Verdict: 4.5 stars Lightroom Classic is the traditional, desktop-based version of Lightroom. Its editing tools are powerful and versatile, aided by new and steadily improving AI masking tools. Lightroom Classic continues to be the professional cataloguing and editing tool by which all others are judged, though it’s not always the best.
While there are plenty of tools out there that get rid of noise very effectively, you have to be careful how you go about it. Colour noise is easy to dial out and removing it doesn't usually have an impact on image quality – it's luminance noise that's the real issue because even now, regardless of all their brave words, software publishers still haven't truly figured out how to separate real image detail (good) from random image noise (bad).
As a result, when you try to dial out luminance noise in software, you inevitably start eating into vital textural detail too. If you push it too far you end up with that horrid 'watercolour' effect that afflicts many small-sensor cameras and smartphones. The noise is gone, but so too is everything else that might once have been fine, textural detail. You're left with clean hard outlines filled in with mush.
So take care. There are lots of tools for removing image noise but you have to rely heavily on your own judgement – there's very often a delicate tipping point where detail loss starts to hurt the picture quality more than noise removal improves it.
Lightroom’s new AI Denoise feature was the biggest news in Adobe’s April 2023 Lightroom update. Like so many other tools now appearing, it uses AI based denoising techniques directly on RAW image data to produce an enhanced RAW DNG file far superior to an image processed in the regular way. But is it as good as DxO’s DeepPRIME XD?
Rating: 4.5 stars PureRAW 3 only does one job, but it does it extremely well. It takes your RAW files and applies DxO’s own lens corrections and, optionally, its DeepPRIME noise reduction process to produce images which are sharper, smoother and straighter. It can make average cameras and lenses look twice as good and extends your camera’s usable ISO range by up to 2.5 stops. These aren’t empty claims – this is what it does.
This question comes in three parts. First, is your camera really as bad at high ISOs as you think? Second, is noise REALLY that intolerable? And is your attitude to noise stopping you from taking shots you might actually like?
Verdict: 4.5 stars ON1 Photo RAW 2023 is probably the closest thing there is to a photo editor that does absolutely everything. This version adds AI subject recognition and masking features. ON1 Photo RAW’s scope and ambitions are impressive, though the AI doesn’t always work perfectly and ON1 Photo RAW 2023 can sometimes feel sluggish.
Verdict: 3.3 stars $199 is a lot of money to pay for a simplified AI photo fixer and there’s not even a trial version, just an ‘unconditional’ money back guarantee. When it works, Photo AI is good, even spectacular, but the image and its problems have to fall within its window of fixability. Photo AI is also slow, over-aggressive with noise reduction and can only fix the right sort of blur.
Verdict: 4.5 stars PhotoLab 6 has important improvements over version 5 which make it even better for quality fixated photographers. The PhotoLibrary organizing tools are catching up at last and the new DeepPRIME XD processing is superb. Add in the excellent editing tools and local adjustments, and you have perhaps the best RAW processor of all.
Almost any photographic expert will tell you that you should shoot RAW files not JPEGs, and that RAW files are innately superior. The trouble with this kind of wisdom is that it’s repeated and passed on without question.
Noise is the digital equivalent of grain in film. It’s random electrical signals captured by the photosites on the camera sensor, and usually this background noise level is so low compared to the brightness of the captured picture itself that you just don’t notice it.
Most serious photographers prefer RAW files to JPEGs. They take more time and storage, but the payback is greater quality and flexibility. It’s not a one-sided argument – JPEGs have some advantages which are obvious, and some which are not – but here are six important reasons why RAW files are the way to go […]