DxO PhotoLab 5 Software Review

DxO PhotoLab 5 is the latest version of DxO's popular photo editing software and we're putting it to the test to find out how the new features fair.

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PhotoLab 5
 

Quick Verdict

DxO PhotoLab 5 brings additional/improved tools to an already excellent line-up of photo editing and management tools but we can still see where improvements could be made to the Photo Management section of the software. Having said that, the fact that it's built into the user interface alongside the photo editing options does mean you're not switching in and out of different programmes and it is really easy to use. Plus, the addition of EXIF editing along with the new 'keyword tree' makes it a better photo management tool overall. 

The minimal upgrades might not be enough to persuade everyone to upgrade/switch but we can see many of those who are already using DxO PhotoLab 5 finding the updates to the software useful. As a result, DxO PhotoLab 5 still comes 'Highly Recommended'.

+ Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Quick in response 
  • Excellent handling of RAW images 
  • Improved U Point Technology 
  • No subscription 
  • Keyword improvements
  • Can now adjust EXIF/Metadata 
  • Fujifilm X-Trans sensor support

- Cons

  • Minimal updates
  • PhotoLibrary options could still be improved 

 

DxO PhotoLab 5 is the latest version of the French company's photo editing software that also combines a photo library/management tool within the same user interface. With version 5 comes updates to both areas of the software so we're putting it to the test to find out just how easy it is to organise and edit our photos with the new software. 

We'll mainly be focusing on 'what's new' in DxO PhotoLab 5 so if you do want more of an overview of what the PhotoLab software is, have a look at our previous reviews and take a look at the DxO website

 

DxO PhotoLab 5 Features

The introduction of DxO PhotoLab 5 brings improvements to local adjustment tools as well as an updated PhotoLibrary. You also get a speedier RAW file development tool and support for additional cameras including the Fujifilm X-Trans sensor camera range which is a first for the software. 

New Features:

  • RAW editing speed improvements 
  • Support for Fujifilm X-Trans RAW files 
  • Selective metadata copy/paste
  • IPTC editing
  • Keyword tree
  • EXIF editing
  • Metadata display
  • Selective metadata-export options
  • Standard metadata copy/paste
  • Control Lines (U POINT Technology)
  • Selective application of Control Points and Control Lines

 

DxO PhotoLab 5 Handling & Performance

PhotoLab 5
 

When you first launch DxO PhotoLab 5 you are asked how many of the automated features you'd like to appear in your workspace so more experienced photo editors can choose to work in a less cluttered workspace with options to toggle palettes and automated features as needed. 

As with version 4 of the software, PhotoLab 5 offers two interfaces: PhotoLibrary and Customise so where you organise photos and edit them are kept separately. 

Those who have used previous versions of PhotoLab will be familiar with the setup and those who have used Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop will also see some similarities between the brands. The grey tones used for the user interface are great for photo editing as the neutral tones won't affect the colours/tones of the images you are working on. You can also move/remove/add panels so you can customise the workspace to show only the tools you need. 

 

PhotoLab 5
 

As we've taken a look at previous versions of DxO PhotoLab, we won't be going into too many details about the overall performance and layout as you can see our comments on this in our previous reviews but, before we take a look at the new features on offer in DxO PhotoLab 5, we thought we'd summarise what we think of DxO PhotoLab overall and it's a really great piece of photo editing software that's backed up by a comprehensive photo library/management tool. The in-built PhotoLibrary means you can organise and then edit your images all in one place without having to switch in-and-out of different software and DxO has added new tools that improve how the PhotoLibrary works. The Customise tab where you make all of your edits is still easy to use and has plenty of tools that make improving your photos a straightforward process. Plus, tools such as the HSL colour wheel just make the whole process a bit more fun and the Control Points which use the in-built U-Point technology are still excellent tools for speeding up your workflow, especially with the introduction of Control Lines which we'll be looking at in more detail. 

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

 

Right. Let's have a look at the new tools and improvements...

 

U Point Technology: New Pointer & Control Lines 

PhotoLab 5
 

We've never had a bad word to say about the U Point Technology built into DxO PhotoLab as it's fun to use and makes applying/editing masks for specific photo edits a really simple process. Now, when you have a large area you want to edit you can use the 'Control Lines' option as this selects larger areas faster. Both Control Points and the new Control lines are also equipped with sensitivity settings so you can use luminance (light) and chrominance (colour) sliders to adjust how strong the effect you're applying is. As before, you access these going to the Local Adjustments panel and right-clicking anywhere on the image. 

 

PhotoLab 5
 

All of these edits are non-destructive so you can click on the points/lines you've applied to tweak them and there's a history panel so you can go back to specific edits you've made if you need to. There's still 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. 

