Photographers have plenty of choice when it comes to editing and keeping track of their photos. DxO is best known for its extensive lens and camera tests found at dxomark.com, though it also has a range of software that aims to get the most out of photos without needing an in-depth knowledge of post-processing techniques.
Design and features
Open up DxO Optics Pro 9 as a standalone app and you will be presented with a simple interface that's easy to jump into without too much instruction. From the top bar there are only two main options to choose from: organise or customise. It's a simpler selection than a comparable editing suite such as Lightroom, which comes with extra modules such as slideshow, print and web.
The main interface of DxO Optics Pro 9 is clean and pretty simple to use.
(Screenshot by CBSi)
From the organise tab within DxO, you can view the directory structure of where your photos are stored or create projects from the tab beneath that column. By default, at the bottom of the screen, a timeline of imported images stays in place regardless of what editing mode you are in.
For those who want to let the software do all the work, DxO applies automatic adjustments when a photo is imported. From removing lens distortions to fixing chromatic aberrations, images can look their best without too much work. These adjustments are based around the camera and lens profiles, as well as exposure information. DxO can even work on images taken on an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone.
DxO fixes lens distortions very well. Here is a before and after shot.
Depending on the original source image, the adjustments many not always be spot on. Fortunately, DxO has a sophisticated set of tools to help you tweak images even further.
Within the customise tab is where things start to get interesting. The column on the right hand side is where all your fine-tuning takes place. All the regular options you may be familiar with are included in this column: exposure compensation, white balance, selective toning, and sharpening, just to name a few.
A quick way to see the before-and-after effect of edits is to click the Compare button, which flicks between the unaltered version and the version you are working on with edits.
Film emulation presets have become a popular addition to photo editing suites over the past few years. Blame it on Instagram if you like, but you can't deny the fun nature of applying different effects to images. DxO comes with 30 visual presets that are not quite film-like, but do offer the option of black-and-white, HDR and sepia-toned images. For closer film emulation, there is the DxO Filmpack.
One of the biggest features touted by DxO with the release of Optics Pro 9 is the new noise reduction algorithm, called Prime. By analysing over a thousand neighbouring pixels, the algorithm is able to reconstruct information in images without the noise produced by shooting at high ISO sensitivities.
Found under the Essential Tools menu option, you have the choice of running either the regular algorithm (called High) or Prime. If you choose the latter option, the process can take as long as a few minutes, depending on the photo. Prime will only work on RAW files.
Now you see coloured noise, now you don't.
In practice, Prime really does deliver on what it promises. From the most extreme examples of noise involving colour shifts and speckling, the software removes an incredible amount of noise without destroying or smudging detail.
Though the interface is fairly robust, there is no option to see your edit history in one pane so you can keep track of what has been done to an image. Instead, there is just an Undo command from the Edit menu. Also, there is no real way to organise photos apart from applying star ratings. If you like to colour code or apply labels to images, you are out of luck.
There is also no joy for those who want to use selective or local brush tools. Unlike Lightroom, which gives users the option to dodge and burn selectively, DxO does not offer these tools.
Fortunately, if you want to use DxO together with a program like Lightroom, the workflow is very simple. All you need to do is select your images and click the drop-down menu next to "Export to disk". From here you get the option to send the altered images directly to Lightroom, Photoshop or even an online storage site like Flickr.
DxO offers best-in-class noise reduction algorithms, with the ability to retain detail in even the messiest images. While it is robust enough to be used as your only photo editor, the real benefit lies in using DxO as your first pass program to automatically fix errors before moving your images to another suite for cataloging and fine tuning.