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Fstoppers Review DxO PhotoLab 4 With DeepPRIME AI and a Host of Compelling Features

Fstoppers Review DxO PhotoLab 4 With DeepPRIME AI and a Host of Compelling Features

Today, DxO is taking the wraps off their latest update to their PhotoLab series, PhotoLab 4. It's a major update of its multiple award-winning photo-editing software. This latest version features DxO DeepPRIME, a revolutionary demosaicing and denoising technology based on artificial intelligence and trained with deep learning.

DxO PhotoLab 4 has also added a new dynamic interface system called DxO Smart Workspace, enriched its photo library with a batch renaming feature, and created an even simpler workflow by adding a new and exclusive editing history tool called DxO Advanced History and the ability to selectively copy and paste specific settings. Lastly, the new DxO Instant Watermarking feature lets users sign their photos by adding a watermark directly to the image.

Trained using the millions of photos DxO’s laboratories have analyzed for more than 15 years, DxO DeepPRIME employs artificial intelligence and drastically improves digital noise reduction while also delivering more effective demosaicing. The resulting photo quality is much improved over conventional methods, especially for photos taken in low-light conditions that require brightening certain areas, photos with small pixels, and photos taken with early-generation cameras. 

To reduce noise and demosaic RAW images, DxO DeepPRIME was trained using several billion samples. Since its founding in 2003, DxO has earned an international reputation for calibrating hundreds of cameras and thousands of lenses using a protocol that is more extensive than any other in the industry. DxO has measured the distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberrations, loss of sharpness, and digital noise generated by each equipment combination and in every situation with an extraordinary level of precision. That technology is now built into PhotoLab 4.

DxO Smart Workspace

This latest version also includes what the company calls a Smart Workspace. It's based on a unique system of filters that can be accessed directly from the toolbar. It allows users to show tool palettes by correction type, only display their pre-selected favorite palettes, or only show palettes with activated corrections. In addition, DxO Smart Workspace can also instantly open the desired palette when users search for a tool in a dedicated search field.

DxO PhotoLab 4 also includes an advanced batch renaming and an advanced history feature, something previous versions lacked. There is also an advanced watermarking module, something pros will appreciate. Most photo-editing programs let users add a watermark but do not let them directly preview the final version. They also don’t allow users to manage blend modes. The powerful and flexible DxO Instant Watermarking tool lets users embed a text and/or image in the background of one or several photos at the same time and then instantly view the result. The placement, orientation, scale, margins, and opacity of the watermark are fully configurable. 

New Camera Support

DxO PhotoLab 4 continues to add the latest cameras to the list of equipment it supports. It has added support for the Canon EOS R5, EOS R6, and EOS 850D, the Nikon D6, and Z5, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, and the Panasonic Lumix S5 cameras. More than 60,000 cameras and lens combinations are now available.

Pricing

The ESSENTIAL and ELITE editions of DxO PhotoLab 4 (PC and Mac) are now available for download on DxO's website for the following launch prices until November 19, 2020:

DxO PhotoLab 4 ESSENTIAL Edition: $99.99 instead of $129
DxO PhotoLab 4 ELITE Edition: $149.99 instead of $199 

You can install the program on two computers with the DxO PhotoLab 4 ESSENTIAL Edition or on three computers with the DxO PhotoLab 4 ELITE Edition. Photographers with a license for DxO OpticsPro or PhotoLab 3 can purchase an upgrade license for DxO PhotoLab 4 by signing into their customer account. There are more details on the differences between the two editions on the DXO website.

My Thoughts

It's been a busy couple of weeks in the photo-editing world. Skylum is touting a new AI-based editor coming around Christmas. Adobe has rocked the photo world by embracing AI editing after a few years of sitting on the sidelines. And now, DXO is offering a solid raw editor with much to recommend it. 

I took PhotoLab 4 out for a dry run a couple of weeks ago with a pre-release version of the software. It's impressive, and it can quickly and easily bring new life to old photos taken on less than the state of the art cameras. It does fine with my current Sony mirrorless camera as well. I like the fact that you can open a photo and the default editing steps you have set up immediately work on your image. For architects, for example, your photos can instantly and automatically straighten some of the inherent distortions in wide-angle lenses.

For low-light images, the excellent DXO noise reduction does its work and does so impressively. It worked well on some of my Milky Way images, reducing the noise without needing to fiddle with sliders.

I think we are well past the day when one raw editor fits all. With my current workflow, I start in Lightroom but dip into Luminar for some of their special AI features. I'm doing the same with DXO PhotoLab 4. I then usually finish in Photoshop.

