10 Replies Latest reply on Jul 7, 2008 1:16 PM by Tim Lookingbill

    Noise, Sharpening and ACR

      I have recently switched from processing my raw files from Aperture to Adobe Camera Raw 4.4.1. I shoot landscapes with the Canon 1Ds Mark III, low ISO, and wish to make very large prints (30-50"). After reading "Real World Camera Raw with CS3" it seems like the authors say that capture sharpening can be accomplished in ACR instead of what I was doing right after Aperture (with sharpening off)- that is, using Ninja Noise and then capture sharpen with Photokit Sharpener. But if I now capture sharpen in ACR I won't be able to use Ninja Noise since one should not sharpen noise. Right? So does this mean that if I capture sharpen in ACR that I should also use ACR's Noise Reduction? Or should I turn off ACR's Sharpening and Noise Reduction and do as I did before - use Ninja and PhotoKit sharpening after raw processing? (I hope this makes sense - I'm still learning the basics). Also any rough settings for what I'm doing would be very helpful. Thanks in advance.
        • 1. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
          Level 1
          If you are shooting at ISO 100 and not severely under exposing I seriously doubt you need any other noise reduction other than Camera Raw 4.x (above 4.3.1) because the combination of capture sharpening and noise reduction is really rather good-particularly for the 1DsM3.

          The only need I have is for really high ISO shots or where a major under-exposure requires lots and lots of CR Exposure increase (something I tend to avoid).
          • 2. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
            Level 1
            Thanks Jeff. I've been working on an image two ways:
            One is to do the noise and capture sharpening in ACR 4.41. The other (from same file), turning off the noise and sharpening in ACR then using Ninja Noise and PhotoKit's capture sharpening. When they are both in Photoshop at that point, the latter is clearly sharper. (Noise is minimal in both). Not sure what I'm doing "wrong" in the sharpening in ACR.
            • 3. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
              Level 1
              >Not sure what I'm doing "wrong" in the sharpening in ACR.

              I suspect that you aren't getting an optimal blend between the various parameters...you don't say what kind of shooting you do but for landscape type stuff a radius below 1 would be suggested and run the amount up till it's good at 1:1. The detail slider can help emphasize small texture and the edge mask can help protect surface areas. You also need to use the "correct" amount of noise reduction where using only enough to knock down the noise not try to eliminate it 100%.
              • 4. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                Level 1
                Thanks again. I'm slowly getting the hang of the sharpening and noise reduction in ACR, although sometimes I think it's easier and more "accurate" or "better" to turn them off and have a third party noise reducing software and the capture sharpening from Photokit. Is it necessary (or better) to get the same amount of sharpening in ACR's capture sharpening as Photokit's capture sharpening if one is to subsequently use Photokit's output sharpener?
                • 5. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                  Speaking strictly about my experience and tastes with respect to Canon G9 raw files at ISO 400 and higher, I prefer to use modest ACR sharpening followed by Noiseware. I know this workflow is considered backwards but I've compared it to ACR noise reduction + ACR sharpening as well as nothing in ACR followed by Noiseware then PKSharpener (capture sharpening) for several scenes.

                  It seems to me that the ACR "capture sharpening" must be sufficiently different from PKSharpener and perhaps that Noiseware is sufficiently discrete that the net result from ACR capture sharpening followed by Noiseware is preferable.

                  I've raised this issue in other forums and almost no one believes me but most responders are simply quoting past general recommendations without making a comparison. I understand that my experience is counter-intuitive, subject to personal taste and subsequent post-processing, etc., etc. Has anyone else made such specific comparisons?
                  • 6. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                    Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                    > prefer to use modest ACR sharpening followed by Noiseware. I know this workflow is considered backwards

                    Not at all. There's ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that workflow. I would recommend it myself.

                    [EDIT] except I prefer Noise Ninja most of the time, and Noiseware in a few cases.
                    • 7. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                      Bill_Janes Level 2
                      >Not at all. There's ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that workflow. I would recommend it myself.

                      >[EDIT] except I prefer Noise Ninja most of the time, and Noiseware in a few cases.

                      I've discussed this matter with Gordon on another thread, but a few points are worth repeating here. On page 157 of his Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop PSCS2, Bruce Fraser states, "Always do noise reduction before sharpening. If you sharpen, you'll almost certainly make the noise worse; the noise reduction tool will have to work harder, and will probably wipe out the sharpening you did anyway."

                      Most noise reduction tools do not eliminate noise but merely make it less visible. When you sharpen after noise reduction, some or much of the noise may reappear. If you do the sharpening first, this problem is eliminated, but the effect of your sharpening may also be wiped out.

                      Sharpening and noise reduction are basically inverse processes and work against another. Some of these problems may be eased with the use of masks. You can use a surface mask during noise reduction to help confine the NR to smooth areas where the noise is most noticeable and keep the NR away from the edges where sharpness would suffer. Similarly, you can use an edge mask during sharpening to help confine the sharpening to the edges.

                      That said, Noise Ninja can work reasonably well on JPEG images that have been sharpened in camera as they often are. In this case, one has to use a different noise profile for the best results.

                      • 8. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                        Level 1
                        Thanks, Bill. That other thread seemed to have died so I thought to cast a larger net. Actually, I'm hoping for some sort of response from Adobe. Even if the answer is intuitively obvious, it's a legitimate question and I sincerely want an answer and explanation.
                        • 9. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                          Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                          Read your own post again, Bill.

                          No matter which you perform first, sharpening or noise reduction, the second procedure is bound to counteract the first one to a certain degree.

                          There's nothing wrong with using ACR to apply capture sharpening, then Noiseware or Noise Ninja to remove noise, and finally your preferred method of output sharpening.

                          It's simply a matter of choice.
                          • 10. Re: Noise, Sharpening and ACR
                            Tim Lookingbill Level 1
                            I finally downloaded the trial version of CS3 and ACR 4.0. Nothing changed in detailed texture rendering using ACR's sharpening between ACR 3.7 and 4.0 on a 6MP Raw Pentax PEF file I use. Color stayed the same as well. Test PEF file is viewed at 200%.

                            Updated to ACR 4.4.1 and the texture detail got worse. Now resembles the cartoonish posterized flattening of texture almost exactly like Pentax Photo Lab which is unuseable for other reasons not related to image quality.

                            I can get better rendering by leaving sharpening at ACR's default setting in versions 3.7-4.0 and applying Smart Sharpening on the 16bit tiff file. But I have to turn sharpening completely off and use Smart Sharpening in ACR 4.4.1 to get close but not exactly the same results as Raw Developer.

                            I turned noise reduction and smoothing of any kind off in all Raw converters when doing a comparison test. Raw Developer is the best at rendering fine detail using its Hybrid sharpening settings. These texture detail anomalies can only be seen at 200% view BTW.

                            Other than that ACR trumps all in color accuracy to scene as seen by the eye and also in color control. The orange-ish reds and fleshtones shot under direct sunlight are an easy fix in all versions of ACR.