DxO Optics Pro 9 —Is It a Decent Upgrade from Optics Pro 7? — A Mini Review

© 2013 Peter Free


04 November 2013



If you are going from Optics Pro 7 to Optics Pro 9 — the improvement is worth the $49 introductory sale price


On the other hand, DxO’s user interface is always frustrating enough that I am not persuaded that people, who lack previous DxO experience, are going to want to use it.



I have been using Optics Pro, since the introduction of version 5


Optics Pro 9 is my fourth iteration of the Optics Pro family.  I skipped version 8 for (a) being too slight an improvement on 7 and (b) having changed its user interface into an even less intuitive one.



Optics Pro 9 carries forward 8’s clumsy interface, but partially makes up for it by incorporating exceptional (optional) maximal noise reduction.



The good — noise control has advanced


DxO seems to have primarily founded 9’s claim to fame on its “Prime” noise reduction feature.  The software’s prime button reportedly advances any camera’s previous (subjectively set) noise limit by one stop.


Having tested the optional, maximum noise treatment on some of my noise-ridden photographs, I agree.  The software’s ability in this regard is impressive — provided that you do not mind the obviously smoothed look that maximal noise processing always leaves you with, no matter whose software you are using.



Note — no photos in this review, for a reason


Where trial downloads exist — as one does for Optics Pro 9 — attempting to make buying decisions based on pictures in a review (like this one) is a waste of time.



“Prime” noise reduction


The prime button is located under 9’s Noise Reduction RAW tab.  Click on it and the software automatically implements DxO’s fully automated, no holds barred, noise cleanup.


The advantage to this is that the user does not have to make any slider selections.  The tradeoff is that your home computer’s CPU is likely to have to work for 5 minutes to complete the process on each picture.



Is this new maximized level of noise reduction worth it?


Absolutely.  At least for folks who want to wander off and do something more exciting, than fiddle with adjustment sliders for each photograph.  I would plop busy professionals into this group, although those using full frame sensors are unlikely to see many instances in which the Prime treatment is going to be necessary.


The results for noise-plagued cameras are outstanding.  They easily replicate the best that I can do, even with a great deal of time-consuming customization via Topaz Labs’ also excellent DeNoise 5.  Once its sliders are adjusted, DeNoise 5 takes less CPU time than Optics Pro 9 does.  However, in my considerable experience, DeNoise 5 requires more individuation per picture than Optics Pro 9 does.  That means that I am glued to my computer, having to substitute my time for the CPU’s.


What is special here is that DxO has apparently figured out how to let its software deal with varying kinds of noise completely automatically.


Therefore, if objectionable noise is an ever-present gremlin, under the photographic conditions that you and your cameras often face, Optics Pro 9 may be a worthwhile investment.



On the other hand — the rest of the software occasionally appears to be riddled with annoying glitches


DxO Optics Pro 9 sometimes proved to be an unstable nightmare on my Sony laptop, which heretofore has never been nonplussed by any photographic software — including Photoshop CS5, its plugins, and other self-standing (usually multiply open) applications.


With the exception of version 7, Optics Pro has always been a pain in the behind, with regard to bugs and a silly interface.  Optics Pro 9 arguably expands slightly on those annoyances.


With version 8, DxO eliminated some of 7’s clearly labeled features and apparently expected users to correctly intuit how to access various panels and tools.  Version 9 aggravates this problem by continuing on in the “Where’s Waldo” vein and adding some operability bugs, which either crash or partially crash the application.


The partial crashes are the worst.  Whole segments of its control panels and DxO’s “standard workspace” occasionally disappeared, including the buttons or tabs necessary to find them again.  In a couple of instances, the application’s own close box disappeared, and I had to resort to Windows 7 Task Manager to reboot the program.


In one particularly irritating hour, Optics Pro 9 crashed six times — even after I had restarted the computer.  What was most ridiculous about this episode was that I was processing photographs, one by one, with no corrections whatsoever.  There was virtually no processing load on the software.



Processing irritations — which could be deal-breakers for professional photographers, who have to produce a lot, quickly


Potential deal-breaking irritations:


(1) Consistently mistaken exposures


(2) Inconsistent adjustment sliders


(3) Slow processing



Irritation 1 — DxO consistently underexposes, even with perfectly exposed RAW input


Optics Pro 9 ignores the “expose the histogram to the right” rule:


Optics Pro 7 always defaulted to overexposed corrections of even already overexposed pictures.  I had to become intimately acquainted with the software’s “no correction” preset.


Pro 9 does the reverse.  It consistently defaults to underexposed renditions, even if the picture is already underexposed.  Consequently, I am still using the “no correction” preset.


This glitch means that one cannot batch process effectively, until after one has either:


(a) corrected virtually every frame in the “Customize” view




(b) applied the “no correction” preset to the entire in-tray.


On the more positive side, once you customize a picture, Optics Pro remembers those settings, even if you do not finalize the output by exporting the result to its destination folder.


Therefore, you can click on each photograph, individually customize its processing, and continue serially in this fashion through the entire in-tray.  Once you have gone as far with this as you want, simply highlight the frames that you want to output, and click the “Export to disk” button.



Irritation 2 — unlike Optics Pro 7, adjustment sliders seem to vary in sensitivity from one picture to the next


Corrections to either the blue-yellow or green-magenta adjustors often result in surprisingly massive overcorrections.  But sometimes these same sliders require surprisingly long shifts along the spectrum to do anything visible.  Optics Pro 7 was far more consistent in this regard.



Irritation 3 — “oh, so slow”


While you are in Customize, it takes considerable bits of time to make each correction.  The “busy” icon seems to spin for much longer periods than it did in version 7.


For example, if you made any other corrections, and now you want to use the eye dropper to white correct, you will have to wait a few seconds before the software allows you to pick it up from the menu.


Although this sounds trivial, the wait is really annoying, when one is processing hundreds of pictures, one after the other.



“Okay, Pete, this sounds like a crappy program — why did you buy it?”


Optics Pro has always had the virtue of doing at least a “good” job with RAW output from a wide array of camera brands and sensors.  I do not know of any other RAW processing software that can legitimately make that claim across most of its iterations.


Second, Optics Pro’s glitches matter less to me than they would to busy professionals.


I spend hours doing individualized post-processing, even on the equivalent of professional jobs. Consequently, it does not often bother me that I cannot pitch an in-tray into Optics Pro and send it through, without touching anything.  Even when I do exactly that, I always come back to get the most that I can out at least some of the pictures.  And this is always just a first step, before I ship everything over to Photoshop, where I spend many more hours fine-tuning important pictures.



The moral? — Optics Pro 9 probably works best for slow and methodical users


I would not recommend Optics Pro 9 to the majority of professional photographers, who have to spit out a high volume of ballpark-acceptable output.


However, the platform may be worth it for people, who need to correct a large number of important, but atrociously noise-hindered, files.  Optics Pro 9 automates the maximal noise correction process, so that your computer’s CPU does what your brain had to do before, using a separate noise-reduction program.


For me, at the introductory upgrade price of $49, for the standard edition, Optics Pro 9 was worth its cost.