It’s a whole new DxO! Major updates land for Optics Pro, FilmPack, Viewpoint; pricing restructured, too
posted Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 6:37 PM EDT
Over the years, we've seen some pretty significant updates to French software company DxO Labs' flagship Optics Pro raw image processing app, not least of which was last year's Optics Pro 9, which brought a radically rethough noise-processing engine. A year later, though, the company has taken things to the next level, with significant updates to its three main imaging apps, a new look for the DxO brand, and a complete rethink of its pricing structure.
That last point in particular is huge news for DxO's customers. In a nutshell, instead of segmenting the Essential and Elite versions of the app based on your camera model, Optics Pro is now compatible with all supported cameras in both versions, but certain higher-end features are withheld for the Elite version of the app. From DxO's perspective, the reason for the change is that it's become increasingly difficult to differentiate between what constitutes a professional camera, and what is an enthusiast model. With the new differentiation by Optics Pro features, there's no need for the company to draw an arbitrary line in the sand as to which photographers need to pay the higher price.
What the change means for you is that if you shoot with a high-end camera you'll now get access to the base feature set of Optics Pro at a more affordable price -- but conversely, if you shoot an entry-level or mid-range camera, you'll have to step up to a higher price-point to get the full benefit of Optics Pro's impressive algorithms.
In its latest incarnation, the DxO Photo Suite -- whose components can be bought together or separately -- consists of DxO Optics Pro 10, DxO FilmPack 5, and DxO ViewPoint 2.5. Of the three, it is Optics Pro 10 that is the most significant update, with one major new feature, and some very important updates in other areas as well.
The big change in DxO Optics Pro 10 is what the company is calling ClearView. Essentially, it's an algorithm for correcting the effects of haze and smog, which rob distant areas in your photos of contrast and color. The ClearView algorithm attempts to create a depth map of your image, and then examines each pixel and corrects for the distance-induced falloff in contrast and saturation. At its simplest it's a single-click correction, but if you want, you can adjust the intensity of the correction to suit your image.
DxO ClearView is more than a little reminiscent of Adobe's Defog tool, demonstrated recently at the company's MAX 2014 conference, but while Adobe's tool is so far just a proof of concept, DxO has beaten them to the punch with a shipping product.
(And we should point out here that we first saw DxO's tool in development long before Adobe's MAX demo -- apparently both companies have been working on this in parallel with each other.)
While ClearView is clearly the standout feature, it's far from the only change in Optics Pro 10. For one thing, there's been a clear focus on improving the speed of the app. Startup is now said to be around 1.5x faster than before, and file loading an impressive 10x faster. Perhaps most importantly, the superb (but extremely CPU-intensive) PRIME denoising engine, introduced in the previous release and as-yet unrivaled by Optics Pro's main competitors -- is said to run at about 4x the speed of the previous release. That is going to make it much more useful, as it means that where before, you probably saved PRIME denoising for your most troublesome images, now you can apply it routinely to your photos.
DxO has also revisited various other algorithms to make improvements. Its excellent Lens Softness correction, for example, now yields fewer artifacts and provides both better color and sharpness. The Smart Lighting algorithm also works better as an automatic correction, and provides more scope for highlight and shadow recovery.
Other important changes in Optics Pro 10 include support for DNG files that have been created by Adobe's DNG converter or in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom -- not just out-of-camera DNGs, as was previously the case -- and a tweaked, simpler user interface. The latter is a particularly nice touch, because it makes the whole app feel cleaner, with unnecessary clutter like icons overlaid on thumbnails removed. And both the white balance and dust-correction tools will now work full-screen, too, providing a more satisfying user experience. Incidentally, it's important to note that while Optics Pro now supports converted DNGs, this is only the case when native raw files from the camera model you're using are also supported by Optics Pro. If your DNG is a conversion of a raw file which wouldn't have been supported straight out of the camera, then the DNG also won't be supported.
One last change in Optics Pro is tied into the sole change to the ViewPoint app, which is the smallest update of the three apps. (Hence the fact that its version number only gets an incremental change to v2.5, rather than a step to v3.) DxO ViewPoint v2.5 can now function as a plugin inside Optics Pro, allowing the latter to support keystoning and volume deformation corrections for raw files if ViewPoint is installed. The interface inside Optics Pro when ViewPoint v2.5 is present is much the same as you'd have gotten when using it as a standalone app, so if you're already familiar with how ViewPoint works then you'll know just what to do with it in Optics Pro.
And finally, we come to DxO FilmPack 5. The latest version of the film simulation software, which can give your digital images the authentic look of a variety of color or black and white film types, has several key changes. Most importantly, there are 16 new film types on offer, each created from real film which has been shot under controlled conditions and then digitized at high resolution to determine its behavior. The result is realistic-looking grain, color and contrast, just like the actual film.
DxO FilmPack 5 comes in Essential and Elite editions, just like Optics Pro. In total, 83 B&W, color and negative films are available for simulation in the Elite version, with a subset of 44 of these being available in the Essential edition. The 16 new film types include 11 black and white films (Adox CHS 100 II, Adox CMS 20, Adox Silvermax 21, Bergger BRF 400 PLUS, Foma Fomapan 100 Classic, Foma Fomapan 100r, Foma Fomapan 200 Creative, Foma Fomapan 400 Action, Fujifilm Neopan 400, Ilford Pan 100 and Ilford Pan 400), one positive color film (Fujifilm Instax 120), and four negative color films (Adox Color Implosion, Fuji Superia X-Tra 400, Fujicolor Pro 400h and Kodak Portra 400).
Also new in FilmPack 5 are a 16:9-aspect user interface with integrated file explorer that takes advantage of the now-commonplace widescreen display to show your images to full effect alongside the app's controls, and support for adjusting images shot in raw format. FilmPack 5 also has a new micro-contrast tool, a toning tool that works on shadows and highlights separately, and a simplified blur tool which now works in vignetting or soft focus modes.
And on top of all of the above, DxO Labs itself also has a new logo and tagline that reinforce the company's brand message -- "Simply Better Images". (You can see that logo at the very top of this article.)
Available immediately DxO Optics Pro 10, DxO FilmPack 5 and DxO ViewPoint 2.5 can be purchased together as the DxO Photo Suite. (Note, though, that FilmPack 5 is currently available only as an Optics Pro plugin; the standalone app and plugins for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, and Apple Aperture will follow from mid-November.)
The Essential version of the suite is priced at around US$190 through November 25th, and the Elite version at around US$290 through the same introductory period. Only the Elite version includes the new ClearView tool or the PRIME denoising engine that was introduced in the previous version. It also includes more FilmPack film types as mentioned previously, and various enthusiast / pro-grade features like color profiling and moire removal. A full list of differences between the Essential and Elite editions can be found here.
Prefer to buy the apps separately? DxO Optics Pro 10 Essential edition is priced at some US$130, with the Elite edition carrying a US$200 pricetag, give or take a dollar. DxO FilmPack 5, meanwhile, costs US$80 in Essential edition, or US$130 for the Elite edition, and DxO Viewpoint 2.5 is priced at about US$80.
And if you're an existing customer who purchased Optics Pro and/or Filmpack after September 1st, 2014, you'll get an upgrade to the current version of your app free of charge. (All upgrading Optics Pro customers will also get the older DxO ViewPoint 1.0 free of charge.) Customers who purchased ViewPoint since August 1st, 2013, meanwhile, will get a free upgrade to the new version of that app. Upgrade pricing was not available at press time, but can be found through the customer area of the DxO site.