Noise reduction in Raw imports

As part of my pre-Donington World Superbike prep, I decided to run some ISO tests to see what level of noise I would find acceptable as the weather could restrict the amount of light I can play with. This matters because I found my best action photos were at f8 and I needed either a high ISO or lots of light to use the optimum settings. So, I set up a little scene in the back room and put my Canon EOS 400D on a tripod with a cable release and short off some tests at each ISO. Then, for convenience, I loaded them into iPhoto. This was the moment I was knocked back. Noise? Not much, even at ISO 1600. Hang on, the EOS 400D sucks at ISO 1600, surely.

1:1 pixels, ISO 1600 - Aperture

I set up a different, more telling test and shot at all five ISOs again and imported them into Adobe Lightroom and Aperture instead. Aperture, unsurprisingly, gave the same results. Lightroom, however, didn’t. There was the noise.

1:1 pixels, ISO 1600 - Adobe Lightroom

What we are seeing here isn’t one being better than the other; we’re seeing two different approaches to importing Raw images. Apple like to do the best they can and Adobe let you fend for yourself. As long as you don’t delete the originals, you can try the Adobe Raw Importer and the Apple Raw Importer and work out which one is best for your needs. Me? Well, when I saw the iPad gave me the same noise reduction as iPhoto and Aperture, that made my mind up: I’ll be shooting the action at ISO 400 and people at ISO 100. If it rains and gets dark and the choice is between either using ISO 1600 or not taking a photo, I have no fear.

Whatever post-processing you do doesn’t matter when you’ve got you’re tweeting trackside with your DSLR and iPad. What matters is how good the picture that you tweet is. I think I’ve got that covered, even at ISO 400.

Comments? Questions? Look down there; there’s a place for you to reply. If you’re interested in the Superbike photos I’ll be taking, they’ll be on MotoRaceReports at the end of the month, as usual.

ps. Yes, I use Raw as opposed to RAW. Why? Because it doesn’t stand for something, it means uncooked.

Jared Earle is a writer, photographer and systems administrator. You can find him on Twitter most of the time.