Lightroom 3 Beta 2 – Noise Reduction Test
So the big improvement in the Beta 2 version of Lightroom 3 is the addition of the new noise reduction controls which have been slightly changed and improved over Lightroom 2.
The new controls feature several new sliders for noise reduction. The Luminance slider is now paired up with a Detail and Contrast slider. The combination of these can help bring back or enhance details that may otherwise be filtered as luminance noise and smoothed. And the Color slider is also paired with a Detail slider with the same type of control as above except for chroma noise.
They have also moved the lens correction sliders to their own control panel for lens vignette and chromatic aberration correction. And another set of controls for the new film grain effect sliders and post crop vignettes.
But since this post is about the new Lightroom 3 noise reduction, I felt it was necessary to toss a worst case scenario file in and see what I could get out of it. In this case, I started with a shot taken with a Nikon D300 at ISO2000 but the image was also underexposed by 1.3 f-stop (corrected in Lightroom) and I also brushed another 1 f-stop of adjustment brush just on her face to brighten it up further. So with a combine correction of over 2 stops, the file could be as bad as one shot about ISO 8000 in areas. (And at least ISO 4000 overall.)
I first attempted to process the file in Lightroom 2 (LR 2.6) and adjusted the file the best I could using the included noise reduction controls. The noise reduction in Lightroom 2 was still not very good so I exported the file to Photoshop where I attempted to further correct it with Neat Image and Noiseware Pro, both with only “ok” results. (I also exported it without LR2 noise reduction to try and allow the noise reduction software to do its best but still had only “ok” results.) Then I sent the NEF (Nikon camera raw) file to Lightroom 3 Beta 2 to try the new noise reduction controls out. And here are those results with and without noise reduction enabled.
I think it is safe to say that the noise reduction controls in Lightroom 3 will be some of the best at correcting for high ISO noise and in the case of underexposure quite well. By far better than LR2 and now even better than the dedicated noise reduction software. Needless to say, I plan on running some of my older D70 raw files through LR3 to see what sort of results I can get out of those.
Edit: Added Lightroom 2.6 processed file (same file, same settings, same noise reduction) for visual comparison.
For comparison, I processed the file in Lightroom 2, exported as a 16bit TIFF into Photoshop and ran professional “stand alone” noise reduction plug-in software with the best settings I could get within a reasonable amount of time. (about 5-10 minutes each)