Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2
Thanks very much everyone...for your help here:
I decided to continue the discussion here as that I thought would be more closely related to the forum subject.
After trying the methods pointed in the above thread and trying CNX2 first, I find that I might be blundering in the NR process.
The bird feathers look like a painting effect being applied upon.
Please view the photos of "Bluethroat" in my gallery.
It is really very disappointing. Please correct me if I am wrong, I thought that in-camera NR feature has no effect on the RAW file. But if it has, then am I basically applying two rounds of NR- one in-camera and once during PP in CNX2?
Could some one please tell me how should I go about NR in CNX2? Please note that I exclusively shoot RAW and use D90 mainly with 70-300VR.
One more question: Does Noise has any relationship to the Lens I am using and does Noise increase if I shoot handheld (that is due to induction of small camera shake)?
Thank you again
#1. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 0
Tue 13-Mar-12 04:32 AM | edited Tue 13-Mar-12 04:46 AM by Kidkett
First of all if you shoot RAW you can always change the setting. Just go into the camera setting and turn off or on whatever you want. If you don't want the NR from your camera just un-check the NR box and it will be turned off and the same with the other settings. What setting did you shoot this picture at and was it on a tripod or was it hand held. The picture looks soft from camera movement maybe, how much NR did you use. Focus looks like it may be off too. Let us know what setting you used and how you shot the picture.
If you are shooting at 300mm and at 1/250 hand held then the camera movement is causing you pictures to be very soft and lose the sharpness in them. You need to use a tripod or get your shutter speed up. I would say at least to 1/640 and higher the better if you can get it.
You might want to look into some NR software from Nik, Topaz, Noise Ninja or some others as a lot of times it seems they do a better job. But before you do play around with Capture NX2 an see if you can get the results you are looking for as it is a very good editor. But unless your shooting at high ISO setting you really need to watch your Histogram and get your setting right if you have a noise problem, first and foremost every time.
If not download the trial software and see how it works for you, and see if it does a better job. Do you have or have you thought about getting Jasen Odell Capture NX2 Guide. It is very good and I recommend it as it will take your editing to a whole new level in Capture NX2. You will learn about thing you never even knew about Capture NX2.
Under exposure will bring the noise out in your pictures and doesn't have anything to do with your lenses. I would make sure to check you histogram after you make your shot and make sure you're not clipping ether side. Look at all the colors on the histogram to see that they are in range, will make the biggest difference with the noise. If your shooting a green bird make sure the green histogram is not going up one side or the other in it, you really need to balance it out. You need to get your setting right and the noise will go away, not overexposed or under so make sure you check the histogram. I hope this helps you out and I am sure others will give you more advise.
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#2. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 1
Tue 13-Mar-12 05:00 AM
Thank you so very much Bill, your comment has really shown me a glimmer of hope. Before I answer all your queries, I intend to answer to all those to the best of my knowledge, could you please clarify that by "Settings" do you mean the in-camera settings used during taking the photograph or the "Camera settings" part of CNX2's "Edit List" pane?
Regarding support, I would love to take one, but I find it really cumbersome to lug a tripod around. Still I could get over that, but the biggest problem I found that the subjects like bird or other living natural elements never give me the time to set up my camera on tripod, and the opportunity simply vanishes. I wish I could master the technique of using a tripod or other support like mono-pod for nature photography while on the mov . If you have any suggestion in this regards, I welcome that wholeheartedly.
Thanks again...eagerly looking forward for your reply...
#3. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 2
Tue 13-Mar-12 07:18 AM
OK yes, I am talking about the camera setting in Capture NX2, it will be the tab right below the Develop tab. Click the arrow down and you will see all the setting that your camera has. Go down until you see the Noise Reduction and click on the check mark and make it go away if it is checked, and so does the NR in your picture. Above that you can change the Color Mode, Sharpening, Tone Compensation, and Saturation of what you had in your camera. I do most of it in PP unless I want to cahnge the color mode I was shooting in. Or if you didn't have any you can add them here to anything you want. And above that you can change the White Balance. If in the picture control box is set to Picture Control click on it and it will show you the settings you can change, it will show Non-Picture Control.
Now shooting bird and birds in flight (BIF) is one of the hardest thing to shoot I think. They are just to hard to get close to and you need a long lens (500-800mm). If you don't want to use a tripod no problem, you are going to need to get your shutter speed up if you are shooting at 300mm. If you want a sharp picture I am going to say 1/1250 and 1/1600 if you can get it, and your probably going to have to raise you ISO some if it isn't a sunny day out to get that high of a shutter speed and that is going to add to your noise. Your aperture is probable going to be near or wide open. But I am not the one to ask about birds and BIF and would tell you to go to the wildlife forum and search and ask question there and you will get some great advice about all your camera settings. Hope that help, let me know it you need anything else.
