Test 01 Detail rendition
I’ve always thought DxO’s regular (High) noise reduction was amongst the best at reducing noise while preserving detail, but the 9.0 PRIME processing is far superior. Again, though, the result does look the tiniest bit soft.
Originally, I though this was just because the noise was gone, making the sensor’s underlying loss of detail at high ISOs more obvious (sensors do lose sharpness at high ISOs – it’s not just noise you’re up against).
But the 9.1 PRIME version is visibly crisper. Even if you’re not convinced by this single comparison, if you look at enough images with enough different kinds of detail, I think you’ll see the difference. (On the other hand, the 9.1 version does seem to be introducing a few little edge artefacts too.)
Test 02 Low contrast
This section comes from nearer the edge of the picture, and you can see that the lens sharpness is falling off – this comes back to what I was saying earlier about the broader issues with shooting in low light. It’s interesting to see, though, how the software has handled the low-contrast detail in the walls around the window.
The regular High version is much noisier than the other two, though it has preserved much of the shading in the stonework. The 9.0 PRIME version looks super-smooth, but it has almost swallowed up the finer textures in the wall. The 9.1 PRIME version is slightly grittier than the v9.0 image, but I think it’s given the best compromise between texture and noise reduction.
Test 03 Textured surfaces
This is where regular noise reduction software falls down. It can render clearly defined edges perfectly well, but smooths over subtle textures to give that horrible ‘watercolour’ effect.
The High noise reduction process is the worse offender here. Not only is it the noisiest, it’s also smoothed over much of the texture in the wet street. The 9.0 PRIME version is a massive improvement, removing almost all of the noise but preserving the texture. Here again, though, I’d say the 9.1 PRIME rendition is the best, because the noise is gone, and the textures are still there – but with just a little more ‘bite’ than 9.0 PRIME provided.
DxO’s PRIME noise reduction process is clearly a major step forward in noise control. There are plenty of programs that can remove any trace of noise, but none I’ve seen would be able to preserve textured detail in the way that DxO PRIME can.
And I did wonder if the 9.0 PRIME engine’s results were a little soft, but DxO has certainly fixed that now. It’s a modest improvement but one that’s definitely worth having. I’m still not sure I’ll use PRIME processing every day, simply because it takes so long, but having tried it out on a few more samples since I first looked, I can now say I am officially impressed.
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