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Topaz Photo AI Review

NOTE: Sept 2023. Topaz have just released V2 of this tool. Read the Topaz Photo AI V2 review.

This is Topaz’s flagship photo enhancing product. It is a combination of their three class leading AI tools, Gigapixel AI, DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI. I have reviewed these many times, and they are outstanding.

Combining these three into a single product makes sense, especially as Photo AI is cheaper than the three tools purchased individually. In addition, Topaz has really pushed the AI features with its AutoPilot feature. Photo AI uses AutoPilot to analyse each image and suggests the optimal settings for improving it. This is especially useful for sharpening and noise reduction, as it usually finds the optimal settings quickly and without needing you to make tweaks.

Photo AI’s AutoPilot also identifies the subject of the photo and optionally masks it, limiting the sharpening and noise reduction to the principal subject. You can override this, of course. But for many photos, this ensures it makes the optimal adjustments. For example, with a portrait I want the subject sharp. But the background needs to be soft. The last thing I want to do is sharpen it.

The Test Photo

Photo AI - Test Photo

The Test Photo

This is a telephoto landscape that is deliberately challenging. At f/8 there is insufficient depth of field to put the foreground in sharp focus. Depth of field is an optical illusion – the plane of sharp focus will be where I focussed the lens, with the area before and after this being progressively softer. By stopping down, I hope to keep the ‘circle of confusion’ small enough to give the impression of sharp focus in the out of focus areas.

I did this because Photo AI features Lens Softness sharpening, where it brings out-of-focus areas into sharp focus. Of course, it cannot work miracles and this image is a challenge because the out of focus-ness is not uniform, So I was interested in seeing how it would do.

Initial RAW Development

Photo AI can work with RAW images, and this is helpful when the image is noisy. But this image is noise free. Photo AI is not a full RAW converter, but is designed to be part of your image processing workflow. If you use Lightroom/Photoshop, Photo AI integrates seamlessly with them, so you don’t need to ditch your existing tools.

I don’t use Adobe products and DXO Photo Lab is my go-to RAW converter. If you don’t use it you should give it a go. Its DXO Pure RAW product is designed to work with Lightroom/Photoshop and will give your images a definite edge.

I used DXO to remove chromatic aberrations, distortion and do in initial ‘raw level’ sharpening, where it uniquely compensates for weaknesses in your lens. I also enhanced the colours and clarity of the photo.

DXO produced this image:

Topaz Photo AI – Noise Reduction and Sharpening

After examining the photo, Photo AI detected some noise in the image. I often find that colour and clarity enhancements introduce a little noise. Photo AI spotted this and automatically corrected it. It also offered to sharpen the image using its ‘normal’ sharpening setting. Here’s Photo AI in action:

Photo AI User Interface

You can see the image has been sharpened a little. The out-of-focus area remains out of focus.

Now I switched to Lens Blur sharpening:

Photo AI Lens Blur sharpening

This has done more, but intelligently. The groynes in the foreground are too out of focus to fully correct, so Photo AI has applied just a little sharpening to them. But the ones in the middle-ground have been fully sharpened. It’s incredibly impressive.

Here are some comparisons between normal sharpening (right) and lens blur sharpening (middle), with the original image on the left:

In every case, the Lens Blur sharpening is superior. So that is the one I used.

Photo AI Enlargements with Gigapixel

The original picture is 6,000 pixels wide – good for a 20 inch print. I enlarged it to 12,000 pixels wide – good for a 40 inch print. Photo AI has simple presets for enlargements and also lets you specify the exact dimensions. The results, as always with Gigapixel AI, are first class. In the following pictures, the Gigipixel version is on the right, with a non-Gigapixel enlargement on the left.

What about the out-of-focus areas? Judge for yourself:

Just for fun, I tried a 4x enlargement; good for a 80 inch print:

Topaz Photo AI – Conclusion

The results speak for themselves (how often have I said that when reviewing Topaz Labs’ products!) Every photo I process receives the Topaz Treatment.

Photo AI is perfect if you don’t already own the three individual Topaz AI products. Combined with DXO Pure Raw, it will take your photography to a new level, with the highest possible quality and a workflow that fits in with your existing workflow.

If you are looking to get away from subscription based software, then Photo AI and DXO Photo Lab, which has an ever-improving image browser and digital asset manager, are almost all you need to get first class results.

Special Offer

Until February 17th 2023, Photo AI is on sale at the special price of $159. With a free trial available, it is well worth checking out.

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