With each company offering editors wants theirs to be the one you use, my take is I'll mix and match depending on the task at hand. Competition is great. AI is not without controversy. Some editors can get a photo that is simply not realistic, but realism may not be the goal. For others, it can cut time spent editing, and that is very valuable. AI should not be a dirty word. It should be under the control of the photographer to use sparingly or not at all. 

DxO has a worthy and compelling offering for pro and semi-pro editors. You can download a full-featured version of PhotoLab 4 and use it for a month to see if it works for you. I'm impressed with what they have done.

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23 Comments

Francis Drake's picture

No one has yet explained what that deepprime do.
Even without explaining how it works, what are the results? How does it compare to the previous 'prime' ?

Spy Black's picture

It's along the lines of Topaz DeNoise. I'll assume this version is improved, the original Prime engine I used in DxO10 was total shit, and painfully slow to boot.

Billy Paul's picture

I have only looked at the results from a single image and it appears to be an improvement on the standard prime (which is considered to be pretty good). Where I looked deepprime seemed retain more fine detail in exchange for slightly more noise. If you have a fast and supported GPU it is supposed to run a lot faster than the standard prime.

Gabriel Castro's picture

Can you call it a review when you probably didn't even installed the software and used only the developers supplied screenshots?

Mel Martin's picture

As I wrote in the piece, I installed and used the software.

Chris Perkins's picture

Deep noise deep shit. These are marketing terms. If its good it will stand up.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Neither of these is a marketing term that DxO is using.

Jacques Cornell's picture

As a long-time Optics Pro & PhotoLab user, I find this one of the most exciting upgrades in the past several years. The intro video at PhotoJoseph.com indicates that DeepPRIME is, indeed, a significant improvement over the already excellent PRIME noise reduction. In addition, the new UI, batch renaming and watermarking tools will greatly simplify the workflows of many pros, especially folks like me who do high volume and value efficiency. The question I have that was not answered yet is about speed of DeepPRIME processing. Is it the same, slower, or faster compared to PRIME in PhotoLab 3? I've already bought PL4 and will test soon...

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I tried the new Deep prime noise reduction on two images and didn't see a significant difference with the older Prime noise reduction.

I think that I should do a side by side comparison of the NR in the old and new versions, their Prime NR might also have improved.

It does seem faster, but I didn't compare them side by side.

The new UI however seems to be a big improvement. The various adjustment tools are much quicker to access now.

The new "editing history" feature looks interesting but I didn't play around with it yet, and same for batch operations.

Altogether a solid update.

Jacques Cornell's picture

I did a quick test last night. On a 12MP LX100 image shot indoors in dim light at ISO 1600, PL3 with PRIME and standard adjustments took 16 seconds to export as JPEG. PL4 took 15 seconds with PRIME and 21 seconds with DeepPRIME. This on an 8-core 3.3GHz 2013 Mac Pro with 64GB RAM, 1TB upgraded SSD and dual FirePro 500 GPUs. The IQ difference was slight, with DeepPRIME revealing a bit more super-fine detail in fabrics. I'll test later on some of my high-ISO event photos (which is what I really rely on PhotoLab for).

Jacques Cornell's picture

After further testing with larger files:
PRIME was already great at removing noise. DeepPRIME improves this slightly, but where it really shines is in retaining detail and eliminating artifacts. High-ISO images can now be printed probably one or two full print sizes larger. Alternatively, I can probably shoot 1-2 ISO stops higher and retain the same detail. Awesome!
As for performance, DP is heavily GPU-dependent. On my 2013 Mac Pro, DP takes about 1.5-2.0x longer than PRIME. That's because my 8-core CPU is still competitive today, whereas my D500 GPUs are ancient, and PL4 uses only one of them. For DP processing, I expect a 6-core Mac mini or quad-core 13" MacBook Pro with an AMD RX 580 in an eGPU box, or a 2020 16" MacBook Pro with 5500M GPU would be at least 2x faster than what I have now.

Ed C's picture

I'm going to take the world by storm with a revolutionary new product. I am AI enabling a #2 pencil. Just like every bit of software on the planet it is just AI because I put the term AI in it. I am also going to take this opportunity to make it a subscription model.

Tom M's picture

Meh, it's just shorter than saying input fed algorithm. Don't read too much into it. They took a ton of photos and trained a system. It's just that some of the techniques and calculations that run are now easier to run on commodity hardware. The use of GPUs is enabling acceptable processing time and the methods are just becoming more mainstream. It's not going to take your photos for you and make you breakfast.

