High ISO and Noise Reduction

“I frequently hear music in the very heart of noise.”—George Gershwin

Today’s Post by Mark Toal

Noise is an issue with all digital cameras. When Panasonic’s Lumix G1 came out I didn’t like the noise levels in images above ISO 400. With current cameras from Panasonic and Olympus I feel more comfortable shooting up to ISO 1600 but above that the noise gets too strong for my taste.

Aladdin at ISO 3200

If you’re not familiar with noise I like to think of it as what we used to call grain back in the film days. Grain could be interesting in a photo, but I don’t feel the same way about noise. Film grain had an irregular pattern where digital noise is uniform across the image. Noise is stronger at high ISO’s and in smaller sensor cameras like Micro Four-thirds.

I’ve always used Adobe Lightroom for my workflow and thought it did good job eliminating noise and preserving detail. The problem with noise removal is most software blurs detail to mask the noise. After I saw a demo of DxO Optics Pro software, I bought a copy. DxO Optics Pro has profiles for most cameras, lenses and their different ISO’s so it can apply a specific noise reduction algorithm for that specific ISO and camera body.

DxO 3200 beofre and after

The screen grab shows what the default settings did to an image that I shot on a Panasonic Lumix GH3 at ISO 3200 and 6400. The left side is the original RAW file showing the grain pattern. The right side is with the default noise reduction on DxO Optics Pro.

DxO 6400 before and after

If you don’t want to worry about noise or noise reduction try shooting JPEG files instead of RAW files at ISO’s above 1600. The noise reduction built into your Micro Four-thirds camera does a very good job on JPEG files.

light.bookWith photographer Barry Staver, Joe Farace is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available at collector (high) prices or used copies for less than seven bucks from Amazon.

Author: Joe Farace

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