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DxO Optics Pro V10 – Review

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DxO Optics Pro V10 – Review

DxO refines performance and capabilities


DxO Optics Pro has been updated to version 10 (actually V10.1 at time of writing)

Keith has used successive releases of this software for several years and looks at the latest version.

All Keith's DxO reviews may be found via the Article Categories listing for DxO in the right column of any page.

green flash

Have a look at some of the images here, and if you want to try the software, there is a fully functional demo available.

The software was tested using the software on a Mac – Windows versions are very similar.

Using DxO Optics Pro V10

The software offers functionality to help organise, process, publish and print your camera images.

Its key strengths for me have always been the quality of its RAW image processing and control over lighting and shadow detail, and its ability to use lens and camera performance analysis information as the basis of quite complex lens corrections.

In version 9, it added the new ‘Prime’ noise reduction process, giving it capabilities in handling high ISO images I’d not seen before.

All those key features for me have been refined and improved, with noticeable performance improvements giving the whole program a much snappier feel that in some ways I’ve not seen since version 4.

As such, this review concentrates on my key interests concerning image quality – I don’t use Adobe Lightroom at all (V10 integrates quite well with LR), and have no interest whatsoever in exporting images to facebook or using the software for printing (that’s what Photoshop helps me with – I make big prints).

There are many more details covering all the features on the DxO web site – but to me it’s about what it does for my RAW files…

DxO new logoThere are two versions of the software available, which vary in the range of cameras and lenses supported, and also with respect to some of the more advanced features.

What’s new

Most of the features of the software will be familiar to existing users, just faster and, with what I find, a much more efficient feel to the interface design.

One feature that is new is DxO’s ClearView – I’ll show some details below, but used with care it adds some useful processing options.

Have a look at some of the tutorials for a feel of how the software can fit in your workflow – I’m not personally a fan of videos for learning about new software, but a look over them will give a good feel for getting started.

Don’t forget the DxO Optics Pro 10 User guide, available as a download [PDF] – worthwhile reading to get the real benefits of the software (and yes, I am aware that suggesting people read a manual isn’t going to be popular – get over it ;-)

Using DxO Optics Pro

I’m looking at the Elite version of the software, with images taken on my Canon 1Ds, 1Ds3 Mk3 and 100D.

I’ll be looking at the latest version of DxO FilmPack 5 on its own. DxO ViewPoint is now at Version 2.5 which is an update (largely cosmetic) to version 2.1 which I reviewed earlier this year.

These two packages run standalone and as integrated features of Optics Pro, where they expand its functionality. Some of the features I’ve shown below vary with the addition of these extra packages.

Pacific sunset - Cannon beach, Oregon. Processed in DxO 10

Organising your images

My own organisation of images is based of folders of files, arranged by date and camera type. This suits the kind of commercial photo business I run, where client and job information quickly allows me to locate any images from the archives.

In the window below you can see folders of images on the left hand side and a film strip view along the bottom.

Version 10 make for a tidier feel to all this, and you can customise many aspects of the (retina compatible) display.

I’d note that you can organise images by projects, but as with Adobe’s Lightroom and its forced use of a catalogue* I just don’t work this way, so I’m really pleased that DxO still offers a file browser style interface (YMMV as they say).

*A layer of abstraction away from the physical organisation of your files, as in iPhoto and Aperture.

initial overview of folders and image thumbnails

I use two screens for editing, so it’s nice to be able to detach the filmstrip/browser, and move it to my other monitor. here it is just after detaching.

detached interface element - file browser

The preview shows basic shot information.

basic shot EXIF data

There is quite a range of control over just what is shown.

setting thumbnail display options

The module information tells you whether the needed lens correction information exists for your camera/lens combination.

You can still process supported cameras without the lens modules, but lens correction abilities are reduced.

When looking at some photos from 2004, the software notified me immediately that I needed some extra lens modules.

extra lens modules required

Whilst my vintage 1Ds and lenses are supported, I noted that my EF8-15mm f/4L fish-eye lens is still not supported. DxO are continuing to expand camera and lens support (hence the version 10.1 of the software as I write this), but it seems that a zoom fish-eye lens is still a bit much for their profiles to support. There is also no support for my Canon tilt-shift lenses, but I can see why they would require some hefty changes in how the software works.

