AI Clear

I have always considered the Topaz plugins as the “go to” set of add-on functionality and that did not change when TopazStudio came out so, when I saw the new AI Clear plugin I wanted to give it at least a try even though I thought that it was a bit pricey. Normally I expected an intro price but I did not get any advance notice of this plugin at all or any sale price, but only saw it mentioned on another forum.

Anyway I decided to try it on a really high ISO image shot with my M4/3 Olympus camera. Normally I try to stay below ISO 1600 on it because, being only a small sensor camera, it does not handle high ISO values well. I thought the best comparison would be against Dxo’s Prime Noise Reduction as it is the best I had seen, so I took the raw image, created both a High and Prime image from Dxo’s PhotoLab and then, again using PL, but with the NR turned off, sent the image to AI Clear to process. I then took all 3 photos and compared them. Here are the results:

  1. Dxo PhotoLab with High NR vs Topaz Studio AI Clear

  1. Dxo PhotoLab with Prime NR vs Topaz Studio AI Clear

Of course there is a bit of an issue because PhotoLab NR appears to do more than just remove noise. It also seems to adjust the contrast and perhaps the exposure as well, but the comparison between the adjustments seems pretty stark.

To be clear, this is AI Clear on it’s High Setting. It seems very disappointing to me.


Yikes. Digital reticuation.

Interesting. It almost appears as if Studio’s AI Clear has no effect, but I cannot know for sure without seeing the original image. Also, if you haven’t tried so, yet, I’d recommend reinstalling Topaz Studio from the Downloads Page, as we had some customers experience trouble with their install which rendered AI Clear’s processing disabled. Reinstalling should fix it if you have that problem.


Good comment. I did not include a comparison between the PhotoLab with no noise reduction and the AI Clear with High noise reduction, so I did that this morning and here is the comparison.

Perhaps the issue is that the photo was taken at such a high ISO value. I do not normally take photos over about ISO 1600 because of the noise, but this seemed like a good test for AI Clear.

I installed the new version of Topaz Studio from the Topaz website. This, of course, is the 30 day trial since I did not want to buy it until I had given it a try. As you can see the results were not what I expected.

I will do the install over if you thing that will change anything but it is clear with less noisy photos that AI Clear is doing something. It is just not doing enough to make some of the photos much more noise-free than before the processing.

Are you seeing a difference between the Studio Preview and the final saved file?

I think so, and I noticed that when I first used the new app, but perhaps I need to be clear about how I am using this.

In these tests I wanted to compare AI Clear with PhotoLabs NR functionality. As a general rule I have considered Dxo’s PhotoLab to have some of the best noise reduction functionality available, and I thought that comparing the two would give me a good idea as to how AI Clear was working. To do that I loaded the images into PhotoLab, created the two High and Prime images, turned off the PhotoLab NR functionality and called Topaz Studio. Since PhotoLab is a workflow tool I ended up having to call the Topaz Studio app, not the plugin, and I used that. I then adjusted the image in AI Clear and saved it back on disk with a different name (that is, using Save As) instead of Save. I then combined the images as you have seen using Photoshop.

I have also tested it using Photoshop and Topaz Studio as a plugin. When I did that I noticed that the returned image did not look like the preview in TS. In TS the light background above and to the right of the large cat’s head looked clean, but the returned image looked as thought it was full of artifacts. I believe that the same thing was true when I used TS from PhotoLab, but that was harder to compare because in PS I could see the change immediately. In PhotoLab it took much more time to get the image loaded back up. However, to answer your question directly, I think that yes, the images in TS were different, and much better, than the returned files.

As I said, I noticed this right away when I first used TS, but I put it down to the different way the image might have been displayed on the screen.

Is there anything else I can do to help?

Let me make sure I am clear in what I am saying.

I am not saying that the returned image does not contain any of the changes made by Studio. I loaded an image up in PL, called TS, changed the image to B&W and saved it back using Save As. The returned image was B&W, so TS is saving the changes. It is just that the returned AI Clear images do not look like the display in TS.

I haven’t used AI Clear on a very noisy image but it does reduce noise and brings out detail and sharpens really well. I compared images processed in Studio with the same raw image processed in On1 Photo Raw 10.5 and Corel Paintshop Pro 9. However, I see luminance noise remaining in the AI Clear process which is then removed with a light NR setting using Denoise 6 or some other noise reduction. The Topaz Reduce Noise Pro works very well and doesn’t seem to have any halos but it should be included in the AI Clear Adjustment (controlled separately) not be an extra cost adjustment.

