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Personal review of DXO Photolab 5

  
 
Ayoul
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


Hello everyone.

As I previsously mentionned on the Topaz Denoise vs Pureraw topic, I just wanted to make a personal review of DXO Photolab 5. After reading and participating a little bit to the topic, I realized that DPL5 was not very well known or understood. Everything has been said about Lightroom and Capture One, which are probably the most used software here on FM, and by the consumer and professional photographers out there as well.

We don't hear a lot about DPL5 here on FM. At best, we see a few messages when there is a new release, with a few debates about the improvments inside the new version, and that's it.

A few things about me : I'm a professionnal photographer from France (sorry if my English is not perfect). I mostly do weddings, so what I will consider as important in my review may not be to everyone's taste, of course. I typically deal with several thousands pictures every week and shoot in raw only. A fashion photographer will have different needs (he will shoot probably less pictures, but will have a more complex post processing), a sport photographer will have different needs (he will probably be more interested in a good jpeg rendition and a fast way to transfer his pictures). I've used extensively LR, C1 and DXO during my career. I have post processed wedding with each of this software, separately or together.

I almost never used DPL5 as my main software for processing, for various reasons. I've done 5 to 10 weddings at best using DPL as my main processing software. And I never used it as a DAM, because it would be foolish. Metadata handling, keywords, etc, are there now but I use Photo Mechanic + for this, so I didn't follow closely the last improvments on the matter in DPL5.

I will publish this review in different posts in this topic. My 2 cents advice : download DPL5 (free for 30 days, I think) if you want to understand everything, I won't post every screenshots pointing the location of every tool.

Edited on Dec 30, 2021 at 06:30 AM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 02:43 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


INTERFACE AND CUSTOMIZATION

How does it look when you open it, and what can you change ?

At the top left, two main items : Photolibrary, and Customize. Lr users won't be disoriented.



In Photolibrary mode, nothing spectacular or illogic :

on the left : your folders, "projects" (collections in LR or C1 world), external selections (files previously opened in DPL5 using another software)

in the middle : a slideshow of the pictures of the opened folder

On the right side : metadata, iptc and keywords.

In Customize (equivalent to Develop for LR users), things are obviously more complex.

DXO STANDARD VS DXO ADVANCED
You have access to 2 slightly different interfaces inside DXO, called DXO standard and DXO advanced. The differences are not huge and I'm not sure that it's relevant from DXO to keep them both.

In both modes, you can access to several "palettes" of tools (DXO naming, so let's embrace it) called Light, Colors, Details, Geometry, Local adjustments, Watermarks and effects. Each palette includes what you can expect to find based on their name. If you click on the "light" symbol, this is what you get :



Things are a little bit different if you don't click on any palette on top. In DXO advanced, you will have access to all the palettes and tools in one row. In DXO standard, you will have access to only some basic tools, viewpoint and filmpack if you own them.

DXO Advanced :


DXO Standard :


What about customization ? You have 2 ways of making your own list of tools.

You can put each tool into a "Favorite" palette. Not bad. But be warned. Inside Favorite, and likewise inside all Palettes, you can't change the order of the tools. For instance, in the "Light" category, "Exposure" is in the middle. That's it. You can't move it. I like it to be on top, but you can't do that here.

Luckily for us, you can create what DXO call a "user palette", but visible only if you don't click on any palette on top (yeah, I know, it's tricky)



You can put whatever tool you want inside, and reorgnize them as you like, moving them from top to bottom.

You can put this palette on the left side of the screen if you like.

For me, DXO Advanced + a good personal user palette is the optimal way to use DXO for an advanced user.

I don't see any real value for the Favorite section vs the more useful Personal palette, and for the DXO standard vs the DXO advanced.

Edited on Dec 29, 2021 at 04:18 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 02:51 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


GENERAL PERFORMANCE

First of all, my configuration :

Windows 10
i5 3570k (yes it's old, too old for DPL5 I think)
32 GB of DDR3 RAM
Geforce GTX 1060 6 GB

DPL5 is installed on a SSD, which is also my system disk. I know that it's not recommended for LR . I don't know if it can impact DPL performance. The bottleneck is probably my CPU. DPL5 is slow. Slow to display each picture, slow for everything. On this venerable ancestor, C1 runs very fast. LR is slow as well, which is not surprising. My graphic card is ok and it's important for Deep Prime (noise reduction), and for my professionnal workflow it's all that matters to me right now, because I don't use DPL5 for editing on a regular basis.

So for my actual workflow, my config is still ok, but if one day I want to use DPL5 or LR again for a serious job, I will need a new motherboard + processor.

EDIT : We can notice one thing in favour of DPL5. It's faster than DPL4, as j4nu said. Once again, my config is not the best judge of this software but I noticed that too. Still not fast on my config.

Edited on Dec 31, 2021 at 09:32 AM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 02:53 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


PHOTOLIBRARY :

I'm not a specialist of the way DXO handles files, metadata, etc. I don't use it for that purpose but only for its processing abilities. They have improved a lot of things this past years, especially in DPL4 & 5, with the ability to use and modify keywords and IPTC. I won't be a great help for that section, and it's not impossible that I will make some mistakes here.

