DxO Optics Pro Version 7: Faster and Better
I've written about DxO Optics Pro before. It's a great raw converter. I've been using version 7 since it was released late last year and it's the best version yet. I'm truly impressed.
First, it's much faster. While version 6 added support for GPU acceleration, version 7 boasts OpenCL support to leverage your computer's graphics subsystem even more. In the past, DxO Optics Pro has had the reputation of being hard to use because it was too slow. After adjusting a setting, you'd have to wait for the screen to refresh to see the results. Version 7 removes that issue. The company claims users can see their results up to four times faster and I believe them. Be advised that OpenCL is relatively new and you may need to update your video drivers to enable this in the DxO Preferences.
DxO has also rewritten roughly fifty percent of the program code to optimize the algorithms used. In addition to improving performance, this has the added benefit of improving stability. The program is fast, and it is solid.
But the real benefit of DxO Optics Pro all along has been their architecture that leverages custom modules for individual cameras and lenses. The company has tested various combinations and currently provides for over 5000 optics modules that tailor the image processing for the unique characteristics of gear you are probably using. That not only makes better results possible, it makes better results automatic. The company has a goal of supporting 10,000 modules by the end of 2012.
Features new to version 7 include significant improvements to lens sharpening to optimize sharpness where you want it without affecting the bokeh of areas where you don't. The program appropriately adds more sharpening near the edges of the frame than in the center to better match the traits of optical lenses. Saturation controls have been enhanced to avoid oversaturating areas that don't need much of a boost and target improvements to areas that do. Similar enhancements have been made in the contrast adjustment controls. A new tool also helps restore detail in areas that are already oversaturated from your camera.
DxO Optix Pro has always been a bit clunky in the workflow department compared to Adobe offerings — nothing major, but it's just been a program that takes some getting used to. Version 7 helps to streamline things more in ways that are mostly subtle but always helpful. Significantly, the "Project" mode added to DxO a few releases back is now optional so you can focus on editing your images directly if you want to bypass the whole "project" approach. This is a welcome change for those of us that concentrate mainly on one image at a time.
DxO has always excelled at correcting lens distortion issues. Getting rid of chromatic aberration has always been difficult if not impossible in Lightroom and Adobe Camera raw. It's virtually automatic in DxO Optics Pro. Correcting barrel, pincushion and similar distortions are just as easy.
DxO Lighting in version 7 seems to be much improved too, although the company doesn't brag about any significant changes in this area. The program does an excellent job of restoring shadow detail and adding a tasteful amount of local contrast adjustment to make images "pop" automatically. The user interface also provides extensive control if you prefer to take matters into your own hands.
If you act fast, the company is offering DxO Optics Pro version 7 at a special 33 percent discount through the end of January. If you'd rather take your time, download the trial version and see what you think. If you've looked at older versions of DxO and decided to stick with your current raw converter, it might just be time to look at DxO again. It's continued to get better and better. And faster too.