E-M5: DxO vs. LR4 vs. RT4 vs. OV2

Started Jul 16, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Timur Born
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E-M5: DxO vs. LR4 vs. RT4 vs. OV2
Jul 16, 2012

Hey everyone!

Since DxO Optics (DXO) was offered for 99 EUR and recently gained support for the E-M5 + a couple of lenses (like my 45/1.8) I did a quick test to decide whether it should complement my collection of Lightroom 4 (LR4), Raw Therapee (RT4) and Olympus Viewer 2 (OV2).

Short answer: I did not buy DxO Optics.

Long answer following here and to any specific questions asked. Because of the little time I only spent using DXO yet I certainly might have missed some settings or features, but these are my general impression.

Resolution/demosaicing before other post-processing

I tested this with the M-Zuiko 45/1.8 that features only very little geometric distortions on its own. This is without sharpening and noise filtering applied.

  • DXO and RT4 deliver more fine detail/resolution out of E-M5 RAW files than both LR4 and OV2. DXO has a very slight edge over RT4, because it tends to keep fine line detail a bit more contrasty, but you have to do some serious zoomed in pixel-peeping to notice the difference.

  • LR4 seems closer to OV2 (comes last) than to DXO and RT4. But again you need to do pixel peeping of very high frequency (fine) detail in order to see the differences.

  • Both DXO and RT4 retain their lead even after applying lens distortion corrections.

Color moire

  • With higher resolution comes less color moire, so DXO and RT4 may show less moire to begin with.

  • DXO's color moire filter is a mess! It successfully filters moire, but also filters CA/fringing and introduces ugly sharpening kind of artifacts in areas that should not be affected by the filter at all. In essence it behaves quite exactly like the "Defringe" filter of RT, but with settings considerably higher (and not modifiable) than the highest setting offered in RT. I suggest to first try to get rid of funky colors via color noise filter and then stronger CA filter settings before even trying the color moire filter.

  • RT filters color moire via its color noise filter without artifacts. Using the Chromatic Aberration "Auto Correction" also helps with color more without introducing artifacts or excessively desaturating other areas.

  • LR4's color noise filter is very effective against color moire without introducing any artifacts, but in some extreme situations you may need settings so high that other areas of the image lose saturation.

  • OV2 seems to take care of color moire on its own even when you turn off noise filtering without introducing excessive artifacts (hard to tell what is sharpening and what moire filtering).

Sharpening

  • DXO offers Unsharp masking for every RAW file regardless of lens modules, and "DxO Lens Softness" for those lenses that are supported via raw modules. "Lens Softness" sounds very promising on paper, is easily applied and can sharpen fine detail without introducing additional luminance noise.

On the downside it tends to add sharpening halos if not dialed down quite a bit and adds some (ugly) distorting artifacts/speckles, which are especially visible around straight lines.

In combination with the slightly higher demosaicing resolution it can bring out detail that LR4 might not be able to deliver, but I found that for everything else I get better detail with less ugly artifacts from LR4.

  • RT4 offers a host of different sharpening and contrast tools and I especially like the "Microcontrast" sliders. It many manual controls in combination with its slightly higher demosaicing resolution you can bring out extra detail without introducing excessive noise or artifacts. Of course this takes time and effort and an understanding what all those sliders are doing and how they all may interacts. So it can get rather complex.

  • LR4's sharpening controls are rather basic and I somewhat despise its tendency to bring out noise along with fine detail. Even with tedious fine tuning of the threshold slider it is not easy to find a good balance between fine detail and extra noise. Generally I prefer to cramp the "Detail" slider while keeping "Amount" around its default of 25.

That being said it really is capable of getting out some extra detail if you can live with the extra noise. Visually I prefer it to the "Lens Softening" filter of DXO, especially because it keeps lines free from extra speckles (straight).

  • OV2 offers two very basic controls for sharpening without any much fine control and thus a tendency to make sharpening stand out too obvious.

(end of part 1, see first reply for part 2)

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