DxO Labs has announced version 6.5 of its DxO Optics Pro Raw conversion software. A few days before the announcement, we got a chance to speak to the company's Sales and Marketing Director for Photography, Cyrille de La Chesnais. He highlighted the new and improved features the latest version has to offer, along with key elements of the company's new HDR plug-in that will be available around the same time as the Raw conversion software.

'Similar to previous versions, users will benefit from 100% improvement in the default or automatic image processing,' says Cyrille de La Chesnais. 'Many users do not attempt to manually fine-tune Raw images. Our goal was to deliver maximum results when users use our automatic processing option. This is how we aim to differ from other solutions in the market. Because we've calibrated the sensor in our labs we are able to set the optimal default position - rather than using the same settings for all sensors and all ISOs. There's an element of taste to this, of course, but our defaults is set to the middle of the gaussian distribution, so we believe it will please most people. In most cases you do not have to move any sliders at all.'

DxO Optics v6.5 - Customize

With respect to the new Single Shot HDR feature he says, 'We have revamped the DxO Lighting technology. DxO lighting corrects for shadows and backlighting automatically. If you push that further you get an HDR-style effect and open up the shadows but this reveals more noise. To allow you to do this, we've improved our raw conversion - removing low frequency (blotchy) color noise and giving more control for noise/detail discrimination, delivering realistic looking HDR effect even in single images.'

One of the key bug-fixes in the latest version is that for support issues with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. 'The compatibility issues have now been fixed and users will be able to use DxO Optics Pro as an external editor to Lightroom 3, or browse Lightroom catalogs and write back images into Lightroom like before.', he says. 'Several minor bugs have also been fixed based on our user feedback. We've also re-written some of the algorithms to improve speed resulting in around a 25% improvement in user interface responsiveness and 20-25% improvements in processing speed.'

DxO Optics v6.5 - Process

Stressing on the company's efforts to broaden the cameras and lenses support he adds, 'The number one request from customers is support for their specific camera / lens combination. For this, we are continually trying to increase our pace. The goal is to reach 600 modules per quarter and achieve 5000 modules by the end of 2011. We won’t cover 100% of the user base – there will always be esoteric and old lenses but we work on the 20:80 rule [that 20% of all lenses account for 80% of all lens use]. We’ve improved our calibration process and taken on additional staff to help us towards this target.' Version 6.5 extends Raw support to five additional cameras, including the Canon EOS 60D, Pentax K-x and Sony Alpha DSLR-A290, and comes with 150 new DxO optical modules. He also mentions that a minor update will follow to support Nikon D7000, Nikon D3100 and Sony A390 Raw files.

DxO Labs has also announced the DxO HDR plug-in for multiple RAW image processing. Explaining the technology he says, 'The tone mapping technology is based on DxO lighting technology. To give realistic, halo-less results. Combining three images brings less noise and greater tonality. It allows you to go one step further than what’s possible with noise reduction and it’s only the beginning of what’s possible. The great news is that users can edit images for white balance, tone-mapping, noise removal etc within the plug-in for minimum data loss, while leveraging from DxO Optics Pro RAW conversion and automatic optical faults corrections for optimal image quality.'

Commenting on the plug-in's compatibility with third-party image-editing programs he says, 'During launch, the plug-in will be compatible only with DxO Optics Pro v6.5. We may extend support to Photoshop CS5 and other software in future.' He further adds, 'Our original plan was to incorporate the HDR plug-in with the rest of the improvements we have made and call it version 7. But version 7 would be a payable upgrade and much of the multi-shot HDR upgrades may not have been of interest for 100% of our customers. We felt it was fairer to make it optional and provide all the other improvements for free to our existing customer base.'