You can access in the Library to all your folders, like in Windows Explorer (left panel). You don't need to import your folders to display your pictures and process them. But DPL5 has a database with all the modifications done to your pictures. At the moment you open a folder, DPL5 adds its pictures to your database. So, as far as I understand, there is no real Catalog but still some kind of under the hood cataloging system. By default, your modifications are also stored in a sidecar file with a .dop extension. You can prevent DPL to create .dop files and stores everything in your databse only, but you can't do the opposite : there is no way to store your modifications only in your .dop files without adding them to the Database.

You can search your files by keywords, IPTC etc. But of course, your files have to be in your database if you want to find them. So, if you used another software than DPL5 to write some IPTC fields, you will have to open the folder again in DPL5 in order to make the pictures it contains displayable using the search tool. Or you can use the "index a folder" tool, which does the same thing under the hood. Every DAM that I know needs an ingestion / indexation of your files / folder in order to display some results for the searchable fields, so it's not a surprise.

But the implementation seems a little bit akward to me. Because as far as I know, there is no way to see which folders are part of your indexed database. So there is some kind of catalog, it's just not very explicit. DPL5, in this area, seems to have crashed in a no man's land between the classic Cataloging system (LR, C1 in Catalog mode) and the session mode of C1.

You can add your files into some "projects", which are equivalents of the collections of C1 and LR, but the tool is rather rudimentary.

Edited on Dec 29, 2021 at 04:19 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 02:56 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


CUSTOMIZE :

Ok, now you understand how DPL5 looks at first sight and how you can personalize it, you know how it handle your files (or not...) but here is the main point.

We already saw that there are 5 palettes here : light, color, details, geometry, local adjustments, watermarks and effects. I will not explain every obvious functionnality of every item inside this five palettes, but instead make a few observations about the way they work, sometimes vs other softwares if there is something worth mentionning, and I will speak about the exotics items found in DPL.

Edited on Apr 04, 2022 at 03:41 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 02:58 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


LIGHT PALETTE :

You will find what you probably thought that you would : exposure, contrast, selective tones, (highlights midtones shadows and black), tone curve and vignetting, and two items with a fancy name : DXO Clearview plus and DXO smart lighting.

--------------------------

Contrast :
Contrast, microcontrast and fine contrast.
As far as I know, the fine contrast slider (sort of clarity found in LR or C1) just exists if you buy DXO FilmPack. Why ? I don't know. Is that justified ? Clearly not. In my opnion it defies any logic to link a contrast tool with a film simulation software, but it's their choice. I'f I'm not mistaken, there is still the "micro" contrast available if you only own DPL5, which is also a tool of the same kind, with of course a rendering a little bit different. Not sure which one I prefer, I don't really use them. Good thing is : you can choose if the contrast (global, fine or micro) affects everything in the picture or just the shadows, higlights or midtones.

---------------------------

Selective tones :
It allows of course to adjust highlights, shadows, midtones and blacks. I hate it. Compared to equivalents in LR and C1, this is probably the worst tool of the three. The highlights slider takes way too much of the picture with it, it's not selective enough. The same can be said about the shadows sliders. In both cases, the midtones are way too much affected. I have sometimes to rely on local adjustments to process a highly contrasted picture in DPL, whereas the same picture just makes me use the sliders in Lr or C1. It's not very convenient for a fast workflow, but local adjustments are a good workaround if you have time for this.

-----------------------------


Tone curve :
It's a very rudimentary tool. RGB curve, Red, Green and Blue curve. That's all folks, thank you for coming. No luminance curve like in C1, no Parametric curve like in LR. Just the plain old RGB curve, that's all. Definitely not a strong point.

-----------------------------

Vignetting :
DXO likes to brag a little bit about their optical corrections (distorsion, sharpening and vignetting). They don't just test lenses for vignetting, they pretend to test the lens in combination with specific cameras, probably to check if the corrections should be the same or not. So if Sony releases a new camera, apparently, they test again the old lenses with the new camera to bring specific adjustments, including vignetting. If I'm not mistaken, we have indeed seen in the past a few specific models generating more vignetting and/or smearing in the corners than other cameras of the same brand (the old Nex-7, for instance). But the process is surely time consuming for them. As a consequence, they are not lighting fast to publish their optical corrections when a lens is released. But if they are perfect, it's worth the wait, right ? Yes, but they are not always perfect. I saw in the past some obvious overcorrections of the vignetting of a few lenses, I don't know why. But there are probably thousands of lenses calibrated, so shit happens.

---------------------------

DXO Clearview plus :
Under this fancy name, it acts like the Dehaze tool that you find in the 2 others. As far as I know, DXO was the first of the three to introduce it, but it's not revolutionnary anymore.

