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Nikon Z6 - Lightroom Defaults for Sharpening and NR

ericbowles ericbowles

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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landsc... Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Mon 11-Mar-19 11:42 AM | edited Mon 11-Mar-19 11:45 AM by ericbowles
Jon Kandel made a recent post about Lightroom's default sharpening and noise reduction settings for the Z7. Some of the data was unexpected. I've replicated his work for the Z6, and the data is a bit more as expected but still quite different than my normal settings.

I took more than 80 images of a busy color scene with all of the normal Nikon Picture Controls, plus a couple of the "creative" Picture Controls. All images were 14 bit lossless compressed NEF files shot using the AdobeRGB color space. I downloaded the images to my computer using Photo Mechanic then imported them into LR with no Develop settings applied during Import.

As expected, as ISO increases so does file size. The Nikon compression algorithm compresses smooth noiseless detail associated with ISO 100 much less than high ISO images at ISO 12,800. The Standard file size at ISO 100 for my scenario was 30.8 MB while the ISO 12,800 file size was 36.1 MB after 14 bit lossless compression (the difference being noise).

Here are the default settings at ISO 100 for each Picture Control using the Z6. Each Picture Control had an associated Camera Profile in Lightroom.

Click on image to view larger version



As you can see, there were small differences in the Sharpening Amount for most of the Picture Controls.
-The radius was the same for every image
-Masking was not used at all.
-Luminance Noise Reduction was minimal at low ISO levels, but increased with every stop of increase in ISO.
-Color Noise Reduction was unchanged at all levels.
-The Amount of Sharpening only changes slightly at ISO 6400 and above.

Here is an example of how ISO affects sharpening and noise reduction. This is typical of every picture control setting. This particular example of for Standard, but there are similar changes and similar magnitude for all Picture Controls.

Click on image to view larger version



It's important to keep in mind that the Profile changes a lot of settings without using the sliders. The Flat Profile is very neutral with both low contrast and reduced saturation - but the sliders are all neutral or at 0. When the profile changes to something aggressive like Vivid, the color and contrast are increased significantly but the sliders in LR are still at neutral or 0.

Even within the Picture Control settings, the differences are not limited to the sliders. Standard Picture Control is much less saturated and has less contrast than Vivid, but the only difference in the sliders is the Sharpening slider is increased from 3 for Standard to 4 for Vivid with Clarity at 1.0 for both. Neutral has Sharpening of 2.0 and Clarity of 0.5.

So what does this tell us? For me, it confirms that I should develop my own settings for Sharpening, Noise Reduction and other settings. The LR defaults are crude and overly simplistic at best, and in most cases have major flaws. Masking is an important tool, and something I'll use often.

The Amount of Sharpening and the Radius can involve tradeoffs. As you increase the radius, the edge of your sharpening is wider so you need less sharpening. If you use a small radius, the sharpening edge is thinner so you can make it stronger by raising the Amount. Noise reduction blurs the image, so the more NR you use, the stronger the sharpening to offset the NR.

Another thing it confirms is that changing profiles does not change slider settings - just the baseline for the sliders. Adobe or users can build the kind of profiles they want, and then apply the appropriate Develop settings on import based on things like ISO, or based on artistic choices such as color and contrast. If you are using default profiles from Adobe or Adobe's Camera specific profiles, it's a bit of a black hole because you can't see most of the settings that are being applied.

Compared to Jon's results, it also appears it's possible for Adobe to make mistakes. The idea of increasing the Sharpening Amount when you have high ISO images is unusual, but may reflect tradeoffs with Noise Reduction for high resolution cameras. But I did not see that on my Z6, so it also could simply be a mistake by Adobe. I'm not sure.
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Eric Bowles
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