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#4. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 2
robsb Nikonian since 23rd Aug 2006Tue 13-Mar-12 10:44 PM | edited Tue 13-Mar-12 10:45 PM by robsb
Unless you have a gimballed head using a tripod for BIF is pretty hard. I usually use a monopod or just hand hold the lens as it is easier to follow focus that way. You just need to get your stance down solid and as bill has said use high shutter speeds. It is also much easier to catch them landing or taking off. My longest lens is only 300 mm so I usually use it with a TC to get a little more reach especially since I am shooting full frame. It helps to get as close as you can. Here is one example of using those ideas with a D700 a 300 mm f/4 and a 1.4 TC in an early attempt to shoot BIF:
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#5. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 4
Wed 14-Mar-12 01:57 AM
Thanks so much for your inputs.
I think I am loosing the details in the bird feather, though I find that the eyes are quite sharp. Is it because of the limitations of 70-300VR and then heavy cropping?
#6. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 5
Wed 14-Mar-12 03:36 AM
One more thing that I was going to tell you if you are using a filter on your lens, take it off and see if you don't get a better picture.
Cropping to much will ruin a picture, that is why I said you need a 500-800mm lens for birds especially the small ones. If you can get one you might try teleconverter and see if it works for you. Maybe a 1.4X or 1.7X from Tamron or one of the others.
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#7. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 0
Shooting handheld, cropping heavily, and not using a tripod all contribute to "softness" and "noise".
The D90 has a 12 megapixel image measuring 4,288 x 2,848 pixels. If you crop to 900 x 600 pixels, you have just reduced the image from 12 million pixels to 540,000. If you want to print the image, and there is a little noise on the original image, you are magnifying that noise 24 times. So for every noisy pixel you are adding 23 more noisy pixels with a heavy crop.
The same goes for any motion. You probably barely can see blur or motion on a full image. But with a heavy crop, the image is being viewed with much higher magnification. That magnification might be beyond the ability of the camera and lens to fully resolve. Take a good lens, crop tight, and any distortion is magnified.
You are correct about applying noise reduction in camera and in post processing. The same issue applies to sharpening. You want to avoid in camera noise reduction and sharpening if you intend to post process heavily or especially if you are going to crop.
Sharpening and noise reduction work in opposition - noise reduction works by blurring the image. Applied selectively and with control it can improve your image. Sharpening also can magnify noise. Using a higher threshold and applying sharpening selectively will help.
Since you are using a 70-300, you need to understand the lens limits. Don't use VR above 1/500 of a second or so. It's not very effective and won't help with birds in flight at 1/1000 sec and higher.
Most zoom lenses are a little soft at their limit - so if you can shoot at 280mm and stopped down slightly, you may end up with a sharper image than at 300mm wide open.
At fast shutter speeds and high zoom levels, I find that it can be hard to get the focus sensor positioned on the eye of the bird. A tripod or some sort of support makes it easier to track the subject and obtain sharp focus. Shake is not noise - it is simply a little blur. When you are magnifying your image a little shake can make a bird look soft. Think about how thin a the fibers are that make up a feather - and if you have that much movement the bird looks soft.
Don't worry too much about all these issues. I was using a 600mm lens yesterday and struggling with the same issues. I found a teleconverter on a long lens helped more than cropping. But teleconverters work poorly on a 70-300. And teleconverters cost you light - and shutter speed - which leads to softer images.
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#8. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 0
If you shoot with NR turned on in camera, and then process in CNX2, the Noise Reduction step within the Camera Settings reflects that. You can then turn it off or modify it.
If you create a stand alone noise reduction step, then you would apply two rounds of NR unless you turn off the in camera NR.
Personally, I shoot with NR turned off and then either add a step or do it in Camera Settings, depending on how I want things ordered.
My "recipe" for birding with the D300, which should have comparable noise characteristics to your D90, is to shoot with NR off, and I try to keep ISO down to 400. In that case, the noise is all in the background. I always mask out the bird with the brush tool, using about a 100 pixel brush to mask out the body and head for a typical small songbird (that needs heavy cropping), and then maybe a 20-30 pixel brush to tidy up the legs, maybe the beak, etc.
