I’ve reviewed many software packages over the years, and own many packages from all the main suppliers. I keep up to date with them so that I can share knowledge and help others, and generally keep in touch with the progression of editing software. So, when a package comes along that makes you raise an eyebrow, you know you’re in for a treat.
What is DXO PhotoLab V5 Elite?
DXO PhotoLab is a raw editor, along the lines of Lightroom. However, it prioritises demosaicing and denoising as a main feature, to ensure the finest quality image that you can imagine. That’s a lot to promise, but here’s a spoiler… It delivers!
Using DXO labs extensive data, PhotoLab V5 also has sophisticated control over lens distortions, cromatic abberations and individual lens vignetting issues. That alone should tell you just how much thought, combined with DXO’s knowledge is applied to this package.
The User Interface.
Opening DXO PhotoLab, you’re greeted to a quite familiar, but slightly different layout to what you would see with Lightroom. You’ll enter the “PhotoLibrary” view, where you can see your images side by side and instantly view the state they are in. This means, if you have images you have edited, they will show up on the panel in their last edited form (and you can continue editing at later date). You have plenty of filter options too, so you can just view particular images (only jpeg or raw for example), so you don’t clutter up your workspace. It’s the perfect way to work, and just clicking on your chosen image opens up that image to view or double click the image for editing.
Once again, in the editing mode, if you’ve used any other editor, you should be at home with DXO Photolab. On the left of your screen you have the histogram, move/zoom view and history as your main components, while the right section of the screen is where you will find all your tools. PhotoLab is a fully featured editor, so everything you need to process your files is available on this panel. It is split up into sections, which makes things much easier.
On this right panel, you have options for “Light” (as the name suggests, modules dedicated to your contrast, exposure, highlights, shadows etc), “Color” (channel mixer, saturation, colour rendering, HSL etc), “Detail” (Denoise, sharpness, moiré etc), “Geometry” (crop, distortion, horizon, perspective etc), “Local Adjustments” (self-explanatory) and finally “FX” (blur, vignetter, filters, frames etc). Everything is controlled with sliders, and well organised with a clean look to it.
Along the top of the screen you get your various quick access tools, such as crop, rotate, white balance colour picker, perspective control, gradients and various other tools. The top right of the screen has an “Apply Preset” setting which opens up the world of DXO presets, allowing you to add different looks to your images in one simple click should you want to. Overall, DXO PhotoLab V5 Elite is well laid out and very intuitive once you have edited one or two photographs.
It’s all well and good offering users multiple features, but if an editing program is sluggish, it doesn’t make a great user experience (I can name a few!) DXO PhotoLab delivers extremely good performance, even from my i5 8GB laptop. Everything you do happens in real time, which makes it a pleasure to use.
From the moment you load in your images, you realise that DXO PhotoLab is going to be fast. Click on the image you want to work on, and it simply loads full screen ready to be edited. Move sliders and things change in real time. It’s performance like this that makes or breaks the experience. PhotoLab delivers easily, and surpasses most of its competition.
As for it’s performance as a raw editor, I’m a Fujifilm user, and some other software allegedly struggles with Fujifilm RAF files. Happily, DXO PhotoLab does an amazing job with them. You get good, clear results, and the demosaicing works flawlessly with Fujifilm image quality. I would be happy to use this software (and have stated to do so) as my only editing software for professional results.
Recovering shadows and highlights from Fujifilm raw files was a breeze, and although I didn’t compare it to Photoshop, I certainly don’t feel the PhotoLab has any issues with performing this well.
Noise recovery is another area where PhotoLab scores points, it offers different levels of noise reduction, using their own technology, and in use it is very good, much better than Photoshop and Lightroom.
There are a number of great features in DXO PhotoLab that are not just gimmicks like a lot of its competitors.
The first is the “U Point” masking technology. You’ll also find this technology in Nik Collection Software and Snapseed, and those who have used it will know just how powerful it is. Although there’s a few methods of using it, at it’s most basic you can put a control point over the area you’re masking, increase the circle radius and the mask will intelligently make your chosen changed to the area within that circled area. It sounds too simple to be true, but it’s amazingly powerful and why other programs haven’t implemented something similar is very strange (I’m guessing it’s to do with copyright etc).
One of my favourite great features is the ClearView Plus setting. When you switch it on, it really transforms your image adding contrast and really doing what its name suggests it does. You have a slider to control how strong the effect is, but generally the default setting is perfect. It’s a real game changer to bringing out the best to your image. It’s kind of like a dehaze setting for general use, but more intelligent.
There are a host of colour profiles that you can use, and generally they are very good. There’s also a “Time Machine” which you can use to look back at old photos and copy the look of those photos. Overall, the colour grading options in DXO PhotoLab are well executed and genuinely add something to your photographs.
DXO Smart Lighting is a fantastic setting that analyses the exposure of your image, and apples uniform or spot weighted light to the image. It’s become one setting I use on a regular basis.
Already mentioned is the fantastic noise reduction technology. There are numerous settings you can use to reduce noise, and it is one of the best performing noise reduction systems available.
Nik Collection is also supported and indeed has a dedicated button on the screen for quick access, it really feels like it’s fully integrated. This is a great feature, as Nik Collection is a really useful program to have, and it’s integration is seamless as it’s from the same developers. I’ve been using DXO PhotoLab V5 Elite with DXO Nik Collection 5, and it really is a match made in heaven.
It’s not very often in blown away by raw editing software, there are always some issues, usually performance related. However, DXO PhotoLab V5 Elite is an outstanding bit of software.
I’ve been using it day to day to edit raw files (as well as the off jpeg), and it’s just so fast and intuitive. It has almost everything you could need in a raw editor, in a package that is quite a reasonable price (around £200 but there are offers available quite often).
Overall, if you are after an editing program that is simple to use, powerful and getting regular updates, DXO PhotoLab 5 could be that program. They offer a free trial, so check it out!
* I am in no way affiliated with DXO and they did not provide me with the software for review. I wrote this article to let you know that there are options out there for you, and that this is one of the best options available.