DxO Optics Pro 8 Elite

Smart Tools Can Automate Pretty Much Anything

Right on the heels of PhaseOne's new Capture One Pro 7, DxO Labs released version 8 of DxO Optics Pro, their RAW converter and image-editing app. DxO Optics Pro 8 has enough new features and improvements to keep even the most demanding photographer happy, with most of them aimed at automating adjustments.

I tested only the DxO Optics Pro 8 Elite's most important new features, as many are related to the reorganization of palettes and tools. The most important new feature is Smart Lighting, an automatic re-lighting algorithm. Except for a legacy setting, you can choose one out of four new ones: Slight, Medium, Strong, and Custom. I tested all of them on a photo shot at sunset and another one shot with a strobe. The adjustment worked extremely well on the sunset photo; however, it made the image taken with a flash slightly more flat. After fiddling a bit more, it looked to me as if Smart Lighting does more than adjust the brightness and saturation: It improves the looks of an image.

Smart Automatic Exposure, also new, works with RAW and JPEG images. It adds some contrast to the image, which again made me suspect there's more going on than just exposure compensation.

The Selective Tone tool allows you to set highlights, midtones, and shadows individually. Unique is that you can also adjust the blacks, which can result in dramatic looks. When applied with care, I could control contrast better than with a curve.

The Contrast tool has a new Microcontrast slider. Changing microcontrast adds or removes some punch and structure. It's what others call "local contrast."

In my opinion, the Denoising tool still is one of the best around, and it has become even better with an added dead-pixels slider. Denoising can now happen at all zoom levels, as with other image editors.

There are other improvements that justify the big number upgrade, but all are less visible. There's a better organization of palettes and controls, and some controls have disappeared, but the tools that were once available are still there—they've only changed location. In addition, DxO Optics Pro 8 offers a long list of minor improvements. Lens softness correction, for example, is better with strong highlights.

You'll also find improved chromatic-aberration correction for images shot with lenses for which a DxO module exists. Just double-click to reset the sliders to the default. Some new items are supported in the EXIF palette. The warning icon that pops up when your zoom level is too low for an edit to be viewed correctly has gone from the image window to where it belongs: right next to the tool in the palette.

There's a new feature in the Print area for professional photographers who must print contact sheets: You can print a contact sheet of selected images without processing them first. The Print dialog allows you to set the sheet's appearance and you're done. This works with RAW and JPEG images.

Finally, DxO announced one limitation, which probably applies to other vendors' tools as well. If you own a Nikon D800 or D800E, you'll need to run DxO Optics Pro 8 on a 64-bit machine equipped with a 4-core processor. DxO warns of unwieldy size and processing requirements for Nikon D800 files.

Company:  DxO Labs
Price: $299 Elite; $169 Standard
Rating: 4
Hot:  Conversion quality/detail/color even with auto adjustments
Not:  No support for drag-and-drop from desktop into a project