 

PhotoLibrary Improvements

PhotoLab 5

 

This was one area we thought DxO was lagging behind in when you compare it with other software which does a similar thing such as Lightroom or Excire Foto. This part of the software indexes your photos that contain images but unlike other photo management software, you can't import images. Instead, you work on the images from the files on your computer but you can create Projects should you want to. 

PhotoLab 5 now processes IPTC and EXIF data, something previous versions didn't do, and you can edit/add IPTC data but Metadata is still not editable. We do see an improvement in keywording, though, with a keywords list that is ordered alphabetically/numerically so you can see how many images have a specific keyword attached to them. It's also really easy to add new keywords to images but the method isn't quite as fluid as it is in other photo management software. There aren't any preset keywords either - you have to add them all yourself. However, it's good that DxO has reorganised the PhotoLibrary so all of the Metadata and Keyword information can be found to the right of the user interface which was missing in previous versions. 

Overall, the best way to describe the PhotoLibrary is 'a bit basic' but DxO is great at bringing new features/improvements to PhotoLab so perhaps this is an area they will continue to work on. 

 

DeepPRIME: Developing RAW Files Quicker

DxO PhotoLab has always offered excellent RAW file editing and improvements this time have come in terms of speed with the noise removing process alongside ClearView and Colour Rendering been up to 1.6X faster than PhotoLab 4. To be fair, we didn't really experience speed issues when using previous versions but any improvement that speeds up workflow will be welcomed by users. Those who use Macs will see speed improvements of up to 4.5X. 

An improvement that won't be applicable to everyone but will please Fujfilm fans is the fact that DxO PhotoLab 5 now supports Fujifilm X-Trans sensor cameras as previously, DxO's RAW demosaicing process wasn't compatible with the colour filter array the Fujifilm X-Trans sensor used.  Additionally, DxO PhotoLab 5 now supports the Canon EOS Ra, DJI Air 2S & Mini 2, Nikon Z fc, Olympus PEN E-P7, Panasonic GH5 II, Pentax K-3 III, and Sony ZV-E10.

 

PhotoLab 5

 

Value For Money

DxO PhotoLab 5 (PC and Mac) is available now from the DxO online store at the following introductory prices until 14 November 2021:

  • DxO PhotoLab 5 ESSENTIAL Edition: £99.99 instead of £129
  • DxO PhotoLab 5 ELITE Edition: £149.99 instead of £199

The Elite version unlocks extra features/tools so it's worth taking a look at the comparison table over on the DxO website to see if the extra money is a justified spend for you. There's also a 30-day free trial available so you can test out the software before parting with any cash.

One bonus that comes with a DxO PhotoLab 5 purchase is that it's a one-off fee which makes it rather good value for money when you compare it to Adobe's monthly/yearly memberships which give photographers access to their software.

Alternative RAW editors include On1 Photo RAW which is available for around £70-90 and Corel AfterShot Pro 3 available for around £64. You may also want to take a look at Serif Affinity Photo which offers RAW editing, plus much more, for under £50. ACDSee Photo Studio Professional is priced at $99.99 and Zone Photo Studio X is available for $4.99 a month. 

 

DxO PhotoLab 5 Verdict

DxO PhotoLab 5 brings additional/improved tools to an already excellent line-up of photo editing and management options. Plus, for those who are new to photo editing or are looking to upgrade from a more basic photo editor, tools such as DxO's U Point control make applying edits an intuitive and quick process. As it's subscription-free, it might also tempt those who have used Adobe products across. 

Improvements in the Photo Management section of the software are welcomed with EXIF editing now available and the introduction of a keyword tree speeding the organisation process up but it still doesn't feel quite as efficient as other photo management software we've used. However, the fact that it's built into the user interface alongside the photo editing options does mean you're not switching in and out of different programmes. 

The minimal upgrades might not be enough to persuade everyone to upgrade but those already using DxO PhotoLab 5 will find the updates to the photo management section useful and the U POint technology will always be impressive. As a result, DxO PhotoLab 5 still comes 'Highly Recommended'.

 

DxO PhotoLab 5 Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Quick in response 
  • Excellent handling of RAW images 
  • Improved U Point Technology 
  • No subscription 
  • Keyword improvements
  • Can now adjust EXIF/Metadata 
  • Fujifilm X-Trans sensor support

 

DxO PhotoLab 5 Cons

  • Minimal updates
  • PhotoLibrary options could still be improved 

Features4.5/5
Handling4.5/5
Performance5/5
Value4.5/5
Overall Verdict

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