Phase One Capture One 4.0: sharpening and noise filtering

We are moving at a comfortable pace among tools in Capture One 4.0 RAW converter image editor week by week. We have at last arrived at the last station, Detail panel. If you have been following the series, you’ll know by now that the order of the panels in the software is also the order of the work process of RAW conversion. As a last step, it’s good to use the tools of Detail panel, which can influence the strength of sharpness and the noise can be decreased. The panel can be opened with the following icon.

You can see the small preview of the photo at the top in the Navigator window, where the frame of the cropping also appears in a magnified view. By grabbing the frame you can drag it anywhere within the picture and select the cropping you wish.

The menu in the top right corner of the window can also be important, which influences zoom in. Since you work on the details of the photo – sharpening, blurring-, sometimes you’ll need to check them in a view bigger than the original. In a 200%-400% zoom in for example, which are available in this menu.

Sharpening window in the middle is a very important part of the software. This can help sharpen the photo, or in other words, emphasize the details. Sharpening is based on a tool called Unsharp Mask, familiar from the image editing softwares. The three sliders also match with what you can use in Photoshop, for example.

The extent of sharpening can be set with Amount, between the values 0-500. Obviously, the smaller amount means a weaker sharpening, while a higher amount results a stronger sharpening.

Radius influences width of sharpening in a width of 0.2-2.5 pixels. When set low, you can adjust edges at very small steps, while at a higher value, you get a rough, thick edge. Be careful with the latter because you may easily bump into double-edge (or halo) effect, which is quite annoying for the viewer.

Threshold sets the threshold of sharpening, i.e. how many pixels should be involved. Its value limits are 0.0-12. When set at a low value, all the pixels will be sharpened, when at a higher value, the finer pixels will be omitted. By increasing Threshold slider you can eliminate soft noises and so you won’t increase them. But if you want to highlight details in a clean photo without noise, it’s advisable to leave it at a low value because the hardly noticeable details will also be sharpened.

The three settings are of course correlated. For instance, it is quite pointless to set a high sharpening is radius is low. The change will be almost insignificant in the picture.

The software offers the following default values:

• Amount: 180
• Radius: 0.8
• Threshold:1.0

This yields quite a strong detail enhancement with an average edge width, where the softest pixels with probably the soft noises will be excluded from the sharpening process. You can return to these default values by clicking the arrow in the top right corner of the window. The second arrow to its right will offer further presets for sharpening, or you can save yours with Add Preset.

Let’s see some examples for settings of sharpening.

Fine sharpening to emphasize finer details.

Rough sharpening for too soft, maybe even blunt photos with focus defect.

To highlight only the defined edges, in case of photos with more noise.

We have mentioned noise several times here. This appears in the form of non-desired grains. It’s not the same as the grains known from traditional photography where they are part of analog photos. Here we mean the non-desired pixels with wrong color or luminance. Thus noise can be basically of two types: Luminance and color noise. You can filter the two noise components with the two sliders in Noise Reduction window.

Luminance noise can be decreased with setting Luminance slider at a higher value, and color noise decreases if Color slider is at a higher value.

A picture (part) almost free of noise:

Luminance noise:

Color noise:

Capture One applies noise filter in every photo, these are:

• Luminance: 25
• Color: 24

If your photo is practically completely noise-free and so no such filtering is required, set both values to zero.

Consider that noise filtering is an intervention with consequences. If you decrease luminance noise, the finer details will also be blurred. No software is capable of separating tiny details from small-grained noise. In addition, decreasing color noise will blur the colors in the photo. They might become somewhat lifeless, they may fade into each other at places. All in all, there’s danger that you may remove noise but your photo may well lose its photo nature and begin to look like an aquarelle. If it’s not a must, let’s not resort to this tool. The presets of the software do a good job.