DxO is best known for DxOMark.com, a website that publishes a vast database of quantitative measurements for thousands of lenses and cameras. That information is not gathered for consumer information but to power its image-editing software. The DxO suite of tools uses the analysis of the imaging characteristics of camera equipment to correct any inherent flaws in images generated by the sensor or lenses used.
DxO OpticsPro 11 is the newest iteration of the company’s image-enhancing suite, and it comes packed with a variety of tools to correct problems found in more than 30,800 combinations of lenses and cameras and to perform detailed image editing.
OpticsPro software has always been known for its noise reduction capabilities, which DxO calls PRIME (Probabilistic Raw IMage Enhancement). As the name implies, PRIME denoising is available only for Raw images. Essentially, the software analyzes the image for similarities among pixels and, when that phase is completed, it utilizes that information to differentiate noise from fine details in order to process the image.
Today’s cameras can handle low light/high ISO conditions better than ever before, but high ISO image noise is still an issue, and images captured at high ISO with older cameras are in need of a helping hand. While there are a number of options to deal with image noise, DxO PRIME is especially effective at minimizing noise while maintaining details.
PRIME 2016 has been improved in a number of areas, including smoother bokeh transitions, better details in shadow areas, and more faithful rendering of original colors. DxO claims PRIME processes up to four times faster than the previous version, and, yes, it’s fast. Here’s a quick walk through getting started with OpticsPro 11 and how to work with PRIME.
When you first open OpticsPro 11, go to DxO OpticsPro 11>Preferences. Initially, it’s best to uncheck the automatic application of presets. However, be sure to enable “Automatically show the DxO Optics Module download window.” This function gives you the option of downloading data for the camera/lens combination used for images loaded in the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. Download the modules once and you’re good to go except when you introduce an image with a different set of gear.
Open a Raw image and move to the Customize mode. In the right-hand Essential Tools list, click on Noise Reduction. Then press the PRIME button to start the denoising process. Because of the intensity of the process, noise reduction won’t be applied to the full image until the file is exported. However, you can check small areas of the image in the Preview window to assess the processing by clicking on the small magnifier icon to the right of the PRIME button and moving the rectangle over the portion of the image you want to look at in more detail. Then, if needed, adjust the Luminance, Chrominance, Low frequency and Dead pixels slider shown underneath the preview window. If you’re working on a critical image, it might be a good idea to export some tests to see how the effect looks over a larger area.
The first noise-reduction choice, HQ Fast is the only option for JPEG images, and while it works on Raw files, fine details are softened during the denoising process. You can compare the before, HQ Fast and PRIME results in the crops of the preview window below for images shot at ISO 6400 and ISO 102,400, respectively.
Once all your image adjustments are complete (OpticsPro 11 offers a strong set of post-processing options, so be sure to explore those features as well), you can export the image directly to disk (lower right of screen) or click the arrow to the right of Export to disk for a drop-down menu of options, including exporting the image to Lightroom or other applications. When the dialogue box for your export option opens, fill in the required information and click Export.
Spot Weighted Smart Lighting
Another interesting, and useful, update to DxO OpticsPro is the integration of simulated Spot Weighted metering in the Smart Lighting feature. Better yet, the Spot Weighted mode utilizes face detection, which comes in handy particularly for backlit scenes. It’s effective in general portraiture and group shots but also works with non-peopled images, especially those shot under high-contrast conditions.
You may still want to select and mask specific areas for fine-tuned adjustments, but for a quick, yet intelligent, AE correction, this new feature works quite well.
I admit that I have a penchant for shooting dark, dramatic portraits, and in the case of this studio shot, the overall image was a bit too dark. Under the DxO Smart Lighting panel in the Essential Tools list, the option defaults to Uniform, which applies auto exposure correction to the entire image.
While you can adjust the strength (from the drop-down Mode menu) and the intensity slider, even at lower settings, the exposure correction resulted in what I considered a slightly overexposed image, rendering the black backdrop a little brighter than I wanted.
Click on the Spot Weighted button in the same panel. The software automatically recognizes the subject’s face (as noted below the Spot Weighted button) and utilizes that information to make the exposure adjustment. In order to see exactly where the spot metering is based, click on the face detection tool, which places a square over each recognized face.
Like all face detection processes, recognition depends on the position of the subject’s face. The software immediately identified the face in this studio shot, and it quickly ID’d multiple faces in other shots where facial features were clearly evident. However, in other shots where people’s faces were tilted downward and shadowed by hats, face detection was less likely to work. But, by clicking the face detection tool, you can manually place one or more “spot weighted” adjustment areas where you want/need them. In order to limit the adjustment, be sure to use the detection box’s corner handles to size the ID area to fit.
For further tweaking, select the desired Mode (slight, medium, strong, custom) from the drop-down menu, and use the intensity slider to tweak the automatic adjustment made by the software. Then export the image when you’re finished.
To learn more about DxO OpticsPro 11’s new features, including those not covered here, be sure to visit www.dxo.com. While you’re there, download the trial version to assess the software for your specific workflow.
(Disclaimer: Editor David Schloss consulted to DxO prior to his position at Digital Photo Pro. He was not involved in this review in any way.)