As an m43s shooter, noise is something I'm aware of. As a rule though, I'm not a 'noise nazi', I'm comfortable with a little bit of noise so long as it isn't distracting. And frankly, there are times when a little noise can add a bit of texture especially to large patches of a single color.
I tend to use the built in ACDSee noise control tool for photos with no significant noise/non problem photos. Say, photos shot at ISO 1000 and below and in 'reasonably' good light. And I tend to use Topaz Denoise 6 for photos with problematic noise (usually, stuff over ISO 1000). Though sometimes, the iso limit is higher or lower depending on the specific photo.
My Raw workflow concerning noise,is as follows:
- Conventional raw development (exposure, contrast, Light EQ, cropping, etc)
- ACDSee Noise Control
With Noise control, I first desaturate the image, and then address luminosity noise. I've found that it is easier to identify L noise when I don't have to see it through any color noise. Then I go back and resaturate the image, and address color noise. At this point the only noise I should see is color noise and any L noise I CHOSE not to address.
This has really helped with noise control. I don't get much in the way of color noise, as a rule, for 'conventional' photos, so for me, L noise is what I'm most aware of.
Once I'm done with the ACDSee Noise control, I examine the photo at 100% and determine if I'm happy with the results. If not, I use Topaz Denoise 6. I tend to use one the Topaz Light noise control presets as a start and then adjust the controls on the right of the screen. I tend to pay close attention to the blue and red channel noise controls and the detail controls the most in Denoise.
- ACDSee sharpening with a possible side trip to Topaz Detail 3.
In general, I haven't found that it makes a LOT of difference in the final product if I sharpen before or after noise control, and in the past, I did tend to sharpen before noise control. But I'm finding that it makes more sense to do noise control first if you are willing to consider noise as a design element the way I sometimes do (see my noise as texture comment, above).
Overall, I'm pretty happy with my noise control efforts.