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DxO Optics Pro 9 Software Review

DxO Optics Pro 9 Software Review - Chris Frankland takes a look at DxO's Optics Pro 9 software.

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Category : Software
Product : DxO Optics Pro 9
Price : £75
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Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Optics Pro 9

If you were at The Photography Show recently at the NEC in Birmingham, you would have seen the guys from DxO Optics doing a slideshow presentation of the latest Pro 9 version of their photo processing software. Impressive it was, too, and it was certainly wowing the crowds. Now, having lived with and played with Pro 9 for a while, it is easy to see why.

DxO Optics Pro 9 Features

New features on the Pro 9 version include PRIME noise reduction circuitry, which is claimed to give you one full stop when shooting compared with anything else on the market. It also has DxO Smart Lighting which intelligently adapts to image contents and can be further enhanced by using it in conjunction with modules that can be downloaded from the DxO website optimised for the camera and lens used.

Also added on Pro 9 are new presets such as Portrait, Landscape, Black & White and Single-Shot HDR. The company has also enhanced its export tools and workflow options.

When you fire up DxO Optics Pro 9 the user interface is well presented, easy to navigate and I found it very intuitive to use. The Organize palette on the left-hand side allows you to navigate through your computer’s drives to find the folder you need and, once highlighted, the contents – whether JPEGs or RAW files – will be displayed along the bottom of the window.

A blue asterisk indicates that images are yet to be processed and underneath that you will see, to begin with, a red arrow. This shows whether or not you have downloaded and saved a module for the particular camera and lens combination that took the picture. You can set it so that it will automatically download any modules it needs in the future. The red arrow indicates you haven’t, but by simply clicking on it, it takes you through the steps necessary to find and download the module you need. Most commonly used cameras and lenses are there in the DxO database. Once downloaded, the red arrow is replaced by a green dot.

The far right palette, the Customize palette, is where all of the image processing adjustments are located. DxO Optics Pro 9 automatically defaults to a Standard set of options when you load the pictures. I found these to be largely sensible. As Standard its main setting are: Exposure compensation to Auto; DxO Smart Lighting to Slight; Protect Saturated Colours On; Noise Reduction On Auto; Vignetting on Auto, Chromatic Aberration on Auto and DxO Lens Softness On. The adjustments it sets are a good starting point and rarely caused me immediately to wish to change or cancel them. But if a picture has problems, then you will need to tweak them manually, and that’s when it gets fun.

DxO Optics Pro 9 Performance

I think the two most impressive features, although there are many others, are the Smart Lighting and the Noise Reduction.

DxO Smart Lighting Before
DxO Smart Lighting Before
DxO Smart Lighting After
DxO Smart Lighting After

Let’s start with Smart Lighting. I loved this feature and it is something that I use all the time in my picture processing, both in my personal work and my professional work. Example 1, above, is a picture I took for a client in a dark room against a black curtain. The only illumination was a Metz CT45 hammerhead flash held high and left, supplemented by a small slave unit on the floor below with a guide number of 15. You will see how Smart Lighting had brought out detail in the curtain, in her T-shirt and in her hair, without causing highlights to burn out or spoiling the tonal qualities of the face.

DxO Smart Lighitng 2 Before
DxO Smart Lighitng 2 Before
DxO Smart Lighting Pic 2 After
DxO Smart Lighting Pic 2 After

Example 2, above, is an internal shot in Salisbury cathedral, shot at high ISO using available light. Set to Medium it has brought out detail in the ceiling vaulting and darker recesses while picking up and accentuating the atmospheric lighting.

DxO SL3 Before
DxO SL3 Before
DxO SL3 After
DxO SL3 After

The example above is a picture of the Lloyds Building in London. What is impressive is the vibrance and impact that Smart Lighting has imparted to the shot in conjunction with a small tweak to the contrast and a little noise reduction to mask some of the noise that shows once you lighten the areas previously in shadow. A masterful job in all three cases. This is a feature you will use again and again.

