Out at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife refuge yesterday afternoon, Marie and I were treated with the usual plethora of animal activity, a myriad of birds including multiple ospreys, a raccoon scurrying up the beach, a muskrat grazing on lush grass, and then, to our utter surprise as it is quite early in the season, we saw this charming little thing:

Female ruby-throated hummingbird (I think)

Now this was shot with my trusted, beloved, outstanding Canon 5D Mark IV and the 100-400mm II L lens with a 1.4x extender that basically never leaves it. I had set a 1/2500 shutter speed and auto ISO as I had been shooting mostly birds, but because we found the hummingbird in a very shaded spot, the camera reached the set ISO limit of 12,800 and shifted down to 1/1000, limited by widest aperture it could muster at 400 mm with the extender, f/8.

The result was a very acceptable shot, but noise was heavy as expected at such high ISO.

Now, until recently I was doing all my processing including noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom, which for reasonable amounts of noise does a very good job. I would once in a while switch over to Nik Define when I ran into serious issues but that would involve trading sharpness for noise reduction.

Enter Topaz Denoise AI. I discovered the suite of Topaz applications a few months ago, after succumbing to a Facebook add, of all things! I did not like their “miracle-result” before-and-after approach which smelled of a gimmick and I tend to give wide berth to anything promoted on FB, but I became curious and tested the trial.

In a few words, the noise reduction in Denoise AI is nothing short of miraculous! It blows my mind every time I play with it.

Nothing is a hundred percent perfect of course, and I have found that it does not handle color noise very well, so I start by removing color noise in Lightroom, without applying any luminance noise reduction nor sharpening, and then hand the image over to Denoise, and voilà!

Not only does Denoise excel at removing noise but it so does without the common softening other applications suffer from—in fact it actually sharpens the image noticeably, no doubt tapping into the sharpening technology of its equally amazing sister app Sharpen AI. But that will be for another story.


I have arranged larger comparison shots in the gallery below since noise cannot be evaluated well on the small downsized versions above, noise being efficiently squashed by downsizing anyway. Wow.