If you prefer to go directly to the software without reading click here Topaz Sharpen AI. Apply Topaz Labs Coupon Code coolwildlife15 to receive an automatic 15% discount.
This is part two of our three part review on the Topaz Suite for Wildlife Photographers. In part one I reviewed Topaz Denoise AI v2.0 which as the name implies is used for minimizing noise created by high ISO settings. This time I will be reviewing Topaz Sharpen AI for image sharpening. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had those moments when you capture that once in a lifetime wildlife image and you chimp away on the back of your LCD while out in the filed and it looks great. Then you get home and bring it up on your big monitor and realize the eyes are not tack sharp. Another image headed for the trash can……..or is it?
What if I told you there might be a way to rescue that National Geographic award winning soft image? That’s right, Topaz Sharpen AI just might hold the answer to your prayers unless you really missed the mark, so let’s jump in and see just how much image sharpening magic we can create.
The first thing you’ll notice when you dive in to the Topaz Sharpen AI interface is that you have three basic image sharpening options: Sharpen, Stabilize and Focus.
- Sharpen – used for images that are mostly in focus and stable. This is the standard image sharpening mode most of us have used for years to add a little sharpening to our images except now it is AI based and the software can recommend the optimal settings as a starting point.
- Stabilize – employ this method of image sharpening when you have camera shake or blur from reduced shutter speed. This is very common especially when using long lenses or hand holding and it is the mode that I get the best results from 95% of the time. Not surprising as the majority of my wildlife images are shot with a 600 mm lens so camera shake or blur presents itself especially with high megapixel cameras.
- Focus – recovery for images that are out of focus. Worth trying if Stabilize does not do the trick.
In all three image sharpening modes, the artificial intelligence (AI) within the software analyzes the image and sets the sliders to the recommended settings for correcting the image but you can change any of the sliders manually as you wish. The sliders present you with three options; Remove Blur, Suppress Noise and Add Grain and you can move each slider independently and view the image preview as you do to see the changes. The split view allows you to move a line across the image so you can see the original and the modified view as you make your changes to each slider.
For each of the RAW images below I zoomed in to 200% of the image and left each mode in AUTO so you could see the results that the software applies. You could then manually use the sliders to render the image to your preference, however I did not do that so you could see how the software rendered the image sharpening by default using its AUTO mode.. The first image is intended to show you the interface on the right side and the next three depict the difference between the original image and the Stabilize and Focus modes. You can click on each image to magnify them for a better look.
This image was taken from my kayak hand held with a Nikon 80-400 VR at 400mm f 5/6, 1/1000th and ISO 250. Not surprisingly there was camera movement so the Stabilize mode did the best job sharpening the image and dare I say bringing it back in to focus. Take a close up look at the eye, the wrinkles in the neck and the scales on the foot. Comparing the original and the stabilize mode image you can really see just how much sharper the image is and remember that’s without me tweaking the image any further than the auto adjustments.
FREE UPGRADE MAJOR UPDATE March 20, 2020: Topaz Sharpen AI has now added two highly-requested features for image sharpening, selective adjustment abilities and batch processing capabilities! Both are included in a free upgrade for those who already own the product. These new features are a big deal for all photographers but especially so for wildlife photographers when it comes to selective adjustments.
Selective Adjustments: Hundreds of users made selective adjustments their #1 priority for the new release of Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz delivered in a big way. As wildlife photographers we DO NOT want to overlay image sharpening across the entire image. If you are doing that let me suggest there is a better way, especially now with the addition of selective adjustments. You no longer have to create an image sharpening layer in Photoshop and brush away to leave behind only the areas you want sharpened.
You can now do selective image sharpening within Topaz Sharpen AI in a few easy steps. As wildlife photographers we obsess over details in our images starting with the eyes. That’s the first thing I look at when I review an image, if the eyes are not in focus I run the image through the three Topaz Sharpen AI modes to see if it can be recovered and if the answer is no the image is deleted. If the eyes are in focus I turn my image sharpening to details in skin, scales, fur, feathers or whatever else I feel will highlight the details of the subject that I wish to focus a viewers attention on.
Below is what the new interface looks like in Topaz Sharpen AI v2.0.2. You’ll notice the masking icon at the top of the interface and once you click on that you will see the new masking options along the bottom of your screen. If you want to see this image in full size click on it to enlarge it. Note: You’ll have to use your back button to come back to the blog after reviewing the image.
Having tried selective adjustments now on a few images I am over the top excited with this new feature as it saves me additional steps in other tools. Editing Tip: When performing image sharpening do not overdue it. Your sharpening should not be obvious to someone viewing the image and I see it all the time, so please lend a critical eye to this small but important detail.
To get you off to a fast start on how to perform your image sharpening with the new selective adjustments tool I created a quick video to walk you through the workflow and how to use the new feature.
Batch Processing: You now have the option to import multiple images quickly and easily for batch processing. You can apply the same settings to all images for rapid processing or you can single out an image, or a handful of images, and apply different settings before completing your batch process. As a wedding photographer I’m sure this new feature rocks but as a wildlife photographer I had to think about how I might use this new feature. My typical workflow sees me reviewing all of the images from a shoot and selecting to review only those that are a 10/10 based on my criteria for a winning image.
Often times I may have rattled off 10’s of shots of the same subject in burst mode and I am trying to select only the very best image from that sequence. Say I have 10 images of the same subject shot in a burst, I could batch process them in Topaz Sharpen AI before I review and select the best image based on which one is the sharpest. I may try this after my next shoot to determine if it is helpful in the process or whether it just adds another step to my workflow that is unnecessary.
Conclusion: Topaz Sharpen AI has become an integral part of my workflow for image sharpening. If you are cropping in on subjects or performing large print jobs then having sharp images matters and Topaz Sharpen AI should be in your toolkit. And now with the addition of the selective adjustments feature image sharpening just got a whole lot better for wildlife photographers.
Magic however does have its limitations, Topaz Labs claims that Sharpen AI can correct up to 10 pixels of defocus so if you have images where you have minor camera shake and only slightly out of focus images give Sharpen AI a try before you hit the delete key and blow away the next front cover image of National Geographic.
Topaz Labs does offer a free 30-day trial and you can follow this link to go to Topaz Sharpen AI directly. Bonus: If you decide to buy you can use Coupon Code coolwildlife15 to receive an automatic 15% discount off your purchase.
Please note: The previous version of Sharpen AI will still be installed on your computer, so you will see two versions of Sharpen AI on your machine after installing the new version. The choice is yours to remove the old version or leave it on your machine.