Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue
I own a D700 and use Noise Ninja for reducing noise in JPEG
images shot at high ISOs. PictureCode, the producer of Noise
Ninja, recently advised me to set the D700 High ISO NR to Off
which I have done. I used to have it set at Normal. Not
unexpectedly, I now have to use higher settings for Smoothness
and Strength with Noise Ninja to reduce the noise in my high
ISO images. To date I see little, if any, difference in final
noise reduction results with the in-camera High ISO NR set to
Off compared with having it set previously to Normal, but this
is based on limited experience with it set to Off.
I would appreciate feedback from experienced users as to
whether it is advisable to continue with the D700 High ISO NR
set to Off.
#1. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 0Fri 29-Jan-10 05:31 PM
You can leave High ISO NR on all the time if you like, keeping in mind that it won't process any images in which the preset NR threshold (Low, Normal or High) isn't reached. In other words, if there isn't enough noise in a captured image to trigger the High ISO NR processing, no processing will happen. It also means that two identical photos shot at ~ISO800 or lower - one with High ISO NR turned off, one with it turned on - will likely appear identical.
I normally have my High ISO NR setting at Normal. I spend most of my shooting life below ISO1600, so I rarely notice any benefit from the High ISO NR function because the D700 insists on shooting cleanly so often.
What do you consider to be a high ISO setting?
There is no magic to the setting. If careful examination of your photos at reasonably magnifications - e.g., at magnifications which represent the sizes at which you'll be printing a particular photo - don't show any noise or any objectionable noise or any noise that will actually show up on a print or in an image resized/resampled for use online, then the image is fine. Keep in mind that noise is quantifiable and visible. If it's there, it's there. If it's not, it's not.
The other effect of overly aggressive noise reduction (in-camera, or with the use of software such as NoiseNinja) is frequently a softening of edges - slight (or more severe) unfocusing by some definitions. So there's often a trade-off to be made when using NR of any kind.
The best course of action might be to first consider turning off all noise reduction in the camera, and then shooting as simply as possible. Become thoroughly familiar with the D700's image capture without any custom-set internal processing. Thereafter, it will be much easier to assess your image output preference(s) when assessing/post-processing your shots.
Imaging utility software makers always recommend that photographers load only the most relatively unprocessed images. The reason is fairly straightforward in this case. Because NoiseNinja uses a combination of custom noise profiles specific to individual camera models, and because it also reads image file EXIF data to help confirm the source of the image, it can react by applying a complex combination of noise detection and correction functions which address the specific nature of the noise (visible form related to type, its accutance, etc., etc.), the specific type(s) of noise (luminance/photon shot, dark-current shot, quantization, amplifier, etc.) and the specific sets of mapped values (based on the image you're working on) in order to do the best possible job. Every camera sensor series and camera CPU series contains tweaks, adjustments and fresh algorithms created by the camera maker to capture and process images in a certain way each time you make a shot, so NoiseNinja and other competing products are often updated with additional new profiles when camera firmware is updated, and when new camera models are released. Every camera model contains programming, a CPU and sensor which together provide a recognizable profile which can often be accurately and comparatively used by NoiseNinja.
The point of the technical detail is basically to illustrate that a relatively unprocessed image fed into to NoiseNinja allows it to make accurate predictions and corrections based on what it's programmed to know - via profile and your own input - about the camera sensor and CPU. But if NoiseNinja loads an image which has already been processed by your camera's NR routines, the utility will be expecting one thing (or one set of things) but end up processing something that is somewhat different in form and type. That means, often, that NoiseNinja won't be able to do its best work. However, NoiseNinja is also designed to map and analyze noise in photos that don't have any EXIF data. In that case, its effectiveness becomes more a matter of what you manually input into NoiseNinja - not an optimal processing situation.
#2. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 1Sat 30-Jan-10 05:42 PM
Thanks for your helpful response.
I shoot a lot of indoor sporting events like basketball where I almost always use a setting of ISO 6400. As an experiment I tried shooting a basketball game at ISO 10000, but I wasn't thrilled with the results, so ISO 6400 is currently as high as I go. According to the D700 User's Manual in-camera noise reduction kicks in at ISO 2000 if High ISO NR is set to High, Normal, or Low, and even if the High ISO NR setting is Off noise reduction kicks in at ISO 8000.