DxO NR1 Test 2 DxO NR Test 1
NR1 Before NR1 After

Noise reduction is another of DxO Optics Pro 9’s trump cards. It makes great claims and it lives up to them. Look at Example NR1. This is a shot I took on a Pentax K3 at Park Cameras using ambient light, ISO set to 8000 and a Metz hot-shoe mounted AF58 flash on fill-in at -1 stop. This is pretty high ISO and noise is evident. What is impressive is how Pro 9 diminishes the chrominance noise but does so without unduly impairing sharpness. This was using the software’s PRIME noise reduction, which will work with RAW files only.

DxO NR 2 Original
DxO NR 2 Original
 
DxO NR2  Test After
DxO NR2 Test After

Example NR2 uses its HIGH noise reduction setting which will work with non-RAW files such as JPEGs and TIFFs. It was taken at the ice rink in London’s Canary Wharf. This was shot on my old Pentax K10D at ISO 1000, and it has to be said that great though the K10D was, its noise performance at 1000 and higher was not up to today’s standards. Noise is evident in the awning above the skaters and DxO all but eliminates it. Very impressive indeed.

DxO NR3 Noise Before
DxO NR3 Noise Before
DxO NR3 After
DxO NR3 After

Example NR3, above, was shot one Christmas on my K7. It was a snatched shot and I was out without a tripod, so I upped it to ISO 3200 and hoped for the best. The result was a bit noisy, but DxO has drastically reduced noise without ruining the overall quality. Another impressive performance.

The next aspect of Pro 9 that impressed me was its ability to manipulate distortion and perspective. I have not included examples here, but suffice to say that Pro, once loaded with the module for your camera and lens, corrects for barrel distortion exceedingly well. My main Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 suffers from very little, but DxO pulls off subtle edge-of-frame barrel effects masterfully and it is well worth leaving it on permanently.

More impressive yet is what it can do to correct perspective anomalies, the kind that have lampposts on the edges of pictures taken at extreme wide angle (24mm) leaning inwards and buildings that you have to shoot up at leaning backwards. I have included an impressive example of each.

DxO P1 Perspective Before
DxO P1 Perspective Before
DxO Perspective P1 After
DxO Perspective P1 After

Example P1, above, shows a building in Ramsgate, Kent, where the usual leaning-backwards type distortion is evident. The corrected version shows the building looking correct with straight sides and standing upright. How? Start by going to the View menu on the main menu bar and select Grid Overlay. This will help you square things up. Then in Horizon / Perspective, I simply adjusted the Up / Down slider to minus 42, then used the Scale slider to fit the building into the frame. Then, in the Crop palette, I set it to ‘Auto based on keystoning / horizon’ and DxO automatically cropped out the areas that were lost due to correction. I think you’ll agree, the result is impressive. It pays to leave a little area either side of the building when you take the shot, so that the building itself does not get cropped.

DxO Perspective P2 Before
DxO Perspective P2 Before
DxO P2 Perspective After
DxO P2 Perspective After

Example P2 above has the famous leaning lamppost effect. Here again simply correct that toe-in with the Up / Down and Left / Right sliders until it looks right, or as good as you can get it, and adjust any displacement with the Horizontal / Vertical ratio slider. The go to Crop to finish the job.

One of the displays of the power of DxO at The Photography Show presentation was that it could correct the effect of a fisheye lens and render the perspective normal. Well, yes, under Distortion, you can indeed set it to Manual and select Fisheye, and it will straighten it out. Impressive as this was to see at the NEC, why anyone should actually ever want to do it is beyond me, but it does show the power of the software to correct distortion, and it means you could creatively apply a reverse fisheye effect to any photograph. 

DxO Optics Pro 9 does more, of course. It offers very good and highly adaptable Unsharp Mask capability, it can remove dust, adjust colour and saturation, but one of its more impressive colour-related party tricks is how it can be used to compensate for that nasty yellow cast you get when you shoot a subject lit by tungsten lighting with the white balance set to Auto.

