Noise Reduction Software Comparison

Posted Sep. 21st, 2023 by Daniel J. Cox

In the last year or so, we’ve seen some incredible progress in almost all software noise-reduction tools. That being the case, I thought it might be a good time for a noise reduction software comparison. For several years, my favorite RAW converter has been DxO PhotoLab. But most others, including almost everyone who travels with us, use Lightroom. Many of our Natural Exposures Explorers often find it strange that I don’t use Lightroom myself, but as I tell them, “There are other products out there doing a better job.”

Micro Four Thirds has always meant noisier files

I’ve now been shooting the Olympus OM-1 for over two years. And like all Micro Four Thirds cameras, I’ve needed to be wary of going over 1600 ISO. The smaller sensor has inherently more noise than, let’s say, a full-sized sensor. But with the introduction of DxO PhotoLab DeepPRIMEXD, I almost never think of the noise issues any longer. It’s even changed my shooting technique, and I’m now using Auto ISO exclusively. The reason is that the DxO NR tool is so good I no longer have concerns about the ISO going too high. That’s an incredibly liberating feeling. And it was always a drawback to the smaller sensor cameras. But as many of you who travel with us know, I find there are so many advantages to the Micro Four Thirds cameras and the Olympus OM-1 in particular that I’ve been willing to accept the higher ISO noise issues. But things have changed, and those days are gone!

Comparing Lightroom Classic, DxO PhotoLab & Topaz Photo AI

This morning I was editing my recent shoot at the Pantanal in Brazil and I came across an image I ACCIDENTALLY shot at 32,000 ISO. I say accidentally since I wouldn’t normally shoot that high, even with good Noise Reduction software. But accidents are often the inspiration for learning what can or can’t be done. So when I saw the 32,000 ISO I decided to take that image and run some tests. I started with my current RAW software of choice, which is DXO PhotoLab 6. I then processed the same image with Lightroom’s AI Enahnce and Topaz Photo AI. Many of our Natural Exposures Explorers are excited about Lightroom’s new AI Enahnce noise reduction tool. This 32,000 ISO image gave me a great excuse to try them all. Keep in mind that when using a noise reduction tool you don’t want to lose too many details. Like feathers on a bird. That’s been the Holy Grail of good NR software. Pay particular attention to the lower neck of this Neotropical Anhinga where you can see details in the feathers.

RAW OM-1 No Noise Reduction

The image below is a 100% crop of the original. It came out of Lightroom with no noise reduction applied that I know of. I do get the feeling LR does apply some NR to all images even BEFORE you do anything else to it with AI Enhance or other NR tools in LR. From this image, you can see the noise is really, really bad. The image is entirely unusable, in my opinion, and I’m guessing anyone looking at this would agree.

Olympus OM-1 RAW file with no Noise Reduction applied shot at 32,000 ISO

DxO DeepPrime

This is one of three options within DxO. Not sure why they have so many, but this was the most recent option until DxO DeepPrimeHD came out. I’ll show a sample of that below this image. As I understand it, this normal DeepPrime does not have any AI taking place in the process. I think it looks pretty darn good. While you’re looking at these samples, make sure you pay particular attention to the feathers on the lower part of the bird’s neck.

Noise Reduction Software Comparison
OM-1 RAW file processed using DxO Photolab and DeepPrime shot at 32,000 ISO

DxO DeepPrimeHD

This setting is the newest noise reduction setting in DxO. I’ve heard that this is a version that is using some sort of AI like everything is today. I heard some criticism about this setting trying to add details and that it doesn’t always look real. I have to say, looking at the feathers on the bird’s neck, it looks incredible.

OM-1 Raw file processed using DxO Photolab and DeepPrimeXD shot at 32,000 ISO

Lightroom NR-Enhanced

This is the one that going to create the most chatter. This is the Lightroom AI Enhanced output. And out of all of the samples, this is by far the worst quality as far as noise and sharpness. I think many who’ve been excited about this will rethink their workflow strategy when they see these comparison samples.

Noise Reduction Software Comparison

Lightroom NR-Enhanced with all default settings shot at 32,000 ISO

Topaz Photo AI

This final image was processed using Topaz Photo AI and, from what I read across the web, is thought to be THE program for removing noise. I think it does an admirable job, but the background looks a bit strange, with some streaks here and there.

Topaz Photo AI does a nice job, but I can see anomalies across the background in places 32,000 ISO


For me, I don’t. think there is any doubt that DxO Photo Lab with DeepPrimeHD is the hands-down winner. DxO DeepPrime is a close second, Topaz Photo AI is third and Lightroom comes in far last. At least that’s the way I see it. What do you guys and gals think?

