Upscaling is working very poorly - operator error?

Windows 11 Pro, Photo AI 1.5.? Images captured with Sony Alpha 1 with Sony 200-600G.

I rarely use the upscale, so I don’t have much experience. This morning I’ve tried to do a 2X upscale on two images and got such poor results that I used Windows Enhance instead. I know other people are getting really good results, so…

In upscale, it defaults my images to “High Fidelity”

Should I turn off BOTH removing noise and sharpening when doing a 2X upscale?

If I do, the minor denoise and minor deblur in the upscale do almost nothing – what SHOULD I see from the controls in the upscale?

If I leave THOSE at “1” and use denoise and sharpen, denoise seems fine, but fine detail like hairs on a bee look terrible and edges have halos.

The product HAS to work better than what I’m seeing, so do those of you who are getting really good results have thoughts on what should I be doing optimize my upscaled output?

maybe turn on the denoise option to recover some details. maybe upload a test image so we can give it a try too!

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Since day one, every one of the Topaz products I’ve owned have struggled to sharpen without halos. Unfortunately, most of their various AI branded techniques have some amount of hidden sharpening baked into the underlying process so halos are probably here to stay until they can figure out how to deliver Halo Free AI.

Earlier today, I got curious and decided to try different methods…
Took the image and cropped down to the bee - it was around 1800x1300 px. Ran that through Photo AI RAW processing (it ignores everything and just does the image), and got a nice output - because Photo AI changes the size of the output it’s a little different, but that’s a different problem.

Then I took the same image and did a 2X upscale in Photo AI. Tried it with the upscale controls and blech. Tried it with those turned off and my own noise reduction and sharpening, and it was even worse. I’m not sure how to even describe it, but it looked a little like two identical images overlayed, but not quite in register.

Then I decided to try Adobe’s Enhance before Topaz. Had to use the NON-RAW version 'cause even though it’s a .DNG topaz DOESN’T accept the enhanced size and I gt back an image with the original size if you send the DNG.

And it really doesn’t matter 'cause it was absolutely ghastly! Even IN Topaz it was appalling so I never even processed it.

I WAS going to try Gigapixel, then realized I don’t have it installed 'cause it’s HUMUNGOUS - last time it gobbled up some insane amount of disk space on the system drive.

SO, I’m going to try y’all’s advice - maybe a little noise reduction and just use the minor deblur, then try to sharpen separately…

Since these are A1 images shot in crop sensor, they’re small, so I’m going to see if I can send an ARW file.
_A111783.ARW (23.2 MB)

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Give that workflow a try. I was able to get the best results using Upscale and Remove Noise Normal but I’m curious to see if that’s up to your standard.

I’ve looked at the User Guide and all I’ve found is upscaling a low resolution image. Not useful.

So, for a normal, good image from which I need to use a small portion, do I just set everything in the upscale to 1 and use the regular noise reduction and sharpening?

Every time I try that, the noise reduction isn’t bad, but the sharpening doesn’t look natural. Even with all the sharpening turned off.

I’ll try playing with it some more - in the end I suppose the upscaling in Photo AI isn’t any worse than the other options like the Enhance in Lightrooom, and might be a little better since it’s all in one place.

We’re releasing new Sharpen models tomorrow with v2.0. Specifically, it’ll make the processed results look less “plastic” and more realistic. Please update when that’s available and let us know what you think!

Did you address the chronic halo issues?

Looks like my testing crossed the info about the new version tomorrow. I’ll try that one too. BUT, today I tried to do a little testing that’s more consistent than my norm… Here’s an example image…

I want to make an 11x14 print from an area about 2000 x 2700 px, so I upscaled it to 2X. Which gave me an image around 7400x11230px, from which I’d need about 4200x5400px.

Then I tested combinations, looking at each in a 100% crop. There’s some moderate noise on the image, so I could see how that worked.

In the end, the best results I got - “best” being reasonable noise reduction with a little sharpening that didn’t look horrendous, was using ONLY the upscale settings. At about 50-70 or so for denoise, I got pretty decent noise reduction with minimal softening of the image. And with Deblur between 50 and 80 I got a little sharpening.

Any time I TOUCHED the normal denoise, even with it at strength 1 and deblur 1, I got visible softening in the feathers on top of the head at 100%.

And sharpening looked way overdone even at values half of what I used on the original image.

But, once it’s cropped for printing (down to 3300x4200), it might not look too bad.

Thanks for the breakdown. In v2.0 that’s coming out September 7, we’ve improved the Sharpen models specifically to make it look more natural and less plastic. In the Remove Noise model, try increasing the strength of the Recover Original Detail slider to reduce the softening of the feathers.

That slider isn’t available in the RAW processing. Which is how I do the Photo AI processing whenever possible, as, IIRC is recommended by Topaz. And the Sharpening isn’t the problem on the feathers. I’ll spare everybody the umpteen 100% crops I’ve got from a few hours of testing, but here’s an example:

This is a 100% crop of the original image… Some noise, but pretty sharp feathers.

Here’s a 100% crop of the image after Upscaling 2X. This is at the defaults with Upscaling denoise at 1, deblur at 27, compression at 1, and regular denoise and sharpening OFF.

Increasing the Upscaling deblur to 60 doesn’t do much.
Increasing Upscaling denoise to 50 and deblur to 50-60 provides SOME reduction in noise and a little sharpening - both are minimal.

Here’s a 100% crop of the 2X image with EVERYTHING at the minimum. Upscaling denoise is 1, deblur is 1, compression is at 1, regular denoise is strength 1 and deblur 1. Take a look at the difference in the feathers everywhere, but most noticably on top of the head…

Adding sharpening doesn’t help. Even at HALF the value I used in the original, pres-upscaled image, it just makes the feathers look unnatural. Look at the feathers on the bird’s chin…

This isn’t a shot at Photo AI 'cause I’m not sure ANY OTHER product could do a better job with an image that’s been upscaled even 2X, (not Enhance in Lightroom when I’ve tried that and sent the enhanced image to Photo AI using a TIF since otherwise Photo AI doesn’t see the dng as being upscanned).

I’m always concerned about confirmation bias - I WANT this version to be better, so it LOOKS better.

BUT, I took the cattle egret and processed it with V2. And did some playing, which I’ll spare all of you.

In the end, I found leaving all the upscale settings at 1 - yes, I COULD still get some noise reduction and some sort-of sharpening, but…

I used the V2 Standard noise reduction at 15,1. At lower values for strength it didn’t get all the noise, although even at 1,1 it looked like it was doing some work. Sharpening was also Standard at 10,5. This was the “half” strength value I used with the previous version, and in my opinion, the detail in the feathers is better:

This one I could print on an 11x14 or a 12x18 with no issues, and even the eagle-eyed competition judges SHOULDN’T find anything about which to complain!

I’m not sure how the new noise reduction will work with images that don’t have so much minute, fiddly stuff like feathers, but in THIS case I believe V2 does a better job.

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Continuing to play, I had this VERY far away oriole that was shot with the 200-600 + 1.4X, and was STILL only about 1200 px high in the original. Did a 2X, turned all the upscale settings down to 1, did Standard V2 noise (it takes a lot higher numbers to get the noise down now, which is good. And Standard V2 sharpening. Same thing there - the default Photo AI picked was 52 Strength and 50 denoise. I turned it down just a little on strength and cut the denoise in half, and I had a 3000x4300 crop to work with. And it looks pretty decent.

I think BOTH V2 versions of denoise and sharpening are better than the old versions, and SO FAR, no halos.

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great news