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Author Topic: Noise reduction techniques for the Canon G9  (Read 27597 times)
Gordon Buck
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« on: November 02, 2007, 10:08:44 PM »
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A number of us LL'ers have the Canon G9 and are attempting to deal with the noise at the higher ISOs.  I've written about one set of experiments on my blog, http://lightdescription.blogspot.com, but there remains much to be learned.  Why not make a joint effort?

Please don't jump in with "... sensor too small", "camera no good", "get the exposure correct", "get a Fuji", etc., etc.  My intent is to generate dialog from meaningful experiments and to share techniques and best practices for processing RAW files specifically from the Canon G9.

Certainly there are more than one set of answers but, at the same time, some of this processing can be done with Photoshop Actions (preferably while I'm sleeping).

At this point, summarizing from my blog, I think ISO400 from G9 RAW can be very useable for up to 8x10 prints.  ISO 800 is iffy; 1600 is probably not useable for 8x10 prints -- but I am hoping!

I use Neat Image.  I don't know if it is better or worse than other noise reduction software but I have it and have used it for several years.  I've made the Neat Image profiles from the Neat Image calibration prints and noted that the profiles are different according to how the RAW image is processed in ACR.  The calibration print profiles are also different from the auto-profile for a specific RAW image file.  (I've not posted my Neat Images files because ACR for the G9 RAW is still a Beta.)

It seems to me that noise reduction (meaning Neat Image for me) is best done immediately after opening the RAW file.  I've found that, as expected, the Neat Image profile generated from the Neat Image calibration prints varies according to how the RAW image is processed in ACR.  Most significantly, assuming "correct" exposure, a Neat Image profile varies with ACR noise reduction, if any, and ACR sharpening.

It's easy to say "don't do ACR noise reduction or sharpening" and that may be the conclusion when all is said and done.  However, my sense of it all is that there must be some optimum with respect to ACR noise reduction and sharpening.  That is, the ACR noise reduction is probably not based on exactly the same algorithm and settings as, say, Neat Image.  Therefore, there may be some optimum combination.  Same reasoning with respect to ACR sharpening and PK Sharpener (my choice).

At this point in time,  my post processing of G9 ISO 800 RAW files uses

ACR Detail page settings:  50, 0.5, 20, 80, 0, 100  (slight change from my blog)
Neat Image:  noise profile from Neat Image ISO calibration print, half strength
PK Sharpen:  capture sharpen, high resolution camera, medium or narrow to taste

It now seems to me that the luminence setting in ACR tends to reduce detail (not apparent in Neat Image calibration prints) and generates "plastic blotches" (to use a technical term).  Therefore, I've decided to set luminence noise reduction in ACR at nearly zero.  

So, how about some other techniques and settings?
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picnic
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2007, 10:22:02 PM »
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So, how about some other techniques and settings?
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I can't say I have a technique.  I really haven't used the camera too much as most of my recent shooting really was better with the 5D.  I have tried a number of low available light shooting with it--primarily experimental, and I used LR, Noiseware Pro which worked fine at 'weak noise' with adjustments for detail, etc.   I chose not to use LR's sharpening (same as ACR) but used capture sharpening and output sharpening from PKS in PS.  I processed as I would any opened RAW file--where any more was needed-- but watched the file carefully for any problems.  I do feel that as good an exposure as possible will help anything above ISO200 with shadow noise in particular (expose to the right--I do like the live histo for that).

I have not printed anything yet, but plan to this weekend--to see how large its possible to print realistically (3800).  The print, for me, will determine how much I want to use it for anything more than casual, 'social' shooting.

Diane
« Last Edit: November 02, 2007, 10:22:40 PM by picnic » Logged
Gordon Buck
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2007, 10:49:02 PM »
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I can't say I have a technique.  ......

Diane
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Thanks, I was hoping you'd join the effort.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2007, 10:13:12 PM »
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We're having beautiful weather here in South Louisiana.  Anyone else taking pictures with their new G9 and working with noise reduction?
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2007, 11:02:41 PM »
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On a day when Adrian Peterson goes for 296?  I think not.

I just use neat image.  I've had good luck up to ISO 1600.  Of course I mostly use the G9 for the web use.  So I haven't printed anything from it.
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2007, 08:18:55 AM »
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Neat Image here as well, also no prints yet...
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jerryrock
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2007, 01:24:07 PM »
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I have found that Canon's Raw Image Task software's adaptive noise control to be very effective on the G9's Raw files. It is an often overlooked feature of the bundled Canon software.
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Gerald J Skrocki
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2007, 05:42:19 PM »
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I have found that Canon's Raw Image Task software's adaptive noise control to be very effective on the G9's Raw files. It is an often overlooked feature of the bundled Canon software.
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L.R,Noiseware pro, PK sharpening, back to L.R.  Received my 40D last week and now I'm spoiled
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2007, 07:15:18 PM »
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I have found that Canon's Raw Image Task software's adaptive noise control to be very effective on the G9's Raw files. It is an often overlooked feature of the bundled Canon software.
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I had better luck with Neat Image.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2007, 07:41:08 PM »
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I've continued to experiment with variations on RAW, especially in the Detail section and variations on Neat Image for several different high ISO photos.  At this point, it seems to me that a good approach would incorporate

