billiards pictures, there is almost always a texture to the pool table cloth; it's woven wool. Look also at transitions in the shadows cast by the strong overhead lightning.

                                                          All over-exposed images should have mostly recoverable bright areas, though that's not the point of this exercise. :)
                                                          • 26. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                            Level 1
                                                            Jeff, I'd like to get to the bottom of this too. Recently I made a couple of screen grabs. The first shows a 4.0/4.1 100% comparison of a 1D Mark II shot with sharpening. Obviously although the sharpening percent is the same they it has a slightly different effect depending on the ACR version.

                                                            The second is of the same shot but with sharpening at zero. Both screen grabs are 1920x1200 monitor size so the 100% crops they depict should still be 100%. JPG 12 versions are about 1 Meg. If you can read it without the CR2 file I'll include the XMP.

                                                            I also can make a similar comparison with a 1D Mark II N image if you would like. I noticed the effect yesterday and switched from v4.1 back to v4.0.

                                                            Let me know where I can email the JPGs. If you want something different just let me know.
                                                            • 27. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                              Level 1
                                                              I'm not really interested in people's already processed files...and I've look at plenty of 1DsMII files at various ISO's.
                                                              • 28. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                Level 1
                                                                Jeff, if you're not interested in peoples'processed files then why are we even talking about the results of using CR4.1 vs CR4.0? Isn't making a conversion via ACR creating a processed file? If this thread's participants weren't interested in processed files why would any of us have purchased Photoshop in the first place.

                                                                I don't understand your reasoning. It is the very act of processing RAW using CR4.1 that has caused the concern. So you're interested in the issue enough to post but don't want to see what I'm talking about. I don't get it.
                                                                • 29. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                  Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                                                                  It seems clear to me that what Jeff has been suggesting all along is that someone make available a RAW file, rather than a processed file. I'd love to see one of those problem RAW files myself.
                                                                  • 30. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                    Level 1
                                                                    And the reason why Jeff Schewe would like a raw file or two to play with (such as the ones I've made available, I hope), is because he or Thomas Knoll can then open them in ACR 4.0 and 4.1 himself and see if he/they see(s) the same thing, and fiddle various processing methods.
                                                                    • 31. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                      Level 1
                                                                      There's a certain implied condescension to these requests for original RAW files, as if the people complaining here have no idea what we're talking about. Trust me, I'm no beginner. And I don't think Thomas Knoll needs my files, either. It's not as if we're using exotic cameras -- in my case the files are from the Canon 300d, 20d and 30d cameras, which combined have probably outsold any other camera in the past four years.

                                                                      A sample at the default processing settings from 4.0 and 4.1 are all you need to see what's going on. Watercolor swirls and posterization are now standard features which we can add to the aliasing that sometimes occurs at the standard sharpening settings. I can get rid of the aliasing, though, by turning sharpening off. No such luck with the heavy-handed noise reduction.

                                                                      If LR 1.2 doesn't fix the problem, I'm going to ask Adobe for a refund. The image quality is unacceptable.
                                                                      • 32. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                        Why is there such a strong reluctance to provide a raw file that clearly demonstrates the problem?

                                                                        I agree that it appears that there is a problem, and I would like to see it resolved. I don't understand why one would not be willing to provide a raw file to the developers, in order to clearly demonstrate the nature of the problem, after spending this much time demonstrating it.

                                                                        I am a mathematician and a software developer; when one of my users has a problem with any of my software, I find it enormously easier to help him when I can duplicate his result with his own data. When a user describes the problem, I can often duplicate it from the description, and track it down. However, sometimes the effect I see is not quite the problem that the user sees. It is much easier to isolate the specific problem when I have the user's data with which to duplicate it.

                                                                        Asking for the raw file is not a suggestion that you're incompetent or your results are invalid - it's asking for your help for the developers to track down the issue you're reporting!

                                                                        • 33. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                          Level 1
                                                                          There never has been a reluctance to provide a RAW file, who came up with that one? I originally suggested that I provide some 100% screen grabs since the problem shows on my processed CR2s.

                                                                          I've never converted any of my work on Adobe's computers so it is possible that the problems that I am experiencing are 1) something lacking in my technique, 2) An Intel/ATI/XP issue that is specific to my computer or 3) a significant change in the way Camera Raw decodes files even at Adobe default values with sharpening at zero under unknown shooting conditions.

                                                                          I'm not a graph-watching pixel peeper but I do believe that micro detail contributes to good macro detail. Oddly enough sometimes the effect is there sometimes not. I just looked at some 1D2N, a 5D and a 1D2 (second body) conversions. With all 4.1 specific tools turned off the conversions look identical.

