Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are all around us. I firmly believe the future of photography is computational, and we currently have a whole range of companies fighting to make the best progress in AI. Here at DIYPhotography, we’re putting various elements of AI head-to-head to determine the best software on the market. We recently covered AI Noise Reduction, and today we move on to Sharpening.
I took this shot last winter in Arctic Norway, and I accidentally knocked the focussing ring, resulting in a really soft image. It was a terrible mistake at the time, but now, it’s perfect! Let’s go.
Adobe Photoshop (skipping…)
I’m going to skip right over this one, to be honest. The Neural Filters available are great, and the power they pack from Adobe Sensei is awesome. Right now, though, there is no AI sharpening tool available. I’m looking forward to Adobe tidying up their Neural Filters and giving us simple options as well as fixes to specific problems. For example, the Photo Restoration Neural Filter also has a de-noise slider, but this isn’t obvious. Users won’t necessarily find it unless they already know it’s in there. Come on, Adobe! We want to see what you’ve really got!
Photo sharpening with Luminar Neo
Skylum’s Luminar Neo is a piece of software packed with AI. It’s available to users in pieces called extensions. The subscription package guarantees all the extensions as and when they’re available. The extension tool I used here is Supersharp AI which gave me three options – Motion Blur Low, Middle, or High.
The process is easy. It’s an all-in-one solution, which is excellent, and the interface is simple to use. In terms of results, Luminar Neo seems to have softened the bulk of the image whilst sharpening the edges (a bit too much sometimes), and I’ve also lost a lot of the stars from the sky.
Photo sharpening with ON1 Photo Raw 2023
In ON1, I used a tool called TackSharp AI, which appeared to do a great job within the software, albeit a job that produced a lot of noise. On exporting the jpg, the sharpness wasn’t as high, albeit still quite good. It appears the sharpness has been applied differently across the scene, which is exactly what we should expect from AI sharpening, but the bright lights of town don’t appear as sharp as they do with Luminar Neo.
ON1 Photo Effects 2023 is a great piece of software to apply the finishing touches to edits, and Photo Raw 2023 is a great place to start. The entire system is an alternative to Adobe software, and it does a great job with most tasks.
Photo sharpening with Topaz Photo AI
Topaz Photo AI takes all the Topaz tools, including Sharpen AI, and puts them all in one package. The aurora is crisp, the stars are still there in the sky and have been turned back into pin-points, and the mountains are way better than before. The city lights are still looking blurry, as they are in each image, but they’re also over-exposed (my bad!)
Those of us used to individual tools from Topaz Labs will be pleased to see all the tools together in one place. The UI for Photo AI is clean and simple, streamlining our process.
I’m awarding top-spot for this test to Topaz Photo AI. This AI sharpening seems to be the best. It’s all down to personal taste and the actual starting image. But for this test, Topaz is the winner. Topaz Photo AI and Sharpening AI use the same system. It’s just packaged differently.
The sharpening algorithms of each of these pieces of software work differently, and with all the machine learning, it can be applied differently. Topaz is the best right now, but that may change with the training of each algorithm and with the image we need to sharpen. I’m excited to see where AI will take us as photographers.