I found myself at the beach the other day with a great sunset and my Canon 5D in for repair (because I am an idiot) and all I had was a Point & Shoot camera. Being that the noise is much higher on this P & S than my Pro camera I thought it may be a good time to test out Photomatix 4.0’s “improved” noise reduction.
I shot a 3 image HDR using the Point & Shoot’s Automatic Exposure bracketing which worked surprisingly well AND handheld!
I then processed the images through Photomatix 4.0 choosing 3 different methods to process the HDR with noise reduction added.
All images for comparison are 100% crops
Here is the HDR with no noise reduction
The next image is in Photomatix Pro 4.0 with a strength of 100 on the Merged Image. As you can see it really didn’t do much at all
The next time I tried something different and tried using the noise reduction on the source files instead, dropping the list down for underexposed images
This method I think proved even worse
Finally I returned back to putting the noise reduction on the merged file. This time I tried boosting the noise reduction up top 130%
This time I got somewhere, It seemed to eliminate quite a bit of noise in the image. However it did start to smear some of the detail which is not uncommon with any noise reduction. I found this method to be successful in taking the noise down to an acceptable level
Finally I thought I would see what a stand alone or Plug -in Noise reduction would do. I choose Neat Image Pro
The noise in this image was tough and it took some tuning but Neat Image did a good job, reducing the noise, with a few more artifacts than Photomatix Pro 4.0 But it retained much more detail in the image.
So my conclusion is that used correctly the Photomatix 4.0 Noise Reduction may be very handy. Especially if you can’t afford a standalone/plug-in Noise Reduction program. Taking into account that most of the free ones out there do not work on 16bit or Tiff Images. (Neat Image Pro Does). The one thing I didn’t like though was that it was a trial an error effort to see the effect of the noise reduction. I couldn’t adjust it in real time. I was able to do that with Neat Image. So you pays your money….