Adobe finally released Lightroom 3 today, after an extensive beta testing period during which we were shown tantalising glimpses of the new features. However, by far the most impressive of the added goodies is the improved noise reduction. I’ve included some examples below.
This photo was taken at ISO 3200 on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, shortly after I bought it, as part of a series of photos of Borough Market in London. All the photos in the set were taken at the same ISO, which allowed me to capture much of the activity and goods on sale without having to use flash.
Here is a 100% crop of the same shot with no noise reduction applied (all sliders set to zero); for ISO 3200 it’s pretty good, showing off the low-light capabilities the 5DII is famous for.
After applying noise reduction, the chroma noise has all but vanished, and only a hint of luminance noise remains, with (in my opinion) suggestions of film grain.
The full photo, after noise reduction has been applied. It’s hard to tell the difference at this size, so here’s an example of an ISO 6400 shot that has been adjusted with Lightroom 3:
The chroma noise, even at this smaller size, is obvious, especially in the cloud and on the right-hand illuminated tree at the bottom of the picture.
The difference here is plain. A huge improvement over the original.
I now feel I can more confidently use ISO 6400 more on my camera now; technically it does go up to ISO 25,600 but I would have to try that out in Lightroom before deciding whether it’s a realistic option.