ON1 NoNoise AI Review

by Aug 16, 2021Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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ON1 NoNoise AI Review

Recently ON1 released NoNoise AI, their new noise reduction software. In this article, I’ll be reviewing ON1 NoNoise AI to explain what I like and what I don’t like. I’ll also be checking its performance on a few images to see how it compares to Topaz DeNoise, my current “go-to” noise reduction software.

The Noise Reduction Gold Standard

In recent years, noise reduction has taken a huge leap forward with the introduction of AI technology. Many companies including Topaz, Skylum, Adobe, and DxO have adopted AI in one form or another to enhance their software.

Initially, I thought this was a marketing gimmick, especially after trying some of the early software. But then I realised that some companies were making huge quality advances using AI in areas like noise reduction and sharpening. Topaz Labs was one such company and I quickly found myself adopting Topaz DeNoise AI and Topaz Sharpen AI as my default tools.

When it comes to Noise Reduction, Topaz DeNoise AI can produce amazing results and I currently view it as the gold standard to judge all others. Later in this review, I’ll be looking at how ON1 NoNoise AI performs compared to Topaz DeNoise AI. After all, it feels like ON1 are a little late to the AI party and have a lot of catching up.

Launching ON1 NoNoise AI

After installing ON1 NoNoise AI to your computer, there are two ways it can be used. The first is as a standalone editor and the other as a plugin to the likes of Photoshop and Lightroom. It’s also possible to launch the Standalone editor from other RAW editors like Capture One.

I’ve been using ON1 NoNoise standalone for a little while from Capture One to pre-process my Fuji RAW files. I can then save the processed RAW as a DNG file before editing the DNG file with Capture One. So far, I’ve been impressed by the results.

This brings me to an important point. The recommendation from ON1 is to edit the RAW file directly in ON1 NoNoise AI to achieve the best results. This means that if instead, you use the software as a plugin in the likes of Photoshop or Lightroom, you won’t be getting the best results. Having tested NoNoise AI on both RAW and TIFF files, the RAW file does indeed produce noticeably better results.

Noise Reduction Controls in ON1 NoNoise AI

After opening ON1 NoNoise AI standalone, you will see a button in the centre of the screen prompting you to open files for processing. Click the button to display a dialog that you can use to select your image file. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the file onto the interface to open them.

Once the file opens there is an initial delay of a couple of seconds before the image is displayed in a split-screen. Speed-wise, the software appears exceptionally quick to process and display the result.

ON1 NoNoise AI Interface

Having opened an image, you will see several sets of tools and options in the interface:

  • On the right (1) you will find the noise reduction and sharpening controls which we’ll look at shortly.
  • To the bottom left (2) are the preview controls where you can switch between full or split screen as well as turn the preview off and on.
  • At the centre top (3) are zoom controls which you can use to magnify the image preview whilst you find the best settings.
  • On the left (4) are cropping and masking tools.

If you are an ON1 Photo RAW user, you will immediately recognise many of the tools and interface elements. NoNoise AI uses many of these including support for layers and masking, although I won’t be covering them in this review.

Noise Reduction Controls

Let’s take a closer look at the NoNoise AI noise reduction tools on the right of the interface.

ON1 NoNoise AI Noise Reduction Tools

The tools are arranged in two sections which are Noise Reduction and Sharpening.

Using the noise reduction tools is very easy and initially they are set to Auto. You will see a small button in this section which you can click to toggle between “Auto On” and “Auto Off”. Personally, I’ve found the auto settings do a great job with all the images I’ve tested.

As you expect, the Luminance slider removes luminance noise whilst the Color slider removes colour noise. The Enhance Detail slider is quite interesting as it enhances fine details in the image to prevent them becoming too soft. When pushed to the far right I have seen some artefacts appearing in fine detail, but these tend to only be visible when magnified to 200% or more.

The sharpening sliders work as you might expect with Amount controlling the overall sharpening effect. You then have the Detail slider which you can use to further enhance fine detail. The Threshold slider also controls where the sharpening is applied. When set to 0 the sharpening is applied everywhere. But increasing the threshold restricts sharpening to more obvious detail.

The Threshold slider may be useful in cases where NoNoise AI can’t cleanly remove the image noise. So far though, I haven’t found any examples of this in my testing.

The final button to mention is the Apply button. This locks the current settings for the image which allows you to create and work on another layer. You can then build up a series of local adjustments to an image using multiple layers.

ON1 NoNoise AI Performance

So how does ON1 NoNoise AI perform and how does it compare with the likes of Topaz DeNoise? Very well it must be said. I would even go as far as to say that it improves on the performance of Topaz in the test files I’ve used. Here is an example to illustrate.

ON1 NoNoie AI compared with Topaz DeNoise AI

This shows a small section of a test image taken with an old Panasonic LX5 in low light at ISO400. The section is magnified to 300% with the original image on the left. The image in the centre is processed from the RAW file using Topaz DeNoise AI and has made great work of the image. Now look at the image on the right which was also processed from the RAW file but using ON1 NoNoise AI. The results are cleaner and sharper than even Topaz DeNoise.

Now let’s look at a more extreme example. Again, the image was shot using an LX5 pocket camera but at ISO3200.

ON1 NoNoise AI Severe noise example

As you would expect when using such an old camera in low light with a high ISO, the noise levels are high in the unprocessed RAW file. The image on the left is a section at 100% magnification whilst the image on the right is the same section processed using ON1 NoNoise AI.

The performance of the software is exceptional. If you would like to see a more detailed comparison of these and another image, watch this video.

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ON1 NoNoise AI Review Summary

Overall, I’m extremely impressed with the ON1 NoNoise AI software and have no hesitation in recommending it as an alternative to Topaz DeNoise AI. It’s faster and the results appear better at high magnification in many cases.

Did I find any problems whilst using NoNoise AI? Yes, I did.

For some reason the software leaves a small band of poorly processed pixels around the edge of the frame. This is around 4-5 pixels wide but at 100% magnification it’s only just noticeable. You can of course crop this out so I don’t see it as a significant problem and suspect ON1 will fix the issue in time.

As always with software like this, I recommend downloading the trial version and using it with a wide selection of images. You can download a trial on the ON1 website

https://www.on1.com/products/nonoise-ai/

If you do decide to purchase the software, I can confirm my LENSCRAFT discount code works. Apply it at the checkout for a 15% discount on the regular price.

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