DxO Optics 9.5: Awesome optics, glaring UI flaws

I mostly hate image organization and RAW conversion tools. Part of the problem is that the RAW conversion is a moving target. Every RAW format is a bit different, which is going to make life living hell for the archivists of 2100. And new features have been added to the RAW conversion as time has gone on -- many modern digital lenses are designed for some degree of optical deconvolution at the RAW conversion stage.

I spent some time working on a tool that would simply organize photos, but that turned out to be too much of a headache. Thus, I use Adobe Bridge for organizing TIFF scans of film and then I use the Olympus tool to organize RAW folders. Adobe Bridge CS4 doesn't support the RAWs from my Olympus. In fact, if I point it at a folder of Olympus RAW photos, it will go into a mode where it spins up the CPU for no reason. The Olympus tool, on the other hand, randomly crashes and it only handles Olympus RAW files.

The plan was that I was going to buy myself a copy of DxO optics and use it to organize and process my images.

Let's start positive. The DxO Optics RAW conversion is great. DxO characterizes lenses and bodies on an optical bench and uses this to tweak de-convolution algorithms to remove as much of the optical flaws as possible. The noise elimination works better than the Olympus tool. It has corrections for camera tilt and also perspective distortion. It also has shadow and highlight controls, so that extremely contrasty scenes have the highlight regions darkened and the shadow regions brightened.

Instead of trying to convert each camera's RAW the way the manufacturer set up the 'look', it tends to have a DxO look. They actually thought through a lot of the slider controls. You can control micro-contrast separately from overall contrast, and non-skin-tone-saturation separately from overall saturation.

They also don't force you to wait. You feed in your non-destructive editing commands and then when you select "Export to disk" they put it in a queue.

So, as a RAW converter, it's very much to my liking.

Now, the downside: The problem with every single RAW converter is that no user is going to let it stay as just a RAW converter. We end up wanting it to be a RAW converer and Digital Asset Management tool. You have to be able to peek into a RAW image anyway in order to generate a thumbnail, so every DAM needs to have some degree of RAW conversion. And you end up saying "Gee, I'm going to tweak this image... no, looks like I managed to screw this one up the more I look at it... well, what about this other image.. how does that look after I fix that problem?" and you end up wanting to compare images and look at folders of thumbnails. There's no way to side-by-side compare images. And there's not a proper thumbnail cache that keeps the thumbnails around so you end up waiting for DxO to regenerate the thumbnails all the time.

Even worse: If I point it at a folder of edited images that don't have EXIF information, it refuses to even try and display them.

Really annoying: The drag-and-drop only works within the application. One of the hazards of having tried to write my own DAM tool years ago is that I know what's involved in making it work properly... and knowing that it's not actually that much real effort.

So, while I really like doing RAW conversion using DxO, I still end up using the Olympus viewer to sort folders of RAW images and Bridge to sort folders of film scans but still end up using DxO for actual RAW conversion.


I finally finished editing this just as DxO 10 came out. I decided to publish it as-is and then see what I thought about DxO 10. So stay tuned for another DxO Optics article. :)

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