Denoising with AI in Lightroom Classic 12.3

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After DxO with Deep­PRIME and Topaz with Denoise AI, Adobe’s new Light­room Clas­sic ver­sion 12.3 (and also Cam­era Raw v 15.3) has final­ly imple­ment­ed Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence to remove noise. This most impor­tant fea­ture of the new ver­sion is hid­den incon­spic­u­ous­ly in the “Devel­op” mod­ule in the right-hand pan­el in the “Details” sec­tion under the “Denoise…” button:

When you first select the fea­ture, Light­room ini­tial­ly loads opti­miza­tion data. This hap­pens quite quickly:

After that a modal dia­log box opens:

The usage is very sim­ple. On the left, you can see a crop of the image enlarged to about 250%. The selec­tion can be moved with the mouse. The mag­ni­fy­ing glass in the low­er right cor­ner of the pre­view image switch­es between a full image and a cropped view. With the slid­er in the upper right cor­ner you can select the amount of denois­ing. The result is updat­ed accord­ing­ly in the detail-view on the left.

I used the pho­to of our tom­cat Tom again for this test, which I had already used for the test of Deep­PRIME XP in Pho­to­Lab 6. The pic­ture is a real stress test for denois­ing. It was tak­en at ISO 12,800 and was still under­ex­posed by about one stop, because I lim­it­ed the Auto-ISO range of my Canon EOS R5 between 100 and 12,800. Thus it is in prin­ci­ple a shot at ISO 25,600! 

Here’s you can see a com­par­i­son of the new AI-based process (right) with the nor­mal Light­room denois­ing (left). The result is quite respectable, isn’t it?

Com­par­i­son of denois­ing in Light­room with­out (left) and with AI (right), 200% crop.

As with the oth­er pro­grams, the AI rou­tines in Light­room Clas­sic need plen­ty of pro­cess­ing pow­er from the graph­ics card. On my lap­top with i9 11980HK, 64GB RAM, and GeForce RTX 3080 with 8GB GDDR6 SDRAM, pro­cess­ing a 45-megapix­el image from my Canon EOS R5 takes about 25 sec­onds. How­ev­er, if a pow­er­ful graph­ics card isn’t avail­able, AI denois­ing in Light­room becomes an enor­mous test of patience. With my laptop’s built-in Intel proces­sor graph­ics, Light­room esti­mat­ed a whop­ping 25 min­utes! for the process. I did­n’t mea­sure the actu­al time required, though, because I did­n’t had enough patience.

When denois­ing, by the way, Light­roomn cre­ates a new lin­ear DNG file just like DxO Deep­PRIME, which unfor­tu­nate­ly has about the same size (about 220-240 megabytes on my R5). This is appar­ent­ly nec­es­sary as the com­plex cal­cu­la­tions of the AI are very time-con­sum­ing and there­fore can­not be done on the fly like the oth­er pro­cess­ing steps on the RAW file.

As a big fan of DxO’s Deep­PRIME algo­rithms so far, I nat­u­ral­ly com­pared Lightroom’s new built-in AI denois­ing to them:

Com­par­i­son of AI denois­ing in Light­room (left) with Deep­PRIME XD (right), 200% crop.

On clos­er inspec­tion, Deep­PRIME XD does bring out a bit more detail, at least when viewed at 200% mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. How­ev­er, the dif­fer­ence is aston­ish­ing­ly small over­all. Whether this dif­fer­ence is enough to buy anoth­er expen­sive pro­gram and inter­rupt the work­flow each time for denois­ing with a DxO Light­room plu­g­in is some­thing every­one must decide for himself.

Since I already own Deep­PRIME in Pho­to­Lab 6, the ques­tion does not arise for me. In many cas­es now, I will cer­tain­ly use the Light­room func­tion direct­ly, which nat­u­ral­ly inte­grates more smooth­ly into my usu­al work­flow. For spe­cial, very crit­i­cal cas­es, I still have Deep­PRIME avail­able as an alternative.

By the way, the new Light­room AI algo­rithm shares anoth­er pecu­liar­i­ty with DxO’s Deep­PRIME: it does not work with every RAW file sup­port­ed by Light­room. I checked this, for exam­ple, with the DNG files from my iPhone 12Pro - these are not sup­port­ed for AI-based noise reduc­tion by either pro­gram. For­tu­nate­ly, how­ev­er, both do fine with the DNG files from my DJI Mini 3 Pro drone.

More features of version 12.3

Besides the sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved noise reduc­tion, the new ver­sion 12.3 of Light­room Clas­sic includes sev­er­al oth­er improvements:


The auto­mat­ic mask­ing of per­sons, which iden­ti­fies per­sons in the image via AI, can now also detect and mask facial hair (beards) and clothes:

In addi­tion, mask­ing now sup­ports the adjust­ment of the curve:

One thing I still miss, is a fine adjust­ment of the col­ors (HSL) in the masked areas, but maybe that will be avail­able lat­er in ver­sion 12.4 😉.

More improvements

In ver­sion 12.3, Light­room Clas­sic now also tags the adjust­ments where changes have been made.

In the above exam­ple, the dots below the edit icons indi­cate that the image has been edit­ed, repaired and masked. The red dot below the repair icon here indi­cates that an AI gen­er­at­ed repair needs to be updat­ed again.

On the left of the indi­vid­ual edit­ing pan­els, an eye sym­bol now shows whether edits have been made there (bright) or not (dark). If you click on a light eye sym­bol with the mouse, the cor­re­spond­ing edit is tem­porar­i­ly hid­den. To deac­ti­vate it per­ma­nent­ly or to reac­ti­vate it, the ALT key must now also be pressed in Win­dows. A deac­ti­vat­ed pan­el is marked by a crossed-out eye symbol.

List of cam­eras sup­port­ed by Lightroom

List of lens­es sup­port­ed by Lightroom


It is very pos­i­tive to see that Light­room con­tin­ues to be improved on a reg­u­lar basis. With the new AI-based noise reduc­tion, the pro­gram has now also elim­i­nat­ed one of my last points of crit­i­cism and has closed the gap to com­pet­ing prod­ucts in the area of noise reduc­tion as well.

There have been sev­er­al de-nois­ing plug-ins for Light­room Clas­sic before, and they worked well. How­ev­er, they were about as expen­sive as a one-year pho­to sub­scrip­tion to Light­room and Pho­to­shop. In addi­tion, the plug-ins dis­rupt­ed the flu­id work­flow quite a bit.

All in all, Adobe Light­room Clas­sic remains, in my opin­ion, unbeat­en in terms of pro­cess­ing speed, ease of use, and the range of pho­to edit­ing func­tions. The bidi­rec­tion­al con­nec­tion to mobile phones, tablets, or even any PC via a web brows­er, which is real­ized via the Adobe Cloud, is also extreme­ly con­ve­nient. The exten­sive inte­grat­ed pho­to orga­niz­er is also some­thing you’ll usu­al­ly look for in vain from oth­er com­peti­tors. I use it to orga­nize my entire dig­i­tal pho­to col­lec­tion with more than 200,000 pho­tos from over 20 years.

And if, in the rare case, you can’t edit some­thing direct­ly in Light­room, the Adobe Pho­to sub­scrip­tion plan includes the lat­est ver­sion of Pho­to­shop - which makes almost any­thing possible.

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