                                                                          Yet sometimes the difference is obvious and real. There is some variable(s) that is causing v4.1 to occasionally do the wrong thing. And when that is happening I can close CS3, swap the CR plug-ins, open the applications and see the difference.
                                                                          • 34. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                            Level 1

                                                                            I ftp'd a CR2 raw file from my 30D to an Adobe technician over a week ago. They confirmed seeing the differences in the raw conversion between ACR v4.0 and ACR v4.1. They also confirmed the ISO specific baseline smoothing that I noticed, where editing the EXIF metadata yields a significantly different conversion from ACR v4.1 when an ISO 1600 file is thought to be ISO 100. They simply said that they are unable to help resolve the problem I see with the current version of ACR and that I should put in a feature request for a "smoothing off-switch". I have done so.

                                                                            In any case, I would like to believe that they will pass this sample image I provided along to the developers (Thomas or others?)...

                                                                            My concern is that ACR v1.1 represents a fundamental shift in Adobe's philosophy to raw conversion - formerly (mostly) "hands-off" and "let the user decide" as far as sharpening, NR and so on. The fact that Jeff seems to be very impressed with the newfound processing, and has nothing but praise for it, does concern me since (I believe) he is working very closely with the developers as a consultant. It does seem as though what he sees as improved image quality is not what many others see...

                                                                            I would love to hear from Thomas Knoll on the comparisons I posted. I would be more than happy to directly send him any raw files he requests. What I would really like, is a confirmation on whether the conversion comparisons I posted are actually the intended result of the new ACR's processing (and Jeff and I simply disagree on what we like) or if some images, from some cameras, at some ISOs are indeed simply being processed wrong?

                                                                            Anyway, in case Thomas reads this and is not receiving sample files from Adobe tech support, here is a link to a folder with four zipped example CR2 raw files from my EOS-30D. The two files with the "exifedit_100" in the filename are the same originals as the other two but with the EXIF iso field edited to read ISO 100. You can flip between the original and edited images (easy to see in LR v1.1) to see how the ISO dependent smoothing is working.

                                                                            Personally, I prefer how ACR v4.1 and LR v1.1 render the images when tricked into thinking they were shot at ISO 100. I did this comparison before and posted a layered PSD example. Now you can try it yourselves. In ACR v4.0, there is very little difference between the original and the "exifedit_100" versions, but in ACR v4.1, there is a huge difference.

                                                                            Here are links to the four raw files...


                                                                            Jeff: I presume you prefer the way the original ISO 1600 images look, smoothing and all?

                                                                            Oh and finally, while these two images are poor examples, there are certainly others where I definitely prefer the processing in ACR v4.0, even with images shot at low ISO. On these two shots however, I am quite happy with how ACR v4.1 and LR v1.1 render the "exifedit_100" versions.

                                                                            I have spent many hours in the last few weeks on writing in these forums, posting examples and discussing the issue via email with Adobe tech-support. At this point, I think I have said nearly all that I can (well actually not, but I'm done anyway!) and have now also supplied raw files for those insisting on seeing those.

                                                                            At this point, I will be (not so) patiently waiting for ACR v4.2 and/or LR v1.2 with the sincere hope that one will have the ability to, at the very least, minimize the higher-ISO smoothing. Clearly this should be an almost trivial matter of including a checkbox in the "Detail" panel (call it "Maximize Texture Detail" maybe?) since obviously the code for ACR and LR still supports minimal smoothing as my "exifedit_100" versions prove.

                                                                            Perhaps rather than a checkbox, a better approach would be when the Luminance NR slider is at zero, all files are processed with the baseline ISO 100 smoothing (or maybe even less?) and then perhaps as the slider is moved to 10, the level of NR will be how it is now at zero? Then from 10 onward, it would behave as it now does, and rather than stopping at 100, it could stop at 110...

                                                                            (okay, now I'm done)

                                                                            Mike Mander
                                                                            • 35. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                              DavidRitch-BPYbxw Level 1
                                                                              Jack - the reluctance I mentioned was due to the responses I saw to Jeff's requests. He didn't seem to have much use for processed files, and my interpretation of your response and Mike's response was that you were not interested in sharing a .cr2 with him (and the rest of the readers).

                                                                              Mike - thanks for sharing the .cr2's. I hope that this is sufficient to garner a more significant response from Adobe than we have seen so far. In your support case, Adobe has acknowledged a difference, but it is not clear to me that they have acknowledged that the results of 4.0 are better. We all see a difference - Jeff believes that it is an improvement, and in many cases it probably is.

                                                                              Before ACR 4.0, I have preferred Capture One. (And actually, I was an avid proponent of ACR before that.) C1 has excellent color (especially when used with Magne profiles), and has traditionally had better high-frequency detail than ACR. With ACR 4.1 and low-ISO images, this has appeared less the case to me, and ACR 4.x seems to have a bit less patterned noise than ACR 3.x. In addition, C1 version 4.0 has been delayed, and Phase One has not been forthcoming about expected delivery dates, nor about any reason for the delay. The release problems surrounding 4.0 has caused me (and quite a few other customers) to lose confidence in Phase One's ability and intent to keep up with this market.

