I am very glad you think my pictures look great. Indeed, the 7D does produce quite a bit of noise, especially when going over 3200 ISO. The lighting at the bowling alley was really bad, had this flickering green tint to it and was quite subdued overall so to get action shots that aren't completely frozen but sharp enough I had to bump the ISO pretty high.
As for my post processing. The only piece of software that could come close to these results was Noise Ninja, but now that's a stand-alone app and is out the door. I tried Topaz DeNoise and some others, but none really gave what Noise Ninja could. I then started experimenting with different stuff and I now have a bunch of different import presets in Aperture 3 (yes I'm a Macboi) that do basic RAW processing for me. In this case though, that wasn't good enough, so another approach was necessary.
Exported the RAW files and loaded them up in Adobe Camera Raw (I run CS5) and here's what I did:
1. Set WB (due to that flickering light)
2. Do lens corrections and CA fixes
3. Zoom the image to 200% and focus on an area that has distractingly visible noise. (Dark trousers, colorful shirt or similar).
4. Start dragging the Luminance noise slider in ACR and see what happens to the preview, once a satisfactory result is achieved, stop. This will make the image a little soft.
5. Sharpen, masking usually set to around 95 to only focus on the player. Move the other sliders, detail and radius around to get proper results. I rarely zoom in for this, as I like to see what it does to the overall image instead of a separate pixel, but that's just me and works for me.
6. If the image is good, save it and go - if not really there yet, proceed
7. Open the processed image in PS5 and duplicate the layer
8. On the layer copy apply High Pass filter - On the Ronnie Russell swing image I took it up a notch as my local bowling alley wants to make a printout of it and I found a bit of over-sharpening gives good results when making physical prints. Usually keep the settings pretty low to avoid halos and such, you'll see what I mean when you move the slider all the way to the left.
9. Set the layer blend mode to Overlay
For the Tom Hess shot (the guy in the blue shirt on one leg) I did one extra thing. I used Nik Softwares Color Efex Pro 3 and the Bleach Bypass filter as a final touch and it suited that image fine in my opinion, it didn't work for the others, so I didn't apply that filter to the others.
Color Efex Pro has one other filter I am in love with, the Brilliance / Warmth one. It is awesome, but as with most of them, doesn't suit every image, so trial and error is a good way, and the best way to learn what would probably work and what not.
Man this was a long post. I can post specific Aperture 3 preset settings if anyone's interested in those.
Hope this helped someone.
Some times even this doesn't help.