a4 July 2014

Review: Topaz Detail

If you follow my blog you probably know that I use Topaz Plug-ins quite a lot. Today I would like to review one of them - Topaz Detail which I often use for sharpening and enhancing details in my images.

Honestly speaking, for a long time I wasn't big fan of Topaz Detail - results I got from it where often grungy and my images didn't look realistic. So I preferred to use other tools to enhance details in my images. However, after I learnt to use it properly my images became much sharper and now contain more detail.

What is Topaz Detail for?

Topaz Detail plug-in, currently in version 3.2, is a tool for enhancing details in your images. From small textures, to larger detail like droplets in macro photos, to very large like rocks in mountain scenery or features of a building. I use it mainly for landscape and architecture photos but it works really well also for animals or portrait photography what you will see in a few seconds. Basically it suitable for any kind of photography where there are details that you would like to make more pronounced.

Apart from ability to enhance details Topaz Detail also allows to improve exposure, tones and colours in the image. Most of the time I don't use this feature (as I have other tools for that) but it's a nice addition for people not having other plug-ins that deal with colours and exposure like Topaz Adjust or Nik Color Efex for instance.

User Interface

Interface of Topaz Detail 3.2
Interface of Topaz Detail 3 is very pretty and intuitive. On the left you can see presets, in the middle there is preview image and on the right there are adjustments. In the bottom-left corner of preview image there is also a preview for currently selected preset. Note that this preview goes away as soon as you move your mouse from the preset name.
GUI is very nice and similar to other Topaz Plugins so if you're familiar with them, using Topaz Detail will be very easy for you. And even if you haven't used any plug-in from Topaz team you will quickly understand how to use it as GUI is very intuitive.

It can be broken into a few sections:
  • On the left there is a window listing presets, both built-in and custom ones. For convenience presets are grouped into a few categories (you can create your own too) like Creative Detail Collection or Stylized Detail Collection,
  • In the middle there is a preview image showing effect of the adjustments. Of course you can zoom in and zoom out,
  • On the right there is a window with sliders that let you adjust details in your image very precisely.
You can adjust strength of small, medium and large details separately what gives great flexibility and power. I mainly adjust small and medium details, what when done right has the effect of sharpening the image, because increasing strength of large details seems to increase clarity of the image and to control clarity I prefer to use Topaz Clarity as it gives me more control.

Moreover you can limit your adjustments to shadows or highlights. And finally you can create layer mask limiting scope of the effect even further.

I mentioned built-in presets above. As any other Topaz plug-in, Topaz Detail comes with a collection of presets to get you started.

Is it a rose without thorns?

No, life is never that beautiful :)

First of all I love to be able to compare before and after images side by side to see the effect of adjustments I'm making. However, in Topaz Detail it's not possible. What's surprising is that such a feature is available in some of the other plug-ins, eg. Topaz Adjust and Topaz Clarity. You can still see image without adjustments but I just prefer to see Before & After side by side.

One more issue I found is that sometimes preview doesn't look like the final image (despite previewing adjustments at 100% magnification) - enhancements in Topaz Detail seem to be stronger than the final effect.

Summary

Time for a short summary. Topaz Detail is an excellent tool if you want to enhance details in your image or sharpen it. Results produced by this plug-in compared to eg. unsharp mask filter from Photoshop are virtually free from halo artifacts. That's why it recently became my favourite tool for sharpening.

Pros:
  • Great and halo free results,
  • Ease of use,
  • Nice and intuitive GUI,
  • A lot of built-in presets,
  • Ability to apply effect only to highlights or shadows, as well as to create custom mask,
  • Ability to edit tones and colours in the image.
Cons:
  • Lack of compare button to show original and processed image side by side,
  • Preview and final images sometimes differ.

Sample photos

Below you will find a few samples. Images show effect of using Topaz Detail 3.2. To see how they looked before applying it, just move mouse pointer over selected photo - original image will be shown:

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