There is a plethora of software – some free, some not – available for processing digital images. Free packages include GIMP, Irfan View, Nikon View NX2, amongst others; while non-free packages include the big names – Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, DxO Pro Optics , and so on.
Over the past year or so I have downloaded and trialled virtually all of them. Adobe Photoshop – the full version – was too big and complex and expensive for my needs while Adobe Lightroom also fell into the too expense-for-me area although I liked it very much. I ended up purchasing Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 as it does about 90% of what Photoshop does and seemed to meet my needs, even though it does have a couple of strange quirks – one of which is the inability to sort images by file name in the Organizer section.
Capture One required a much more powerful computer than I have (and cost an arm and a leg), and I got impatient with DxO Pro Optics because it took too long to load.
To cut to the chase… I was given Lightroom 5 for my birthday late last year – and I love it – especially the library/catalogue features.
And then late last year I scored a free copy of DxO Pro Optics 7 which was being given away with a UK magazine. (Actually the give away was version 6, but DxO Support upgraded me to version 7 because version 6 wouldn’t activate for me). Now that I have upgraded my laptop to 8GB of RAM and am using Windows 8, DxO Pro Optics 7 starts quicker than the trial version I had – and I absolutely love the package.
What is it I like about DxO Pro Optics 7?
Firstly – it is a modular package that you can set up to specifically match your camera body and lenses. DxO is a company that specializes in testing cameras and lenses and from their testing they have developed modules for their Pro Optics range of software that allows automatic correction of lens shortcomings. All you need to do is download the modules for your camera body or bodies, download the lens profiles, and let DxO Pro Optics 7 do the rest. Secondly DXO Pro Optics 7 does not have the steep and long learning curve needed to master Lightroom.
When you open an image in DXO Pro Optics 7 a default correction is applied to that image based on the particular camera body and lens combination used to take that image. Lens distortions, as well as exposure and colour corrections are made automatically. If the image is from an unlisted camera/lens combination the software makes an educated guess at what corrections to make – and this seems to work well as far as I can see.
What I really like most though is the huge range of one-click presets that can be applied to improve your images. No technical knowledge required – just click, select and apply a preset, and if you like it keep the processed image – otherwise reset everything to normal. All the images you have sitting on your hard drive can be improved out of sight using the appropriate selection of presets. The basic one-click presets include landscape high key, landscape low key, black and white, sepia, old postcard look, highlight recovery, HDR, and so on, and so on. Some of the presets only work on RAW files, but the majority will work on JPEGs too.
In addition to the one-click options Pro Optics 7 also has a plug in called DXO Film Pack which allows you to apply retro looks of old film types to your images. You can set up you images too look like they were taken on film such as Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Fuji, Ilford or Agfa. Quite exciting really! And just like Lightroom, editing in Pro Optics 7 is non-destructive so you never lose your original images.
Well – that’s my take on DxO Pro Optics 7 – it’s quick, easy and gives satisfying results – and if you want to do more, images can be opened in Lightroom from within the package for further processing. (At the time of writing this post the current version is DxO Pro Optics 9.)