-- a small amount of ACR sharpening with small radius, low Detail and high masking
-- no luminance noise reduction (or set very low) in ACR
-- high setting for chroma noise reduction in ACR

After the file has been opened, I run Neat Image from the Photoshop plug-in.  I've changed my thinking on using the Neat Image calibration prints to make the Neat Image profile.  It turns out that such profiles tend to mush up detail; that is, they are good on sky but poor on grass.  It is probably better to make a profile automatically from the image to be processed  or perhaps have a catalog of profiles for similar scenes, lighting, etc as well as ISO.  I run the Neat Image filtration at half or one-third strength.

To compare results, I make layers on top of the original and then turn the layers on or off at several different portions of the image.

I also compared the in-camera jpgs to the above methods; essentially, anything is better than in-camera jpg noise reduction provided I don't attempt to overdo it.

Although I'm not very familiar with the Canon RIT software, it seems straightforward so I also gave it the test.  I compared RIT noise settings of 1, 5 and 10 to the in-camera jpg and to the ACR RAW plus Neat Image process.  Unfortunately (since it is free), RIT does not come out very well in comparison to ACR RAW plus Neat Image although it probably can be tweaked to improve upon the in-camera jpg.  The strange thing about RIT is that the noise reduction effect seems to vary widely over the image.  In some places, like sky, it was OK; however, RIT completely obliterated ripples in water.  Given those two extremes, I thought that grass would be a disaster but it wasn't too bad.  There may be a lot of operator error for the RIT experiments but, all the same, I'm done with RIT.

I've posted a similar message on the Neat Image forum and received enough comments from the NI Team to think I'm on the right track.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2007, 07:47:16 PM »
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I've had my best luck using a calibration target with virtually no sharpening/noise reduction in ACR.  But I think it is a moving target.  Sometimes that will work best.  Sometimes you should calibrate from the image.  I don't think there is one best way.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2007, 09:25:00 PM »
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I've had my best luck using a calibration target with virtually no sharpening/noise reduction in ACR.  But I think it is a moving target.  Sometimes that will work best.  Sometimes you should calibrate from the image.  I don't think there is one best way.
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I'm afraid that you are correct; however, I want to at least find a good starting point and perhaps even a "set" that could be used in an Action.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2007, 08:17:12 PM »
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I'm afraid that you are correct; however, I want to at least find a good starting point and perhaps even a "set" that could be used in an Action.
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If you beat an action into place for the G9 I would love to see it.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2007, 11:47:04 PM »
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For the G9 at ISO 800, Thomas Niemann (of PTLens fame) has suggested the following settings in ACR Details page:

Sharpening
amount=60
radius = 0.8
detail = 30
masking = 0

Noise reduction
luminance = 80
color = 100

I've tested Tom's settings against my previous thinking (and posts) on his images and several of my own images.  His settings produce very good results.  In fact, I'll have to concede that his recommended settings are the best and simplest that I've found specifically for the G9 at ISO 800.  Applying Neat Image afterward either adds no improvement or else degrades the image.  Also, although my practice has been to use PK Sharpener Capture Sharpening instead of ACR sharpening, I actually preferred the results of ACR sharpening from the above settings; however, I'll grant that the ACR sharpening might simply be more sharpening than "capture" sharpening.  

Previously I thought that luminance noise reduction in ACR was contributing to loss of detail.  Instead, it seems that the loss of detail was more related to the masking setting.  I now use masking set to 0.

Sometimes Neat Image profiles made from the calibration charts obviously are not the best for a particular image and a significantly better profile can be obtained by manually sampling an appropriate area -- if one is available.  In either case, it is very difficult to get an improvement over Tom Niemann's ACR settings by using Neat Image.

I haven't given up on Neat Image and certainly not stopped using PK Sharpen.  I hope others will try these settings and variations thereof and pass along their recommendations.
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Doug Fisher
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« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2007, 10:57:20 AM »
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Gordon -

I noticed you didn't include Clarity = 25 setting that I have seen Thomas mention.  Did you find it gave you problems?  Just curious.

Thanks,
Doug
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2007, 12:16:14 PM »
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Gordon -

I noticed you didn't include Clarity = 25 setting that I have seen Thomas mention.  Did you find it gave you problems?  Just curious.

Thanks,
Doug
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Good catch -- my mistaken omission.  I definitely use the Clarity setting.

