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Adobe Camera Raw: new AI Denoise Feature Like Shooting 3 or 4 ISO Values Lower

The latest Adobe Camera Raw update has a new denoise feature.

Photoshop promptly kernel panic'd my 2019 Mac Pro within 15 minutes of using this feature, giving me 10 minutes of downtime. I think that’s GPU related, a longstanding problem.

Clearly ACR AI Denoise is a powerful new tool, but under what conditions it offers results that really matter I am not yet sure as this will take quite a few examples to establish. Plus, suppressing all noise does not necessarily make an image look better. So I see it as a tool that will have value mainly when it can *both* (1) suppress noise and (2) extract detail that other noise reduction cannot. Which perhaps it can—I have to dig up a high-ISO example that is razor sharp to see how it fares.

AI Denoise cannot be used on monochrome image files eg from the Leica M11M or Nikon D850m.

Great work Adobe! Maybe some issues will arise, but this looks like a wonderful new way to extend the ISO range.

See examples that follow.

Nuisance to use

ACR usability nuisance

ACR AI Denoise works in the same nuisance way as the existing Enhance Details feature does: by requiring the creation of a new and huge DNG file (eg 83MB => 253MB). The files are huge because they are demosaiced, essentially TIFF files, presumably because the fancy “AI” stuff involves intensive computation to deal with Bayer matrix shortcomings.

I do not want to store 284MB files when I can store 83MB files.

I want a one-pass-no-artifact workflow, even if raw-file conversion takes longer. Far better that option than having to clean up the file mess of 4X the storage bloat. Just do it in real time as part of the conversion! Alas, no such option and as GPUs get faster, that design choice will not age well.

Furthermore, it is extremely tedious to generate several variants (a small crop does not suffice), so comparing various settings is a time-consuming affair.

Why can’t Adobe understand just how annoying it is to generate huge intermediate files? It also gives the files useless names like "_DGL1404-Enhanced-NR.dng". This is USELESS. I want (need!) to know the amount that was used, since each amount will generate a different files. Terrible design.

Out of focus subject matter

In out-of-focus areas, the results are impressive, but such results do not speak to effects on detail (good or bad).

Toggle to compare. Effective ISO 1600.

f4 @ 1/100 sec, ISO 50; 2023-04-21 13:57:26
Sony A7R V + Voigtlander FE APO-Lanthar 50mm f/2 Aspherical @ 75mm equiv (50mm)

[low-res image for bot]

High ISO 12800

At its minimum setting of one (1), the AI Denoise feature eliminates chroma noise, but leaves luminance noise, which is not smooth, but not unpleasant either.

The AI Denoise feature is increasingly smooth at higher settings. This particular image doesn’t necessarily look better that way—I rather like some of the noise. However, this image is not particularly sharp.

STD = no noise reduction, CNR8 = chroma noise reduction = 8, AID_* = AI Denoise

f6.3 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 12800; 2021-03-22 18:59:32
Sony A1 + Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS @ 571mm

[low-res image for bot]

High ISO 12800, fine details

ACR AI Denoise addresses multiple image quality details, some less than obvious:

  • Contrast is hugely improved in dark areas; the noise level is effectively subtracted.
  • Chroma noise is eliminated.
  • Fine details are preserved even as all types of noise are minimized.
  • Noise reduction is good enough to allow extra sharpening which accentuates in-focus details.

Vew at full resolution to appreciate the incredible image quality improvement. Here at ISO 12800 the results after AI Denoise are incredibly good. This massively extends the quality ISO range of any camera!

STD = no noise reduction, CNR8 = chroma noise reduction = 8, AID_50 = AI Denoise @ 50

f6.3 @ 1/125 sec, ISO 12800; 2021-03-22 19:29:32
Sony A1 + Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS @ 441mm RAW: LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]

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