Several of the images (below) from a visit to the Pacific Northwest in 2004 have appeared in my DxO reviews over the years.

sample of images from a trip to the pacific northwest in 2004

There are numerous ways of sorting images too.

image sorting options

Whilst in the ‘Organise’ mode, it’s also possible to see how files will look when processed.

This view shows highlight and shadow clipping for example.

quick preview of image processing shows any clipping

It’s quick to view how your default processing options will look.

side by side before and after view

You can preview processing with any of the built-in, or your own custom preset processing settings.

Some black and white processing choices…

Monochrome image processing presets

Some coloured options…

image processing presets for toning

Also some single shot ‘HDR’ processing options, which mostly avoid the tawdry excesses I’ve come to expect whenever I see HDR mentioned ;-)

single shot HDR style processing

If you want to make further adjustments to image processing options, you need to switch to the customise mode.

I note that with a good set of presets, you might not even need to visit this section for some images. However, since I tend to use DxO Optics Pro for my more problematic images, or where I want particular control over image processing, it’s an important step in my workflow.

The Customise mode – or where you make the adjustments

The basic layout of controls is shown here, with settings to the right and file info to the left.

As before, you can customise this layout – personally I don’t like full screen applications, but that probably comes from always using very large screens for the last 20 years.

basic editing layout for application

A good way to work on an image, if you don’t know of just the one item that needs tweaking, is from top to bottom.

The histogram display tells a lot about what’s in your data. It’s well worth taking the time to learn that it can show far more than black and highlight clipping points.

Move your mouse over the image to see some of the White balance options.

Original ImageHover Image

I note that even though you have an eye-dropper feature for setting WP, there is no attempt at offering any ‘Auto’ setting – this has been a feature for as long as I’ve used Optics pro, so I guess the developers have their reasons…

Next up, exposure compensation. Don’t be afraid to set this manually, if one of the auto settings isn’t quite right.

exposure compensation

Now for one of the DxO feature that I regularly find of use. ‘Smart Lighting’

Move your mouse over the image to see changes in settings. This is a fairly straightforward shot, taken on a sunny day, whilst testing the Canon EF-S 10-18mm lens for a review, so differences are not vast. With night time shots I find ‘Smart Lighting’ very useful in getting shadow detail to show up as I want.

Original ImageHover Image

Contrast and micro contrast can be set as needed, but watch out for the micro contrast – it’s easy to over do.

Mouse over the image to see the adjustments. Note too how I’ve expanded the help options for this setting. All settings have detailed help information, although with any complex software I’d always suggest reading the manual – as much not to miss features as to learn about how the software works.

Original ImageHover Image

Not all cameras record scenes the same way.

If you’re using multiple cameras on a shoot then it’s possible to specify colour renderings for your images.

Basic options exist for generic processing, but if you have the optional FilmPack installed, then you get a much wider range of choices. I’ll look at this in more detail elsewhere (see my earlier FilmPack 4.5 review for some details).

The photo below was taken with a Canon 100D, but I’ve selected the Canon 1Ds mark 3 rendering. This might be of use if I’ve bought the 100D along on a job as a 2nd camera and need to match my main camera. This is much more likely to happen in mixed artificial light situations.

Mouse over the image below to see the difference when I select a Canon 1Ds rendering (my old 1Ds is still rock solid after 11 years of use and sometimes used for backup).

Original ImageHover Image

There are basic settings that you can use if you don’t want to tie things to a specific camera.

Mouse over the image below to get an idea of the variation.

Original ImageHover Image

However do check as to how the neutral rendering works, since with this image (also Canon 100D + 10-18mm lens) it produces an odd purplish patch, not seen in the camera default setting.

Mouse over the image to see – the purple is faint, but real…

Original ImageHover Image

FilmPack allows for extended film emulations (note that the functionality here is from my previous install of FP4.5

Move your mouse over the image to see how (bad) slide film could look…

Original ImageHover Image

Meanwhile, for those longing for the old days, here’s a Kodachrome 25 version.

Film emulation - Kodachrome 25

Of course since even if you had a roll of it in the freezer, there is nowhere to get it processed any more, so the accuracy of such emulations is a bit of a moot point.

Note at the bottom of the list of settings options, you can see DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint listed – these are from older versions I have installed and include even more effects (such as film grain).

