In this episode, I  answer of your questions: What is the In Camera Noise Reduction and should I use it? Most modern DSL offer some Noise reduction feature built-in. Here we are going to focus on the High ISO Noise Reduction functionality:
noise reduction in Canon camera
noise reduction in Canon camera

Please note this is how Canon calls it on its 5D III and 60D models, and this can differ from one model to another and from make. ON the 60D camera the feature is hidden under the Custom Functions. That being said, I do believe that you can use everything that I cover here and make the link with your gear.

The level of Noise Reduction

When selecting the Noise Reduction feature, you then have four choices offered to you:

Level of high ISO noise reduction in Canon camera
Level of high ISO noise reduction in Canon camera

On Canon camera the default value is Standard.

In order to figure out whether one should use such Noise Reduction method, we need to review its effect on the image.

Analyse the effect of the NR on the RAW file

I am going to focus on RAW format here since I’d like to think all my readers have now acknowledged the benefit of shooting RAW and for the few who still shoot JPEG by choice, I suspect they are smart enough to understand the implication of their camera’s built-in image retouching feature.

I have captured 4 shots using each setting (Disable, Low, Standard and High).

To review the differences between the NR settings, I decided to use Canon Digital Photo Professional. This is the manufacturer’s editing software which obviously makes sure of all the information contained in the RAW file.

In DPP, one can set some preset to have some Noise Reduction applied automatically to the images. I made sure to disable such feature, so the tool only uses the information provided in the RAW file.

Noise reduction in Canon DPP
Noise reduction in Canon DPP

Then I loaded each photo and checked the Noise Reduction panel to understand what the camera was asking the RAW engine to do when opening each RAW file.

Noise reduction in Canon DPP
Noise reduction in Canon DPP

This image below shows you how much Noise Reduction is applied for each setting:

Result of Noise reduction in Canon DPP
Result of Noise reduction in Canon DPP

As you can see, there is always some Noise Reduction applied whatever setting you choose.

What happens when one does not use DPP but a 3rd party software?

When opening the RAW file in Camera RAW ( Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop or DXO) we can notice that no Noise Reduction is applied.

Noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom
Noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom
This is because Camera RAW does not use/recognise the Noise Reduction instruction from the camera.

Conclusion

Should one use the Camera’s built-in Noise Reduction feature?

If like me and the majority of photographers do not use the camera manufacturer’s editing software, chances are the NR information is not being used and therefore it is useless to turn it on at the first place. For the DPP and other manufacturer’s editing software:  As mentioned in the previous episode (How to Reduce the Noise in your Photographs with Adobe Lightroom 5) the Noise Reduction should be the last step when retouching/developing your photograph. Applying some NR in the camera is somewhat useless since as soon as you will alter the exposure, saturation, contrast, etc. the level of noise in your photograph may change, and you would have to re-treat the noise.

Applying Noise Reduction in Batch Processing

Relying on the in camera’s Noise Reduction ends up being similar to an applying the Noise Reduction on all and therefore similar to batch processing. As seen in the previous episode (How to Reduce the Noise in your Photographs with Adobe Lightroom 5) the Noise Reduction is something that requires fine adjustment and its specific to each photograph. While High ISO is the primary factor of noise in an image, the resulting noise is not constant. Why? If you cover a sporting event and need to have a high shutter speed, you may need to bump your ISO high (i.e. 1600). Let’s imagine you are covering a play in a theatre and need to bump your ISO given the low luminosity in the room (i.e 1600). If you were to compare the two resulting images, while they would both be shot at 1600 ISO, the theatre one would be noisier than the sports shot. The reason is that in the theatre shot the amount of shadow would be greater and therefore more prominent to noise. So this means that unless you are covering a scene with constant lighting conditions and same subject which would lead you to use the same exposure settings (especially the same ISO) applying some Noise Reduction in batch on multiple photographs would not provide you with the best result. In our very next episode, we will cover the 2nd type of Noise Reduction your DSLR can offer: The Long Exposure Noise Reduction. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends using the Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and twitter buttons. 

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