By Stan Sholik
There is no “magic bullet” software for post production of raw and JPEG image files. Each program comes with an upside and a downside. The upside with DxO Optics Pro is its automatic adjustment presets; the downside has always been its speed of operation, especially on a Mac. Version 6 showed some speed improvements and now version 6.5 (actually 6.5.5 as of a few days ago) shows greater improvement still, making it worth looking at in detail.
With many advanced and professional photographers comfortably settled into either a Lightroom, Aperture, or Bridge/Photoshop workflow, it may be a tough sell for DxO to convince them to investigate another application. But Optics Pro has much to offer, chiefly its processing automation and camera/lens-specific DxO Optics Modules, although neither of these are new to version 6.5.
Image correction with little or no human intervention lies at the core of Optics Pro’s processing automation. In addition, there is a series of tools that allow you to fine-tune the automatic corrections.
DxO revised the Optics Pro interface in version 6.0 and has kept the same clean, contemporary look in version 6.5. Four tabs at the top, Select, Customize, Process and View take you to different windows as you move through the workflow. In the Select tab, the browser pane is to the left, a Preview pane where the images in the selected folder appear is to the right, and a Project pane at the bottom hold selected images for processing. In the “First Steps” mode, information to guide you through the process appears onscreen.
The automation is built around workspaces and presets. Three workspaces are found in Optics Pro: First Steps, Essentials and Advanced User. The First Steps workspace includes the basic corrections and a wizard to walk you through the workflow if you are new to the program. Additional tools are added in the Essentials workspace and even more in the Advanced User. Tools with corrections that DxO has made automatically are indicated with an “Auto” in the tools header. These automatic corrections could be based on image content or camera, camera/lens calibration for the parameters that Optics Pro finds in the image EXIF information and the corresponding DxO Optic Module that you have downloaded.
The Customize tab is the most complex, even in the First Steps workspace shown. Visualization tools are on the left, a preview of the adjusted image is in the center, adjustment palettes are on the right, and the Project pane from the Select tab, is below. The First Steps workspace has minimal adjustments available.
The Essentials workspace adds a histogram to the Visualization tools and more adjustments are available in the adjustment palette.
The Advanced User workspace adds a small amount of EXIF information to the Visualization tools and all of the available adjustments are listed in the adjustment palette.
From my experience while testing, this part of the automation works extremely well, particularly so if you have the appropriate Optics Module loaded. While there are more than 3,000 Optics Modules available, I seemed to have the wrong combination of Nikon camera and Nikkor or Sigma lens to make use of them most of the time, but when I did, there was an noticeable, though slight, improvement in image quality. Where I did notice an amazing improvement in image quality was in images from my Nikon P7000, which was recently added to the Optics Modules. For a compact camera, the P7000 is excellent, but with Optics Pro the images are superb. I saw the same high degree of improvement in images from a Canon G12.
If Optics Pro detects EXIF metadata that indicates you are adding images to a project for which an Optics Module is available, it will prompt you to download the module.