--------------------------

DXO Smart Lighting :
One of the fancy things inside DXO, which gives very variable results. This tool, rated from 0 (no effect) to 100 (very strong) can modifies the general exposure, reduce locally the highlights and push the midtones if it "thinks" that all of this has to be modified to match a "good" exposure. It can be nice and generates a waow effect on some landscapes with just one click, if you're lucky. It can be horrendeous, especially in portrait mode where it can lead to a very plasticky rendering of the skin. This effect can be reduced if you use the spot weighted mode, which looks for faces in the pictures and/or let you choose the important part of the pictures. But in the end, for an experienced photographer, it implies a lot of trial and error to finally give the picture a good corrections of exposure, highlights and shadows.

Another drawback : it doesn't take into account the adjustements that you already did with the classic tools (exposure, highlights shadows etc). So if you pushed manually the exposure for one stop on your underexposed picture, DXO will ignore that and will continue to push the exposure if you use this item, as if the picture was still to dark even if it isn't anymore.

DXO, you better give us more selective shadows / highlights sliders for that, instead of promoting your Smart Lighting. Because it's indeed activated by default, if you don't change any option. A little bit ambitious move to me given the results, but well, it's their choice. In my opinion, This tool is a not so clever way of solving a problem that they created with their poor highlights / shadows sliders.

Edited on Apr 04, 2022 at 03:45 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 02:59 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


COLOR PALETTE :

It is, for me, the most interesting part of DXO. The company likes to communicate about the denoising ability of DPL5 (rightfully), their optical corrections (less sure about that), but they forget to communicate about some very, very interesting things that can be found here.

A quick overview of a few things that are not that interesting or doesn't set it apart from the competition :

---------------------------

Channel Mixer :
I don't use it a lot, as far as I red it's mostly used for black and white. Once again, it's apparently not included in DPL 5 if you don't buy FilmPack... Sad decision once again.

---------------------------

Vibrance, saturation. Nothing else to say about them.

---------------------------

A HSL wheel :

It's relatively new (DPL3, I think). It's finally there, and probably sufficient for most users. Its main point is to modify individual colors without affecting the others. Contrary to C1, you won't be able to apply different corrections for a color of the same hue but of different saturations. But you can choose the progressivity of the shift of your color with its neighbours by using the points of the outside circle, which is nice. As far as I know, it's impossible with the HSL sliders in LR. The HSL wheel is there, it's not mindblowing but it's there.



---------------------------

The white balance :

It can have a curious behavior sometimes. I saw some thresold effects that I didn't see with other softwares. At some points, a slight change in the sliders can lead to a very noticeable change in the color rendition. I don't know why, there is maybe something under the hood that we don't know about the way DPL5 handles white balance. Maybe DXO applies some corrections to the colors once we past some invisible steps. There is also sometimes a huge impact of the yellow/blue slider on the green/magenta slider. If you try to warm up or cool your picture by using the blue/yellow slider, you may have to correct the magenta/green after that. I've not seen this phenomenom in a so intense way in other softwares. Maybe it's related to their color profiles, I don't know.

---------------------------

Color rendering :

Here we are. The most overlooked aspect of DXO Photolab. I blame DXO itself for that. They don't make very clear what the software is capable of and how it works. It surely can be found in some documentation, but as far as I remember, it's not the main part of their advertising

One nice thing first : DPL5 accepts custom DCP AND ICC profiles. LR only accepts DCP, C1 only accepts ICC. Good thing. For the most advanced users who like to calibrate themselves or play with various color profiles, just be aware that there is a problem with the black substraction point in DPL5, especially in ICC mode (search for DXO on this page Lumariver manual) that makes the profiles always a little bit more contrasty than in other soft, with crushed blacks. They never corrected it, I don't know why.

I managed to make a decent profile with the "File -> export images for ICC -> export as linear raw", minus the black substraction problem. The "export as realistic color rendering" doesn't work, because it embbed a color space into the Tiff file, which is not how it is supposed to work. But I'm not a specialist in ICC profiles for DXO, so I will let you use that function if you want.

On paper it's the best of both world, but in reality, it's not that well implemented. You better use a DCP profile than a ICC, if you want to use your own.

Generic rendering : you will find here first and by default a color rendering that is supposed to mimic the rendition of your camera. I think that it does a great job with sony files. It looks way more Sonyesque than the horrible profiles that you can find in LR which are supposed to mimic the Sony look. I don't even mention Capture one, which gives only one profile, which is neither close to being neutral, nor anywhere close to the jpeg rendering of the camera, at least for the cameras that I use or used extensively.

Here is a Gif that shows the differences between Imaging Edge (Sony colors then), DXO (generic), C1 (generic) and LR (camera matching standard).



Here is a link with some low res pictures if you want a better look (a GIF is not exactly the best way to look at colors) :

Link

LR is horrible, C1 is way off, DXO seems the closest to me. But DXO curve is a little bit too punchy, that's their thing.

In my opinion, DXO gives also a pretty nice Canon look to canon files, but I'm not a Canon user, even if I like the canon color rendition.

