DxO PhotoLab was launched in the last quarter of 2017 and succeeds DxO Optics Pro. It’s a popular editing software among photographers looking to get the best quality possible out of RAW format images.
The big selling point of the predecessor DxO Optics Pro is the prowess of its RAW processing engine. It’s quite easy and quick to create images with excellent sharpness, low noise and wide tonal range. Many will swear by its RAW image editing quality over competitors such as Adobe Lightroom.
DxO PhotoLab builds on DxO Optics Pro. So what’s new? Mainly, localised image adjustments. It is now possible to make edits to selected areas within an image.
It’s an enticing prospect. You don’t need to go through the hassle of making general RAW edits to an image in the DxO software, only to then reopen it in different software in order to make localised adjustments. Now, fine quality adjustments are all in one package. These are encouraging steps in the right direction for DxO.
DxO PhotoLab starts at £99 and is available on the DxO website. Let’s take a closer look.
If the chief concern for you is the final quality of individual RAW image files, then you will struggle to beat DxO PhotoLab. It’s library of camera and lens profiles is perhaps the most comprehensive around and gives consistently excellent end results.
DxO PhotoLab pretty much does the basic RAW image adjustments job for you. On first opening images, those automatic edits are usually bang on and we’ve quickly seen why many users swear by the predecessor DxO Optics Pro.
We’ve pixel peeped to check the automatic Lens Sharpening, Noise Reduction, Smart Lighting, Colour and Contrast adjustments and are really happy with the results. PRIME 2016 Denoise goes one step further than the existing noise reduction tool.
Then there is the new champion feature, local adjustments. You wouldn’t know this is the first time that the tool has featured, it is right at home in DxO PhotoLab. The Auto Mask tool is highly intelligent and a big time saver, while other local adjustments offer all the features you might hope for.
The software handles really well too. We love the layout of the Organize and Customize screens, especially tools like the Split Preview.
There are are a couple of downsides. It takes a little more time to work your way around the Customize window and it’s confusing to have the same tools in multiple sub menus (though this can be changed). The biggest downside is the slow pace of image exports. On the flip side, the overall editing part feels a little quicker than most.
All in all, DxO PhotoLab is very much a viable alternative to Adobe Lightroom and Capture One Pro and comes highly recommended by Photography Blog.
Ease of Use
By default, Organize displays all your image folders in the left-hand panel. There is no need to import images into the software. Instead, you work directly onto the image files in their original location. Things are simpler this way since edits made to RAW files are non-destructive. However, there is an additional option to create a Project under a new folder.
On opening an image folder, DxO PhotoLabs detects the camera and lens used for any of the pictures. The software uses DxO Optics ‘modules’ for each lens and camera combination in order to get the best results for that image. Users swear by the image quality from these modules.
If you have not already got the module downloaded, DxO PhotoLab suggests you do so via a pop-up window. The process is quick and painless.
Whenever you click onto a new image in the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen, the default RAW corrections are applied. (We’ll say at this point that the default corrections for sharpening, lens distortion, contrast and so on look great straight off-the-bat and we’ll comment more this in the Performance section.)
Through ‘Compare’, which is found at the top of the window, it is possible to flick between the original image and the corrected version. Alternatively, alongside Compare is Split Preview that displays before and after corrections simultaneously.
The Split Preview vertical line that divides the two versions can be shifted anywhere in the screen. That’s a nice touch, because the middle of a picture is not always the best place to split the before and after display for comparisons.
It’s easy to navigate images in the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. There are options to display the images in order of Filename and a further ten display options. There’s also a filter option to view images only within certain criteria, for example all the 5* images.
On that note, you can rate an image from 1* to 5* by pressing the corresponding number on the keyboard, and that goes for multiple images simultaneously. We like that simplicity.
In the Organize window there is a direct option to Print or to Export to disk. Check the latter and you have options to export a corrected image in full quality JPEG, JPEG for tablet/ HDTV, TIFF or DNG.
View, edit and organize your photos
The integrated batch processing is ideal for large numbers of images and supports conversion as well as common image manipulation features. Users can also create individual collages, calendars and photo cards based on multiple included templates and frame designs for quick results.
