DXO Optics Pro 5.3 – Is It Worth The Price?

November 12th, 2008

I am taking another look at DXO Optics Pro because DXO recently did a release and a e-book subscriber suggested that I give DXO coverage in my book.

I have to say up front that I’ve had some resistance in the past to using DXO in the past because:

  1. They charge twice as much ($249 USD) for the same functionality, if you have what they consider a “professional” body, like a Canon 1D series, 5D, Nikon D3, D2X series, D700. For all other bodies the cost is $124 USD for exactly the same software. I don’t think this is a good way to price software.
  2. The features in DXO are possible to do in other ways for less cost.
  3. In the past versions when I’ve used DXO trials I’ve found the user interface to be a little convoluted.

On the other hand, as I look at the DXO Pro 5.3 version it has some really strong points:

  1. It automates fixing barrel distortion and chromatic aberration.
  2. It does volume anamorphosis correction. I don’t know of other software that does this.
  3. It does perspective correction (converging verticals) manually.
  4. It automates color, exposure and lighting optimization.
  5. As of version 5.3 it does a great job of noise reduction. It does the best noise reduction if you give it RAW files because it does the noise reduction before RAW conversion.

DXO ads have always made a big deal out of the fact that you can do barrel distortion correction in batch mode. PTlens ($25 USD) does exactly the same thing. Lightroom does all the other corrections, accept volume anamorphosis, although not in batch mode.

I know that a number of PFRE readers that have a heavy shooting schedule use DXO  Optics Pro just because it saves so much time in post processing. I would say that if you do not use what DXO considers a “professional” body I think it is a good value at $124 USD. But at $249 USD, I’m just not convinced yet that it’s a necessity. What do others think?

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16 Responses to “DXO Optics Pro 5.3 – Is It Worth The Price?”

  • I have been using DXO for some time and agree with most of your points, in particular convoluted user interface – though I have gotten used to it and the new version seems easier. Still not great but usable. As far as the cost the ‘professional’ price is just not cool but I have a d70 and currently not affected. All in all now that I have had it for a while I would miss it if it was gone…

  • Have considered DxO many time but have a Canon 5D and flat out REFUSE to be taken advantage of by them. It appears that they go by the premise that high end camera users have deeper pockets than others.

  • The last press release of DXO included also, that DXO can convert raw images from the Canon G9 – which is no more available on the market. And the user interface of DXO is also miles behind Lightroom. But the raw conversion is excellent!

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  • I think you guys may be missing the point with DXO.

    I’ve been using it for over 3 years now. The important thing for Real Estate is NOT the RAW conversion or the lens correction. It is what they call the “Lighting Engine.” This one feature alone makes it indispensible for RE Photography. It can’t be duplicated with Photoshop Highlights and Shadows. Plus the lighting corrections are made automatically.

    The Lighting Engine increases DYNAMIC RANGE. Some photos processed in DXO look almost like HDR. Often there will be dark parts to a room, or an adjacent hallway. Or, the room looks a bit dark because you wanted to not overexpose the view thru the windows. Or you simply made a mistake and the lighting and exposure is on the dark side. Presto! Run it thru DXO and you’ll be amazed. The dark details are magically illuminated but the light areas do not get over exposed. DXO is in fact a dynamic range optimizer.

    About the pricing: I guess they charge more for the software for the expensive top of the line professional cameras because there are many fewer of those cameras produced. So fewer people with those cameras buy DXO. But DXO still has to produce modules for all the high-end camera/lens combinations. I imagine that is expensive for them. So they charge more.

    The Digital Rebels and the the mid-range Nikon DSLRs have sold millions of copies, so I presume they sell more software for those camera/lens combinations. They can sell those modules for less since they sell a lot more.

    One note of caution about DXO: When a new version comes out there are major problems. They have never heard of the concept of having a BETA first. The worst case was earlier this year when they introduced version 5.0 It was a disaster. You can still see the magnitude of the problems if you search their forums. They have since hidden the forums and made it harder to find, but the record is still there.

    Now they are up to v5.3, and for the most part it seems to be working well for most people. It’s always good to download the trial version and use it, before you buy. It is stable now but runs very slowly on older computers.

    Anyway, I find the DXO is invaluable to my work and I’m willing to put up with some of the software problems. For one thing, I never download a new version until it has been revised.

  • I’ve used DxO since version 1. I like the auto lens correction it can do but beginning with V3, its interface is a pain to use. For me, Lightroom is a pain too.

    I have the Pro version because of my 5D, which I very seldom use now. I see no reason to buy the upgrade to DxO Pro V5 because there is no support for Sony DSLR A300 which I now use for 99% of my photography. Even for the 5D the lens selection is limited and makes the program of little use for me.

  • Rich, actually, DxO did have public beta testing on V3 and V4. Also, the DYNAMIC RANGE adjustment is the main reason I bought the program starting with V1 back in 2004. I had trouble with V5 too, it seemed to crash or lookup my computer too much and with no support for the A300, I decided not to upgrade to it.

