Integrating Topaz AI

It’s been about 2 weeks since I began experimenting with integrating Topaz AI into my post processing workflow. During this period I’ve had a number of personal emails from readers asking if I’ve decided to keep using DxO PRIME or switch to Topaz Denoise AI. Most also wanted to know if I would be using Topaz Sharpen AI on a regular basis. I’ve finally reached a decision.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-400, Pro Capture H mode

It is important to state upfront that every photographer has their own expectations when it comes to their images. Each of us also has a unique way that we like to work with our photographs in post.

Many people prefer to do all of their adjustments in one program, while others use a combination of software. So as you continue reading this article please remember… just because I do what I do… doesn’t mean that you should do what I do.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-400, Pro Capture H mode

I will be using Sharpen AI, but likely on a sporadic basis. I’ve found Sharpen AI to be finicky to use and the results that I have been able to achieve with it have been inconsistent. Sometimes the program doesn’t seem to have any impact. Sometimes it enhances things. And, sometimes it makes things worse and creates artifacts in the process.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-400, Pro Capture H mode

There are some expectations that Sharpen AI can help a photographer ‘save’ a bad image. I did spend a few hours trying to ‘save’ weaker photographs and came to the conclusion that a bad image, is simply a bad image.

If I didn’t do a good job upfront with exposure, focusing and composition with a photograph, it isn’t worth my time to mess around with it in post, even when using Sharpen AI.

When Sharpen AI works well, it can make a positive difference with photographs. I used Sharpen AI with the first three images in this article.

It should also be noted that the optical quality of the lenses that a photographer uses may impact their impression of the relative effectiveness of Sharpen AI.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H mode

I really like Topaz Denoise AI and will using it with the majority of my photographs. Does it do a better job than DxO PRIME reducing noise? Perhaps… but in my assessment only to a very marginal degree.

Will I be stopping my use of DxO PRIME?

Nope… I will still be applying PRIME noise reduction to all of my photographs, regardless of the ISO value at which they were captured.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode

I’ve never had an ‘either/or’ orientation when it comes to post processing software. Currently I use a combination of three programs, DxO PhotoLab 2, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

My perspective has always been to see how I can leverage various functions that I like in different software programs. So… I’m an ‘and’ person when it comes to working in post with a number of different software programs.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture H mode

After trying various approaches working with Topaz Denoise AI, I’ve found it to be most effective for me to use it at the end of my process. Other photographers may reach a different conclusion with their workflow.

So, I apply DxO PRIME upfront as part of my initial RAW file processing… as I have been doing for many years. As is my standard practice, I then make various adjustments as required in CS6 and the Nik Collection.

After that I use Topaz Denoise AI to see if I can tweak my image up a notch. In most cases I’ve found that adding this final step does enhance my photographs and makes it worthwhile using Topaz Denoise AI. I now consider Topaz Denoise AI as part of my standard process in post. Topaz Sharpen AI is not.

As a starting point when using Topaz Denoise AI, I click on the Auto setting, engage the Low Light Mode, and set the Recover Original Detail to 15. Often these settings work well and I don’t need to adjust them further. Sometimes some adjustments are required.

Usually adding this final Topaz Denoise AI step in my post processing workflow is a positive, but not 100% of the time. On occasion I have decided to skip this step if the preview is not to my liking. As with most things in post, it is image specific.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H mode

Whether Topaz Denoise AI and Sharpen AI make sense for you is a decision only you can make. How and when you choose to use these programs may differ from my approach. Before you decide to purchase any Topaz AI programs be sure to check the recommended computer specifications.

I needed to upgrade the video card in my office computer. This proved to be a much bigger investment than the two Topaz AI programs that I purchased.

Upgrading my video card proved to be a good decision as my system operates efficiently when running Topaz Denoise AI and Sharpen AI. Changes ‘in process’ only take a few seconds each to update while in preview.

It does take a bit of time to actually ‘apply’ final changes done with Topaz Denoise AI or Sharpen AI to an image. Denoise AI typically takes about 15 seconds. Sharpen AI seems to run much slower when applying changes and can take up to 45 seconds to complete.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs were cropped to taste, then resized for web use.

How you can help keep this site advertising free

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a modest $10 donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated. You can use the Donate button below. Larger donations can be made to tom@tomstirr.com through PayPal.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store.

Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.

Article and images are Copyright 2020 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

6 thoughts on “Integrating Topaz AI”

  1. This post has just arrived on time since I downloaded the Topaz Sharpen AI trial edition last Week; even my essential editing tool is Photoshop, which I handle very successfully. Thanks to your excellent post and your article have provided excellent examples of its talents.

  2. Like you, I’ve been hit-or-miss with Topaz Sharpen AI.

    Except for one use case: focus!

    This is counter-intuitive, but when I miss DoF the “focus” mode works great. Topaz doesn’t screw up the in-focus bits, but dramatically improves the marginally focused bits.

  3. When using, I keep the original/source files in one folder, and have the export by Topaz go to another folder. For each type of Topaz program, I use a different folder. (Noise, Sharpen, etc). I also make sure to NOT have Topaz add an extension to the file name. (Personal choice). If I don’t like the results, I can rerun that Topaz program, or stay with my DxO file.
    Like you, I have my preferences of how I work.

    1. Interesting approach to filing William… very different than mine! I keep all of the file versions for an image together in one place. We all have our preferences… just like your comment states.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *