Home > Lightroom Tips/Tricks, Product Info, Raves > Lightroom 3 Beta 2 – Noise Reduction Test

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.

LR3 Noise Reduction Off (Click image for larger view)

LR3 Noise Reduction On (Click image for larger view)

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)

Here is the Neat Image results using custom camera noise profiles:

And considerably better but still lacking detail compared to Lightroom 3 is Noiseware Professional:

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  1. March 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to show us the examples with NR on/off.
    However, this could be an example for any decent NR software (standalone, plugin or the simpler integrated in PS routines).
    As long as you don’t show at least how it was with LR2, this doesn’t hold much water. Sure, you can show how good a lens is by showing two pics: one taken with the lenscap on, and one with the lenscap off.
    Please, delete this comment after you’ve read it (as it’s kinda harsh, but that doesn’t mean it’s less true). Maybe even take down your article, show some more examples (LR2 as a must) and then bring it back up.
    Sure, I made my own tests already, but many others that read here didn’t, so it could be useful and informative for many; certainly, as it is now it’s only 10% done: the idea, the actual writting, the nice form you put it in, but sorely lacking substance.

    • modifiedphoto
      March 28, 2010 at 11:53 pm

      I understand the skepticism that it is “THAT” good. So, without delay here is the same file processed in Lightroom 2.6 with the same basic settings, same processing and same level of noise reduction (it actually looks better at this level than with the settings maxed).

      And for comparison, here are versions of the file processed in LR2 with no noise reduction and sent through Neat Image and Noiseware Pro.

      Keep in mind that you could easily spend 10 minutes trying to fix the noise in Photoshop using a plug-in or using other techniques. (Per file) Not to mention those methods are completely destructive edits. Lightroom is both non-destructive and you could even make a preset to apply noise reduction automatically on import. (Meaning you wouldn’t even have to spend any time at all “fixing” noise.)

  2. March 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    The full comparation is quite revealing! Thank you for showing this very clear difference; this level of refinement for NR combined with the embedded camera profiles… a dream come true. I can finally drop the back-and-forth with the manufacturer RAW converter (DigitalPhotoPro for my Canon pics, and the outrageously priced CaptureNX for Nikon).

  3. Brett
    March 31, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Wow! Big difference. Looking forward to LR3.

  4. jjensson
    March 31, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Your comparison w- Neat Image is not valid, if i understand your testbed correctly. For Neat Image you need a 100% non-processed (noise reduction) file for the plug-in to work efficiently.

    For a correct comparison, please compare:
    (1) the new LR3b2 NR inside Lightroom
    with
    (2) LR3b2 export WITHOUT noise reduction and WITHOUT sharpening. Make a custom Neat Image profile yourself and run the NR with a reasonable filter setting (including basic sharpening).

    I’m quite positive that the file will retain better chroma detail in example 2.

    I still need to do this test for myself BTW.

    • modifiedphoto
      April 1, 2010 at 1:23 am

      Thanks for pointing that out. Clearly that is why Neat Image performed so poorly, even trying to use custom profiles didn’t help. I have re-processed the image through Neat Image and have much better results BUT I still feel that the LR3 results have slightly more detail, even after I turned down the sharpening and dialed in a little bit of “masking” to cut down the slight grainy noise I inadvertently created by over sharpening the file in Lightroom. I will post updates with a better crop for each file in a new blog post shortly.

      Strangely, I did start with an un-processed version of the file for the Noiseware Professional test. Why I forgot to do this for Neat Image is beyond me.

  5. jjensson
    April 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Interesting. My suggestion is, look for the color detail when comparing the results (for example – the blue liner on her eyelids). Dedicated NR software retains color detail better, raw converter tend to wash the detail away – you get kind of a watercolor look. I think that a noise fingerprinting process will always be superior in the NR results, albeit slower in the workflow.

    BTW, last fall i compared (for the second time) Noiseware, Noise Ninja and NeatImage, and the latter gave me always the most natural and detailed results. A pity that it’s so expensive 😦

    Looking forward to your updates and conclusions.

    • modifiedphoto
      April 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

      Yea, the test of Neat Image using the uncorrected file was much better once I started with the correct baseline image to allow the software to do it’s magic. It did leave some artifacts behind that Lightroom 3 was able to eliminate.

      I do also see slight loss of color detail in some places within Lightroom 3 compared to Neat Image but that may also be due to my heavy handed processing the first go around. I am going to sit down and re-correct the LR2, LR3b2 and Noiseware Pro images now that I have spent additional time working in Neat Image to “perfect” that image.

      All of the processes did exhibit a their own advantages and disadvantages. And clearly this is somewhat a ‘worse case’ type image. On a properly exposed image at ISO 2000 the noise is less noticeable and even on a very underexposed image at ISO 200, the noise was easily wiped out by all of the above with minimal loss of color or sharp details. Really my whole idea for the comparison was to show that we can now expect results as good, if not better than, dedicated noise processing software within Lightroom 3 with a faster, easier and non-destructive work flow.

  6. April 14, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I really think LR3’s chroma noise reduction is astounding, but I am a little disappointed in the Luminance NR – it seems to still either blur the image or leave too many speckles for me.

    Overall it has convinced me to purchase LR3 when it comes out, however.

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