DXO Optics Pro V 5.1

Review Date : Mon, 4 Feb 2008

Author :

DxO Optics Pro V 5.1

If you are looking for a Raw converter for your images, this looks a corker......

Pros: The many advanced features for Raw files; automated application of corrections as you bring in files to the Filmstrip; fast preview in the Select tab; price for the Standard version
Cons: Geometry tools won’t work with unsupported files; magnifying glass doesn’t always show correct section when using JPEGs from unsupported cameras; pixelated preview

DxO Optics Pro is a versatile application that automatically corrects and enhances digital camera files. To say it’s a Raw file converter is an understatement; we'd describe DxO Optics Pro as a Raw file converter on steroids.

When you install the application you select your own camera and lens combination from an extensive list, which includes most popular DSLR cameras and lenses. This adds a pre-defined profile of your kit to the DxO application. When you load your files for processing, DxO Optics Pro now knows what lens distortions, vignetting, lens softness to correct, removes image file noise, purple fringing and optimises the image quality. The optimised image is saved as a new file, leaving your original ‘Master’ file untouched. Let’s take a close look at this software and see if it can deliver.

Installation
The main DxO application is installed from either a CD or by a download from www.dxo.com. Once it is installed you are prompted to load a camera/lens profile for your own camera. This file has been programmed with the relevant information on your equipment; it now knows the weak spots on your lens and will apply corrections to the file when you process the images. You can download new profiles as and when you change or upgrade equipment. In other words DxO grows with you.

The interface
At first glance the entire interface has a look and feel somewhere between an advanced imaging application and a basic shareware application. The tool panels on the right edge have a clunky look and feel to them. Each palette has its own sliders and drop-down lists, which are basic in design, but work efficiently. DxO hasn’t based its palettes or sliders on the Windows or Mac operating system, instead it has its own unique look, which you may either love or hate.

The interface is divided into four tabs: Select, Prepare, Process and Review. The first tab is a very fast and efficient file browser – simply click on a folder and the contents are displayed almost instantly in the right hand window. The thumbnails can be enlarged via a zoom slider, though they remain low-res magnified thumbnail images. Just double click on a single image or drag a batch of images down to the Filmstrip window. Now you can simply click on the Process Now button and DxO Optics will optimise the images and save the processed images as a new file to a destination folder of your choice.

If you want to make further adjustments before processing, click on the Prepare tab. From here you have full access to all the image-enhancing features. The palettes on the right can be turned on or off, expanded or collapsed. Located at the top of the palettes is a set of colourful icons. These are a quick way to turn on or off any palette, but we felt that these were more for decoration than practicality. Once you have made your corrections then you can move on to the Process tab. Here you will see all the images that are waiting to be processed. You can define the format, size and resolution you want your image saved in; by default it is JPEG but you can choose TIFF or Adobe DNG (Adobe PSD is not supported), and you can also save the file in all three formats in different destination folders etc. The final Review tab shows the before and after image(s) that have just been processed.

The Tools in Action
Moving any slider causes the image to display in a very low pixelated resolution, and when the slider is released the image pops back into a higher non-pixelated resolution. This display switching can be tiresome and especially when viewing a portion of the image at a higher magnification, as you have to release the slider to see the full effect of any adjustment being made. DxO advised us that this is quite normal as there are a lot of computations taking place at any one time. A plausible excuse, but this doesn’t happen in Photoshop or Lightroom, which also rely on a lot of hefty computing power.

The various tool sliders are clunky in operation and as far as colour corrections go they fall well short of what can be achieved in Lightroom, Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. If you make adjustments with any of the tools and then change your mind, you can turn it off, but not reset it, though you can make a global reset. We'd have liked the option to reset any single tool back to its default setting. When you have adjusted the image to your own preference then you can save the settings as a Preset, and this preset can be automatically applied to any image as you bring them in on the Select tab. We like the fully automated workflow, but it does require you to define the settings beforehand.

There is also a Geometry palette, and with this you should be able to correct any perspective problems on your photograph. Select the parallel horizontal or vertical bars, align them to two straight edges in your image and the image will pop into a corrected state. There is also a four-way rectangle that allows you to quickly correct a building or other surface. When the Geometry tools work, they work well, though we have had several images that will not allow a correction to be made. DxO has advised us that this may happen with unsupported camera files and that it will be fixed in a future update patch.

Working with Raw
As photographers we are always looking for a better way to work with image files, and there is no doubt that shooting Raw files has to be the best way to work. Unfortunately, they also take up the most time and space for processing and storage. Fortunately, DxO handles these files really well and you will also benefit from the profiles for camera and lens that you will have installed. Open the Raw files in exactly the same way as you open a JPEG file and now you will see the real power of DxO Pro.

More options are now available in the Tools palette, options which include Raw white balance together with Kelvin adjustments, and colour rendering which includes many cameras in the drop-down list – so you could apply a Canon body rendering to a Nikon camera for interesting results. The Geometry palette also has a couple of new options available: Recover Spheres and Recover Cylinders under Volume anamorphosis. In short DxO now gives you full control on the shortcomings (if any) of your photographic equipment. The real drawback is when you process the images, as this can be very slow even on a highly specified computer.

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Verdict

DxO is unique in that it fixes optical problems that we have reluctantly accepted as the norm. The DxO team has put in a lot of work to solve the optical problems of various lenses or colour balance problems with camera bodies. When used in the fully automated mode, DxO will fix them and you can further tweak the images to suit you. It won’t solve all your imaging needs; Adobe Lightroom offers a lot more user control for colour corrections. DxO acknowledges this by including a Lightroom plug-in, so you can send your optically corrected files to Lightroom.

DxO has a few faults, but it processes images superbly, albeit slowly. The Standard version is good value at £99, but if you have a top-end SLR (such as the Canon 5D and 1D series, and the Nikon D2H, D2X and D3) you’ll have to invest in the £199 Elite version, which is less so.

Verdict

DxO is unique in that it fixes optical problems that we have reluctantly accepted as the norm. The DxO team has put in a lot of work to solve the optical problems of various lenses or colour balance problems with camera bodies. When used in the fully automated mode, DxO will fix them and you can further tweak the images to suit you. It won’t solve all your imaging needs; Adobe Lightroom offers a lot more user control for colour corrections. DxO acknowledges this by including a Lightroom plug-in, so you can send your optically corrected files to Lightroom. DxO has a few faults, but it processes images superbly, albeit slowly. The Standard version is good value at £99, but if you have a top-end SLR (such as the Canon 5D and 1D series, and the Nikon D2H, D2X and D3) you’ll have to invest in the £199 Elite version, which is less so.

Digital SLR Reviews

Price as reviewed

£99.00

Scores

Scores
Overall Score 87%