DxO Optics Pro 8 Standard: can it replace Photoshop?
Like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, DxO Optics Pro 8 is a raw-image-processing specialist.
It isn’t designed for creative projects, and it doesn’t have the multitalented toolset of Photoshop: its job is simply to take raw files from your DSLR and help you adjust the colours and sharpness, reduce the noise and generally optimise them before saving them for print or web.
You might be surprised at how sparse the feature set is, especially if you’ve used Lightroom before. Aside from a dust-removal tool, DxO has no facility to make local edits, and it lacks Lightroom’s cataloguing capabilities. There’s no search, stacking, virtual folder or filtering tools here to help you manage your photo library.
What it does have is a superb raw-processing engine that more than matches that of Lightroom and, therefore, Photoshop’s Camera Raw module.
The star feature of Optics Pro 8 is its lens-correction capability.
Thanks to lab-based analysis, DxO holds correction profiles for more than 10,000 combinations of camera bodies and lenses, which allow the software to automatically correct geometric distortions (such as the barrel distortion that occurs at wide angle on zoom lenses), chromatic aberrations, vignetting and sharpness variations, among others.
Also, it can apply these across both raw files and JPEGs. With Lightroom applying only geometric corrections automatically, it gives DxO an immediate head start.
When it comes to other critical operations in the raw-processing workflow, DxO also holds its own. The noise-reduction tools are superb, applying well-judged chroma and luminance reductions that don’t interfere too much with detail retention.
Optics Pro 8’s Smart Lighting tool does a wonderful job of balancing shadow and highlight details, and although there’s little between them when it comes to the power of their processing tools, on the whole we’ve found that DxO’s default settings do a better job than Lightroom’s.
Other handy tools include a host of presets – one produces a convincing yet subtle HDR effect from a single image, while another retains fine grain noise – and perspective-correction tools that allow you to level horizons and square off buildings.
Next to the lack of management and filtering tools, there’s only one area we’d criticise Optics Pro 8 for, and that’s performance. Dragging most sliders around in Lightroom produces an instantaneous effect on your image; in DxO, on our ageing, second-generation Core i5 laptop, we had to wait a moment to see the results.
Nevertheless, if what you desire is the best possible results from your raw files at the cost of all else, that’s precisely what DxO Optics Pro 8 will give you, with its superior optical corrections and subtle image-wide processing. It’s great value, too, at £73 inc VAT, or £149 inc VAT for the Elite version, which would suit pro-DSLR users.