Obviously with so many settings, it’s going to be pretty difficult to remember everything that worked well. Fortunately you can make your own presets.

One nice feature is that you can have partial presets, so perhaps a ‘Kodachrome 25’ preset for next time I’m photographing a road trip across the US…

creating custom presets

ClearView

One of the features added to V10 of the Optics Pro is ‘ClearView’.

It’s meant to be a sort of souped up haze filter that counteracts the blueness, loss of contrast and saturation that you get with distant views (or as I prefer to know it ‘Aerial Perspective’).

Move your mouse over the image to see it applied at the default setting.

Original ImageHover Image

Using it at its default setting is just too much for any photo I tried. Pushing it up further looks awful, so should prove popular with some HDR fans ;-)

Move your mouse over the image to see a much more subtle application.

Original ImageHover Image

Here’s what it does to this sunrise view of Haystack Rock, Cape Kiwanda, Oregon

Move your mouse over the image to see.

Original ImageHover Image

I’m afraid my world does not have obvious halos round objects and I don’t want them applied to my photos.

Move your mouse over the image to see a much more gentle application of the effect.

Original ImageHover Image

A good tool that’s distinctly useful, however the default settings generally look poor and turning them up further looks ghastly.

Sharpness

One of the features of Optics pro that I’ve long found very useful is its ability to clean up images and correct for differing degrees of lens distortions.

I’ll start with basic sharpening – most images can benefit from this global adjustment, although it’s something I turn off for my larger prints

See my article about making a 3x2m print from an 11MP Canon 1Ds image for more information about such processing. This is one area where I almost always turn to DxO Optics Pro for my initial RAW processing.

Move your mouse over the image to see the application of general sharpening.

Original ImageHover Image

Most of the lenses I use are expensive Canon ‘L’ versions, and the improvements from using DxO lens corrections are fairly modest.

This example is from my review of the EF-S10-18mm IS STM lens earlier in 2014. This lens is surprisingly good for its cost, but shows appreciable distortions (well, ‘appreciable’ against lenses costing 5 times as much…)

Move your mouse over the image to see a correction for basic lens distortion applied (10mm focal length – 16mm FF ‘equiv.’)

Original ImageHover Image

I should note that unless your image contains a lot of straight edges, then you may even prefer the non-corrected version (look at the clouds in the corners).

Of more immediate use for me is the correction for lens softness that’s applied

This is a 100% crop from the same image. Move your mouse over it to see just how much improvement there is.

Original ImageHover Image

This is the correction that is based on DxO’s detailed measurements of lens performance. It’s a far bigger improvement than I’ve ever seen on any of my ‘L’ lenses (apart perhaps from my [original ‘mk1’] EF16-35 f2.8L which I sold shortly after getting my Canon 1Ds3).

The image below shows a combination of all lens corrections (including chromatic aberration). Move your mouse over it to see the changes.

Original ImageHover Image

Noise reduction

DxO Prime noise reduction was first introduced in Version 9 of Optics Pro, where I’ve some more examples in the review (V9.1).

In V10, it’s been considerably speeded up and you can now see far more when previewing it.

This night time shot was taken with a Canon 100D at ISO6400

There are two versions of noise reduction available. The default ‘High Quality’ setting give results that can work well for many types of images. Move your mouse over the image below to see the difference between High Quality and Prime (no noise reduction shown for comparison).

Original ImageHover Image

Here’s the image processed with Prime noise reduction (3-4 minutes on my oldish Mac)

I’ve reduced it in size, but applied no extra sharpening.

Pool hall at night

Her’s a 100% crop.

Obviously it depends on what you want to do with the images, as to what is best – the amount of noise reduction can be fine tuned.

detailed view of processed image

There is an anti-moire feature as well, but I don’t actually have any images where this is a real problem.

Processing files

For myself, I’m almost always outputing files as 16 bit TIFF files, but there are a number of different options available (multiple output selections are possible).

file output options

You can select the output ICC profile for your images.

colour management

I note that DxO Optics Pro does not offer a larger colour space option. Like many others I’ve questioned this but have never seen a convincing explanation. It’s not often that I want to use a colour space such as ProPhoto, but I do have times when I might want it (or at least the choice).

You can directly send the output from Optics Pro to another application – Photoshop for myself.

direct file output to application

Other output options are available.

