Color Noise Reduction eats details in Lightroom

For a while now I notice that Lightroom’s Color Noise Reduction, at the default setting of “25”, unnecessarily eats some details, especially at lower ISO setting. For the D700 (which has, thanks to its low pixel pitch, incredibly low noise overall), I changed the default to something like “3” for that reason. I adjust it manually only for higher ISO and when doing extreme black/white edits (where it does make a huge difference). The defaults for my Fuji S5pro were still at “25” because I just didn’t remember to adjust them, and because I’m not using the S5pro too much anymore.

So yesterday I made some tele photos of Western Grebes at nearby Lake Hodges – the birds are interesting: they’re making cute noises and have a very funny mating dance where they more or less run across the water surface at a rather high speed.

Needless to say, I’m not really able to get close enough with my 70-300VR lens: it’s not long enough and it’s slow. But on the other hand, it’s very lightweight for a telezoom that extends all the way to 300mm, and it’s stabilized. I like it for landscape work where details often aren’t that important, but for wildlife, it’s not really suitable. On the crop sensor of the S5pro the angle of view corresponds to 450mm so that sounds pretty good, but still… the birds were just too far away.

Western Grebe (FinePix S5Pro, 1/250s @ ISO 200; f/7.1, 390 mm (in 35mm)

These birds have really wicked, RED eyes, and when I was looking at the preview JPEG in Lightroom I could clearly see them – but when I zoomed in for a 1:1 inspection of the sharpness the red eyes became much less visible – hu?

100% crop, Color Noise Reduction at 25.

 

100% crop, Color Noise Reduction set to ZERO.

 

Yes, that is a very soft crop – it’s made with a soft lens, and because of the Fuji’s special sensor, it can’t be sharp in a 1:1 crop. But please ignore that, and just look at the eye of the bird. The reason for the “unwanted red-eye reduction” here is the color noise reduction – I’m somewhat surprised that it affects the eye of the bird so much.

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