DxO PureRAW 2 Hands-on Review: DxO’s RAW processing software delivers fantastic results, improved usability


posted Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 10:00 AM EDT


Lead image credit: Reed Hoffman

DxO has announced DxO PureRAW 2, the latest version of its impressive app for pre-processing RAW images. The original version delivers excellent results, combining demosaicing and denoising into a single RAW processing step. The latest major release, PureRAW 2, offers improved speed and performance, new camera support and improved workflow options.

What is DxO PureRAW 2?

While DxO's photo editing applications, such as PhotoLab 5, are robust photo editing applications, DxO understands that many photographers have established workflows with competing software. Per DxO, of the millions of photographers that shoot RAW images, about 90% of them use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

DxO PureRAW 2 can be used a standalone application or as a plugin for Lightroom. Here you can see the standalone app. When you import images into the app, either through manual selection or drag and drop, the software automatically identifies the camera and lens profiles you need to download.

Instead of trying to convert those users to PhotoLab, DxO developed PureRAW to allow photographers using non-DxO software to take advantage of DxO's incredible DeepPRIME demosaicing/denoising solution and DxO's industry-leading optical corrections. If you want to get the most of your RAW files, you no longer need to use PhotoLab, but can instead use DxO PureRAW as a standalone application, as a Lightroom plugin or as an extension to your computer's Finder (macOS) or Explorer (Windows).

DeepPRIME: How is it better?

What makes PureRAW 2 better than using the RAW processing features in other software? It all comes down to DxO's DeepPRIME technology. DxO has a massive library of millions of photos. It has captured and analyzed the images over the years when building its profiles for camera sensors and lenses. DeepPRIME includes artificial intelligence, which has learned the two primary operations of any RAW photo editor: demosaicing and denoising. These two operations are typically performed separately. A RAW image is demosaiced and then denoised. However, when you do it this way, the denoising step can reduce the sharpness of an image. DxO DeepPRIME combines both operations into a single step using convolutional neural networks, promising not just less noise but better detail. Does it deliver upon this promise?

This image was shot at ISO 8000 on a Sony A7R IV. On the left is the image processed with DxO PureRAW 2 (DeepPRIME) and the right image is the same photo with Adobe Lightroom default processing. The image is shown at 100% view.

As you can see, the PureRAW 2 image is much cleaner. Impressively, the noise reduction doesn't remove the small, faint stars from the image. That's a big deal, because noise reduction is often overly aggressive to night skies.

While I encourage you to try the software for yourself, in my experience, DeepPRIME delivers upon its promise. Like many photographers, I've long found that DxO's software offers fantastic RAW processing performance. Images are clean, sharp and the optical corrections are second to none. However, like others, I have a workflow that I'm comfortable with that relies upon competing software. DxO PureRAW is the perfect solution for me. I get to enjoy the benefits of DxO DeepPRIME and the company's amazing optical corrections while still using my photo editor of choice.

Using DxO PureRAW 2

DxO PureRAW 2 improves upon its predecessor in several key ways. Speed and performance are improved, which is great. On a MacBook Pro with an M1-series chip, PureRAW 2 is fast. DxO states that DeepPRIME is up to four times faster than the previous iteration. Perhaps even more important are the two new ways you can use DxO PureRAW 2. Within Adobe Lightroom, users can now right-click on an image to process it using PureRAW 2 and import the new DNG file right back into the same folder. It's super simple and gives you the same controls as the standalone app. The second way is by right-clicking a file in the macOS Finder or the Windows File Explorer. From there, you can choose to process using the last used settings or select the setting you want. I always opt for DeepPRIME because I want the best possible performance, but you can choose either of the less sophisticated HQ and PRIME settings, if you want.

You can use DxO PureRAW 2 within the Finder on macOS or the File Explorer on Windows.

Basically, DxO PureRAW 2 is even easier to integrate into your workflow than its predecessor. Moving forward, I will continue to use Lightroom as my primary organizational and editing software, and then process all of my selects using DxO PureRAW 2 within Lightroom. The great thing is that there are different ways for every user to take advantage of DxO's excellent RAW processing technology. After all, you shoot with RAW to get the most from your camera, and it only makes sense to try to get the most from your RAW files. If I want to use PureRAW on images I've already edited within Lightroom, I can simply sync the settings between the original RAW file and the new DNG file created by PureRAW 2. It's quite easy.

Shown at around 200%, PureRAW 2 (left) versus Adobe Lightroom standard processing (right) on a Fujifilm GFX 50S II file. You can see that PureRAW 2 produces an image with more fine detail and a cleaner overall appearance.

DxO PureRAW 2 will now work for even more photographers, as DxO has added support for Fujifilm X-Trans image sensors, including the Fujifilm X100 series, X-E4, X-Pro series, X-T series and more. PureRAW 2 includes support for 40 new cameras in total, including many with Bayer sensors, like the Canon EOS R3, Fujifilm GFX 50S II, Nikon Z9 and Sony A7 IV. In total, the software supports more than 70,000 camera and lens combinations, including many old cameras. DxO PureRAW 2 is also a great way to breathe new life into old photos captured with relatively small, low-resolution image sensors.

DxO PureRAW 2: Is it worth it?

In a word, yes. If you don't want to use DxO's standalone photo editing applications, PureRAW still lets you take full advantage of DxO DeepPRIME technology, which offers the best RAW processing results I've seen. If you want the sharpest, best-looking RAW files – and why wouldn't you? – then you owe it to yourself to give DxO PureRAW 2 a try. It's never been easier to integrate DxO RAW processing technology into your workflow, no matter how you edit your photos.

Pricing and availability

DxO PureRAW 2 is available now for $129 for new users and as a $79 upgrade for existing DxO PureRAW users. You can learn more about the software and download a free trial by visiting DxO.