Geotagging support makes it easy to search images and visualize their locations on a map and various advanced filter and grouping modes help with keeping track of huge collections. The program also features a presentation with resolutions up to 4K for smooth presentations across multiple displays. Slideshows with seamless transitions and background music can also be created.
Automatic photo enhancements
The built-in auto-correction can turn even the most miserable of snapshots into precious holiday memories by instantly remove scratches, digital noise or red eyes! Multiple auto-features take most of the work off your shoulders and the integrated batch processing can enhance all your photos in one go.
Create collages, calendars and photo cards
Use the many included templates to create photo cards with ease or give in to your love for detail and design your own calendars. Even stunning collages no longer pose no problem! Ashampoo Photo Commander 16 offers a wealth of options to put make your ideas a reality!
Ashampoo Photo Commander 16 creates slideshows in high definition 4K! New transitions make for more beautiful and versatile scene transitions while added support for more audio formats allows for richer background audio. Finished slideshows are instantly previewable in real time with the new video playbar control.
Present photos in style
Whether you’re enjoying your photos on your own or with friends, you’ll love the new presentation mode. Use your primary display to control the flow and your secondary display to present your photos! Also great for beamers, modify your photos in real time without leaving the presentation!
Set, use and edit geotags
Modern cameras and cellphones use geotagging to save the location of each shot. Ashampoo Photo Commander 16 can add and edit this information and use it to sort your photos. The program can even process this data to determine the exact country, city and street for each photo! Retrace the stages of your vacation on a map from beginning to end in the comfort of your own home!
Crop and edit photos
Trim your images down to size, straighten horizons or set color accents. Cut out persons and objects or modify perspectives. Apply great effects and go professional with gradation curves and tonal corrections.
A modern, adaptive interface
Ashampoo Photo Commander 16 not only comes with a sleek new look but adapts to your working method. Frequently used functions automatically appear in the quick access menu so they’re always just one click away for faster results! Naturally, you can always switch back to the classic view if you prefer that.
Bring order to your photo collection
Ashampoo Photo Commander 16 provides more visual clarity. New file filters enable you to track down photos more efficiently, e.g. by combining location and time-based searches! The flexible group view allows you to instantly select files and preview their EXIF data in the new status bar. Seasoned photographers will appreciate the new decade view that provides a completely new look on their photo collections.
Design and rescue photos
Unleash your creativity with Ashampoo Photo Commander 16! The newly developed panorama function creates breath-taking widescreen images. A built-in automatic takes care of overexposed or faded images for excellent results every time. Multiple included motives make it incredibly easy to create cards for every occasion.
Set new trends with PNG
PNG is already one of the most common image formats on the Internet with PNG animations posing an interesting alternative to GIF animations. Ashampoo Photo Commander can drastically reduce the file sizes of PNGs to save space and traffic particularly on mobile devices. Animations can also be quickly created, converted or extracted.
Customer wishes fulfilled
We heard you. EXIF and IPTC metadata is now displayed in the status bar and freely editable and exportable. The popular duplicate file finder has been greatly accelerated. Multiple pages can now be scanned in one go and converted into PDF if needed. The always important zoom feature has also been sped up significantly.
Over 200 features for your photos in a single program
The new Ashampoo Photo Commander 16 will amaze you right off the bat! The modern user interface will quickly learn your favorite features and adapt itself accordingly for quicker access. Slideshow images now appear in stunning 4K and the new panorama feature will steal the show. Experience more visual clarity with the decade view, benefit from new search filters and the enhanced file selection and work with fresh card designs and new transition effects for your videos. Make the most out of your photos!
So what’s new?
DxO says it will carry on developing the Nik Collection plug-in suite and plans to release a new Nik Collection 2018 version in the middle of 2018. In the meantime, it’s incorporated at least one of the Nik technologies into its new local adjustment tools – Nik’s U-point automatic masking tools.
Users of the Nik Collection will know how this works. You add a control point to the centre of an area in the image that you want to adjust, then use drop-down slider controls to change the exposure, contrast, saturation and other properties for that area.
The U-point selection works over a circular area, but within that area it uses the colour values at the point where you clicked to select areas with similar tones only, fading the masking effect towards the edges of the circle and masking areas which don’t match that tone.
