With the latest update, DxO Optics Pro introduces even more powerful Noise and lighting features alongside its renowned optical correction technology. The software’s unique selling point is that it offers automatic lens corrections for the camera and lens combination used to take the shot. This is made possible thanks to DxO’s long history as one of the world’s foremost authorities when it comes to camera sensor and lens distortion testing. With that extensive database of info, DxO has created a series of profiles that automatically enhance RAWs and JPEGs as soon as you open them. It corrects optical flaws like distortion, chromatic aberration (fringeing) and Noise (grain on the picture). We took a look at the latest version to check out its new features and enhancements.
Viewing and adjusting
Though the manufacturers aren’t connected, the layout of the program will be familiar to users of Adobe Lightroom. The workflow consists of two main tabs: Organize and Customize. The Organize tab is used for viewing images and the Customize tab is where you can make adjustments. However, it’s worth noting that as soon as you select a picture in the Image Browser at the bottom of the screen, Optics Pro automatically displays a window with the corresponding DxO Optics Modules to download. These Modules contain the calibration info for the camera and lens combination used. The corrections are applied automatically, so even if you don’t want to manually adjust every shot, you’ll still end up with images that look superior.
If you do choose to adjust the sliders yourself, Optics Pro still makes changes intelligently. For example, if you add sharpening to a pic, the software applies it differently across the frame to suit the specific lens used. By sharpening more at the edges than the centre, the software is able to balance the sharpening effect in a natural way.
DxO Optics Pro has been given a big boost with a new, simplified workspace that lets you show more of the pic you’re working on. The palettes can now be dragged from the sidebars to any position on screen, meaning you can have your image fill the entire window, placing your palettes where they’ll be least obtrusive.
There are a number of additional enhancements and extra features that have been introduced into the latest version. We’ll run through the ones that are the most significant.
Prime noise reduction
Sitting alongside the Noise Reduction slider is a new option called Prime. Only available for RAW files, Prime’s denoising algorithms analyse a thousand neighbouring pixels to identify similarities. This process includes several successive rounds of denoising to ensure truly cutting-edge results. It’s much slower to use than the standard Noise Reduction feature – which is already good and is applied automatically – but is really effective on high ISO images with very evident Noise problems.
DxO smart lighting
The DxO Smart Lighting feature intelligently reveals the details in all tonal ranges by automatically brightening dark zones in an image and recovering detail in bright areas. If you really want to see how far your RAW files can be pushed, simply drag the Smart Lighting slider to the right and prepare to be impressed as images you’d previously written off as underexposed suddenly become quite useable. For finer control over the tones, you can also adjust the highlights, midtones, and shadows separately with the Selective tone tool. Smart Lighting is distinct from the single-shot HDR feature, and gives more natural results.
Optics Pro also lets you obtain more precise skin tones than before when boosting saturation. Other enhancements include an automatic ‘Protect saturated colours’ tool. This helps you avoid losing detail in highly-saturated areas. With the new Colour Rendering feature you can choose from a selection of presets to make the colours in your image look as though they were taken with a range of film types or different camera bodies. Most will prefer to use their own camera’s colour rendering, but the options open up creative avenues to give shots a new look. On the more practical side, the Color Rendering presets allow you to give a uniform appearance to the colours of a batch of pics, even if you’ve used different camera bodies.
If you want to create a particular look for your image, there are 30 presets to get you there quickly. With options for portraits, landscapes, and black & white effects, it’s easy to achieve the style you’re after in one-click fashion. There’s also a single-shot HDR preset to give a stylised HDR effect from a single image.
Rather than compete with the popular Lightroom package from Adobe, DxO Optics Pro now offers a non-destructive workflow that integrates with it.
You can transfer RAWs from Lightroom to Optics Pro with a single click. Once in Optics Pro, you can process images using the custom modules and other specialised features. When you’re done, you can save images back to your Lightroom catalogue using the Export to Lightroom feature and the processed images are automatically stacked with the original images. Optics Pro 9 also offers full compatibility with the XMP standard, so star rankings and keywords are preserved.
Overall this is an accomplished piece of software that offers exceptional lens correction, sharpening and Noise reduction features. In these areas it trumps Lightroom, though the latter’s cataloguing and local adjustment features are not matched. Used together, you have a perfect mix, though it will add another stage to your RAW workflow.
Loaded with impressive new and enhanced features, DxO Optics Pro 9 makes a great companion app to Lightroom. It’s the market leader in automatic, bespoke image enhancement, so why not download the free trial and unleash the potential of your RAW files.
- Price: DxO Optics Pro Standard Edition £119, Elite Edition £239
- Free trial available: Yes
- Supported formats: JPEG, RAW files (except DNG), TIFF
- Minimum System requirements – Windows: Vista – 8.1, Intel Core 2 Duo/AMD Athlon 64 X2, 2GB disk space. 2GB RAM
- Minimum System requirements – Mac:
- OS X 10.6–10.9, Mac Intel only,
- 32 and 64-bit Windows versions: Yes
- Support for full-frame cameras: Elite Edition only
- Visit: www.dxo.com
This review was first published in the September 2014 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.