We Compared Popular Noise Reduction Tools and Denoise AI Came Out The Winner

We Went to Amsterdam to put Denoise to the Test

This month we hosted a photography workshop in Amsterdam to practice nighttime exposures in one of the world’s most photogenic cities. 

While our attendees were busy setting up tripods and shooting long-exposures along the canals, we photographed handheld DSLR scenes at high ISOs, capturing images with extreme noise to create the “worst case scenario” in photography. 

Because every photographer has been there: Whether you’re shooting a wedding in a venue with no flash photography allowed, or you’re photographing partygoers at a festival in near-darkness, or you encounter a photogenic scene while traveling at night, sometimes we have to shoot in extremely high ISO.

We built Denoise AI to correct noise in any image while preserving sharpness. Let’s take a closer look at noise and some of the leading noise reduction technology available to photographers.

What's Wrong with Shooting High ISO?

Shooting with a high ISO increases the light sensitivity of your camera’s sensor, allowing you to shoot faster and sharper in dark environments. 

The downside is a higher ISO creates unsightly artifacts known as noise, which reduce the sharpness and detail of your image. While it’s ideal to shoot in the lowest ISO possible, sometimes we have no other option.

Here’s what noise looks like in this 100% crop shooting at night at 12,600 ISO:

100% crop of an image at ISO 12,800 resulting in high noise

Ouch! A noisey image like this has limited use — would you deliver this to a client? The solution is to process the image with noise reduction software. Let’s compare the most popular options.

Our Test Image

The image we’ll be working with was a classic scene photographed along the Damrak in Amsterdam. It was captured at 25,600 ISO, f11, 1/13 sec.

The original image has very heavy overall noise, obscuring the sharpness and textures of the buildings. 

Want to test this image along with us? Download the full-res JPG below.

Noise Reduction in Adobe Lightroom

We tested our image in Adobe Lightroom and pushed the limits of their noise reduction tool. We had to max out the noise reduction slider to remove noise in the sky, while the buildings started to become muddled and lost sharpness.

Lightroom Results

After noise reduction in Lightroom the details were fuzzy. You can see blur around the window frames, and an overall loss of texture.

Noise Reduction in Phase One Capture One

Capture One didn’t even begin to touch the noise in our photo, even at maximum power. There was still obvious noise in the sky despite pushing the slider to 100.

Capture One Results

Even at maximum noise reduction, Capture One still left noise in the sky.

Noise Reduction in DxO PhotoLab

DxO managed to remove the noise from the sky… by burning the whole image. Shadows are darker and blacker than before, and detail is lost.

DxO PhotoLab Results

DxO overbaked the image to downplay the noise, resulting in a burned image.

Noise Reduction in Topaz Labs Denoise AI

Finally, we took our image into Topaz Labs Denoise AI and were able to achieve the perfect balance of noise reduction and detail. Denoise AI uses machine learning technology, comparing your photo against millions of images to calculate the most intelligent improvements. The results are superior to all other noise reduction tools.

Denoise AI Results

The sky is cleared of all noise while texture and sharpness are restored with Denoise AI.

Try Denoise AI free for 30 Days

The results are clear, and that’s why Denoise AI is the industry-standard noise reduction tool used by the pros. Download Denoise AI and try it free for 30 days.

30 thoughts on “We Compared Popular Noise Reduction Tools and Denoise AI Came Out The Winner

  1. Too bad that version 1.3.2 of Denoise AI produce strange colored lines.
    Open a ticket in support (#198562) test picture is your Amsterdam Original from dropbox.

    1. Thanks for your report! The team is looking into this.

  2. I’m waiting a module Topaz Clean AI for automatical removing scratches, cracks, fingerprints etc on pictures.

  3. I’m repeating my concern here (that I conveyed to your support team twice – no concrete date given yet). The day I first tried Denoise AI; it was very clear that it had no competition. It is simply the best. But there is one huge missing point as of now : batch processing function. Yes, I read your FAQ item about that. And no, I completely disagree with that statement (whomever wrote it – doesn’t really understand customer requirement). I am an event photographer who typically has to process about 300 high-ISO photos per event. DxO takes place at first stage of my workflow for their prime noise removal (from raw original to DNG file). While Topaz was thoughtful enough to include “save as DNG” option; you are shooting yourself in the foot with that lack of batch processing.
    Do you think I have time to process 300 files one by one using DeNoise AI?
    Yes, every photo might have varying requirement. But it is my decision – not yours if I want to batch process them all with a “light setting” of my choice. As it stands now; I can only use DeNoise AI with that unique shot or two. In other words; your wonderful product is simply not usable for real professional work. I strongly urge you to add batch processing function at your earliest convenience. If DxO can do it; why can’t you?

    1. Thanks Serdar, I agree batch processing would be very useful! I’ve shared this with our developers. What type of photography do you shoot? Very interested to hear how it fits into your area of photography.

