Adobe Camera Raw 5.2 versus DxO Optics Pro 5.3 - Part II - Noise Reduction
My review of DxO Optics Pro back in 2004 at can be viewed here:
Successive versions released since then continued to underwhelm me and unfortunately that is still the case with Version 5.3.
This is not a full review, but a review that tests two areas:
Chromatic Aberration (see Part I) and Noise.
Software and Platform
• Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III with EF 16-35mm 1:2.8 L II USM lens
• Adobe Camera Raw 5.2 in Photoshop CS4 (called ACR in this review)
• DxO Optics Pro 5.3 (Build 7250) with Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III + EF 16-35mm 1:2.8 L II USM module (called DxO in this review)
• Intel Core 2 Quad Processor @ 2.67GHz, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM running Windows Vista Ultimate
Test Objective
To verify if DxO Optics Pro 5.3 lives up to its claim that
"At any ISO settings, DxO Optics Pro RAW conversion delivers the best image quality available today".
Test Image
The image below was shot with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III with EF 16-35mm 1:2.8 L II USM at 1600 ISO. Of course you would not shoot with this kind of sensitivity in broad daylight. It is just an extreme example to test the ability of various methods to reduce noise. You can email me to request for the original RAW image.
Move your pointer over the black and white crops to see the color crops. The contrast of the second and third red channel crops has been enhanced via a midtone levels adjustment in order to better illustrate the differences.
Red Channel Crops 1 - 2 - 3 - Move your pointer over the crops to see the color crops.
Original image without noise reduction, opened with ACR
Very visible noise at 1600 ISO, especially in the red channel, which is shown here.
RAW image opened with ACR and 123di noise removal.
ACR with
Luminance Slider set to 0 and
Color Slider to 35 in the Detail tab,
followed with 123di noise removal as described in 123di Chapter 10.
This results in a virtually color noise free fine film grain image that preserves luminance detail and does not introduce any "waves" or "waterpaint" effect.
RAW image opened with ACR noise removal
ACR with Luminance Slider set to 0 and
Color Slider to 35 in the Detail tab. As the luminance slider was set to zero, luminance detail was preserved. No "waterpaint" effects are introduced. The fine film grain is acceptable. However, the sky still shows "waves" visible on prints. Those on the wall are virtually invisible.

RAW image opened with DxO
Default Noise settings

Clearly, using the default settings (Luminance and Chrominance at 50) lead to totally unacceptable results unless it is your objective to turn the image into a blotchy "waterpainting".
RAW image opened with DxO - Maximum CA settings
Setting Luminance to 0 and Chrominance to 25 reduces (but does not eliminate) the waterpainting effect and the waves still remain visible in the sky and wall, much more so than with ACR. But unlike ACR, much of the noise is still clearly visible on prints.
You can verify the results for yourself and print (5MB zip file) the sRGB crops at 250 ppi on a photo printer with at least 6 colors in the best quality mode. The sequence of the crops on the print is the same as on this web page.
The 123di noise removal method may require more time to perform but the result is it looks similar to a low ISO image with a fine film grain. ACR is faster as it requires no manual work but leaves "waves" in the sky. DxO introduces a waterpainting effect and waves, both visible on monitors and printouts. Unless you like the waterpainting effect, the results are very inferior to ACR and 123di.
Article written by Vincent Bockaert,
author of "The 123 of digital imaging Interactive Learning Suite"