DxO Labs Optics Pro 5
- Excellent tools for batch processing Raw files; superb colour rendition
- Somewhat fiddly downloading experience; limited lens and camera profiles; lacks compatibility for some makes
While we rate Optics Pro highly, for Pentax, Sony and Olympus users, compatibility is thin. Camera and lens support is focused on the two main players, Canon and Nikon – and even then there are some obvious absences. Lens modules are free to download, but if you're a user of pro-spec cameras, such as the EOS 1D series or Nikon D2 range, you'll need to purchase the more expensive Elite package. And, at $299 without added functionality, this seems like quite a jump.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
As automatic image-quality enhancement software goes, DxO Optics Pro stands out from the crowd with its user-installed base of camera and lens correction profiles. The addition of lens look-up profiles helps correct inherent optical defects such as vignetting, distortion and chromatic aberration, but it's DxO Labs' astute auto-correction and superb colour rendition that makes Optics Pro such a powerful tool.
Left to its own devices, Optics Pro will automatically correct and process batches of Raw files that may well have different camera and lens combinations; correction isn't limited to Raw files, so even JPEGs can benefit. But there's so much more to Optics Pro than that.
Batch processing using one or more presets can provide the user with some control over the process and, naturally, single Raw files can be converted and corrected individually using nothing more than a slider or the occasional eye-dropper.
However, users of previous versions have had to endure an unintuitive interface with enough idiosyncrasies to make the learning curve steeper than necessary, and, unlike rival tools, conversion and correction have been fiddly, time-consuming processes.
Version 5.0 addresses these problems specifically, although it's currently only available for Windows users – a Mac edition will follow. The developer states that version 5.0 has seen a pretty dramatic decrease in conversion times – it's claimed to be up to four times faster than version 4.5. This is all thanks to an entire rewrite using .NET and utilising GPU processing where a dedicated video card is installed.
Although we couldn't see a vast improvement in rendering or development times with our laptop, version 5.0 delivered some slightly cleaner-looking files compared to version 4.5, with noise reduction applied before conversion and, crucially, a new demosaicing algorithm that adopts non-local interpolation.
In spite of the anti-dust systems appearing on digital SLRs, cleaning up Raw images is still a necessary task for photographers. Version 5's new spot blemish feature is, therefore, a welcome addition, especially if you intend to use the utility as a stand-alone application.
The interface has undergone a cosmetic transformation. It's pretty slick-looking, but stops short of being a significant improvement over the previous offering. While we appreciate the row of shortcuts, the workspace is still a little cramped compared with Adobe Lightroom, and it's not as user-friendly as Phase One's Capture One 4.
Nevertheless, we like the simplification of the output settings during processing, especially dropping the project option and allowing the user to choose an output folder. This sounds simple, but the layout of version 4.5 was unnecessarily complicated.
That said, there's still some work to be done on selecting output image size. It's fine if you think in terms of pixel dimensions, but it would be better to add more than just the two print sizes.
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Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.
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