                                                                              It looks to me as though there may be an additional parameter to the the raw conversion with ACR 4.1, or maybe an additionally tweaked parameter. I suspect that that the de-mosaicking (that looks really strange, but my spell checker says it's right!) algorithm in ACR 4.1 has a parameter indicating the theoretical resolution of a particular file. It is reasonable from a theoretical perspective to make that parameter dependent on camera model and on ISO.

                                                                              It looks like that may have been done initially with Canon, but perhaps not as much with other brands - or perhaps the theoretical resolution is given as finer with those.

                                                                              I have wondered if this is accurate, and I've wondered about any connection between this and the Detail slider - whose precise functionality is not explained anywhere I've seen. It controls how hard the converter works to recover fine detail - but what does that really mean? It may be that the new sharpening algorithms are completely unrelated to the de-mosaicking ones, but as I said, I wonder.

                                                                              It may also be that the lack of a clear response on this is because the algorithms involved are proprietary, and constitute trade secrets. This may be fixed, or at lease alleviated, in 4.2, but there may be a reluctance to publicly discuss the mechanism, because of the insight that might provide into the algorithms.

                                                                              Still, I'd really like to see a response from Adobe (or Jeff, as someone close to the developers), either indicating that this is a known issue that will be addressed in 4.2, or indicating how to get the results that you want (and were able to get with 4.0) with 4.1.

                                                                              Wow - that was a lot longer than I had intended to write. If you've read this far, thanks for bearing with me.

                                                                              • 36. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                                Level 1
                                                                                "It looks like that may have been done initially with Canon, but perhaps not as much with other brands - or perhaps the theoretical resolution is given as finer with those."

                                                                                David, I think you are right. The only non-Canon files I have is some Nikon NEF ones from a CP5700 I owned in 2003. Camera Raw's NEF conversions have always looked silky smooth to me. Even though the Nikon shots look horrible compared to those from my Canon bodies there is a fine grained film-like texture to them that I've never seen from Camera Raw Canon coversions, even v4.0.
                                                                                • 37. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                                  Thomas Knoll Level 2
                                                                                  "Oh and finally, while these two images are poor examples, there are certainly others where I definitely prefer the processing in ACR v4.0, even with images shot at low ISO."

                                                                                  Why not post some GOOD examples? Poor examples don't help, and undermine your argument.

                                                                                  Please post raw files + xmp sidecar files, or DNG files, as examples, not processed images.
                                                                                  • 38. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                                    Level 1

                                                                                    I did post raw files. Two original untouched CR2 files from my 30D - just look near the end of my last post. Not sure what else you want, if those are not enough? I see the same issues when I import and convert the CR2 files into Lightroom v1.1 as DNG, so CR2 or DNG, same problems.

                                                                                    As far as examples, the two I posted are excellent examples of my issue with higher-ISO smoothing. These examples in no way undermine my point.

                                                                                    Let me elaborate on my reference to "poor examples". What I simply meant was that with these two files, when I edit the EXIF so they are processed as though they are ISO 100 files, I am quite happy with ACR v4.1, even compared to ACR v4.0. When I leave them as is, and don't fool ACR into thinking they are ISO 100, then I clearly prefer how ACR v4.0 processes these images.

                                                                                    However, there are other instances, when I am shooting low ISO to begin with, there are occasionally some subtle artifacts in ACR v4.1 that are not there in v4.0. One example is that there appears to be some differential processing going on where fine detail in shadows is rendered slightly more smoothly (less crisp) than the same detail in brighter areas. Often this is not visible or not at all problematic, but occasionally it looks a little odd.

                                                                                    However, I am not sure I would necessarily want to entirely go back to v4.0 for low ISO images, since v4.1 has generally smoother shadows (with less white specks), more flexible sharpening controls, less likelihood of creating black halos around specular highlights, has the wonderful new defringe control, the very nice clarity control etc. In other words, I am certainly not blind to all the improvements in ACR v4.1! - thank you for those!

                                                                                    It would just be awfully nice to be able to selectively turn some of these new processing defaults *off* when needed - the higher ISO smoothing and the (admittedly subtle) low ISO differential processing etc.
                                                                                    • 39. Re: ACR v4.1 vs v4.0: baseline high ISO NR - Part 1
                                                                                      Thomas Knoll Level 2
                                                                                      Posting images that look better in 4.1 than 4.0 does undermine your point.

                                                                                      There is absolutely no dispute that algorithms in 4.1 are different than 4.0. The dispute is whether the new algorithm is better than the old one, or if it needs to be scaled back to make the results more similar to 4.0.

                                                                                      Some users in this thread has posted EXTREME comments, about how 4.1 is making images look ABSOLUTELY AWFUL compared to 4.0.

                                                                                      Please post such examples, as raw files.

                                                                                      I'm confused as to why you picked two "poor examples" to post. Why not post "good examples", that actually show images that do have the need for lower noise reduction to look their best?
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