Author Topic: New sharpening tools that materially improve detail without much artifacting  (Read 950 times)

Toby

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There are two plugin that I use regularly, both with vintage and modern lenses, and which materially improve perceived fine detail in images without the normal haloing and artifacts associated with unsharp marking and traditional sharpening methods. The first is Piccure Plus, which uses what they call "deconvolution" to improve small details. The second is Topaz Sharpen AI. Both are processor intensive. With the very sharpest of modern lenses, these tools are still useful, but not as much as with vintage lenses. I'm posting a 100% grab of a shot using a Canon 50mm f0.95 lens wide open, both as captured and one post-processed to remove color fringing, and then run through those two tools. Also the full image. If people are interested I will post a comparison with a modern lens as well. For me these tools are indispensable in my workflow.

armando_m

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a very significant improvement
Armando Morales
D800, Nikon 1 V1, Fuji X-T3

Jack Dahlgren

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The ability for AI to remove noise, and increase detail (upscale) is rather amazing. At the root it is just pattern recognition and substitution. I expect this capability will spread to all the post-processing tools and even to be embedded in cameras. Will be interesting to apply to photos taken in earlier generations.

Toby

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Here is a shot with a decent 50mm at f5.6, so already pretty sharp. I applied different settings--less radical than the other example, and took only a very small portion quite blown up (probably about 150% when you see it full size). Not quite as significant as with the earlier example, but impressive nonetheless. Deconvolution, I believe, involves recognizing edges and making the slope between one side and the other sharper--for a black edge on a white background, it would recognize the edge and see how many pixels there were between black and white--a slope of grey on either side, and make the grey pixels on the white side whiter, and the grey pixels on the black side blacker. There is the danger of artifacting, as can be seen in the black lettering in a circle on the left arrow on the traffic sign, but it is generally well controlled. Topaz Sharpen AI also has a wonderful denoise function, that is by far the best I have ever seen for moderate noise levels. This is obviously not necessary for web stuff, but can add something to large prints.

tvalleau

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Adding a data point: it's not new, but FWIW, I've been happy using FocusMagic. Based on my own tests, and aging eyeballs, it's at least as good as the AI stuff I've tried.

YMMV

http://www.focusmagic.com/

Toby

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I also have Focus Magic. What I find with it, in comparison to Piccure+, is that it sharpens, possibly better than Piccure, but it does not reduce "glow" or improve microcontrast as PIccure does. It also adds more sharpening noise than Piccure. That being said, I sometimes prefer Focus Magic to Piccure+ because it offers a broader range of sharpening. Sharpen AI is excellent and can even reduce noise, but its action is very limited in scope.

CS

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It would be interesting to hear about your workflow, Toby. Which app do you use first, and why?
Carl

Frank Fremerey

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very interesting
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Erik Lund

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Definitely worth to investigate further! Thanks for posting ;)
Erik Lund

Michael Erlewine

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I checked out PicCure Plus, once over lightly. I am impressed. It really cleans up an already good image. I will have to see what dastardly stuff is does to a variety of images, if any. It does take its time, but I understand why.
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Toby

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It would be interesting to hear about your workflow, Toby. Which app do you use first, and why?

What I have found works for me is the following: First I open in Adobe Camera Raw and adjust exposure and contrast. I sometimes add what Adobe calls "Texture"--a kind of sharpening, and sometimes a small bit of Clarity and/or Dehaze if it is an old lens, uncoated or otherwise poor in contrast. I go the the Lens Correctoins tab and do color defringing, which is often necessary with older lenses, and correct for vignetting.

Then in Photoshop I generally start with Piccure Plus. From there I might or might not sharpen further using Topaz Sharpen AI. Some of the older lenses benefit from both. I go as far as I can unless I get artifacts. Sharpen AI has a very good denoise function, but if I need something more aggressive, at this point I use Topaz DeNoise AI. This is by far the best noise reduction tool that I have come across. It really can reduce noise tremendously without destroying detail or adding a lot of artifacts. Occasionally I have found it better to use DeNoise out of the gate as a first step--if the original image is very noisy--as the Sharpening tools can increase the contrast of the noise itself enough to make it difficult to tackle later, but I have found, when possible, that reducing noise later in the process preserves details better. However this really seems to depend on the image--I haven't found a set formula, but that being said, I try to work always at base ISO and generally am not bothered by noise.

AT this point I run the image through Topaz Detail, which tends to emphasize low contrast details--not the smallest details as the above sharpening tools, but larger details, which tends to emphasize the pattern of bokeh. There are three levels of detail. I usually only boost small and medium details, and those only a bit. Boosting the larger details give an unnatural look for me. This has the effect of boosting bokeh structures, without overly sharpening finer details.

As a final step I sometimes use Topaz Clarity, which is a versatile tool for adjusting various levels of contrast. This too can boost bokeh structures, or add more punch to images shot with low contrast lenses, or both.

Hope that is somewhat clear.

Michael Erlewine

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Further use and testing of the PicCure+ exhibits problems. Probably it is because I am NOT getting the settings right.

Here is a section of a photo taken with the newish NOCT95 lens and that same section (or more-or-less) processed by the PicCure+. I have marked with a red arrow the section that troubles me. If you look carefully, you can see that PicCure+ modified the original so that you can see two quarter-curves that meet, thus forming a kind of pointer. Should be easy to see.

That is, IMO, not desirable.


 First the original, and then the PicCUre+
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Erik Lund

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Thanks Michael! Yes, this is what worries me, if one desires smooth Bokeh it is very annoying if such artifacts start to show.
If one want to enhance the Bokeh of a specific lens it's of course different,,,
See this thread:
https://nikongear.net/revival/index.php?topic=3905.msg152156#msg152156
Erik Lund

CS

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What I have found works for me is the following: First I open in Adobe Camera Raw and adjust exposure and contrast. I sometimes add what Adobe calls "Texture"--a kind of sharpening, and sometimes a small bit of Clarity and/or Dehaze if it is an old lens, uncoated or otherwise poor in contrast. I go the the Lens Correctoins tab and do color defringing, which is often necessary with older lenses, and correct for vignetting.

Then in Photoshop I generally start with Piccure Plus. From there I might or might not sharpen further using Topaz Sharpen AI. Some of the older lenses benefit from both. I go as far as I can unless I get artifacts. Sharpen AI has a very good denoise function, but if I need something more aggressive, at this point I use Topaz DeNoise AI. This is by far the best noise reduction tool that I have come across. It really can reduce noise tremendously without destroying detail or adding a lot of artifacts. Occasionally I have found it better to use DeNoise out of the gate as a first step--if the original image is very noisy--as the Sharpening tools can increase the contrast of the noise itself enough to make it difficult to tackle later, but I have found, when possible, that reducing noise later in the process preserves details better. However this really seems to depend on the image--I haven't found a set formula, but that being said, I try to work always at base ISO and generally am not bothered by noise.

AT this point I run the image through Topaz Detail, which tends to emphasize low contrast details--not the smallest details as the above sharpening tools, but larger details, which tends to emphasize the pattern of bokeh. There are three levels of detail. I usually only boost small and medium details, and those only a bit. Boosting the larger details give an unnatural look for me. This has the effect of boosting bokeh structures, without overly sharpening finer details.

As a final step I sometimes use Topaz Clarity, which is a versatile tool for adjusting various levels of contrast. This too can boost bokeh structures, or add more punch to images shot with low contrast lenses, or both.

Hope that is somewhat clear.

Thanks, Toby.

Carl

CS

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Michael, how does that image render without all of the magnification? Can you post those results?
Carl