Can AI Turn a Cheap Lens Into a More Expensive One?

Computational photography and AI is one of the most exciting new frontiers in photography, with features ranging from automatic sky replacement to entirely automated portrait processing. This great video takes a look at Topaz Sharpen AI and if it can work enough magic to make a cheap lens look like a more expensive one. 

Coming to you from Anthony Morganti, this interesting video takes a look at Topaz Sharpen AI and just how far it can fill in the gaps in sharpness between a cheap lens and a more expensive one. Of course, we would all prefer to shoot with an innately sharp lens, but good glass is anything but cheap, and there are plenty of situations in which you might be using something like a walkaround lens and you will want just a bit of a bump in sharpness. Of course, it is not going to make something like a kit zoom look like a top-shelf prime lens and you probably do not want to go through the process for a lot of photos at once, but it does look like it can provide a welcome boost in a variety of situations. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Morganti.

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Dan Jefferies's picture

Neat Image has a free version for jpgs. It denoises and has a sharpening setting. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. I went ahead and downloaded Topaz and will try it out. ... tried it out. It's big slow and really not much improvement at all from what I'm already doing.

Jon Martin Solaas's picture

They even have a Linux version :-) Good match for Darktable and RawTherapee I guess.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

program make sharp
boke make soft
OY everyone

Jon Martin Solaas's picture

Impressive results, a comparison taking the same picture with cheap gear + Topaz and expensive top shelf gear would be even more interesting.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I tried it out. Not bad. Not perfect.

1. It is slow on my system. Takes about 15 seconds on 2000x3000 px image even with the hardware acceleration at max speed. Granted, I have a pretty old system (2012).

2. On some images, it would have weird artifacting (for a lack of a better word). See below corner of image.

With that said, it still does a better and faster job than I can do. If I were to use this, I'd mask just the areas I need fixed.

W Mitty's picture

I signed up for the 30 day free trial and have been experimenting with it. It does seem to do an impressive job on the images that I have tried it on, especially those that are a little soft due to camera motion. I saw the best improvement on long telephoto shots on which I didn't have quite a short enough shutter time. The "stabilize" mode seems to have the most improvement. On images that were just misfocused, I didn't notice all that much improvement.

But, as others have pointed out, it takes quite a while to process an image. This is not surprising given all the deconvolution and reconvolving that it needs to do. Also, the output files are very large. I am running it from Lightroom on Canon 5d4 raw files (which are 45 MB) and it returns a TIFF that is 180 MB. I haven't yet figured out whether there are any other formats that I can export back to LR. In LR, I can save it as a DNG, but it only reduces to 140 MB. If anyone knows if smaller formats (other than JPEG) are available, please comment.

With that, it seems like a really good way to salvage some photos, but would be cumbersome in terms of time and storage to use as a regular part of processing to improve every image from a lower quality lens. For me, the $59 (on special this month) is worth it to save the occasional good photo that just got away from me a bit.