In the same color rendering tool, we find 4 different neutral profiles, each one with a different curve that set it apart from the others :

Neutral color, factory tonality. As far I understand, it's a neutral profile, but with the tonal curve that DXO uses to mimic the in camera rendering. So, compared to the generic profile, it's the same contrast but with different colors.

Neutral colors neutral tonality is very flat.

Neutral colors, neutral tonality v2 is a little bit more contrasty and is an interesting starting point.

Then there is a neutral color, realistic tonality. I'm not 100% sure what it is. It's even flatter than neutral tonality, but it's not a real linear profile either.

These neutral profiles are done for every camera that DXO takes care of. I did a lot of calibration myself, spending dozens of hours playing with calibrated lights, trying to make the perfect set up to shoot my colorchecker passport and after that my colorchecker SG properly, using Lumariver to make the most perfect and/or pleasing profiles, checking for every deltaE that I could minimize with a better set up.

So let's say that I know a little bit about this subject, but not more than that. I don't say that in a false modesty, I'm really still just a beginner compared to a lot of guys around the web who are really psychopaths of the color calibration. But I know one thing for sure : making a good, polyvalent, neutral profile is way, way more complicated than hand holding a colorchecker in the field, taking a picture of it and using X-Rite software. I read that sometimes on various forums, but I think that it's totally wrong for various reasons that I won't explain here. At best it can work in a studio, but there are too many variables into play to make it work outside during your sunday walk.

I can't mesure the deltaE of DXO profiles and they are probably not perfect, but I can say that they look good, close to "neutral", and that camera A neutral rendering looks really close to camera B neutral rendering. They are not pleasing, they are neutral. A gif to show you 4 different cameras with the DXO Neutral profile V2, using this time the chart from DPReview, because I don't own them :



The jpegs if you want to compare (and discover which cameras I used ) :

Link

I corrected the white balance and the exposure to match them, but that's all.

As you can see with these files, there are still some differences between brands, but they are really in the same ballpark. Anders Torger, the man behind Lumariver, says in his manual that color profiling makes for 90% of the rendering of a camera. The 10% remainings are probably caused by different CFA. We can more or less see here this 90/10. Some color specialists out there can certainly do better than the DXO profiles. But the average photographer who doesn't spend a certain amount of time to learn how calibration works, with a chart, a good lighting system, a proper set-up, a really useful software that he understands, this photographer can't do better, believe me. It's worth mentionning that very old cameras might show a slightly different neutral color profile, you will better match different cameras if they are roughly from the same era. They probably changed several times the way they make their neutral profiles in 20 years, and didn't remake the neutral profiles once again of the first Canikon DSLRs that no one uses anymore.

My educated guess is that all the other color renditions available in DXO are based, for each camera, on one of the neutral color profiles. They are probably not profiles, but looks, LUTs on top of their neutral profile. There is always a neutral profile before a pleasing look. One of the first rules when profiling a camera : neutral calibration first, pleasing look after. Even the "camera body" rendering is probably a pleasing Lut derived from a neutral profile. You will see below every profile/look an intensity slider. If you set it to 0, you retrieve the "neutral color neutral tonality profile". Maybe all the looks are based on this one, maybe even the flatter one, I don't know.

One nice consequence is of course that you can use this slider to adjust the intensity of the look you're using. But it allows DPL5 to do a very, very cool thing : you can use every camera calibrated in DXO and give it the look of another, because each of these looks are in fact based on their neutral profile in the first place, which is quite consistent between cameras. It's in fact probably exactly the same principle that Cobalt is using : neutral profiles, then a few pleasing looks on top of them (Canon or Fuji simulations, film simulations). DVLOP is also using this same technique since a few years (I like their film simulations for LR). They built a dual illuminant DCP profile for a lot of different cameras, and their film simulations are looks on top of that. DXO works like that, natively. You can find all of these camera simulations inside the "camera body" rendering



There is not always a look really specific for every camera in DXO, contrary to what you can find in LR or C1. If I'm looking for a Canon profile available for my Sony body, I can find this one for instance :

Canon 250D, 850D, M50, M50 M2, M200, R, R5, Ra, RP.

They could have called it "general look of the Canon cameras released around 2020", but well, they decide, not me. They are not overambitious, they don't try to mimic every profiles found in every camera and I think that it's a good idea.

You have different Canon looks for different cameras of different periods, different Nikon Looks, Fuji looks, etc. They recently added the Fuji Film simulations from recent Fuji cameras. It is still a work in progress, and it's not totally faithful. C1 does better in this area (it's near perfect), but of course, in C1 you can just apply them to your fuji cameras supported. Here, you can apply any rendering to any of your cameras.

It's an important thing to understand here for C1 users. It doesn't work the same way as the profile selection in C1. In C1, you can apply (if you're a gambler) a profile made for a camera A to a camera B. It will never really work because well, it's an ICC profile, not a look. And a profile made for a specific camera A almost never give the same look on a camera B. You can be lucky with 2 cameras with a similar color filter array (CFA), so mostly from the same manufacturer, but that's all you can really hope for. Here, it's different and I have explained why.