I created custom noise profiles for my D700 using the technique prescribed by PictureCode, the Noise Ninja vendor. I had High ISO NR set to Off on my D700 when I created those profiles. The more I think about this the more I think it makes sense to leave High ISO NR set to Off as it is now. After all, since it is obvious that Noise Ninja is capable of removing noise that the in-camera NR system is incapable of removing why not let Noise Ninja perform the whole noise reduction function?
#3. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 2Sat 30-Jan-10 08:57 PM
>The more I think about this the more I think it
>makes sense to leave High ISO NR set to Off as it is now.
>After all, since it is obvious that Noise Ninja is capable of
>removing noise that the in-camera NR system is incapable of
>removing why not let Noise Ninja perform the whole noise
Sounds sensible to me.
#4. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 0
Bob, I have been waiting for one of our more learned colleagues to ask this question, but I can wait no longer. Why are you shooting JPEG?
I would suggest capturing in NEF format and using NX 2 as the initial step in post processing. With NX 2 you can reset sharpening and noise reduction (and other things) to whatever you want just as though it had been set in the camera.
I find that noise reduction and sharpening settings often work against each other and finding an optimum balance requires some patience and both noise reduction and sharpening software.
My camera is set to produce the best image on my monitor. I know it will not necessarily print all that well, but I get a good first look at the image and can judge any focus and camera movement issues more easily. The images that I wish to print are then loaded into NX 2 and I turn off ALL sharpening and noise reduction. After some global adjustments and EXIF entries I routinely make, I save the file in 16 bit tiff format. With that done, it is off to PS CS4 where I do my balancing act with noise reduction and sharpening. I follow that with local adjustments, output sharpening and print.
I do not know, but I suspect that Noise Ninja would work better with a 16 bit tiff (from a 14 bit nef) than with an 8 bit jpeg. I am surprised nobody commented on that. Perhaps in my haste I missed them.
My personal workflow is not set in concrete. Any comments would be very welcome.
#5. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 4Sat 06-Feb-10 11:33 AM
>Bob, I have been waiting for one of our more learned
>colleagues to ask this question, but I can wait no longer.
>Why are you shooting JPEG?
Holy Toledo! Do we have a troll in our midst? Phil, the reason our learned colleagues have not asked this question is because they are wise enough to know that the question is a loaded one and likely to evoke another senseless RAW vs. JPEG war. I won't be provoked into engaging in any such war by attempting to answer the question. If you want to stir things up you will have to go elsewhere and ask somebody else this question.
#8. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 5Sat 06-Feb-10 05:44 PM
>Holy Toledo! Do we have a troll in our midst?
Yeesh. I vote we post comments like this somewhere other than Nikonians.
Frankly, I think there's a large body of opinion which eschews the use of JPG for no good reason other than the well-marketed insistence by software makers that NEF/RAW is best. I shoot JPG High+NEF all the time. Most of what I edit are JPG files though - for personal use including large format printing, for research work, for (occasional) sale. Never had a problem. Once in a while however, I do encounter the need for an edit which can't effectively be done in a JPG format, and that's when I switch to NEF/RAW.
There are several other answers to Phil's question. For instance, if Capture NX2 wasn't inextricably burdened with one of the worst and most unintuitively difficult user interfaces ever, it would probably be selling like hotcakes. The software functionality is excellent. It's usability is horrible. The learning curve is unnecessarily steep. Why on earth should anyone spend the kind of time and money (US$180/CAN$250) needed to learn Capture NX2?
Alternatives? Like Adobe Lightroom for the obscenely outrageous price of US$250/CAN$299? The user interface is worlds better than Capture NX, the software is more versatile and effectively more powerful, and Lightroom is a complete package which incorporates a deeply powerful set of JPG editing tools if that's your preference. Frankly, I personally can't stand Lightroom and I can't stand Adobe even as I acknowledge the professional value of the company and several of its products. I'd rather use ACDSee Pro 3 (for JPG and NEF/RAW processing), but I'll stick with JPG editing. I think most of the hilariously rash comments made repeatedly about JPG by professional Capture NX proponents such as Vincent Versace are grounded in JPG formatting and editing tools that were prevalent ten years ago. Times, and software, have changed.
