Super Resolution is a new feature in Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera Raw. It uses Adobe Sensei, the company’s in-house AI technology, to up-size images to twice their previous width and height.
There have been lots of upsizing tools in the past, of course, and it’s hard to take them too seriously. They can be good at maintaining the appearance of sharp edges in blow-ups, but they can hardly create new detail that’s simply not present in the original.
Or can they? Topaz Labs AI Gigapixel seems to do a remarkable job of guessing what textures like grass and animal fur should look like when blown up, so perhaps AI tools can fill in the gaps after all. They can’t extract details that simply aren’t there, but they can use AI to guess what those details might have been.
How to use Super Resolution in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw
- Use the Enhance option
Right-click an image thumbnail and choose Enhance… to display the Enhance Preview window
- Enhance options
The Enhance Preview dialog has two options: RAW Details and Super Resolution. If you check the Super Resolution box, RAW Details is checked by default
- Preview the effect
Drag the preview image around to see the effect on different parts of the image. The magnification is pretty high, so the ‘before’ image looks pretty pixellated and the ‘after’ version looks none too special either
- Click the Enhance button
Now just click the Enhance button and wait for the processing to finish. There’s nothing else to adjust or inspect and no parameters to alter
Is Super Resolution any good?
Well, actually, it is. The results are good enough to perhaps challenge your perceptions about what upsizing software can do.
There are some limitations and drawbacks, though.
- This is a process for RAW files only. It doesn’t work on JPEGs because it depends on the RAW Details process, which can only be applied to Bayer or X-Trans RAW files.
- Super Resolution can really exaggerate any chromatic aberration. I found I got much better results by correcting chromatic aberration first.
- It may also exaggerate noise, an Adobe RAW processing weak point already, so you may need to juggle some noise reduction and sharpening afterwards
- The key drawback, however, is file size. The Super Resolution process outputs a DNG file up to 10x larger than the original RAW file. I applied it to a 19.6MB RAF file from my Fujifilm X30 and it produced a 182.9MB Enhanced DNG
The detail in the Enhanced DNG is truly impressive, and I’m going to have to eat my past words about upsizing software and what’s possible. It turned my 12MP X30 effectively into a 48-megapixel camera.
True, it didn’t really offer 48MP camera quality, but I’d say it was half way there. Maybe there is something in this AI business after all.
HOWEVER, the Enhanced DNGs created by this process have such huge file sizes as to make them impractical for anything but occasional or emergency use. If you need 48MP images as a matter of course, then you’re probably going to be better off getting a 50MP camera. The quality will be a lot better and the files will be a lot smaller.
So while Adobe’s Super Resolution tool is pretty remarkable, I really can’t see myself using it – EXCEPT, maybe, to create a Super Resolution DNG, edit it, export it as a JPEG and then delete it.
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