So if I resume : you can make different cameras look like each other, using a pretty good neutral profile as a starting point of your processing, or different cameras simulations. All of this inside DXO.

Now the 64K$ question :

"Thanks Ayoul, but are these looks faithful ? Do they look like the jpeg of my old camera ? I loved its output, it had a soul ! When a truck ran over it in 2011, I bought a more recent body. It's more convenient, but since then all my pictures lacks this je ne sais quoi that my FujiCony D50i had"

I let you try and judge by yourself. I don't own all the cameras listed here. The last canon is interesting. Some patches seems slightly off if I compare them to a R5 Jpeg, but even with the color wheel of DXO, you can make a few easy corrections which makes it looks more faithful. Don't flame me if you don't agree and think that all of them are garbage. But my point is just : they are there, and it's a clever implementation. Deciding if it's pleasing and/or accurate is up to you.

There is a general tendancy from DXO : they like saturated colors and contrasty looks. Its in my opinion their main goal : "with a few clicks, let's make their pictures shine!" You will probably more often reduce the saturation of some colors than the opposite. They like to push the saturation of reds, and their greens are a little bit on the blue side.

The 128K$ question :
"Hey, you're right, I love their profiles ! But I don't want to learn this software, I'm comfortable with LR/C1, I just like DXO colors. Where can I find the profiles ? There must be a folder where they store their ICC or DCP neutral and pleasing profiles, like LR and C1 does ! "

Unfortunately, no. There is no folder inside your computer where your DXO profiles are stored, patiently waiting for you to take them on your white horse to live a happy life with you in your LR/C1 castle. Zero, nada. They must be hidden inside a file somewhere. I don't even know if their own profiles are ICC, DCP, or some personal mutant beast. It's like the proprietary softwares : Imaging Edge, Canon DPP, Capture NXwhatever. You won't find any folder called color profile, with all their color profiles waiting for you to take them. It's just the way it is. Maybe a genius nerd could decompile these software or do a fancy thing like that to retrieve their color rendering and convert them, but that genius is not me, and I think that distributing something that you have found by decompiling a software is illegal in most country anyway.

"What about Filmpack ? What does this thing does apart from being illogically required for a few options dispatched in DPL ? Is it not supposed to give me some film simulations ? I heard that it was integrated do DPL once you bought it."

Yes, if you own FilmPack, you will find their simulations under the different films category inside the color rendering panel. Positive films, negative films, black and white films... Honnestly ? I hate most of them. They seem caricatural to me, with enormous color shifts. I even tried the FilmPack 6 version, but no, i really don't like. You may think otherwise. There are just two film simulations that I really, really like : it's their generic Astia and Provia looks. They give a nice punch to the pictures, without horrible hues.

I like their Astia so much that I spent a lot of time copying its rendering using warious softwares. Don't know if it looks like an Astia film, don't care. The good news is : generic Astia, generic Provia and generic Velvia are available in the rendering panel even if you don't own FilmPack. When I read their documentation about FilmPack, they refer to Astia as "an old version of calibration of the Fuji Astia used in a previous version of DXO Filmpack". That's all. Apparently, they are very proud of their others simulations, but this one can be given for free with DPL. I take it.

There is one particularity of DXO Filmpack however. It works on jpeg and tiffs, while the camera body rendering doesn't. The film profiles are integrated with DPL if you own DPL, but FilmPack is also a standalone software, so I guess they wanted to make it work with jpegs or tiffs from other softwares.

Of course, don't expect your Canon files to match your Sony files if you use FilmPack on jpegs or tiffs. The base is different, so the result will be different. The way filmpack works on jpeg/tiffs and on raw files is very different. In raw, from what I saw, it works exactly like the "camera body" looks. It means that they are based on the neutral profile first, and will look more or less the same between brands.

There is another clever tool just below the intensity slider of the color look. It's called Protect saturated colors. It does exactly what it says : it desaturates too saturated colors in your picture. Once again, there is a cursor from 0 to 100, and an auto mode. When you try to make a correct color profile, dealing with ultra saturated colors can be complicated. A punchy profile in daylight may show horrible saturated colors on a dancefloor. It's tricky. Instead of dealing with it directly inside the whatever type of color profile DXO uses, they added this trick. It works, very, very well, and it's a very clever idea. Once again, use it manually if you want a real control on the look of your picture, because DXO also gives us one of their dangerous auto mode here.


Edited on Apr 04, 2022 at 03:56 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:09 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


DXOPHOTOLAB COLORSPACE

So, I think that Dxo does a good job at profiling cameras, and an intelligent job at sharing their camera looks between brands, based on the system described above. But what about the working colorspace that DXO uses ? It's not my first area of expertise. It seems that DXO uses AdobeRGB as a working space, and it seems indeed a strange choice. I let you read a little bit there about this choice:

Link

One of the (very old) responses of the DXO staff has been trashed in the comment. So, with this problem and the bugs of profile calibration, has DXO a few strange holes in their knowledge about color ? If there are specialists about color management, let me know.