      1. Hi Hillary. I shoot events at different venues – at times without flash. So noise coming from high ISO is ever present. That’s why I batch process all my raws thru DxO first (using not their regular but prime noise removal – which takes longer time) and save as DNG. Then I go to Lightroom for further processing. Denoise AI has unbelievably good results. Only if I could do batch processing (so instead of DxO, if I can use Denoise AI and batch convert my raws to DNG without sitting in front of my PC).

        1. Thanks Serdar, I’ve shared this with the development team 🙂

          1. I’m interested in this as well for event photography.

  4. I love Topaz products and have several. I did download the Amsterdam photo with the heavy noise. I wanted to send it to you, but realized there wasn’t a way to do it. I did a pretty good job using my program Adobe Elements 15 using my Topaz addons: Studio and Studio 2. They both are great. I’m going to download the AI DeNoise for the 30-day trial, but I can’t really afford it right now. I try to get them whenever I can afford them at that time. Thank you for doing that test and I enjoyed playing with the same photo.

  5. I am using Denoise AI and especially the model AI Clear gives me a stunning result. I photgraph birds mainly and the more details are preserved during the denoising the better. And even at 3200 iso the image comes out clean and sharp. After processing it with Denoise AI there hardly is any need for Sharpen AI. So all in all for me it was a worthwhile purchase

  6. I downloaded denoise A1 for a trial but it tells me that the trial expired?

    1. Please message support so we can sort this out for you: https://help.topazlabs.com/ Thanks! 🙂

  7. This is OK as far as it goes but I would like to see a daytime shot, in good light, as a reality check.

  8. I am an amateur still learning digital photography. I have a copy of Denoise? Is Denoise AI an upgrade I should get? Am I entitled to an upgrade at a lower cost than the full Denoise AI price?

    1. Hi Elizabeth, you can see which upgrades/discounts you qualify for here: https://topazlabs.com/my-account/upgrade/

      You can also download a 30-day free trial of DeNoise AI to see if it is right for you: https://topazlabs.com/denoise-ai

    2. Hi Elizabeth, please visit this page to see if you qualify for any software discounts: https://topazlabs.com/my-account/upgrade/
      Thanks! 🙂

  9. My results are the same as yours – Denoise AI beats everything else that I’ve tried.

    My review is here: https://www.andybellphotography.com/blog/2019/11/02/topaz-denoise-ai-worthwhile-or-just-noise/


    1. Thanks, Andy, great review! 🙂

  10. Very impressive – Denoise AI!
    I am an owner of several TOPAZ products & really do enjoy the results.
    Your presentation of Denoise AI as it compares t o the competition was very well done.
    Please keep up the great work in technology development and online WEBINARS.
    The WEBINARS have been most useful-educational!

  11. I actually got better results from your own product AI Clear inside TS2.

  12. I love Denoise AI. I agree – it needs a batch processing feature. I love it (and AI Clear) and even bought a copy for a friend 🙂 At some point I’ll pick Gigapixel also – I love the idea of a large wall sized picture in my office.

    The only comment I’ll make is that I do find I occasionally need to merge layers between the old and denoised picture (and occasionally including a layer from AI Clear) in Affinity. This is a big job to ask any tool to do since it’s pretty subjective, but I wonder if AI Mask might be helpful in masking off areas for different denoising/etc (in a future iteration?).

    Anyway, Topaz Labs is excellent. I recommend it to any body from beginner to expert.

  13. I recently purchased DeNoise AI and love it. I agree that batch processing should be available. In addition, making the adjustment sliders “sticky” from one session to the next would save some time, rather than having them revert to the default settings each time the program is opened. Great software!

  14. Topaz Labs has some great products for sure… DeNoise is incredibly good but batch processing through a droplet in photoshop would be a phenomenally awesome feature.

  15. Broken record here – but where is denoise batch processing…. I don’t use Topaz in my workflow anymore since this function was taken away. Such a step backwards 🙁

    1. Batch is coming to DeNoise next week! 🙂

      1. Great news!

  16. Although I use Sharpen AI more than Denoise AI I’m watching them both as they are getting improved on a regular basis. I had my “example pictures” with sharpening problems that Sharpen AI couldn’t handle when first released. Then they had a number of updates, and BAM! Even a moving, out of focus, subject shot is in the “acceptable” range now! I’m now unlikely to find issues even with the difficult ones! Looks like Denoise AI is “learning” too in the same way! Great products! I got the Complete Set years ago, and most have been upgraded free over the years! Great support! Great tools! 🙂

  17. Oh my god! Finally a dream come true. Such an important step. Now I can completely eliminate DxO from my workflow. Thank you Hillary for steering such superior product and many thanks to behind the scenes Topaz heroes & geniuses! No other imaging software gives such genuine thrill and excitement as Topaz consistently does. Completely different category. Thanks for being there.

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