Marc Vidal's picture

Just played with it with a dozen of old images taken with my Nikon D90, with ISO ranging from 1600 to 3200. This absolutely a game-changer.

I only used the default settings and compared no noise reduction VS HQ VS Prime VS DeepPrime. The results with DeepPrime are incredible. It seems there is no loss of details. I actually don't understand why the HQ and Prime options are still present, and who would want to use them instead of DeepPrime.

Francis Drake's picture

Thanks for the feedback.
They are still there probably fit backward compatibility and for the cheaper base version that only has HQ I think.

Tom M's picture

Tried it out with an old 2000 iso photo of jellyfish at an aquarium. Exported images to compare; no denoise, HQ, prime, and deep prime.

Hands down deep prime is the best. Not because it removes more noise (at least in this case), it's slightly better, but because it retains detail.

You kinda get the best of both worlds - solid noise removal without destroying sharpness and detail.

I think it's worth the upgrade cost since I feel DxO has reasonable pricing. I wouldn't lose sleep over it if I didn't already have DxO elite 3 and didn't want to pay full price, used some other software, etc. If you have a solution that already works to your liking...well, you have a solution then. If not, go try a demo. They have a free demo.

I have to try more images. It's going to vary like anything else. But I also quickly ran another very noisy image that was from a 20d I think. Very old. It was a photo I kept for some reason out the back of a moving boat in Jamaica. At night. It was of bioluminescent water. The propeller was lighting up the water. So yeah, this was literally taking a photo in the dark. No it's not something I'd print lol. But it is something that I'd share online with a friend or family who wasn't there. I was very surprised and deep prime did a better job retaining what little detail was there. It's no joke in my book, but not an absolute must. We've spent years learning how to compensate for this problem already and in many cases I shoot at lower iso and with a tripod. But hey, at least I now can fear high iso less. I might try some shots I wouldn't before. So it could change my habits. That could be good maybe.

Tom M's picture

Oh and export times were only a few seconds, but I have an AMD 3600, Nvidia RTX 2070, 32gb ram, and an nvme ssd. It's my gaming machine. It didn't max out cpu or gpu usage at all. I can definitely see how it'd be slow for many and for many laptops. So that is something to consider. But you can always do the export and processing later when you have time.

Luc Po's picture

I just use the "DeepPrime" denoiser on a few 2015 image , taken indoor under expose shot by 2 stops at 3200 iso on an old APS-C Nikon D90 12mpx. The results were outstanding. The color noise practically vanished with a quality of image stunning compared with the RAW initial file. The best is this new denoiser took less time to do its work than the slow "Prime" did.
I always bought the DXO update for all of their photo softwares, including Nik DXo v3, Filmpak5, Viewpoint, but I am rarely using it for production work, A year ago I bought Capture One Pro for my Nikons & Fuji XT2, and even if its very expensive for an amateur when you buy the whole set of styles they offer , I am very satisfied with the results. The problem I had and partially have today is the workflow of theses softwares.

Jacques Cornell's picture

PhotoLab integrates very nicely with Lightroom. Makes for a really well-rounded and efficient workflow for my event photo business. I manage files in LR, round-trip to PL, then do selective adjustments in LR. No fuss, no muss.

Brad Ashbrook's picture

Jacques, I am struggling with the round trip from LR Classic to PL4 and back to LR. Do you come back to LR as a DNG or TIFF?

Jacques Cornell's picture

If you want the ability to do unlimited round-trips, DNG. OTOH, I mostly do my selections in LR, send the RAWs to PL, then return finished JPEGs to LR for cataloging. If I want to do some additional retouching in LR, I'll return TIFFs from PL to LR instead.
If you return a DNG from PL to LR, you can retouch in LR, then losslessly round-trip to PL again if you change your mind about any of the RAW processing settings, all without losing your earlier LR work.
In PL3, I sometimes found mild color shifts in DNGs returned to LR (and DxO noted this possibility in its documentation). However, PL4 now has a new RAW>DNG option that may fix this.

Graham Thorpe's picture

You state “ I think we are well past the day when one raw editor fits all. “

Add up the cost ....RIDICULOUS....!!

Jacques Cornell's picture

For a devoted enthusiast or a pro, the cost of 2 or 3 apps compared to the cost of new hardware is a drop in the bucket. Folks around here spend THOUSANDS of dollars to eke out 2/3 stop less noise by moving to a different sensor, and here PL4 gives you another stop or two for the $79 cost of an upgrade. It's the bargain of the century. I pay $120/year for LR & PS and pay for each PL upgrade, and it's probably the best cheap improvement I could possibly make to the technical quality of my images.