That's it ! There were a lot of things to say about the way DXO handles colors, and I hope that you guys found that interesting and that some of you learned something. I know that it was long, I hope that it was worth it.

Edited on Apr 04, 2022 at 04:03 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:12 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


DETAILS PALETTE:

There is a repair tool, always nice to have. Red eye, Moire are there as well.

---------------------------

Chromatic aberrations :
I've not tried intensively this tool. All I can say is that you can't choose which color has to me removed, like you can manually in LR. I think that the LR tool is the best of the three software, but CA are not an obsession for me, so I didn't extensively compared them. All I know is that the "defringe" tool that you can apply on the brush in LR allows a lot of things, even if it can destroys real colors as well, and it has no real equivalence in DPL5 and C1, as far as I know.

---------------------------

Noise Reduction :
One of the stars in the DXO world.
Three options here :

High Quality, which is in fact the lowest quality. Honnestly ? I think that it's already better than what you can find in LR and C1.

The old Prime, which was already very good.

The new Deep Prime. It's more than very good, it's mindblowing, and I don't use that word often. I even use it on low iso pictures. Because it prevent noise from showing up if you increase shadows, it prevent noise from showing up in large areas (ex, skies) where it can be seen before you can see it in detailed structures. The way DXO handles both the luminance and the chrominance noise is incredible. The way it maintains good colors at high isos is incredible. I won't in fact talk a lot about Deep Prime, because it's one of the areas of DPL5 that is already covered a lot. 2 sliders : luminance and dead pixels. Play with them if you want.

I won't give you some screenshots, the value of DXO Deep Prime has been debated, evaluated all around the web. Just try and compare with your current software

Instead of comparing pictures at 200%, let's talk about how to use it in interaction with other softwares, because it doesn't seem crystal clear for everyone.

DXO released Pure Raw because of Deep Prime. Pure Raw is some kind of DPL5 light, focused on the denoising and sharpening only, without the interface that makes it a real independant software. I don't think that Pure Raw is really worth it. I tried it for free, but didn't buy it (I already had DPL5). Find a good deal for DPL5 and you're done. Some users have reported slight color shift when they have compared their raw files to the DNG files from Pure Raw. I don't know where it comes from, but there is nothing like that in DPL5.

As long as you export your file in "DNG Denoise and optical corrections only", I think that you have nothing to worry about. I have yet to see a significant difference in the color/tone rendering of a raw file in LR/C1 and the same picture converted in DNG using DPL5.

Yes, you can use on your DNG file any ICC profile in C1 or DCP profile in LR. It will work like a raw.

Yes, you can do in DPL5 everything that you can do in PureRaw, and of course way more.

The only slight inconvenience is that the white balance on your DNG is not the same as the one of your raw file. Not on the picture itself (they are identical by default), but on the values displayed on the WB sliders. There is a slight shift. I don't know why, but it's the second reason why I even use it on low iso files. If I change the WB on my files, I don't want to spend some time to find out which WB on my 1600 isos DNG file will match the white balance of the 800 ISO Raw taken at the same location with the same light.

Use Deep Prime, sharpen up your picture if you want to (more on that later), export it in the DNG mode that I mentionned, Import the DNG in your favorite software and finish the job. DPL5 also automatically install a plug in for LR, it can be convenient if you want to convert only one picture. You can access it by using File -> plug in extra. Don't use "Edit with Dxo Photolab", it will convert your file into a tiff before sending it to DPL5, ruining the whole concept.

LR and C1 handles DNG files very well. For other software, I'm less sure. Rawtherapee doesn't. RT displays the picture, but there are huge color shifts, from what I saw. Maybe there is a workaround, something to activate or deactivate to make it work, I don't know. I never intensively tried recently with other softwares, so I don't remember very well if it works or not.

---------------------------

Lens sharpness :
These sliders are one of the reasons some people don't like Pure Raw. If DXO has calibrated your couple camera + lens, then DPL5 will by default activate this "lens sharpness" tool. It's not magic but it works well. It sharpens more the borders and the corners than the center if your lens is considered weaker in this area (as we know, they all are to different degrees). There is a details slider that you can push (I think that its purpose is self explanatory). The "bokeh" slider is nice, it protects large areas without details from the sharpening which, as we know, increase noise.

So what's the problem then ? In their will to make any picture spectacular without effort, DXO oversharpens by default it you don't touch the sliders. We can debate for hours about sharpening, correct sharpening, oversharpening. Let's say that for a majority of users, they seem to have a heavy hand on this tool. You can of course reduce its strength in DPL5. From what I know, you can't in PureRaw, you just toggle it on or off. It's not ideal.

What if your lens is not recognized by DXO ? You still have an unsharp mask and the possibility to sharpen more the borders/corners.

Edited on Dec 30, 2021 at 09:51 AM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:16 PM
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


GEOMETRY PALETTE:

Again, there is a lot to say about these tools. As usual with DXO, there is a mix of clever things and clunkiness.

