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DxO PhotoLab 1.2 Software Review - Performance

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DxO PhotoLab 1.2 Handling & Performance

We'll quickly give an overview of the Customize panel before taking a closer look at the small, but mighty, updates that have been introduced in version 1.2. 

When you first select an image to open in the Customize window, the software quickly applies edits, it thinks, the image needs. This includes noise reduction, white balance, lens sharpness, contrast, vignetting, chromatic aberration removal and dynamic range fixes. Some might not like software taking control but it actually does a really good job (you can actually export some images after the auto edits have been applied, it's that impressive) and for those who are new to photo editing, it can help you create a decent looking image in not much time at all. 

If you do want to make your own adjustments, you can as the right-hand panel has a great-big list of them. Tools are categorised into menus that can be extended or hidden to give the interface a less busy look (if you want to) and you can use sliders or input values to edit settings. If you like a particular adjustment grouping and think it will work well for several images, you can make presets you can apply with just one click, too. 

The software's noise removal feature is worth a few words as it's excellent, even more so when working with RAW files. The quality of the finished product is impressive and there's no smudging or loss of detail in sight. How the software balances the tonal range is also really good, making images 'pop' in all of the right places. 

Above the editing tools is a histogram that shows you the shadow/highlight clipping that's going on and above that is a menu with basic adjustment tools, a button for accessing presets and it's also how you gain access to local adjustments. To the left is where you find EXIF data, the preset editor and a zoom/move tool (although, a scroll of the mouse also does this so we found it a bit redundant at times). 



Back to the top menu and you find a useful compare tool that quickly flicks between 'before and after' as well as an option for previewing side-by-side, both of which come in handy when you want to see how much of an improvement you have made to your photo. 

The most impressive tool in the top menu is the local adjustments tool as it's really easy to use and it really helps you fine-tune images with a great deal of control and detail. To apply a local adjustment, you have various tools at-hand which include the brush, graduated filter, control point and auto mask (which automatically detects edges). 

Control points use the in-built U-Point technology to create an automatic mask that's based on the information found in a specific pixel. The software will then look for pixels which are similar in colour and brightness to that pixel, which are situated close to its location (you can specify the area the software looks in by adjusting the sample circle by increasing/decreasing its size), and apply the adjustments you make to them all. Basically, it's a quick way to edit a larger area without painting a mask and it does a pretty good job. However, for more control we recommend you using the brush tool to paint a mask on the area of the image you want to edit. It sounds complicated but actually, it can't be any more straightforward to do and it's a lot easier than applying masks to layers in Adobe's Photoshop that's for sure. 

You can increase/decrease the size of the brush you're using, feather it and adjust the flow/opacity. You can also erase the mask should you go over an area you don't want to be selected. When you have finished applying your mask, the equaliser system pops up which is where you access various editing sliders. Eagle-eyed users will notice this has had a slight redesign to include the new Hue slider and Selective Tone options. The tools are now grouped by three categories: Light, Colour and Detail so the system doesn't extend out too far over your image.

When we first started using DxO PhotoLab, we did try and click on the equaliser tools to move them out of the way of the area we were trying to edit but once you click on the slider you want to adjust, the rest do vanish so you only have one in view. Having said that, it would still be nice to be able to move it away from the mask so you can see the edit you're applying with a fully unobstructed view. 

DxO adding options for specifically editing highlights, midtones, shadows and blacks in an image is excellent as it gives you even more control over how your final image looks. It also means that if you have a highlight that's pulling the viewer's attention, you can fix it without having to edit the look of the whole image. Plus, as it's done with the pull of a slider, it couldn't be easier to do. A hue slider has also been introduced, too.  

Multiple masking points


The graduated filter simulates the effect of a real-life grad filter so it balances the exposure in landscape photos, reducing the extreme contrast between a bright sky and darker foreground. It couldn't be easier to use: drag the tool over the area of the image you want to adjust and move the sliders until you're happy the image is more balanced. 

You can toggle masks 'on/off' by pressing the M key on a PC which is useful when you want to see how your changes have made the overall image look and when working with control points, pressing M gives you an X-ray view which shows highlighted areas where effects have been applied. 

DxO PhotoLab 1.2


There's no Layer system built-in but, really, it's not needed as you can apply multiple masks/control points to one image which can all be individually adjusted. Or, you can apply the same tweaks you've made to another area of the image by reselecting the original mask and then just painting on the other areas you want the effects to be applied. All changes are also applied live so you can see how an edit will change the look of your image instantly. 

One thing that would be nice to see is a history window that shows all of the edits you've made as even though they are all none-destructive, you have to keep clicking undo to take you back to a specific point in your workflow. 

We'll mention the preset options as there are lots of them to use, all of which can be previewed before you apply them. As with all presets, they don't all work on every image and they won't be everyone's cup of tea but they are there should you want to use them. You can, of course, apply a preset and then tweak the image from there, giving you a base to work with and speeding your workflow up as a result. 


Other points worth mentioning are that the software is customisable so you can move/remove palettes and adjust the workspace to suit you. A message also pops up when the software needs updating to support a camera/smartphone you've used so images captured with them are automatically corrected for optical defects. The updates are quick and it means you don't have to go hunting around the DxO website for them.  

You can export images into Lightroom, should you wish, or directly to social media should you be someone who likes to share your photos with friends/family this way. The more traditional 'save as' function is under 'export to disk' where you'll find options for outputting photos as JPEG, TIFF and DNG. Annoyingly, you can't rename the file on export but the word 'DxO' is inserted into the file name you so know it's the one you've edited. 

As for performance, we didn't experience any issues with lag or loading which is a positive. 


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7 Jun 2018 1:40PM
Great review on DxO PhotoLab, have used DxO for years, this is the best one yet.
Have tried a dozen other software brands, nothing compares. Give it a try, you will

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7 Jun 2018 11:07PM
A couple of points about your review.
1. No mention in the CONS about the lack of keywording facility.
2. No mention among the alternatives of Affinity photo, cheaper than all those mentioned, easy to use and an excellent product. Shouldn't a UK based site i.e, EPZ be at least mentioning British alternatives?
16 Jun 2018 2:33AM
While I fully agree it would be nice (and of this age) to be able to move the equaliser, I should note it is possible to show/hide it by pressing 'E'. For me that's fast enough to be able to check results in a hurry and come back to refine.

Great review. I've owned OpticsPro and own Photolab. The 1.2 upgrade really makes a huge difference to me. The ability to tone up/down the highlights/midtones/shadows/blacks individually is invaluable. Before I had to make do with exposure corrections, and that's more crude. This makes very detailed adjustments a breeze, very nice.

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