You can move the control point around to pick the best location and adjust its radius to control how far its effect spreads. It might sound a little haphazard and imprecise compared to the selections you might make in Photoshop, for example, but it’s fast, intuitive and effective and lets you enhance your images in a very intuitive and visual way.
How the selective local adjustments work
So here’s how the new DxO PhotoLab local adjustments work. First, you click the new Local Adjustments button on the top toolbar. Next, you right-click on the image to display the local adjustment selector. This is a circular gadget with tool icons around the outside, offering a Brush, Graduated Filter, Control Point, Auto Mask, Eraser, New Mask and Reset buttons.
The Brush tool is simple a feathered freehand brush you can use to paint over areas of the image. When you finish painting the area is displayed as a mask overlay, together with a row of vertical sliders for making adjustments. As soon as you start moving the sliders the mask disappears and you see the effects live on your image. Using a freehand brush tool might sound like a pretty basic way of making adjustments but it’s quick and easy and very effective for smaller areas
DxO PhotoLab Review
For now, I’ll focus on the local adjustment tool and improvements brought by the new software. We’ll expand this review to encompass the whole software at a later date.
At the centre of the PhotoLab screen is a preview of the selected image. All the correction tools are arranged on the right. At the top above the preview, towards the right of the row of tools, there’s a ‘Local adjustments’ option. Once this is selected, you can access a range of tools by right-clicking (control-clicking) on the image.
The default tool is a brush but there are also Graduated filter, Control Point and Auto Mask options. These are backed-up by an Eraser to painting out the mask that you apply while the New Mask option allows you to apply another adjustment using the same tool.
WHAT WE LIKED
The entire implementation of local adjustments in PhotoLab is outstanding, even in its first attempt here. Without the need for layers and complex manual masking it is possible to make fine corrections over specific regions of the image. Control points were awesome in Nik software and DxO has made them more so with the addition of many more adjustment possibilities. You are able to apply multiple control points on an image and even use control points to protect areas by pressing the Alt/Option key when you click.
Auto mask worsk great for selecting areas in a portrait. With auto mask you see the mask as you are dragging the masking circle on the image, but as mentioned, you don’t need to be too precise about it. While it may not look like what you want when you first see the mask, the adjustments go right where you want them. Plus you are making all of these local adjustments on RAW files that are re-editable at any point in the future.
These local adjustments added to the global adjustments in one of the best RAW file conversion programs available make a winning combination.
WHAT WE DIDN’T
Even though local adjustments with control points and auto masking are new, I find it very difficult to fault when applied to smaller regions. But when you want to darken a sky that runs across the top of an entire image, you can’t do it with one circle, and even if you could, the adjustment feathers out from the center point. Applying the same correction by clicking multiple areas of the sky creates a very uneven result. Using auto masking will solve this problem, but doesn’t work if there are sky areas visible through leaves of a tree. With the right images, and most will be, PhotoLab local adjustments are wonderful—but sometimes they aren’t.
PhotoLab incorporates many of the familiar Adobe shortcut keys, but I really, really want to adjust the size of the brush and the repair tools with right and left bracket keys rather than a slider.
Also, as helpful as the radial menu is in selecting local adjustment tools, I would like to be able to reposition it once it is active. And finally, although this has been an issue with Optics Pro as well as PhotoLab, there no support for adjusting DNG RAW files.
HOW IT COMPARES
DxO PhotoLab is not a digital asset manager although the Organize module allows you to set tags and ratings. There is no ability to compose multiple images, create panoramas, or create HDR images. The same is not true of its main competitors, Adobe Lightroom CC Classic and Capture One. While all three give excellent results, the quality of the exports from PhotoLab and Capture One are visibly better than those from Lightroom. PhotoLab and Capture One allow you to export images with multiple recipes at the same time while Lightroom does not. But Lightroom provides full support for IPTC metadata and PhotoLab does not. All three programs allow you to apply the same adjustments to multiple images, but PhotoLab is unique in making you choose the images first, and then make the adjustments.
What has always set DxO software apart from all competition is the PRIME noise reduction in the Elite versions. If you shoot high ISO images, PhotoLab Elite is your best choice for eliminating noise. Choosing between DxO PhotoLab and Capture One, with its somewhat higher learning curve, and Lightroom will come down to which program better matches your needs and workflow.
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