The Topaz Detail 3 plug in

Topaz Detail 3 is a Photoshop / Lightroom and Aperture plug in that sharpens, enhances and balances files. As the name implies it is designed to bring out detail in an image. After a couple of days with it, I'm now using it on all my files. It sharpens files so well that it makes ordinary lenses look great. It does this with a good deal less of the normal consequences of sharpening. Yes there are still some 'halos' (the white 'glow' around detail), but these are significantly less than unsharp mask and other similar sharpening tools produce. This is what Topaz claims.

'Detail takes a fundamentally different approach to sharpening. Instead of haphazardly increasing edge contrast, Topaz Detail carefully figures out which parts of your image are "detail" and which are not. Then, it lets you independently adjust detail.

So, instead of just faking sharpness with brighter edges, you're now enhancing real detail in your images - detail that was already there when you first took the photo.'

And that's pretty much what it does. It IS different and it does produce cleaner images. It also improves dynamic range and separation and does give images a serious commercial face lift. It adds sheen, gloss and crispness to images and while my personal choice may not be to produce such vivid images, there is no doubt that for the kind of pictures I shoot and for the markets I supply this makes for a very attractive look. It also avoids me having to increase contrast which I normally do to get this 'pop'. It does however default to a very warm colour balance, but again this is is useful for selling landscape, travel and location images. It reminds me very much of the mastering tools that you can use when mixing down recorded music. Exciters, compressors and tone enhancers can all give a track a broadcast quality 'lift' that makes them sound good on the radio and it strikes me that the Topaz plug in is a very similar process for images and getting them ready for reproduction and publication. 

I've included an example of the differences above, but I was reluctant to do so, since how I post process files won't be the same as others. What I've shown is very much my taste and uses the parameters that I like for my images. The best way to get an idea of how it works for you is to take advantage of the free 30-day trial.  

Personally I've found the best way to use it is to process raw files as flat as possible. Certainly I get much better results if I turn off all sharpening in ACR. The plug in does take it's time, however I've discovered that I have to do much less work in Photoshop after using Topaz detail, so it's really not adding that much more to my workflow. Plus I've set up a batch action since I apply the same settings to all my files. 

As I indicated yesterday it does wonders for my Sony 28-70mm lens on my A7 / A7r cameras and I've tried it on a variety of files and it works well with all of them. I should point out that it seems to sharpen Fuji X Trans sensor files 'developed' from raw in Photoshop with an absence of the smearing effects. I've found I can get very crisp results from my Fuji files without the need to run them through Photo Ninja or Iridient Developer in the first place. m4/3 images are beautifully sharp, but there is some luminance noise in the settings I use, however I will see what I can do to produce a preset that improves that.

Finally there is another great thing it does. Because it's a different, cleaner way of sharpening I've found that upsizing files, something I do all the time for my stock photographs, is greatly improved. I can upsize my Fuji and m4/3 files more than before and they look perfectly 'genuine' i.e. as if they were originally shot with a sensor that has more MP's. 

So a $19.99 price, (until the end of April) a way of making your lenses look sharper and your images look like they were shot on a larger sensor, what's not to like? This plug-in is an absolute steal at this price. But let's keep this as our little secret please. Once everybody gets wind of this there will be a universal improvement in image quality everywhere and we wouldn't want that would we?

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Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are just that, opinions. What is written here is at no time intended as a recommendation or otherwise of photographic gear or practice. This is a personal blog written 'in the moment' and is primarily intended as an entertainment. I would also point out that this is not a review site and not intended to be so and the Google+ groups where you can post comments are not forums. I am the sole moderator and I will remove any post (and poster) if I think fit. 

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