High-resolution JEPGs You Can Download

Here’s a link to full-sized, high-resolution jpegs you’re welcome to download. You might have to sign up for a PhotoShelter account. I’m not sure.

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There are 14 comments on this post…
  1. Rene ThebergeOn Nov. 8th, 2023 (1 month ago)


    This is a follow-up comment to my earlier 9/23 comment above. I recently upgraded my version of DxO to PL7 mostly because the upgrade offer was good and I really wanted to try the DxO DeepPrimeHD noise reduction software. I have particularly difficult low light file of fall meadow for among some Pines that nothing really could handle as it was so noisy. I ran it through DeepPrime HD then exported as a dng file to Capture One where I was able to successfully process the file. A little extra time and work, but I think well worth it. I hope this is helpful and useful information for you and your readers.


    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 9th, 2023 (1 month ago)

      Thanks for the update Rene.

  2. MarkOn Oct. 7th, 2023 (2 months ago)

    I’ve been using DxO for years and it’s been the creme de la creme for a long while for noise reduction for years.

    It’s interesting to me how few micro four thirds users are only recently discovering it. It’s been absolute sorcery — but apparently a well kept secret — for years.

    Here is one of the first examples that floored me comparing SOOC JPEG vs. Lightroom Classic vs. DxO Deep Prime:

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 13th, 2023 (2 months ago)

      I agree Marc. DXL photolab is a sleeper piece of software. It’s especially helpful for those of us shooting the micro 4/3 cameras. The word is getting out however because more and more people are understanding that shooting full frame is no longer essential. Thanks for adding your voice.

  3. Eric M BeemanOn Sep. 29th, 2023 (2 months ago)

    Thanks for the informative article, especially coming from someone who spends as much time in the field. Your comparison with the newer XD is going to lighten my wallet!

  4. Ian ParrOn Sep. 27th, 2023 (2 months ago)

    Dan, Just out of interest you should try OM Workspace with the AI Noise Reduction add-on. It will probably be too slow for your standard workflow but I find the results often look more “natural” to me than those I get from DXO Photolab 6 with Deep Prime HD. The slowness of Workspace is a pain but on the plus side, you do get to see the noise reduction previewed on the main image, unlike DXO.

  5. james wilsonOn Sep. 26th, 2023 (3 months ago)

    The big advantage of having several DXO noise options is the processing time. There is no point in waiting for Prime XD if Prime will do the job at hand. This is very important when applying NR to a folder of images or just multiple images.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 26th, 2023 (3 months ago)

      Good point. I never thought of that.

  6. MartinOn Sep. 25th, 2023 (3 months ago)

    Prime = standard denoising alghorithm used by DXO
    DeepPrime = AI denoising introduced in v4 (the AI model requires 8GB VRAM)
    DeepPrimeHD = a new AI model for an extra detail, does not have to be always better than DP.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 25th, 2023 (3 months ago)

      Thanks Martin. Where do you get this information?

  7. Rene ThebergeOn Sep. 23rd, 2023 (3 months ago)

    Dan, like you, I’m not a Lightroom user. I tried DxO for a few years (with m4/3) and was mostly satisfied with it, but eventually switched to Capture 1 due to the fact that DxO did not handle Fuji X files at the time I switched to Fuji equipment. Recently, I’ve been testing DxO versus Topaz versus Capture 1 for noise reduction. Although, I’m still in testing, it’s clear that DxO is the best of the three for noise reduction, and to my surprise, Capture 1 beats Topaz mainly because Topaz seems to drastically change to colors of the file. Note that I’m using DxO Deep Prime (on PhotoLab 5) and not the HD version. So I guess I’d expect even better results with the newer version.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 23rd, 2023 (3 months ago)

      Thanks for your insight Rene.

  8. Mircea BlanaruOn Sep. 20th, 2023 (3 months ago)

    Hello, again!!! I have watched your argumentation and I’ve found it flawless. I use for noise reduction the RawTherapee free software which deliver super results. I have used early versions of Lightroom which I think were absolutely awful… For the my little Panasonic GX800 I use the Panasonic SilkyPix software. No matter what it is written on the Internet, the camera together with this software delivers super clean images as high of ISO 4000 and usable results even to ISO 6400…The progress made with the new micro4/3 cameras coupled with modern software has given me the freedom to shoot free of noise other of the !600 ISO so I totally agree with you!!!

  9. John SchwallerOn Sep. 20th, 2023 (3 months ago)

    Did you apply add’l sharpening in LR? I believe the other do…automatically (unless you turn off)

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