You should make sure that you don’t use any NR or sharpening on the image before using AI Clear. I do use some basic exposure and color adjustments first, then AI Clear > Noise reduction > Precision Detail and Contrast. This produces great images. The problem is when my trial of Reduce Noise Pro runs out, I will have to use the basic version or wait for a big discount. Topaz, you need to include Reduce Noise Pro in the AI Clear Pro adjustment. It could still be sold separately as well.

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It does seem pretty pricey. I was expecting to get some introductory discount, but I did not even know about it until I read a post on another forum.

If you still see Luminance noise, then I highly recommend making sure you’ve updated to the latest version of Studio, and that you are using the Medium and High strength settings, which are trained to work on Luma noise, as well as Chroma noise. The Low model does particularly well in images with only Chroma noise.

This is something we’re currently looking into, and are actively looking to address in a coming update to Studio.

If this can be fixed it would be a good addition to TS. I could use an external method for doing really good noise reduction as calling PhotoLab from LR is a big deal and very time consuming.


If you need me to take screen shots of the differences between what the TS preview looks like and what comes back, just ask.

I guess what I see is more like fine grain. I was mostly using the low setting and while it is still there, the medium setting improves it. Reduce Noise smooths it out but is not nearly as good as AI Clear in overall effect (if choosing one or the other). I also found that doing basic adjustments like exposure and color looks better than doing them after AI Clear.

Are you calling TS from a pixel editor like Photoshop? And, if you are, are you seeing any difference between the TopazStudio preview and the resulting returned image? I know I am.

I have been doing some additional testing on other less dark images and although the returned AI Clear image is better than in my really high ISO images I am still seeing a difference between the TS preview and the result back in Photoshop.

I use Corel Paintshop Pro now instead of Photoshop (which I used for years). I processed a picture taken indoors, going from Paintshop Pro to Topaz Studio and did a screen capture. Then after returning to Paintshop Pro, I compared the two. It was nearly identical with PSP having slightly more contrast. I would say it worked as expected. For some reason, AI clear did not remove purple fringe around a window which I thought it was supposed to do.

Perhaps it is still a “work in progress”.

I found that as long as my image is not too noisy AI Clear works properly. I tested it on some ISO 1600 photos and one ISO 5000 photo and it did OK on both. The returned image did look noisier than the preview in TopazStudio, but it came back sharper and cleaner than the original. It seems it was only with the very high ISO (6400 on an M43 camera) on a dark image that it did so very badly.

It is still not as good as Dxo’s PhotoLab but it was not as bad as I thought it might be, given my first test. I might even buy it, expecting that it would get better and since I have no decent Photoshop plugin alternative, but for me it is too pricey for taking that kind of chance. I might get it if it went on sale.

Maybe the AI Clear models are only suitable for a specific type of image as I have found that the differences between processing TIFF & JPEG are markedly different but RAW conversions in Studio seem to reverse the intended application of AI Clear.

I think that there are many factors affecting the output from any noise reduction algorithm noe the least that any demosaicing algorithm applies noise reduction and sharpening before producing an image from a RAW file.

I have tried to compare output from RAW conversions in Studio but they are simply not acceptable as seen in the chroma noise produced in this 12,800ISO image:

Adding AI Clear with the Low model makes a acceptable adjustment:

BUT! Changing the model to Medium results in over application of Luminance noise reduction and loss of detail:

I made a couple presets in Studio that use Basic adjustments > AI Clear (low or medium) > Precision Detail and Precision contrast in that order. The last two don’t need to be very strong. You should easily recover the detail by using those adjustments even with Clear medium. I also found that AI Clear brings out a lot of shadow detail from raw files and I have already bought it. I will post a photo in the scenery section that was processed this way from a raw file (Biosphere 2) even though I have reduced the size.

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That is really interesting. I only tried a raw image or exporting directly from PhotoLab to TopazStudio. I think I will do some further testing using both tiff and jpg files and see what differences show up. Also I will try the Low and Medium settings as I only tried the High in my previous tests.

Thank you for sharing your results. Perhaps I can also provide something useful for the developers. I currently only have one decent noise removal application and that is PhotoLab. If I want to use Lightroom and Photoshop I have no way to fix really bad images unless I go through the pain of exporting from Lightroom to PhotoLab and then exporting back to Lightroom, and then calling Photoshop and that seems like a lot of work. TopazStudio is much easier.

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Processing jpgs and tiffs produced a much better result than the raws, but the AI Clear version is noticeably pixelated.

Processing was done as follows:

Loaded the raw image in Lightroom, did some minor image adjustment, but no noise reduction. I then saved the image to jpg and again saved it to tiff creating two identical images. I then loaded both in Photoshop and processed each using AI Clear as a TopazStudio plugin

Here is the jpg:

Here is the tiff: