Hot 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 is not as radically new as Capture One Pro 7, but it sure has enough new features and improvements to keep even the most demanding photographer happy. And all camera body and lens analysis driven, of course.
So, what’s new with DxO Optics Pro 8? Plenty, although it’s not as obvious as Capture One Pro 7’s new stuff. Let me take you through the most important new features.
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Price (approx.): €199.00
Smart Lighting. This is the big new automatic thing in version 8. You can opt to apply the DxO Optics Pro 7 algorithm, but it makes a lot more sense to apply one of the new settings (Slight, Medium, Strong and Custom). I tested the different settings on a photo shot at sunset and one with a strobe. The adjustment worked extremely well on the sunset photo. It made the image shot with flash light slightly more flat.
It looks like Smart Lighting does more than just crank up the brightness and adjust saturation. It changes the looks of an image.
Smart Automatic exposure. Also totally new, this tool works with RAW and JPEG images. It added some contrast to the image, which again made me suspect there’s more going on than just exposure compensation. Odd was that on several images — all taken on different dates and with totally different lighting — the exposure compensation was reported as half a stop less. I doubt if the exposure was compensated that way on all these images, but whatever the tool was doing instead, it did make the images look better.
Selective Tonal control. This 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 found I could control contrast better than with a curve setting.
The Contrast tool has a new Microcontrast slider. Changing microcontrast adds or removes “punch” or clarity if you wish.
The Denoising tool still is one of the best around in my opinion, and it’s become better with a dead pixels slider added to it. Denoising can now happen at all zoom levels as in other image editors. DxO warns of performance hits when you turn this option on in the Preferences (Advanced tab), but I can’t say I saw my iMac grind to a halt.
That’s about it for the most important new features in DxO Optics Pro 8.
There are other improvements that justify the big number upgrade. There’s a better organization of all palettes and controls. Some controls have disappeared, but the tools that were once available are still there. They’ve only changed location. There’s also a long list of improvements. Lens softness correction, for example, is better with strong highlights.
You will also find an improved chromatic aberration correction for images shot with lenses for which a DxO module exists. Sliders can be reset by double-clicking. 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.
Photographers who print for clients will like this last important novelty: you can print a contact sheet of selected images even without processing them first. Just select the Print command from the File menu and set the sheet’s appearance in the printing dialogue and you’re done.
Oh, and there’s one limitation introduced as well. If you own a Nikon D800 or D800E, you will need to run DxO Optics Pro 8 on a 64-bit machine equipped with a 4-core processor. DxO is honest enough to warn you of the unwieldy size and processing requirements of the D800 files.