The mask typically looks like this and takes a minute or less (this is the un-cropped image):
If I underexpose or shoot higher ISOs then I might create two NR steps, one masking out the bird, as usual, with heavy NR, and another step that either masks IN the bird or with no mask, with a very gentle NR, only intended to de-noise the bird. And because the background is usually not critical in terms of sharpness it is not really necessary to mask out the background when applying gentle NR to the bird.
I find that a well exposed image at ISO 400 does not produce objectionable noise on the bird because fine detail tends to hide noise. And the same is true at ISO 800 - most of the time and maybe even ISO 1600. But the higher the ISO the more likely you need two NR steps.
In a case of heavy noise, it may be helpful to turn off all sharpening in the camera picture control and create a USM step that masks in only the bird (or any other important detail). Then, for the de-noised background, you totally avoid the argument between NR and sharpening. At ISO 400 I find it unnecessary to do this, but if I have any further trouble with background noise I do this next. In many cases of light noise you may even find that simply masking out sharpening from the out of focus background will take care of most or all of that light noise. So there are a couple of ways to solve this problem.
Masking out the sharpening on the OOF background will also slightly thin the perceived depth of field. In the case where there is a close busy background there is no point sharpening it so you can then try to de-noise it, when it is way too sharp to begin with . You could also apply some Gaussian blur to the background, which will further weaken noise and help make your subject stand out.
Don't take my ISO 400 limit as some sort of hard recommendation. I'm often guilty of shooting at too slow shutter speeds when the image would have been fine at higher ISO's. I just know that if I get a well exposed image at ISO 400 I'll likely be happy, where the same may or may not be true at far higher ISO's (800-1600) in the case where I am heavily cropping. But regardless of your expectations and experiences there will be some ISO where you need more aggressive techniques (such as the 2 step NR described above).
The short story: your typical bird image has a subject and a background. The subject and background require very different and typically opposite and ideally mutually exclusive post processing- sharpen the bird, blur or de-noise the background. In my experience this always works.
As far as gimbals verses hand held, my experience is that I can usually get a sharp image on a gimbal - if I can get the bird framed at all, or I can get a blurry image hand held, where that hand held image is more likely to actually happen. Take your choice .
I sometimes shoot with two bodies, one on a tripod and one hand held, simply because this is an inherent conflict with BIF. And, of course, it depends on the focal length, the light, etc.
>> One more question: Does Noise has any relationship to the Lens I am using and does Noise increase if I shoot handheld (that is due to induction of small camera shake)?
I don't think it matters, although camera shake will tend to make more monotone areas that are more subject to noise. So your perception could easily be that camera shake induces noise. But the noise is either there or it's not there, independent of camera shake. It just isn't as noticeable with crisply rendered fine detail.
Here is the final output from the above mask, or at least a quick web image for the local birding community. This is a Le Conte's sparrow, very rare in my state, maybe seen once or twice a year, and this one a county first where it was located.
D300 500/4 AFS + TC14E-II @700mm
SB-800 on a Wimberly w/Wimberly flash bracket
1/250s f/6.3 ISO 400
This bird staked a territory with only access from the west, facing due east, and it only reliably shows itself for an hour or two after sunrise, so all the shooting is nearly straight into the sun. Do not ask me for BIF shots of this bird. After 2 previously unsuccessful outings I was very happy to nail it in a tree .
The processing was done last night, along with a couple of dozen other shots from the past week. All have one step of masked NR as I described above (even if they didn't really need it- me being in an anal mood). All look very nice if I did things right. Most at ISO 400, a few at ISO 200 in brighter light working with the sun. All fairly heavily cropped.
Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)
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#9. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 8
ericbowles Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Fri 16-Mar-12 03:58 PM
Neil - Have you tried any variations on your workflow that incorporate resizing? Nice description and I use a similar workflow.
Generally speaking, we want to remove noise and include capture sharpening (light sharpening of the subject) before we resize. Then after resizing you would sharpen for final output.
As we have discussed with the large image files of the D800, you get a benefit from downsizing. But it works the opposite direction when you upsize noise - that is, one pixel of noise might become 4 pixels or even 8 pixels of noise when upsized. So if you clean up the noise first, then upsize, you are not upsizing the noise. Likewise when you sharpen, you need to sharpen lightly before upsizing to maintain detail and compensate for any impact of anti-aliasing. But your final sharpening should be done after resizing.
This two step process makes a difference when I am severely cropping images.
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#10. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 9
Fri 16-Mar-12 09:32 PM
I could argue it both ways, and so I often do it both ways if I have a difficult image to up-size. And, for example, with this image, there is actually little difference. For this one I'd give the very tiny edge to noise reduction before up-sizing.
