With DxO’s recent update to their PhotoLab software, it now supports raw files from Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor equipped cameras, so I finally took the opportunity to download a trial version, mainly to test out their “Deep Prime” noise reduction (NR) module. Well, I have to say that the tests left me immensely impressed, so much so that I ended up buying the software for myself. The raw conversions are finely detailed with good dynamic range and great shadow detail, but Deep Prime is what is game changing. I have never been as impressed with any other “AI” based NR software. Deep Prime is exceptionally good at distinguishing noise from even subtle texture details, and usually does a stunningly good job at eliminating even heavy levels of noise but leaving you with an image that is largely artifact free and looks like it was shot at a much lower ISO. It even does a great job of eliminating hot or stuck pixels. The first image sequence in the samples below, taken in White Rock, has a bunch of hot pixels near the lower left corner, so you can see how well hot pixels are managed on that photo.
Words can’t begin to describe how effective it can be when working with a high dynamic range photo, shot at a high ISO, where you are needing to recover deep shadow detail due to underexposing in order to preserve highlight detail. I strongly encourage you to download a trial version to test it out for yourself!
One drawback to Deep Prime is that on older, slower computers, or those without a high-performance graphics card, the software can be very slow (several minutes) at processing a single image. However the results are so good that for the occasional great image that might need a little help in the noise department, I feel it can be worth the purchase price. It also offers the ability to batch process raw files to DNG, for example with only the Deep Prime NR enabled, and those files can then be processed as usual in Lightroom or Capture One for example. Note that we do not sell this software and I’ve only written this as a service to our customers, some of whom might find this software useful. It is available directly from DxO here for demo or for purchase: https://www.dxo.com/dxo-photolab/
With DxO, you also have the option to export images with only NR and optical corrections applied, if you would like to do all further image adjustments in a different program. In addition, you can create a preset in DxO which nulls out any optical corrections, so you can then effectively get DNG files with only Deep Prime noise reduction applied, and that’s it. DxO does have some good tools for expanding the dynamic range of an image though, providing a somewhat automated way of filling shadows and pulling back highlights. As mentioned, this shadow recovery, coupled with Deep Prime NR, can give remarkable levels of detail, even in underexposed high ISO shots. In addition, on a camera that suffers from hot or stuck pixels when doing high ISO or long exposures (like my aging Fujifilm X-Pro2 does), Deep Prime does a much better job of eliminating those pixels than Photoshop or Lightroom.
I haven’t really fully explored all the features of DxO Photo Lab, but I am thinking I will use it to augment processing in Lightroom or Capture One, and not try to replace those programs. I don’t even mean that from a workflow standpoint, rather from the standpoint of fully adjusting individual images. For now I am still undecided on whether or not I’ll do more than just apply Deep Prime to an image, or if I will also use DxO to do more extensive adjustments. I do find the software to be a bit touchy, sometimes giving an overly flat image with not enough contrast, and on other occasions when using their ClearView Plus adjustment for example, things can look a bit “overcooked” for my liking. Some of that might be due to my unfamiliarity with nuances of the software though, so for now I cannot really criticize it too much.
Lastly, with respect to how it processed Fujifilm X-Trans raw files, I find it to do an excellent job, providing a great deal of natural looking texture detail when compared to using Adobe raw conversions. In that respect, it is quite similar to Capture One I’d say.
Note that I will likely expand on this article in the near future. My deadline is looming and I need to get this published now!
Below are some triplets of images, and you can tell which is which based on the suffix in their filenames. Note that when you click on a thumbnail, a larger version will open and there is a link at the lower-right of each image (a download arrow icon) which will get you the full-resolution versions to look at more closely…
1) Left Column: If the filename ends in “-orig.jpg”, that is the original image as imported into Lightroom with no adjustments made, and exported as a 2400 pixel wide jpeg. I have included that smaller reference image (not full-resolution) so you can see how dark the original was to get a sense of the amount of adjustment I’ve made.
2) Middle Column: If the filename ends in just .jpg”, then that is the purely Lightroom processed version, exported as a full-resolution jpeg.
3) Right Column: If the filename ends in “_DxO.jpg”, that is the version processed in DxO with “Deep Prime” noise reduction at its default value of 50. It was imported into Lightroom and adjusted the same way as the regular Lightroom processed version, with the only difference being essentially zero additional NR and less sharpening than the Lightroom version. I did notice a slight discrepancy with two of the samples though, so I must have ever so slightly tweaked one and forgot to paste over to the purely Lightroom adjusted version. It is also exported as a full-resolution jpeg.