Here comes DxO Optics Pro 8 ! After a version 7 released last year which brought the software speed and stability (which users should be entitled any way), version 8 is much more ambitious and DxO focused its efforts on improving image quality . DxO indeed considers version 7 as a healthy basis to add new tools, new tools that we discover today with DxO Optics Pro 8.
What is new in DxO Optics Pro 8 ? The new stuff list can be divided into two main groups:
1- The innovations that are related to image quality, the main asset of DxO, new tools making their appearance as DxO Smart Lightinr or the new sharpness tool, etc…
2- UI improvements with a deeply revised interface, a new design, panels reorganization and the arrival of a printing module.
DxO Smart Lighting
Till now, DxO Optics Pro offered a tone correction (DxO Lighting) which was exclusively limited to enlighting shadows and dark areas of the photos. Today, the wealth of information stored in raw files from cameras with recent sensors that offer a wide dynamic range of about 14EV required a new tool allowing to recover the information also contained in the highlights. DxO Smart Lighting acts as a Nikon Active D-Lighting or Sony DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer). We remain here in the philosophy of DxO with corrections optimized for automatic operation. The results of the demo images from DxO are spectacular, but the demonstration pushed to the extreme sometimes leads to a kind of HDR caricaturing look. Setting the Smart Lighting cursor operates on three intensity levels, each then modulated by the cursor, in addition to the automatic algorithm that will most often lead to a good basis to start from. We can now retrieve information in both the high and low lights of a photo with extremely high contrast. The low-light areas are enhanced by the excellent noise treatment developed by DxO Optics Pro since version 6, a treatment made to both the RAW and then when the datas are processed. DxO Optics pro 8 gives a better control over the tons of the images in the new light management panel that allows exposure to act on the image divided into quarter tones, high lights, medium, low lights and black. You can then easily manually act on the highlights, shadows, blacks, like you can do it in Lightroom 4 …
Saturated color management
This was the main new function of the previous version, the protection of saturated colors is again improved with a new automatic mode that allows better preservation of textures on extremely bright colors, which are usually saturated.
Subtle color rendering
DxO also particularly worked on the color rendering of the most popular cameras among DxO Optics Pro users who will benefit from more detailed color profiling and calibration with faithfully restored skin tones , and more reliable color reproduction for those who use the software film simulation DxO FilmPack from inside DxO Optics Pro and with RAW images. The cameras which will benefit from this special treatment are the Canon EOS 7D, EOS 5D and EOS 5D Mark II plus the Nikon D90, D5000, D7000, D700 and D3.
Lens sharpness optimization …
DxO Optics Pro 8 analyzes the image content to improve the application of the lens sharpening mask, a tool which was already very efficient on previous versions. Version 8 is reviewing its operation and applies accentuation for details in a smarter manner, preventing the apparition of halos and artefacts that could give photos a kind of unnatural look when the cursor was pushed to its extreme values. The result seems very powerful and I sure will test that tool for my DxO Optics Pro 8 review, coming very soon. If it works as advertised (I have been using a bêta version for one week, and I can tell you it does), this will be the best software solution to enhance high megapixel count DSLRs like the Nikon D800 which has a natural smooth image.
This system of content analysis of the image allows DxO also improve the correction of color fringing caused by chromatic aberrations, in conjunction with the profiles contained in the lens-camera modules which DxO profiles day and night.
DxO Labs engineers have focused their efforts on the correction of hot pixels or dead ones on images taken with long exposures. This new noise management makes backgrounds more homogeneous and less grainy. If you have used DxO before, since version 6, you know how good their noise reduction algorythm can be.
Ergonomics: DxO Optics Pro 8 new user interface
Two good news there ! The first one is for Windows users, which version has a widely reviewed user interface, more similar to the Mac version. The difference in layout between the Mac and Windows versions of the old DxO Optics Pro was quite confusing. The second good news is aimed at “Mac users” who will benefit from the compatibility of DxO Optics Pro V8 with Retina Display of the latest MacBook Pro. Not bad considering that Photoshop CS6 is still does not support Apple’s RetinaDisplay … (I had Adobe press team on the line today for this matter. Just told me they were working on it but could not give me any release date for Photoshop CS6 Retina compatible version… as I guessed she was going to tell me).
The interface of DxO Optics Pro version 8 has been redesigned and the workflow will benefit from the reorganization of various panels and tools, which are not divided by type of correction, but by frequency of use. This guarantees not to have to go down systematically in the latest tools for accessing a common setting you may use on all your images. Add to that the new system of exposure control by quarter tones, productivity should find significant improvements. The challenge is to achieve the best result as quickly as possible.
Tthe visualization of the effect of denoising is now active at all zoom levels and not only displayed when zooming at 75% and 100% as before. DxO users on Mac computers can preview the presets as well.
Finally, we can move from one photo to another quickier without having the computer calculating the correction and preview of the next image with a cache disk memory system that you can set up in the software preferences. This will avoid the user waiting time while the computer display recalculation the new image.
We can now print our photos directly from developed RAW files within DxO Optics Pro 8, without having to export them beforehand. The module can also create contact sheets. For now, the color management is left to the care of your printer driver, so it won’t be of a very great help to start with. But, using printers ICC profiles inside DxO Optics Pro is a planned addition to a yet to come software update. DxO told me they plan a monthly software update, mainly to add new cameras in the software database. Camera-lens modules still can be downloaded from inside DxO Optics Pro.
DxO Optics Pro 8 : prices and availability
DxO Optics Pro 8 will be available in the coming days. The software is released in two versions as before. Both version are absolutely the same, as powerful as the other one, with the same tools, but depending on the camera model you use, you must go for the Elite version sold $299 / €299 (for pro and prosumer cameras) versus $169 / €149 for the Standard version. Both versions are offered at a discounted price to celebrate the new version. But frankly, they have promotional prices almost all year long. Prices then fall to €99 (Standard version ) and €199 (Elite version). Current users of DxO Optics Pro 7 will be proposed a special update price unless they have purchased the version 7 after September 1st, 2012, in which case the upgrade to DxO Optics Pro 8 is free.