Have you tried these settings?  Working for you?
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Doug Fisher
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2007, 09:26:43 AM »
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Yes, but I am still using a G6   They are a good starting point for it too.  I find I need to crank the noise reduction up to somewhere in between his lowest number and 80.  80 seems to soften things a bit too much for my taste.  It varies by image and I am sure it is a personal preference thing.
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walter.sk
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« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2007, 08:04:50 AM »
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Very happy to have found this thread!

I've been  using my 1Dii for 3 years, and have been putting off getting a pocket camera for days when I don't have the big bag of gear with me.  I was very disappointed when the G7 came out sans RAW, and I grabbed my G9 as soon as they hit the market.  I wish it had only 7 or 8 MP, and I find the optical viewfinder impossible because of its 80% coverage and the severe off-center condition.  That said, I love the G9!  It functions like a real camera!

I have more questions than answers about the best way to deal with the noise.  I use ACR in CS3 on a WINXPPRO machine (I really didn't like the oversimplified RAW converter that ships with the camera).  A couple of years ago I switched from Neat Image to Noise Ninja, which gives me better control over the results in a more intuitive way.  I don't use camera profiles, but do profile each image.  Noise Ninja allows me to put as many rectangles in various parts of the image as I want, and, unlike Neat Image, it allows very small target rectangles if necessary.  I can always find area(s) of the image without picture detail where I can place a little rectangle, and profile for that image.

I always reset the Noise Ninja's Filter page to its defaults, and very quickly adjust the Amount, Smoothing, Contrast, and Sharpening sliders to allow as much NR as possible before loss of detail becomes noticeable.

In ACR, I leave the Luminance NR at 0, and generally move the Color NR slider between 25 and 60 or so.  I have not been using the sharpening in ACR because I convert at the native size of the file, do almost all of my post conversion editing at that size, and save the file without final sharpening.  I then uprez, use Focus Magic, sometimes globally and sometimes selectively, with two parts of the image done at different widths, and possibly some areas not done at all.  I then use PKSharpen's Output sharpening on many files, but often, Focus Magic makes it unnecessary.

With the G9, which is so critical in terms of headroom for editing, I am considering the question of uprezzing in ACR to the final file size, rather than converting at the native size as an intermediate step.  Then, it would make sense to me to use ACR's new sharpening algorithms as well as somewhat more aggressive NR, preconversion.

I always shoot with the histogram to the right.  With the G9 I've been leaving about 1/3rd stop of a gap on the right because I'm afraid there is not much headroom as far as reclaiming details with one or two blown channels compared to the 1Dii.  What are your experiences in terms of that with the G9?

I am very reluctant with the G9 to adjust the Shadows slider the way I would with the 1Dii, and have been leaving it between 0 and 2 in case I need to use Shadow/Highlights after conversion...I believe this prevents adding  even more noise.

The Clarity slider seems to accomplish before conversion what I had been doing postconversion with USM, with a small Amount and very large Radius.  I haven't done any A-B comparisons, but for all my recent images I find I can set the Clarity slider between 40 and 70 or so with real benefits without noticeable artifacts postconversion.  Any experiences here for you to report?

Believe it or not, I have, within its limitations, the same fondness for the G9 as I used to for my old rangefinder Leica...it is just that comfortable a camera to use.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2007, 08:09:28 AM by walter.sk » Logged
Gordon Buck
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2007, 08:41:22 AM »
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Very happy to have found this thread!  ...

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Thanks for your contributions.  With a bit of comparative testing, you'll be able to answer those questions.  Here are my suggestions for starting points for testing.

Although Thomas Niemann seemed to like Noise Ninja more than Neat Image for those very same reasons you gave, he also said that, all in all, the ACR noise reduction was the same or sometimes better.  I don't have Noise Ninja so I'm not going to enter that debate.

In ACR Noise Reduction, I (like you) was using Luminance at 0.  I now think this was a mistake on my part.  If you do some comparisons at Luminance around 80, you'll like the result and also will keep a lot of detail.

Also, push that Color Noise reduction to 100.  I know, it feels strange to go to the extreme; however, 100 really helps.

I entered some of these same comments and recommendations on the Neat Image forum in hopes of finding some optimun combination.  Instead, the Neat Image guys responded by saying that I should not be using ACR noise reduction before using Neat Image.  They recommended that I conduct tests without ACR noise reduction.  Problem is, I had already done those tests and it was easy to select a winner.  

Let us know what you discover.

Again, for those tuning in, we're trying to stay specific to noise reduction techniques for the Canon G9.
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MarcRochkind
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« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2007, 12:57:58 PM »
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For the G9 at ISO 800, Thomas Niemann (of PTLens fame) has suggested the following settings in ACR Details page:

Sharpening
amount=60
radius = 0.8
detail = 30
masking = 0

Noise reduction
luminance = 80
color = 100

[... rest omitted ...]

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I just tried this on my G9 at ISO 800 (with Clarity=25 also) in Lightroom, and indeed it improved the noise. Nothing to compare it too, but it seems to work well. Easy to make a Lightroom preset for this combination.

--Marc Rochkind
ImageIngester.com
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