  • Funny you posted this just now Larry. I finally dared to upgrade my version of DxO Elite on my main machine today, a 32 bit Vista machine. I say dared because it’s my production system and I am VERY leary of DxO’s releases.
    Let me just pause, and for those of you over 40 or who are scifi buffs, and say “Danger Will Robinson!” ….xO is not for the faint of heart or at least hasnb’t been.
    The last time I upgraded to DxO 5.1 on my laptop, a Dell Vista 32-bit Business machine with 3GB RAM and all Windows Update patches applied [except for SP1 which Dell was asking users to hold off on and it would be pushed when drivers were ready], DxO’s upgrade installer set off a chain of events that caused me to have to rebuild the whole PC from OS up! It basically ALWAYS reinstalls the Microsoft .NET latest, even if you already have it installed- it reinstalls it! In my case, it also kicked off the Vista SP1 upgrade which, if you recall, first deletes all System Restore points so I had nowhere to roll back to.
    When one does have a problem, you can post on their forum and sometimes get a reply, but there is no calling DxO or emailing their tech support and getting a timely reply.
    I did reinstall it later on a clean machine and the subsequent updates to 5.2 now 5.3 and 5.3 latest have not damaged the machine, but it still often [re][un][re]installs unspecified MS dependencies. There is a legacy of their using .NET to enforce their anti-piracy framework which they abandoned because people protested the silent install and inability to remove it even after a trial. [Refer to Martin Bailey’s excellent Podcast for an episode that covered that about a year ago].
    OK, phew, got that off my chest- the good news is that the Lighting features, the Geometry and Distortion features and the presets and control you get are fantastic when they are working right. I didn’t dare to put it back on that laptop and my main PC just for thrills, it is really good sw for some things and hey, they already had my $299US which got me DxO Pro Elite and their Film Pak at the time.
    +IF+ your camera body +AND+ lens are supported, the distortion and CA control are very good. But, as I downloaded all the modules I needed from my unlimited license, I kept noting “Darned, the Nikkor ABC lens is supported on the D200 I used to have but not on the D700!” “Darn, the D300 is supported but not with the Sigma XYZ lens!”
    It’s a niche product and I would not give up LR 2.1, PSCS3. PTLens not Capture NX2 to have it. But when you get it working it is really pretty cool. My favorite app is the Keystoning tool for fixing converging verticals….even with an unsupported lens/body combo, you can draw two lines on the verticals and have them snap to being correct.
    Anyway, my 999 cents.
    Keep up the great blog and Flickr! community. You the man Larry.

  • Wow, these are great insights that everyone is providing! The endorsements seem to be quite similar to gut feel from my limited experience with it suggested. Some very strong points and some definite downsides. All your experiences will be a big help to others trying to make up their minds.

  • I’ve had versions 4 and 5 for sometime now, and also like it for
    the lighting enhancement features. I’ve got a mac, and haven’t
    had too many bugs, but I have had to re-install lens and camera
    modules that somehow got “lost”.

    My big problem: I cannot get either version to correct lens distortion in a vertical format shot. Anyone else encounter that? Both my D80 and D300 save vertical format in either “camera RGB format” or “Nikon D300 profile” instead of Adobe RGB or sRGB. And this seems to prevent DxO from working properly, which is obviously quite aggravating.

  • I forgot to mention, one of the great things DxO will do is turn my 15mm Canon Fisheye lens, when using on the 5D, into about a 150 degree rectilinear panoramic lens. I may try that on the next house I shoot. It’s really wild!

  • Great overview, Larry.
    I look at the price of the standard version as a discount off the full price of this pro tool. DxO OP Elite covers the most commonly used pro bodies and lenses. All? Not even close. With that in mind, I’m really only a DxO junkie because most of what I have is mainstream pro gear.

    I can shoot with two different bodies, a collection of lenses, and them dump the entire lot into DxO OPE. With the new presets in 5.3, I can concentrate on crops and the lighting “Magic” that makes the app so useful. I never have to think about correcting for things such as barrel/pincushion distortion or CA. Vignetting is simply gone (yeah, I push the lenses way past their sweet spots) and I get the precise color and sharpness I want. More often than not, all I correct is a vert or two (from careless shooting), the fine lighting details, and the crop.

    Output presets (my own) are convenient, and leave me with exactly what I need for final delivery to clients. I now pull out PS only when I know I have spot issues that take close attention.

    For PFRE, the ability to get so much work done without ever telling the software so much as what camera I use is wonderful!

  • If any of you are interested–DXO Now on Sale:

    US$ pricing

    Special Holiday season price

    DxO Optics Pro v5.3 Standard $ 109
    DxO Optics Pro v5.3 Elite $ 199

    Of course they recently had raised the prices, but this discount is still about 25% lower than the prices earlier this year.

  • I use DxO Optics Pro 5.3 with my Nikon D300 and Nikkor 12-24 and 18-200 and I would be lost without the software. It takes about 70 seconds per photo to fix distortion, etc. I shoot 9 shot HDR’s so it takes some time to correct all of them, but DxO is worth every penny.

    It’s that good!!!

  • @Scott Glover : Can you tell me what settings (preset) you use for later HDR? e.g. do you disable color ,light …etc

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