Real World Image Sharpening Test Using Topaz In-Focus

| November 24, 2010
Unsharpened Base Image

Unsharpened Base Image

With the release of the Topaz In Focus de-blurring and sharpening plugin, I thought I would post some independent results using an image I took two days ago in Carlsbad California. The base image was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at ISO 400. I have included the image statistics and Aperture image histogram below for convenience. Prior to my sharpening tests, I made a typical levels adjustment in Aperture and ran a basic level of noise reduction using Topaz DeNoise. I ran DeNoise on the image to clean up the base image noise prior to broad-based image sharpening because the sharpening process makes the initial noise in the image worse, especially in the sky. I only wanted to sharpen the aspects of the image that I thought would make it better.

Base Image EXIF and Histogram

The In Focus interface is very similar to the other Topaz products I own, which made it easy to navigate. Because there are a countless number of available slider combinations, I kept today’s test relatively simple. I merely wanted to see what effect moving the sharpening slider would have on my base image and I also wanted to produce a comparison to my usual sharpening method, which is running an unsharp mask filter on the Lab Color lightness channel in Photoshop.

The Topaz In-Focus Interface and Sharpening Slider

The Topaz In-Focus Interface and Sharpening Slider

Below are the results of my initial test. It shows a side-by-side comparison of the results of moving the sharpening slider in quarter-point increments to the maximum of 1.0. At the far right, you can also see the Photoshop unsharp mask results. Please click on the images to see more detail. You can also right-click to view images at full 2000 pixel resolution in a new window.

Image sharpening side-by-side comparison

Image sharpening side-by-side comparison

As you can see, Topaz InFocus does a very nice job of adding detail without appearing over processed. Upon close inspection, I also noticed that the In-Focus sharpened image does a better job of maintaining color tones across the entire image whereas the Photoshop sharpened image seems to exaggerate some areas with contrasty pixels while leaving other areas relatively untouched. Look at the edges of the waves and the detail in the foreground rocks to see how the In-Focus plugin performs. When you click to see the higher resolution image you will see that the Topaz images are sharper. True, I could increase the settings on the unsharp mask filter but the image will quickly begin to look over processed as halos form around the areas of higher contrast.

Topaz In-Focus is available for a until 12/3/2010 for $29 and I think it is well worth the money for the sharpening capability alone. I still have yet to try the micro-contrast and de-blurring features, which I will test at a later date.

For the record, I did not receive any form of compensation for the review of this product. If you found this post useful, please tweet this article or subscribe by clicking the RSS feed icon at the bottom of the post.

Below are the full images for closer inspection.

Unsharpened Base Image

Unsharpened Base Image

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at .25

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at .25

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at .50

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at .50

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at .75

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at .75

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at 1.0

Sharpened with Topaz In-Focus at 1.0

Sharpened with Photoshop Unsharp Mask at 1.0 (Lightness Channel)

Sharpened with Photoshop Unsharp Mask at 1.0 (Lightness Channel)

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Category: Photography, Tutorials

Comments (2)

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  1. Great write up Lee! I had been looking at this as well, looks like it may be worth it after all!

    Thanks for sharing,

    Steve

  2. Lee says:

    Thanks Steve. For the price I think it is a good tool. The results are subtle but worth it in my view. Appreciate the visit!