Today’s Question: As a follow-up to the May 12 question about in-camera versus post processing long exposure noise reduction, do you have the same opinion on high ISO noise reduction?
Tim’s Quick Answer: No, there is an important distinction between long exposure noise reduction and high ISO noise reduction in the context of noise reduction applied in the camera. The high ISO noise reduction in the camera does not directly affect RAW capture data. Results will vary, but in general I find that I prefer to apply the high ISO noise reduction in post-processing rather than in the camera.
More Detail: The long exposure noise reduction I referred to in the May 12th edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter does apply to RAW captures. The second “dark frame” exposure is used to subtract noise from the image in the camera, changing the information in the RAW capture.
High ISO noise reduction operates differently. For JPEG captures, this high ISO noise reduction will of course affect the original JPEG capture. However, for RAW captures the high ISO noise reduction will not affect the actual data recorded by the image sensor. Instead, this information will be added a special metadata within the image. However, in general the only way to make use of that special metadata regarding noise reduction is to use the software provided by your camera’s manufacturer to process your RAW captures.
In other words, if you are using software such as Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw to process your RAW captures, the high ISO noise reduction settings in your camera will not apply to those RAW captures at all.
As noted above, for the limited number of cameras I have tested for in-camera high ISO noise reduction, I have found that I am happier with the results I can achieve with post-processing noise reduction. For example, Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw now provide excellent noise reduction, which I have generally found to be better than the in-camera noise reduction that is available.
So, while I do recommend making use of long exposure noise reduction in the camera, I generally don’t recommend using in-camera high ISO noise reduction. Note that even when you have applied long exposure noise reduction in the camera you will likely want to apply additional noise reduction when processing your photos after the capture.