The counter-argument would be that up-sizing after noise reduction would up-size an already softened image, making it even softer.
Of course, if the subject is masked out of the noise reduction then it's a moot point and your line of reasoning should prevail.
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#11. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 10
Sun 25-Mar-12 04:13 AM
Thank you specially to Neil for kind enough to be so clear about the whole process that you used and it helped me immensely. I have read your post over and over again to understand all the filer points of the whole process that you have mentioned in detail.
I hope I shall be able to apply the techniques discussed and get hold of the whole NR process. Thank you again.
There is a little problem that I seem to be facing with my monitor. I used to work with a CRT which produces color very truthfully. Lately I have upgraded to a LG IPS monitor which according to test reports produces true colors. But as I view the same picture in the LCD and then in the CRT, I find that the LCD's one looking sharper than that of CRT. This creates a problem with NR I think, because I mistake the screen sharpness with Noise and I think I tend to over-soften my image.
Could you suggest any settings for the monitor Sharpness? In this context, I must mention that I use either the monitor built -in "sRGB" or "Photography" profiles.
#12. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 11
Sun 25-Mar-12 10:34 AM
Are you confusing color fidelity with sharpness?
It may be that your LCD simply better focuses each "pixel" than your older CRT.
This is all a matter of personal preference but I think you should leave your monitor as sharp as possible, but also make a lot of prints, with different sharpening levels. Then compare the prints to the final images you printed, as they actually appear on the monitor.
Then you can calibrate what you see on the monitor in terms of what you can expect in the final printed output. What you actually see is not as important as your ability to translate that into an accurate estimate of the appearance of the final print.
If your final output is destined for web display, or display on other people's monitors then it gets more complicated since there is an infinite number of different "final outputs" . It would be similar to trying to craft one final image destined to look great on any printer in use now.
The same for noise reduction. Our discussion of all that is quite theoretical to the extent that the only thing that matters is how it looks in the final output. I was trying (maybe unsuccessfully) to suggest that I think the right way to apply noise reduction has to be arrived at experimentally by trial and error. What I like and what works for me (or anyone else in particular) may not be right for you.
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#13. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 12
Sun 25-Mar-12 01:41 PM | edited Sun 25-Mar-12 01:43 PM by Lighter
>Are you confusing color fidelity with sharpness?
>It may be that your LCD simply better focuses each
>"pixel" than your older CRT.
>This is all a matter of personal preference but I think you
>should leave your monitor as sharp as possible, but also make
>a lot of prints, with different sharpening levels. Then
>compare the prints to the final images you printed, as they
>actually appear on the monitor.
>Then you can calibrate what you see on the monitor in terms of
>what you can expect in the final printed output. What you
>actually see is not as important as your ability to translate
>that into an accurate estimate of the appearance of the final
>If your final output is destined for web display, or display
>on other people's monitors then it gets more complicated since
>there is an infinite number of different "final
>outputs" . It would be similar to trying to craft one
>final image destined to look great on any printer in use now.
>The same for noise reduction. Our discussion of all that is
>quite theoretical to the extent that the only thing that
>matters is how it looks in the final output. I was trying
>(maybe unsuccessfully) to suggest that I think the right way
>to apply noise reduction has to be arrived at experimentally
>by trial and error. What I like and what works for me (or
>anyone else in particular) may not be right for you.
Thanks so very much Neil for your guidance and advice. It is really appreciated.
Sorry if I sound naive, what exactly do you mean by color fidelity?
Basically, I have started shooting for the Stock agencies, and they are notorious for rejecting photos either for over-sharpening or less sharpening (not that I blame them for that). So I was wondering what is more exact- my new LCD or the old CRT!
Regarding NR, I agree with you completely. What works best for me is the best method. And trial and error is the only way to ascertain that. Still, as I stated above, over application of NR as well as Noise itself are one of those main reasons for rejection. So I am worried about it.
Btw, you share the same first name with one of my favorite singer- Neil Diamond.
#14. "RE: Noise and Noise Reduction in Capture NX2" | In response to Reply # 13
Sun 25-Mar-12 03:22 PM
You mentioned color and color accuracy; I wasn't sure if that was part of the question or not.
I don't submit to stock agencies so I can't help you with that. If it were me I would look at what they accept and what they reject (for sharpness reasons) and adjust accordingly, regardless of monitors or settings.
You're just trying to make a "client" happy, regardless of what you think of his particular tastes .
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