Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Software Review - DxO Optics Pro v4.5 From DxO Labs

Written by T. Michael Testi

With the release of DxO Optics Pro v4.5, DxO Labs became the first company to have a photographic software application that builds a common work flow with Adobe Lightroom. Pioneers in establishing compatibility with Adobe technologies, they found out early that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom would be an important platform for photographers and are now taking advantage of it.

So just what is DxO Optics Pro? According to DxO Labs, it is "The Next generation automatic image enhancement." It can perform image corrections to your photos without human intervention; but once you have the skills you can take control. In fact they have three different levels; Auto, which automatically adjusts your images, Guided, which takes you by the hand and lets you choose which corrections to implement, or Expert in which you handle everything.

So what kind of corrections does DxO Optics Pro do? First it will eliminate distortion, vignetting and lens softness. It does this by requiring you to enter in the kind of camera and lenses that you are using. In fact you should check out which cameras and lenses that are supported by which version before purchasing the product.

Second, it will remove camera noise and chromatic aberration; that purple fringing that is sometimes seen on photographs, especially when enlarged. Third, it fixes exposure and contrast problems without degrading the image. It does this by using local correction techniques. That is each area of the image is treated separately so that the image is fixed where the image needs to be fixed. A lot of other products try fixing the whole image as one. DxO Optics Pro does it without seams or halos.

Fourth it has Advance color control and adjustment. It does this by incorporating all new color functions that include Color Rendition Profiles through Color Modes and DxO Multi-Point Color Balance to give you more flexibility and control. Color Rendition Profiles let you switch from one camera body to another as well as between film looks. It even allows you to achieve color fidelity when developing RAW files. Multi-Point Color Balance allows you to exploit the full range of available color space for RAW or JPEG files. As seen in the picture below, you can see the before and after image side by side to compare.

Image courtesy T. Michael Testi
Fifth, DxO Optics Pro v4.5 gives you the ability to correct perspective using the Auto-Crop feature. This is a keystoning correction feature that fixes a perspective problem when a picture is shot; usually when shooting a building up at an angle, the top of the picture appears wider than the bottom. Previously this could only be corrected by having a specialized "shift" lens or other technical camera.

Sixth, it allows you to make the best optical, lighting and noise corrections on RAW images including a tight integration with RAW applications that support the DNG format. There are some cameras that this RAW engine support is not available for. Please check with the DxO Labs website for current information on product support.

Finally the seventh major feature is Highlight recovery. This happens when one or more of the color channels are maxed out. If only one of the channels is clipped, DxO's Highlight Recovery can correct this when working with the RAW image.

Ok, this is what you got if you bought version 4 of DxO Optics Pro. Version 4.5 has been just released and what new features do you get with it. You get integration with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. This version has an exclusive plug-in that you can send your Lightroom images to DxO Optics Pro for processing and once processed they can be sent back to Lightroom. This can be done from either product.

Next there is the Flickr plug-in that will allow you to send your DxO Optics Pro processed images direct to a Flickr account. Then there is the Auto-Crop tool that can automatically crop a batch of images that have been corrected for horizon alignment or perspective. There is also the fact that this version is 25% or more faster than before, it is a pretty ambitious upgrade.

There are things that I haven't covered like the fact that DxO Optics Pro also has the ability to build projects and organize your photos. You can work with images as a project in which you can prioritize your photos by giving them star rankings. You can stack related images together for processing. You can also remove and rotate your images as well. This would be handy if you did not have Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or similar product to handle these tasks. It could then be as simple as pressing Process.

One point to make is that with using DxO Optics Pro, you need to begin with original camera files. If you do a bunch of editing of files; especially if it affects the EXIF data, DxO Optics Pro may not be able to process the file properly.

This program works so well because the people at DxO Labs test every camera/lens combination to make sure that it is accurate. They measure and test for each camera and lens that the product supports so that the software can apply the corrections as seamlessly as possible.

There are three versions of DxO Optics Pro; Starter, Standard and Elite. The Starter version does not include the DxO Raw Engine and supports only non-DSLR, high end digital cameras and lists for $79 USD. The Standard version supports all of the Starter level features along with the Raw Engine as well as amateur and expert amateur DSLRs and their lenses and lists for $159 USD. Elite supports the Standard level features as well as the high-end professional DSLRs and their lenses and lists for $299 USD. All can be purchased from DxO Labs Website.

If you take your photography seriously and you want a professional image correction product that will analyze your images and apply corrections; whether manually or automatically, then DxO Optics Pro will make a fine addition to your tool chest.


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