------------------------

Distorsion : correcting distorsion is part of their calibration. It does what it say it does. They are very proud of their optical corrections, but I'm not that sure that their corrections are really that superior to others. I let you judge on that. If DXO didn't calibrated it, don't count on them to let you activate the manufacturer profile. They "take care" of us, they don't want us to make any mistake by using something that they didn't design themselves. If your lens is not recognized, you're left with a manual tool.

If DPL5 hesitates about which lens is used on your 35mm picture, it can give you a choice of several of their profiles. They don't know for instance my sigma 35mm f/2.

So they ask me to chose in this list :




But don't count on them to let me choose freely in their database a correction profile that I like, even an imperfect one. It's either in their list, or full manual.

------------------------

Horizon tool and crop tool :

I think that these tools didn't change since prehistory. It's really bad. There is no "crop and rotate" tool, like you can find in a similar way in LR or C1. Nope.

The horizon tool is either a slider in degrees, with a dangerous auto mode again, or, if you prefer using it in the top bar, it's a line that you drag yourself. Pretty clunky to me.

The separated crop tool : if you have changed the horizon, you can tell it to take that into consideration for an "auto" crop to mask the black part, with of course the ratio that you want. But if you want to manually move your crop after that, it will let you pass the borders of the picture and include black parts into the final image. Ideally, this functionnality should be togglable. But it isn't. Crop is either "auto" if you want to be sure to not include black parts, or manual, but you have to take care yourself not to include black parts.

The worst integration of horizon / crop of the three softwares by far for my use.

------------------------

Perspective :

There are a few items dispatched in DPL5 that you can't have if you don't own FilmPack, remember ? There is another trap. You can't have the perspective correction tool if you don't own DXO ViewPoint. It's once again an app which can be used as a standalone but also integrated in DPL5... if you buy it in the first place. Otherwise, you're left with no perspective corrections. The auto mode is good, probably a little bit better than LR. It works well with simple, urban straight lines, if your picture has a huge depth of field. Don't count on it too much to detect very well some obvious lines in the bokeh though. Even if they are very sufficient for you to make the manual adjustment.

------------------------

Volume deformation :

A very good tool. It must be a part of DXO ViewPoint as well if I'm not mistaken. It can make a fish eye correction of your rectilinear wide angle lens, to avoid the anamorphosis deformation at the borders of the picture, which is always unflattering for people. It's of course at the expense of the straight lines, which are not straight anymore.

But way more interesting, it can apply a correction of the anamorphosis without screwing up the straight lines, and that is very, very interesting for wide angle shots including people. As war as I know, it has no equivalence in LR or C1. Maybe in PS ? Definitely a very strong point of DXO. Depending on your type of photography, this can be a niche tool or a very important one. But it's there and it's unique.

An old group picture, not corrected :



Corrected :



Notice the differences with the people at the borders of the picture.


Edited on Dec 30, 2021 at 09:54 AM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:26 PM
 


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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


LOCAL ADJUSTMENTS PALETTE :

Same story here : it's a mix of some clever ideas and strange implementation.

You can apply local adjustments via the top bar as well, just FYI.

There are the classical brush and graduated filter. I don't explain that to you guys. The real star here are the control points, and the new control lines.

The control points :

They are based on a point and a circle. Put the point on a part of your picture, and it will automatically create a mask based on the luminance and the chrominance of your point. The size of your mask depends of the size of the circle that you create around your point.

A picture is better than thousand words for this :

Control point :


If you press the M touch, which shows you the mask of correction :



The good news is, since DPL5, you can choose the intensity of the luminance and chrominance factor. Previously, you couldn't. It was nice, it was there, but apart from moving your control point and changing the size of the circle, nothing you could to to impact the way it draws the mask itself. It's not the case anymore. You can also create negative point to protect a close area from being integrated into your mask

Once you've created your mask, what can you do with it ?
Modify Exposure, Contrast, Micro Contrast, Clearview Plus, Highlights, Midtones, Shadows, Black
Modify Vibrance, Saturation, Temperature, Tint (the second slider), and the general Hue
Modify sharpness, or add Blur

Correct list, almost the same as LR. Nice feature then ? Yep, but the GUI is horrible. All of this corrections have to be done on a tiny window displayed inside your picture :



I red that there is a better implementation for Mac Users, but I'm on windows, so apparently it's not for me. I don't know why, but this is the way it is.

A little comparison here : Capture One is for me the best of the three in this area. If you create a mask, the interface won't change at all, it will just display a little pencil near the sliders that you can use on your mask (a LOT of them), and let the others at their place. It also has way more masking tools, is way more complicated for beginners but in the end may be more efficient. LR, on the other side, has not three dozens of sliders that you can modify like C1 and looks more like DPL5 in this area, with a better interface. But let's admit that the new "select subject" tool from Adobe can do wonders on people. Three different approches there.

A new cool thing in DPL5 : the control line. It's the same principle, but with a linear gradient. Very useful for skies.

