Is Topaz Photo AI 2 worth your time and money? Discover the pros and cons in my in-depth review.
Topaz Labs has created Photo AI, which promises to improve your images. It will remove the noise, sharpen your pictures, and improve their resolution with just one click using its advanced AI.
All these features were previously available as 3 separate stand-alone packages: DeNoise AI, Sharpen AI, and Gigapixel AI but have since been merged into Topaz Photo AI.
The main advantage of this new release is that you can find everything in one simple interface. The downside is that the number of settings that you can customize is limited compared to the three separate releases.
Topaz Photo AI can be used alone or as a Photoshop or Lightroom Plugin and is compatible with most image file types including RAW format. When using it as a standalone software you can report the file in DNG format thus retaining the best quality.
AI plays an important role in this software and that’s why I mentioned Topaz Photo AI in my article where I talk about the best AI tools for every photographer. A new feature called Autopilot is where the magic happens.
Main features of Topaz Photo AI 2
Topaz Photo AI has three main sections: Autopilot, Image Quality, and Upscale.
This is a new feature introduced in this release of Topaz. It’s an advanced tool that uses AI to examine your images and detects which elements are in the picture, what needs to be improved, and which settings are ideal. It’s similar to how Luminar Neo works (here is my review) although Luminar Neo is a bit more advanced.
Autopilot automatically masks the main subject of the picture but it’s not always correct. If the selection is not good you can always refine it by moving a few sliders.
If the settings applied are too strong or are not relevant to the image, you can always fine-tune them.
In the Image Quality section, you can find 5 tools: Remove Noise, Sharpen, Recover Faces, and Enhance Resolution.
- The Remove Noise tool works great. I think this is where Topaz really shines. The only downside is that if you apply a very aggressive noise reduction, the image can have a “plasticky” feeling.
- The Sharpen tool is a kind of hit-or-miss thing. Sometimes it enhances greatly the image, some other times it simply ruins it. The AI automatically detects the subject, creates a mask, and then improves the image. There are three settings: Lens Blur, Motion Blur, and Standard mode. The motion blur setting can often help recover unusable pictures.
- The Recover Faces tool is similar to the Sharpen tool but it focuses on faces and it works very well only if the faces are slightly out of focus. If the AI doesn’t detect any face, the Recover Faces tool is locked. Just like the Sharpen tool, it can actually fix an image or completely ruin it, especially if the face is rather small and doesn’t have many details.
Upscale is the last section and is not applied automatically. Most likely you will use it with the Enhance Resolution Tool. Remember that this tool works well with files that have a lot of information and are not too compressed, like those generated with a mirrorless or DSLR camera. If you have an image shot with a smartphone don’t expect miracles. Most likely you’ll only increase the artifacts.
This being said it’s a very useful tool to 1) recover older pictures from lower-resolution cameras, 2) to allow for larger print sizes, 3) to allow for extreme cropping even with high-res shots from modern cameras (particularly useful for wildlife shots) and 4) to increase the size of AI-generated images (which have as of now a very low resolution).
You can choose between four different sizes (1x, 2x, 4x or Max). The Max setting increases the image size by a factor of 6 but the limit is 32,000 pixels on the longer side. This limit applies to the other settings as well. So if you choose 4x but the image would be larger than 32,000px you’ll only get to pick 1x, 2x or Max).
The latest version of Topaz AI 2 now includes the following features:
- Adjust Lighting: This function improves lighting and addresses over/underexposed areas.
- Balance Color: Removes color casts, then adjusts temperature.
- Raw Remove Noise: Greatly improved AI to reduce digital noise.
When should you use Topaz Photo AI 2?
This is not software that should be used every time you edit an image, unlike Luminar Neo (you can try it here for free). Luminar applies several filters and enhances all sorts of images, meanwhile, Topaz Photo AI is specifically designed to fix some common issues. So if your images are not really affected by those issues there is no need to use it.
If for example, you are editing images that have too much digital noise, Topaz is the perfect tool. You can quite literally recover a picture that would have been otherwise unusable. Topaz also offers an amazing upscaling tool. This is a must-have if you want to sell your AI-generated images (find out more here). This is because at the moment all text-to-image AI tools such as Midjourney create images that have a very low resolution, way below the minimum required by stock agencies. So the only workaround is to use Topaz Photo AI to upscale them. You can do it in bulk, thus speeding up your workflow.
Topaz is also great if your portraits are slightly out-of-focus. Of course, don’t expect miracles, but I was actually surprised by how well the AI works: it can identify the faces, correct the focus and sharpen it (although it tends to oversharpen a bit) and it does all of this in just one click: as simple as that.
Pros and Cons of Topaz Photo AI
- Simple to use
- Batch photo editor that can save you a lot of time
- Excellent noise reduction
- Excellent upscaling up to 600X
- Tools are arranged in a logical order
- Quite low performances
- Quite expensive
- No trial period (but they do allow refunds)
- Only 1 year of free updates
- Limited settings compared to the previous three stand-alone plugins
Final thoughts about Topaz Photo AI
To conclude my review I can say that Topaz Photo AI is a great tool in very specific scenarios. If you have a one-in-a-lifetime portrait that was shot in high ISO and is slightly out of focus then this software can really be a lifesaver. It’s also (as I mentioned earlier) the best option to allow you to upscale your AI-generated images, a must if you want to monetize them by selling them.
The two main issues are the price and the very slow rendering time. Given the fact that it’s quite expensive and you are not gonna use it to post-process every image, it can be hard to justify its price. This being said Topaz Photo AI does what it’s supposed to do and it does it quite well.
If you enjoyed this review check out my review of Drone Launch Academy, perfect if you are just getting started with your drone