Despite watching videos and reading reviews of Topaz products, I had never really tried them, stayed true to my workflow and didn’t venture further. I like software and I like seeing what it can do with my images, but I felt safe with what I’m currently using. So, what could Topaz Photo AI bring to the table that I haven’t already been able to?
I’m writing this review from the perspective of a total newbie when it comes to this software. So if you’re a current user you might see things I could improve or actually disagree with my findings, but I’ll say I’m mighty impressed by it.
Don’t just take my word for it, there is a free trial of the software on the Topaz website that you can try with your own images. To save them, you need to activate a license. Once activated, Topaz Photo AI can be used on two computers as a plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop or as standalone software and includes unlimited upgrades for a year. With Black Friday sales right around the corner, there’s a massive $299 off retail, meaning you’re only paying $159, complete with a 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee.
What’s included with Photo AI?
Topaz creates many different plug-ins and standalone software. What can Topaz Photo AI add to your workflow?
- Remove noise including raw files
- Recover Faces
- improve resolution
These all do exactly what the name suggests, and very well, very well in fact. I used Fujifilm X-T4 raw files for most of my initial experimentation with the software and the difference was plain to see. Results were never too strong or overcooked thanks to autopilot, yet there was a substantial improvement in overall image quality. I wasn’t expecting the quality of the upscaled images it produced. I also tested Topaz Photo AI’s features on my phone pictures and camera JPG files, and again it worked flawlessly. So if you’re interested in seeing how these features can improve your images, I’d definitely give it a try.
The UI is clean and not convoluted, which is a good thing for new users like me. You can turn each of the features on or off depending on the result you want, and while I’ll be using them primarily for landscapes, I tried the Restore Faces option. Some of the faces with higher ISOs or softer faces have been significantly sharpened and enhanced. So far I’ve only used the software either as a standalone or via a Lightroom plugin using the File > Plugin Extras option instead of the Edit In option. The software quickly jumps into action and after the AI has analyzed your images, it offers you a preview that you can tweak as you see fit. I mainly used the autopilot mode with only slight adjustments here and there as the results were surprisingly good.
Autopilot mode is also configurable via the gear icon, and you can set different settings based on your usual genre of photography. I found this useful. It’s minimal and straightforward in its approach, although this can easily be changed to suit the needs of your images.
I initially wondered how much this software can actually improve the captured image, but the results speak for themselves. At times it was able to save some frames that I would normally pass by due to wind blur and other motion issues.
The details that Topaz Photo AI was able to easily extract and enhance from some of the images were unexpected as I didn’t think it could achieve them. The softness of the road and buildings in the image below could be corrected slightly, allowing me to save images that I would otherwise have thrown away. The software isn’t an excuse for bad photography, but it can certainly allow you to keep pictures in some cases that you might not want to take again.
I don’t want to create ultra-sharp images all the time myself, but with the subtle tweaks I can apply with this software, I’m very happy with the results it produces.
I don’t take many astrophotography pictures, but I remembered getting a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis in Iceland this year, so what better way to check the noise reduction feature than a shot like this? Again, the software made light work of the noise. The image below is a 100% zoom so you can see the difference it made. Some screenshots are included in the gallery so you can see how much this software can enhance your images.
What I liked
- Clean interface
- Easy to use
- Visible correction improvement in the image
- Plugin or standalone
What could be improved
- Save speed on some images
Saving some images in Lightroom took a little longer. I’m sure this is due to the complexity of the AI adjustments made and wouldn’t stop me from using the software as the resulting images were well worth it. That was sometimes around 80 seconds for Nikon raw files and not a frustrating time I’ve experienced with some programs.
I was really impressed by what Topaz Photo AI could achieve with landscapes very easily, and had to try it on a few other subjects: an image of a crab and an architecture image, both quick snapshots, but both were greatly improved with Topaz Photo AI. Autopilot scanned and analyzed the images fairly quickly and delivered results that, considering the original images, I was very happy with.
As previously mentioned, I used the software as a plugin over Lightroom, creating a global edit of the images. When used as a Photoshop plug-in, it can be used over layers and masks to locally correct or enhance areas in your images.
As this is my first attempt at the software, I have to say that I am very impressed with Topaz Photo AI. I never encountered any anomalies or soft areas even after adjusting some of the sliders. Some images would take a little longer to save back in Lightroom than the others depending on the complexity of the adjustments and file size, but the results are definitely worth it. I have to admit that I’m delighted with what I’ve seen so far and will be adding it to my workflow for future edits.