Obviously, there are some important edits that are more accurately accomplished in NEF/RAW. For everything else, JPG has come a very long way. More important, for the vast majority of shooters, the choice of JPG or NEF/RAW is far less important - inconsequential I think - when compared to the effort and focus needed to improve our photography to the point where we get it much closer to right in camera, thereby making the JPG vs. NEF/RAW debate a technically interesting but creatively less worthwhile effort.
#9. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 8Sun 07-Feb-10 02:14 AM
Thanks for your post. You make a strong case in favor of JPEGs. I would favor that instead of it being called the JPEG format it be designated the JPGE format where JPGE means JPEGs Plenty Good Enough!
#6. "RE: Request feedback re Noise Ninja issue" | In response to Reply # 0
I find turning off all the in-camera NR is a good idea, so as not to bias the reduction capabilities of external NR programs you may use such Noise Ninja, Capture NX, Phase One or other softwares on the market.
While you are shooting in JPG mode, a better idea would be to use RAW to get maximum quality without any compression or in camera sharpening that is applied before the JPEG file is generated. Elsewhere here on the Nikonians, the founder of Picture Code's Noise Ninja (NN) states that NN works best on virgin RAW files brought into Photoshop.
This is how I use Noise Ninja, and in general have found it works quite well. Sometimes though, depending on the subject and especially with faces, it can give what some NR detractors call a "plasticy" look, smoothing out features too much, as Howard mentions. Of course women of a certain age have no problems with this!
I sometimes by necessity shoot at high ISO's, simply because like you with your basketball events, the light levels are very low. Last weekend was one of those times, where I had to capture a friend's 70th birthday.
An illuminated cake was brought into a room lit only by candle light. Finding it a bit too dark, I attached an SB800 flash to provide a touch of fill light, and dialed down the output to -2.3 stops.
Below is a series of four photos to illustrate the effects on noise and then noise reduction as I worked on the image from that night with progressive changes to the images as illustrated. I have added a 4 pixel border on all four to separate it from the background, and converted the images to srgb for posting here. To keep file sizes to under 200kb, they are saved at a quality setting of 9. All images are full frame, uncropped, presented here at 800 pixels wide.
Here's the basic image capture info:
Nikon D700, Nikkor 28-70mm f2.8D AF-S zoom lens, Exposure 1/60sec @ f/8, ISO 4000, WB auto, Manual mode, manual focus, RAW mode-uncompressed, file size 10.7MB. All cam image capture settings at Neutral, unsharpened, no NR applied
All images ©2010 Frederic Hore
Image 1: Opened the file in Adobe Camera Raw (PS-CS-3) and brought down the Exposure a touch to -0.35,
then in the Tone Curve menu under "point", pulled down the whites in the graph (top right) to get detail back
in the cake which was hot. Converted from RAW NEF to JPEG.
Image 2: Going back to the converted RAW file, this time I added Fill Light moving the slider to 51, and the
Brightness slider to +38. This raised the background noise, viewed in the face of the musician and the light
coloured wall. Opened it, changed the image size and saved as a JPEG.
Image 3: Took all the changes made in #1 and 2, and used Noise Ninja. I used the "Profile Image" button for
this exercise, rather than loading the Noise profiles available from NN. You can see how the NR has smoothed
out the background and the musician's face. Resized and saved as a JPEG
Image 4: Took all the changes made in #1 to 3, and did the final sharpening using Smart Sharpen, set to
"Lens blur", radius at 0.3, Amount 182%
The final 8x10 print is good considering the high ISO, and certainly way better than what I could achieve with my D300 and D200, a testament to the excellent dynamic range and low noise characteristics of the D700.
So in the final analysis, the format you shoot the image (RAW or JPEG), your internal camera settings at time of capture, how much post processing you apply to an image, and at what point you apply Noise Reduction, will determine how the final image will be rendered.
Hope this helps!
Frederic in Montréal
Nothing ventured... nothing gained!
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