DxO PhotoLab 3.0 Review

DXO PhotoLab Review
Review

Wednesday October 23, 2019

By Angela Nicholson

When DxO replaced its Optics Pro software with PhotoLab, the new software added localised adjustment capability using U Point technology. This was possible because DxO bought the excellent Nik Collection from Google. DxO subsequently improved PhotoLab with additional local adjustment controls and has developed Nik Collection.

DxO’s in-depth understanding of optical flaws and how to correct them is central to PhotoLab. These corrections are available for different camera and lens combinations. Consequently, when you use PhotoLab for the first time, you’re prompted to download the necessary correction modules.

These widely respected corrections were also used by DxO Optics Pro. They work well and are easy to apply. However, many people criticised the lack of a local adjustment tool. Thankfully, the first version of PhotoLab rectified that. 

Now DxO PhotoLab 3.0 adds a new easy-to-use local colour adjustment tool, a refinded repair tool and keyword support for better image management.

DxO PhotoLab Review

One of the nice features of PhotoLab is that it works around your filing structure. Unlike Adobe Lightroom, there’s no need to import images. What’s more, when you preview a folder of images, the software automatically checks the EXIF data to find out what cameras and lenses were used. If the necessary correction modules aren’t already installed, it prompts you to download them.

DXO PhotoLab Review

The PhotoLibrary section is where you browse images. You can filter the images in a folder using aspects such as star ratings, file types and tags. Helpfully, hovering the cursor over an image reveals its key data.

Double-clicking on an image opens it in the Customize section. This is where you can make any edits and it’s where the real strength behind PhotoLab and DxO optical assessments comes into play. 

A blue marker shows which adjustments are applied. The software automatically applies DxO Smart Lighting, but you can adjust the intensity of its impact or turn it off if you want. 

All the adjustment controls are arranged in a column on the right of the screen. Arrows allow you to expand and contract the controls so you can see more or less as you need.

Expanding a control reveals the sliders. These operate between -100 and +100, with zero being the default setting. The value can be adjusted by moving the slider, tapping on the up or down arrow or entering a numerical figure. It’s very intuitive.

Repair Tool

One of the most important edits that needs to be made to an image is to clone out any dust marks. Version 3.0 of DXO PhotoLab has an improved repair tool that can be switched between a clone and a repair tool. 

It’s also possible to adjust the size, feathering and opacity of the tool. Helpfully, these changes can be made before or after the repair is made. And if you need to you can move the sample area that is used to make the repair.

It’s also possible to make further repairs within the cloned area. That’s tricky with some other editing packages.

Local Adjustments

At the centre of the PhotoLab screen is a preview of the selected image. All the correction tools are arranged on the right. At the top above the preview, towards the right of the row of tools, there’s a ‘Local adjustments’ option. Once this is selected, you can access a range of tools by right-clicking (control-clicking) on the image. 

The default tool is a brush but there are also Graduated filter, Control Point and Auto Mask options. These are backed-up by an Eraser to painting out the mask that you apply while the New Mask option allows you to apply another adjustment using the same tool.

With the brush selected, you just need to paint over the image where you want to apply an adjustment. 

A box on the screen gives you control over the selection tool. You can adjust the size of the brush, the degree of feathering, its flow and opacity. PhotoLab shows the mask (in blue below) so you can see which areas are being adjusted. Holding down the Alt/Option turns the brush into an eraser to remove the mask.

DXO PhotoLab Review

The collection of sliding controls becomes visible once the mask is applied. These now have three levels. The top level has 8 sliding controls over brightness and contrast. Beneath that, lies the colour controls which allow you to adjust vibrancy, saturation, temperature, tint and hue. 

DXO PhotoLab Review

At the bottom of the pack lies the detail controls. These allow you to tailor the level of sharpening and blur.

It’s easy to paint in the mask and make adjustments. 

Colour Wheel

PhotoLab 3 introduces a new colour wheel control in the HSL (hue, saturation and luminance) panel. The coloured disks above the wheel set the starting point for your adjustment. For example, with the sunset image below, I selected the red area.

You can then move the points around the outside of the ring to specify the colours that you want to adjust, while the inner ring sets the range of the feathering. This is designed to avoid harsh transitions.

Once the selection is made, you can adjust the saturation, luminance and uniformity. It’s a really quick and easy way to adjust specific colours in an image.

DXO PhotoLabs 3 Review

Verdict

PhotoLab is a clean and easy to use image editing and optical correction software package. DxO’s expertese really comes to the fore with noise reduction, haze removal and sharpness enhancement. There’s lots of control and edits are applied quickly.

The local adjustment capability makes the software much stronger competition for Lightroom. In addition, the expanded range of controls enhances the software even more. I find the new HSL colour wheel very easy to use and teh results are great.

I think PhotoLab is fairly intuitive to use. It also has just about all of the controls that you need to adjust images. Adding DxO FilmPack and ViewPoint gives you even more tools and they are all based on optical assessments. It’s a great tool for photographers who want to optimise the results from their camera and lenses.

Should I Buy DxO PhotoLab?

As I said earlier, DxO PhotoLab is very useful for photographers. It’s also nice and easy to use, making it a good alternative to Lightroom. It’s available for PC and Mac computers in two versions, Essential and Elite. The version you require depends upon the camera and lenses that you own. Follow this link to check PhotoLab’s camera and lens compatibility.

A free 30 day trial of PhotoLab is available.

Summary
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DxO PhotoLab