Noise Reduction Wars | Part Deux

A couple of years ago I wrote what has become the most popular post on my blog – Noise Reduction Wars | Lightroom vs. Topaz DeNoise. Since then, new players in the noise reduction field have entered the scene so I thought it was time for a rematch. This time I’m putting both Lightroom and Topaz DeNoise up against Macphun’s Noiseless, Nik Dfine, and On1 Photo 10. So, sit back and relax. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

First, lets start with a photo. You might recognize Pumpkin, my usual model when I’m roaming about the house looking for an example for my blog. This was captured handheld at ISO 12,800 on my Canon 6D in less than great lighting. I purposely wanted to get a bunch of visible noise so we could put all of these apps to the test.

Noise Reduction Comparison | Pumpkin | Cat| RAW photo

As you can see in the zoomed in version below, there is a quite a lot of visible noise. (Note: the only edits made to this photo, thus far, were white balance, crop, and removing all Lightroom default noise reduction)

RAW – zoomed in to 100%

The Goal

Minimize noise/grain while maintaining detail.

The Method

The first thing I did was to run this RAW file (exported from Lightroom as a TIFF) through each of the noise reduction tools at my disposal. Although I clicked through presets in each program, I achieved the best results by manually moving the sliders in all applications.

My second step in evaluating these apps was to compare the various edits to each other and rank them in effectiveness at meeting the goal.

Adobe Lightroom

RAW vs Lightroom

Macphun’s Noiseless

RAW vs. Macphun’s Noiseless

Topaz DeNoise

RAW vs. Topaz DeNoise

On1 Photo 10

RAW vs. On1 Photo 10

Nik Dfine

RAW vs. Nik Dfine

The Comparison

You probably noticed that all of the apps made a substantial improvement, but a few out-performed the others. My ranking (evaluating noise reduction whilst maintaining detail) is as follows:

  1. Topaz DeNoise 6
  2. Noiseless CK by Macphun
  3. Nik Dfine
  4. Adobe Lightroom
  5. On1 Photo 10

Not surprising, the three dedicated noise reduction tools (DeNoise, Noiseless, Dfine) out-performed the all-around post production software (Lightroom, On1 Photo 10).

Topaz DeNoise 6

Topaz DeNoise Box

Overall, Topaz DeNoise performed best in providing noise reduction while maintaining detail. The interface provides both presets and sliders for manual manipulation. I got the best results manually adjusting the photo. The presets were either too little or too much.

  • Runs as standalone software or a plug-in
  • Supported file types: JPEG, PNG, TIFF
  • Mac/PC Compatible
  • $79.99 or as part of the Topaz Photography Collection (17 products for $499.99)

Save 15% on all software from Topaz Labs using this code at checkout: angandrieux


Noiseless CK by Macphun

Heal Noisy Photos with Noiseless by Macphun | Learn More

Noiseless CK also performed well, but there was a slight amount of detail loss compared to Topaz DeNoise. The interface also provides the option of presets or manual control – and for me, manual control worked better.

  • Runs as standalone software or a plug-in
  • Supported file types: JPEG, PNG, TIFF, RAW
  • Mac Only
  • $59.99 $39.99 (30% off) through 4/30/16 or as part of the Macphun Creative Kit (6 apps for $129.99)

Save 10% on all software from Macphun using this code at checkout: ANGANDRIEUX


Nik Dfine 2

Google Nik Collection

While the Dfine version was an improvement over the RAW, there was much greater loss of detail and noise was still visible. However, Google recently made the Nik suite free, and if you don’t have the budget to purchase DeNoise or Noiseless, Nik Dfine is a great place to start.

  • Plug-in only (requires host software such as Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.)
  • Supported file types: JPEG, TIFF
  • Mac/PC Compatible
  • FREE

Adobe Lightroom

Take it. / Make it. | Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan for just US$9.99/mo. | Join now

Lightroom is an exceptional application, and, in my humble opinion, every photographer should be using it. That said, it doesn’t perform nearly as well at noise reduction as the applications where noise reduction is their sole purpose. It works well as a quick touch up, or on photos with less noise than this ISO 12,800 photo, but you’ll need to jump to something else for the tough noise.

On1 Photo 10

On1 Photo 10 | Photo Editing Made Simple | Learn More >>

I love On1 Photo 10. A lot. However, like Lightroom, it didn’t perform as well at noise reduction as the dedicated tools. The result on this high-ISO image lost more detail than the other options, and grain was still visible.

  • Runs as standalone software or a plug-in
  • Supported file types: JPEG, PNG, TIFF, RAW
  • Mac/PC Compatible
  • $119.99


Noise Reduction software is pretty great. All of these options work well, but Topaz DeNoise 6 and Noiseless CK by Macphun definitely stand above the rest. Nik Dfine is worth trying out if you have a host program (like Lightroom or Photoshop) and aren’t ready to purchase a dedicated plugin. Lightroom and On1 Photo 10 are both good options if you are looking for a one-stop-shop solution. Both have great post processing capabilities in addition to their noise reduction tools.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a commission if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase. I only share products that I believe will be valuable to my readers. All opinions are my own.

Related Posts

Longing for Fall | Mission Trails | San Diego, CA Even though the daytime temperatures are still hovering in the 90's, I see little glimpses here and there that Fall is on its way. I captured this pho...
My Dream Job This week I'm spending some time helping out in my parents' office. One of the things I've been tasked with is researching a few year-end technology p...
How to Fix & Improve Mobile Phone Photos The best camera is the one you have with you Today's photo was taken on my way to a lecture at San Diego City College. Just before I walked into the ...

5 thoughts on “Noise Reduction Wars | Part Deux

  1. Thanks for the excellent review Angela. Best I’ve seen. Been looking to see if Topaz Denoise was worth buying, but so far, everyone showed only jpeg files. Thanks for the disc code also.

    1. Hi Lyn, I’m glad the review was helpful! Topaz DeNoise is a fantastic product. I think you’ll be happy with it. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Also, I highly recommend Topaz’s instructional videos to help you get started. If you aren’t familiar with the sliders and what they do, their video tutorials will be informative. Cheers! 🙂

Leave a Reply

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