It would be nice if there was an option to add copyright information or other annotation such as watermarks when outputing to on-line services.

file output options for optics pro

Printing

An area of the software I’ve not really looked at since I’d just never print images without cropping, resizing and other actions such as selective print sharpening. This is what I use Photoshop for, but then again I do use a 44″ width large format printer.

Conclusions

This version of the software shows a lot of significant performance and usability improvements that make it just that bit easier and quicker to use. I find myself using it more often for just this reason alone.

It’s easy to miss such improvements in a review, where the usual emphasis is new features and what’s changed (particularly for reviews largely based on reading the press release ;-)

In terms of new features, the most prominent (for me) is the ClearView adjustment. As I’ve mentioned I find its default settings far too strong for the majority of images, but, and its a big but, turn it down to a more gentle setting and it can really work well.

I’ve stuck with sample images that mainly illustrate features of the software – have a look at my earlier DxO Optics Pro V9.1 review as well, since it has many more examples, particularly lighting related, that would be just as relevant for this new version.

I’m still wondering why I can’t have the option of using a larger colour space – sure, I can select it for the output, but I suspect the software is working internally to a smaller space.

In this article, I’ve concentrated on aspects of the software that fit my workflow. The flickr and facebook export options seem a bit of an add-on requested by the marketing department (no Google+ I note), but the Lightroom integration seems potentially more interesting.

The image below is one I’ve used since my earliest testing of Optics Pro, and it still looks great, but with finer detail and less noise in the shadows.

Haystack rock sunset, Cape Kiwanda

The handling of the highlight areas and fine detail have a distinct edge in quality for my taste.

However, try it with your own images and see whether it works for you?

I’ve only tested with a few Canon camera bodies and lenses here, so check too that your combination of camera body and lenses is supported.

The image is from my 11MP Canon 1Ds camera, taken in 2004.

It’s been printed at a range of sizes over the years and looks better than ever (a key reason for shooting RAW).

I’m pleased to note that DxO Optics Pro doesn’t force you down the collections/database route, but if that’s your way of working, then the tighter integration with Lightroom may be of interest.

I recently had to supply a stock image taken with my 1Ds, to a client wanting to create a large print. I went back to the original file, and this new version of Optics Pro produced the best looking source file for enlargement. Just one example, but it encapsulates why I keep returning to this software.

Summary

Version 10 improves speed and general usability, and adds a number of refinements and adjustments for image editing.

If you’re searching for a different look for your images, I’d suggest downloading the free trial to see if it works for you?

Can be purchased in download form.

Declaration of interest – Keith has at times been asked to look at early versions of the software, and has some of his sample images shown on the DxO web site. He has no direct commercial relationship with DxO.

System Requirements

Mac OS X

  • Intel Core i5 or higher
  • 4 GB of RAM (6 GB recommended)
  • 2 GB of available disk space (6 GB recommended)
  • OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), 10.9 (Mavericks), 10.10 (Yosemite)
  • Graphics card with 512 MB of video memory to handle GPU acceleration

Microsoft Windows

  • Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon 64 X2 or higher
  • 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2 GB of available disk space (6 GB recommended)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 (64 bits), Microsoft Windows 8 (64 bits), Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64 bits)
  • DirectX 9.0c-compatible graphics card with 512 MB of video memory to handle GPU acceleration
  • NVIDIA GeForce 460 graphics card (or higher), ATI Radeon HD 58xx (or higher) to handle OpenCL acceleration
  • Microsoft .NET Framework version 4.5 (to install if not already present)
Full list of V10 options (from DxO documentation)
Feature ‘Essential’ ‘Elite’
RAW conversion
High Quality denoising (RAW and JPEG)
Optical Corrections
DxO Smart Lighting
Selective tone
Image tools
Protection of saturated colours
Advanced light and colour
Presets
Batch processing
Customisable workspace
Integrated export feature
Interaction with Adobe Lightroom
PRIME (RAW) denoising x
ClearView x
Anti-Moiré tool x
Calibrated camera ICC profile management x
Colour rendering profiles x
Multiple outputs x
Preset editing x
Creation of partial presets x
Creation of customised palettes x
Number of activations 2 3
Geometrical corrections (extended functions) Needs
ViewPoint
Needs
ViewPoint
Analogue film and creative renderings (extended range) Needs
FilmPack
Needs
FilmPack

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