DxO White Balance 1

I have an example (WB1, above) from one of my pro shoots at a rather exclusive hi-fi emporium on London’s Wigmore Street. I was shooting with my K7 on a tripod, using as long an exposure as I needed to get the desired f-number for depth of field, and with fill-in flash from my hot-shoe mounted Metz AF58. But even the Metz could not neutralise the effects of the tungsten lighting and the yellow cast is a strong one. You will see from the before and after shots, how effectively DxO Pro 9 corrected this. To achieve this, you simply select the eyedropper labelled White Balance Colour Picker and select what should be a neutral area in the scene. The result you see is as good as I could get using my Pentax software where I can select the in-camera white balance options and select tungsten. Now that is impressive. No need to shoot RAW to achieve this then, DxO can do it for you. It certainly impressed me.

DxO Vignetting Before
DxO Vignetting Before
DxO Vignetting After
DxO Vignetting After

Other impressive capabilities worth highlighting include its ability to counteract the effects of vignetting (where areas can darken in the image corners at extreme wide able with some lower quality kit lenses), see Example V1, above, and purple fringing (where you get a purple outline in areas of extreme contrast, such as bare tree branches against a bright sky). See example PF1 below for how well it deals with that.

DxO Purple Fringing Before
DxO Purple Fringing Before
DxO Puple Fringing After
DxO Puple Fringing After

It does more of course, but room is running out. It has filter presets built in that give B&W and HDR conversions and various colour toning effects. It also offers film stock emulation and I have included an example (FV1, below) of how it emulates Fuji Velvia 100. I have also done a black and white conversion using its B&W HDR preset. These are applied to images by right-clicking the image and selecting the one you want.

DxO Velvia Before
DxO Velvia Before
DxO Velvia After
DxO Velvia After

Exporting images is easy. You can save out as a JPEG, 8-bit or 16-bit TIFF or a DNG RAW file. But what really impressed me as a pro, was its batch process and export option. I had shot a few shop exteriors in London’s Tottenham Court Road for a front-page news story and when I got there the light all but disappeared and the shops were all under a building overhang in deep shadow. I was forced to shoot at ISO 2000 at 1/125sec and was flat out at f/2.8. That’s how dark it was. The Pentax K7 coped manfully, of course, and given that the 16-50mm f/2.8 is sharp edge-to-edge at f/2.8 I knew I’d be OK, but I thought it would be nice to apply a little noise reduction to each of the 60 or so pics after the event.

Could DxO Pro 9 make that easy? You bet it could. Just select your first picture, apply the correction you desire, then go to the Image menu and select Copy Correction Settings. This will copy any corrections you have made in the Customize palettes. Then select all the other pics you want processed, select Paste Correction Settings and DxO will automatically apply those settings to all the other pics you selected, and give you the option of where to save them to and what to call them. How good is that!

Value For Money

Having now lived with DxO Optics Pro 9, I can honestly say that I would not be without it. I highly recommend it and it represents good value for money. DxO Optics Pro 9 Standard is available for £75, with DxO Optics Pro 9 Elite available for £154, with support for full-frame cameras.

DxO Optics Pro 9 Verdict

On balance, DxO Optics Pro 9 stacks up as one of the most impressive and versatile post-processing packages you can buy and certainly manages to beat Adobe Lightroom in many of the features that it offers. Its Smart Lighting and Noise Reduction modules are particularly impressive and its slick workflow management makes it a dream for complicated batch processing and outputting. I for one would not want to be without it and at £155 for the Elite version and £75 for the standard, it represents excellent value for money.


 
  DxO Optics Pro 9 software has several brilliant features and is easy to use. 
 

DxO Optics Pro 9 Pros

Superb noise reduction
Smart lighting a real bonus 
Distortion correction works very well
White balance adjustment excellent

DxO Optics Pro 9 Cons

PRIME noise reduction only works on RAW files
B&W effects limited

FEATURES  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

 

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Comments


franken e2
12 3.1k 4 Wales
8 Apr 2014 9:00AM
Looks really tempting.

Ken

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

alfpics 12 357 England
9 Apr 2014 12:30PM
Strange to see that the Amazon price shown is about 40 more than the 75 given in the review for the Standard version!
superbly amazing and awesome software, using it and loving it.

visit my photography page at:
facebook.com/akashduaphotography

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