Four Specialized Photo Apps To Try

A selection of photo processing apps and plug-ins worth considering

Topaz Sharpen AI

In addition to photographer error, there are many capture situations that produce images that fall just short of critical sharpness. Topaz Sharpen AI delivers both when you want to ramp the quality up from “sharp” to “tack sharp” and with images taken with lenses at their optical extreme where a bit of the detail sharpness has been lost. I use tele-extenders a lot (sometimes two at once), and that will cause a small loss of image sharpness. This program brings that detail sharpness back. I was able to improve images taken with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L III and both the EF 2x III and EF 1.4x III extenders (1680mm) to the point that they looked as if no extenders were used. Usually when sharpening is added to a digital file, there is a halo effect that shows up around the edges. In the multiple tests that I ran using Sharpen AI, no halos were produced.

Topaz Sharpen AI in Use. This screen capture depicts the process of sharpening an extreme telephoto capture of a wild bald eagle. Sharpening has been completed on the right side of the split screen. The inset is an enlargement of the control panel located in the upper right corner of the screen. Single 4K video frame grab from Canon EOS R, Canon EF 600mm f/4L III lens and two EF 2x Extenders (4392mm equivalent).

The interface on Sharpen AI is very simple; the photographer needs to make only a couple of choices to customize the software. The first is to “Select a Processing Mode.” The menu offers: “Sharpen,” “Stabilize” and “Focus.” The Sharpen mode works in most instances for just adding an edge to an image that is already pretty sharp. The Stabilize mode is the most powerful and the one I use to sharpen up images taken with tele-extenders. It also does wonders for the 4K video captures.

The next choices are “Remove Blur” and “Suppress Noise,” using a slider ranging from 40 to 100 percent. On my 4K frame captures, I set the Remove Blur to 70 or 80 percent and the Suppress Noise to 60 percent with great results. As I mentioned above, I don’t see halos around the edges of the subject, even when I set the slider to 100 percent. The program also does an excellent job of suppressing noise in the image as it sharpens. It operates both stand-alone and as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom.

Topaz DeNoise AI

I didn’t spend a lot of time on this Topaz program, but what I did see was most impressive. The ability to remove noise and maintain sharpness is like getting a free lunch. I haven’t seen this level of noise removal in any of the Adobe programs, and the folks who do night photography will especially welcome this software. It also can be used as an independent program or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom.

As of this writing, the cost for these programs is: Gigapixel AI, $99; Sharpen AI, $79; DeNoise AI, $79. You can try any of these programs for 30 days for free. Contact: topazlabs.com.

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.