DxO turns MFT IQ into APS IQ, and it's 50% off

Started Nov 24, 2015 | Discussions thread
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Jacques Cornell
Jacques Cornell Forum Pro • Posts: 10,477
DxO turns MFT IQ into APS IQ, and it's 50% off

I'll eventually turn this into a longer article and a blog post, but for now I’ve got a few observations to share about DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite that are directly relevant to Micro Four Thirds shooters. Note: this is not a compensated endorsement. I'm just a really happy customer. PRIME noise reduction and some other features are included only in the Elite version of OP10, which is on sale now for $99.

If you look at the kind of work I do, you might conclude I’m an unlikely candidate for MFT. I’m a professional event and landscape photographer who’s shot with Canon 1Ds I/II/III 35mm-format DSLRs since trading in my Pentax 67II in 2004. My event work involves shooting in low light, both with and without flash, and printing my landscape work at A2 and A1 sizes taxes the resolution of all the digital formats I’ve used so far. Even so, I started shooting with MFT almost three years ago and adopted it as my do-everything professional and personal kit about two years ago. My reasons are similar to those of many of you, and I've written about them on my blog here.

For now, let me just say that I'm moving from Aperture to Lightroom+DxO, and the latter is expanding my judgement about what’s possible with these “small-sensor” cameras. I tested a trial copy of OP10 several months ago and bought it last week when DxO put all their software on sale at 50% off (good until Xmas Day). It does two things that change the game for me. First, it extracts detail like nobody’s business. Second, its PRIME noise reduction gives me another stop of usable ISO sensitivity.

I’m in the midst of prepping some landscapes to print at 12”x16” and 16”x21” for an exhibition. Previously, I had to resort to a very convoluted workflow to eke out every last pixel of detail. I’d apply customized (zeroed) RAW Fine Tuning settings in Aperture, make my color and luminance adjustments, run the image though Nik Sharpener Pro’s Capture Sharpen module, then export the 16-bit TIF to Photoshop where I’d use Pixel Genius’ PhotoKit Sharpener (PKS) to apply creative sharpening, resize to the target print output size, apply PKS output sharpening, save the TIF, reimport to Aperture, and print. Whew!

Now, with LR and DxO, I can do all three stages of sharpening directly on RAW/DNG. I do my reject/select/rank editing in LR and export the selected RAWs to DxO. Tweak the RAW processing ("DxO Lens Softness" performs capture sharpening) and return a processed DNG to LR, where it sits alongside the original RAW. Tweak color and luminance adjustments, apply creative sharpening (LR’s Sharpening Mask is brilliantly easy and effective), then apply output sharpening at the print stage. All non-destructive. If I want to tweak DxO’s raw processing later, I can even round-trip the DNG and retain all the LR adjustments. Sweet!

So, the 3-stage sharpening workflow is a lot simpler. But, what I’m finding really remarkable is how much fine detail DxO can squeeze out of my 16MP RAWs. I don’t have time to post sample images right now, but suffice it to say that it puts LR and Aperture to shame. At 100% onscreen, the difference is not subtle. Take that DxO DNG and apply 50/0.6/50/50 sharpening in LR and zap! - crisp like a Granny Smith apple. A1 and A2 prints are going to look better than I ever got before.

The other big gain is DxO’s PRIME NR. I shot an event in low light a few days ago where I had to do most of it without flash at ISO 3200, f1.7 and 1/60 or slower. Ouch! That’s right at the edge of my comfort zone with MFT (as it was with my 1Ds3), and I was worried the images might be really noisy, especially since I often had to underexpose to keep a usable shutter speed. Well, this was my first time processing an event job with DxO, and it made everything alright. Noise at 3200 looks like 1600 processed in Aperture. And, that’s with just a few clicks, whereas in Aperture I would have thrown every tweak and tool at it and agonized over each image. The only drawback is that my Mac took about 2 minutes to crank out each finished image, versus maybe 10 seconds with Aperture. So, I set up the processing, went to bed, and had 250 JPEGs in the morning.

PRIME NR is so good that as soon as I can make some time to play, I’m going to do some test shots under low tungsten light to see if 6400 might be my new usable ISO limit.

If you’re routinely pushing the limits of your MFT sensor and need the best possible IQ, it’s worth your time to download a DxO trial copy and save up $99 before Xmas (or put it on your wishlist).

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 Jacques Cornell's gear list:Jacques Cornell's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm 1:2 Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 +29 more
DxO Optics Pro Elite
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