DxO Photolab 2, vastly improved

In the final week of October, DxO Labs released its newest version of Photolab. The app has been improved overall but the main features worth a closer look are ClearView Plus, advanced colour management, spot weighted corrections, U-Point functionality and PhotoLibrary.

I started my tour with the latter and was hoping to see support for IPTC metadata. Unfortunately, and to me incomprehensible, the library still doesn’t support IPTC metadata. I’m going to make a bold statement here: the lack of it makes DxO Photolab unsuitable for any sort of professional use. Mind you, I’m not talking about the extensive support you get in an app like Photo Mechanic 5, which lets you add IPTC metadata as you ingest, but at least a basic editor should be available. Or is Photolab meant to be a satellite app for Adobe Lightroom? Judging from its powerful image editing features, I guess not.

The new library does have a number of ready-made view filters and you can apply a preset to a thumbnail immediately in the browser. Two view filters are puzzling. They’re based on “…images to be processed with (…) noise reduction”. If this filter is supposed to figure out for itself whether an image needs noise reduction at all, it’s not working: in my tests, all of them would have needed it.

The DxO ClearView of previous versions now has a “Plus” added to its name. Luckily, it’s not a clever marketing trick. The new ClearView removes haze from photos by adjusting both general and micro-contrast, and even with the slider set at 100%, there were no halo effects or high-contrast transitions. Just make sure your lens and sensor are clean, though: any dust speckle or other dirt stands out like it’s been magnified.

In addition to ICC profiles, PhotoLab 2 also supports DCP profiles, ensuring smooth workflows with Adobe apps. Interesting to all those people who still insist on making Adobe richer; not for those of us who like the products of Adobe’s competitors – yes, I am one of those people who consider Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo true competitors and their licensing scheme is not subscription-based.

In Photolab 1 the U Point selection tools looked like bolted on. The new version doesn’t look like that at all anymore. It is fully integrated with a multi-setting equalizer interface, incredibly smoothly designed and even better than what I remember from back in the Nik Software days. Photolab 2’s U Point makes DxO’s product stand out and rise above competing products like Phase One’s Capture One in my opinion.

Smart Lighting lets you tamper with the balance between light and dark, but now you can also use a Spot Weighted lighting adjustment that puts an emphasis on a selected spot. I tried this with an off-centre focus point and it works great because it seems to adjust lighting fall-off in the rest of your image non-linearly. The results are very pleasing to the eye. It also opens up creative possibilities, with the most obvious that you can now literally and quite naturally shine a spotlight on a focal point in an image.

Last but not least, a new Selective Tone tool lets you independently adjust brightness ranging from darkest to brightest.

Conclusion

Except for that one glaring lack of support for IPTC, DxO Photolab 2 is probably the most powerful image editor on the market. That’s due in large part to the DxO Labs database of technical data the lab collects on most available and discontinued equipment, but increasingly also on features like the U Point tools, Smart Lighting and Selective Tone.

There’s an introduction price available on the DxO site.

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