Lightroom Noise Reduction at 3200 ISO - Luminance & Color

by George Mann

This is a rather extreme example of digital camera noise reduction, but the camera used for this image is the fairly popular and affordable Nikon D40, so it is a valid example of a situation that many photographers find themselves in these days.

Before anyone writes me a comment, saying that I should not use ISO 3200, this is an example of what can be done, I took this picture specifically to illustrate what happens when you shoot at ISO 3200 with a Nikon D40 and what you can do in Lightroom to improve (or enhance) that image.

Personally I find noise (or grain in film terms) very attractive in some images and I want to know what I can do with my digital cameras. Not only at the 100 ISO perfect exposure end of the image but also at the extreme and most ragged end of digital noise.


Noise Reduction - Luminance 0 - Color 0

If you look in the picture, especially the road surface, you will see quite a lot of multi-colored "grain" which is the noise coming from the processor at ISO 3200.


Noise Reduction - Luminance 100 - Color 0

With the Luminance Noise Reduction at a value of 100 the "grain" has disappeared but the multi-colored noise is still very visible in the picture and kind of smudged looking.


Noise Reduction - Luminance 0 - Color 100

With the Color Noise Reduction set at 100 the color noise is gone but there is a fairly strong "grain", I really don't mind this result and in some instances could see using it on purpose.


Noise Reduction - Luminance 100 - Color 100

This is the maximum noise reduction setting for Color and Luminance and looks a bit too smudged to me.


Full Frame Image - Luminance 40 - Color 100

I find this setting fairly acceptable. it might not hold up to enlargement, but for me (and I assume a lot of other people) most of my images (not all of them for sure) are actually used at fairly small size.

I am of course not recommending that you can start shooting everything at ISO 3200, but whenever it is absolutely necessary, it is good to know that a usable image can be extracted from the results.


2007-09-28 08:30:34
Now take a look at the JPEG out of the camera, isn't it better than lightroom? It should be... Adobe made a terrible job with their noise reduction.
2007-09-28 17:36:57
George, I don't see the point in this when the pics you use, being so small, show no discernible difference when viewing web pages.... sort of like - so what? If all you want is small prints then noise reduction for iso 3200 is moot.
I'm no pixel peeper but that is the only way to judge - especially when noise reduction may be responsible for unattractive artifacts/clumping and detail loss - none of which can be judged from such small samples.
George Mann
2007-09-28 19:13:34
Max - please let Adobe know how you feel, this posting is only about the ability to reduce noise in Lightroom, how Nikon deals with noise reduction is another issue entirely. I personally like to have a choice, each noise reduction process is going to give you a different result.

marko - maybe you need a better monitor, on my computer I can see the difference very clearly (on the website page, which has a limited image size). This posting is simply meant to encourage photographers to experiment with High ISOs and Noise Reduction, not to go into the noise reduction process in depth.

As always I appreciate the comments.

George Mann
2007-09-28 20:01:51
The original posting has been updated with some additional descriptive text under the images.

Thank you again Max and Marco for your comments.

2007-09-29 10:28:42
Hi George - no problems with monitor space or spec here. My point was that if you are demo-ing Lightroom noise reduction (and I agree with Max here - it's not very good; I much prefer Capture One), then making the effects difficult to see on the web - which is where your demo is after all, it just seems counterproductive and less likely to encourage people to try either Lightroom or noise reduction.
There's a lot of poor monitors out there so maybe 100% crops would be more appropriate bearing that in mind.
Having said that I don't rate Lightroom's noise reduction, I should qualify that by saying it depends on the make of camera and sensor size. For some it's good, for others only average and for a few, it's almost useless. Perhaps this is the reason Adobe would like manufacturers to standardize on DNG - in order to get good results across all makes and sensors.

George Mann
2007-09-29 15:32:23
marko - your comments are appreciated.