Edited on Dec 30, 2021 at 07:12 AM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:45 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


EFFECTS PALETTE :

Nothing fascinating here.
Blur, creative vignetting, a few filters from FilmPack that I never use, a "frame" tool to make funny things around your picture, grain, and watermarking. A few others effects (light leak, miniature)

And it's done.



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:46 PM
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


EXPORTING :

You can't rename your exported files. It's beyond my comprehension that it has never been implemented, but you can't. You just can add a suffix to them.

Sharpening at export : you choose the interpolation : bilinear, bicubic or bicubic sharper. I like bicubic sharper even if it's too crispy sometimes. But we are far from all the options of C1 here.

Pretty rudimentary.

Edited on Dec 29, 2021 at 06:21 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:47 PM
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


EXTERNAL PRESETS :

"Yeah, but you know, what I like about my LR is the presets. I started with VSCO back in the 2010s, and since then I bought RNI, Mastin this, DVLOP that, Cobalt this or Aluminium that, are some of them available for DXO ?"

No, it's the desert here. First of all, the user base of Dxo is probably way smaller than C1 and LR, so it's probably not very encouraging for third party brands. And there is no practical way to add some external lut into DPL5. You're stuck with what you have inside the soft... or you export your DNG into another software.



Dec 29, 2021 at 03:48 PM
Oscarsmadness
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


I read through all of this. Thanks for posting. I'm learning my way through PL5. My experience with color rendering has been hit or miss with PL5. I periodically send stuff to a photo finishing lab here in town just for quality checks on color and black point. I've noticed a bit more variation with material processed in PL5 vs LR6. Based on what you wrote here, it probably something I need to continue learning about.


Dec 29, 2021 at 03:58 PM
Chris Dees
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


Nice write-up. 👍🏻

I upgraded from PL4 to PL5 and found an issue.
With PL5 I canít see my ratings (stars) anymore, so itís more or less unusable for previous processed images.
I put a support request, but after 4 weeks still nothing.
Do you guys have any idea what Iím doing wrong?



Dec 29, 2021 at 04:04 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


CONCLUSION

DXO PHOTOLAB 5 is a strange beast.

I wouldn't count on it to manage my pictures as a DAM, even if they tried recently to do better in this area. It's just too little too late for me.

It has the most clever implementation of color rendering that I've seen in a consumer software, and some good neutral color profiles, but DXO almost never talk about it. Its denoising ability is in my opinion the best of the industry, end of story. In the meantime, the inferface is confusing and some basic tools (horizon, crop) are very odly implemented. Third party support is far from ideal. Your personal ICC profiles will have bugs, external presets are almost non-existent, their clever color profiles can't be found in any folder.

The good news is : you can use DPL5 for one of its biggest strengths, denoising, and use a perfect linear DNG file inside LR or C1 if you prefer to do it that way. Don't buy PureRaw if you want to do that, DPL5 is worth the few $ more.

Their commercial strategy relies on several products, sometimes artificially linked together. If you want every tool available inside your DPL5, you will have to buy FilmPack and Viewpoint as well. For a first entrence inside the DXO world, it's very expensive. Less so if you already have FilmPack and ViewPoint. DXO doesn't release a new version of them every year like DPL, so it won't be that expensive in the long term.

I like it despite its flaws, and strongly encourage everyone to at least try the free version (30 days). Its main strengths gives very flattering results and it can make a picture shine in a few clicks. However, pro users who deal with thousands of pictures every week will probably find its interface limitating. DPL5 is my candy. Sometimes I just open a picture with it from any raw file found on the web, just to see how nice the colors are, how clean the picture is with deepprime, how usable everything is without calibrating, profiling, correcting anything myself. It's worth a look, and more than that.

End of my review !

Edited on Dec 29, 2021 at 04:14 PM · View previous versions



Dec 29, 2021 at 04:08 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


Chris Dees wrote:
Nice write-up. 👍🏻

I upgraded from PL4 to PL5 and found an issue.
With PL5 I canít see my ratings (stars) anymore, so itís more or less unusable for previous processed images.
I put a support request, but after 4 weeks still nothing.
Do you guys have any idea what Iím doing wrong?


They recently changed the rating system. It was supposed to better take into account the rating done in external software. It works for me with no bug.



Dec 29, 2021 at 04:10 PM
Chris Dees
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


Thanks, I didnít know that.
Strange they didnít told me.

I use DxO PL since 2019 as my main RAW editor. So if I understand you correctly all my ratings are not usable with PL5?

Ayoul wrote:
They recently changed the rating system. It was supposed to better take into account the rating done in external software. It works for me with no bug.




Dec 29, 2021 at 04:40 PM
Ayoul
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Personal review of DXO Photolab 5


Chris Dees wrote:
Thanks, I didnít know that.
Strange they didnít told me.

I use DxO PL since 2019 as my main RAW editor. So if I understand you correctly all my ratings are not usable with PL5?


I don't think so. It's not supposed to erase the rating that you've done in previous versions of DPL. I don't use DXO for rating on a regular basis, so I won't be a great help here, but no, I don't think that this behaviour is normal.



Dec 29, 2021 at 04:48 PM
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