Every photographer has their own workflow, and most of us start by making edits in our raw files. Sometimes, I start in Lightroom Classic; other times, I open them with Photoshop, which takes me to Camera Raw. At times, I use Luminar AI. Now, with the debut today of DxO PureRAW, photographers have a better way to start their editing sessions, with some compelling advantages over what you are using now.
DxO is a well-known name among photographers. They do extensive testing of optics and have what is probably the biggest library of data about lenses and how they perform. Their lens benchmarks are what I look at before adding a lens to my camera bag. The company also offers DxO Photolab 4, a very well done photo editor, and they took the Nik Collection plugins on board and improved them. So, what's DxO PureRAW and why should you consider it as the software that first touches your raw files?
What Does DxO PureRAW Do?
Essentially, DxO PureRAW takes the place of Lightroom or Photoshop (Camera Raw) and becomes the new place where you start your editing.
By dropping your file into the PureRAW app, it removes noise, chromatic aberrations, unwanted vignetting, distortion, and insufficient sharpness with a level of quality I haven't seen before. And all that without pushing a button or using a slider. DxO uses what they call their DeepPRIME technology. It's based on AI and designed for developing raw photo files. Trained through deep learning using millions of images analyzed by DxO's laboratories, it delivers a major improvement to digital noise reduction while also demosaicing photos more effectively. It's especially effective in low-light photos, reducing noise and preserving colors.
DxO is basically saying to let the PureRAW engine touch your images first, then it will send them to the editor of your choice greatly improved.
Using DxO PureRAW
Once you install the software, it's an app on your Windows or Mac computer. The user interface is dead simple. Drop an image or images onto a target, and PureRaw goes to work.
In a few seconds, your raw files are corrected. All the files I tried were improved, none were degraded. The first thing I noticed was that lens distortions were nicely corrected. Often, there was more shadow detail, and low-light images benefited from substantial noise reduction. DxO PureRAW gives you a slider so you can compare before and after. This JPEG shows the interface, but the compressed image can't show the impressive sharpness brought out or the noise reduction.
You can then send those corrected files, still as DNGs, onto Lightroom or Camera Raw or wherever for whatever adjustments you might like to make.
The files you send will be much improved, and that's the point of the software. I was really impressed with the improvements in lens geometry. Here's an original with a super wide angle lens.
Without any manual adjustments, PureRAW founds the camera and lens combination that needed to be applied, and here's the result:
My Thoughts on DxO PureRAW
Using DxO PureRAW, I could see that the app itself was stable and without any glitches I could detect. On the other hand, there were some raw files it could not open. As an avid drone photographer, I was happy to see DNG files from my DJI Mavic Pro were recognized and opened. PureRAW recognized the optics and corrected them. However, it did not recognize the DNGs from by newer Skydio 2 drone. Adobe Camera Raw did recognize them.
Also, PureRAW drew a blank on Apple ProRaw from my iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is a major miss. Adobe Camera Raw recognizes those files. I feel sure DxO will have updates to add these formats, but I was disappointed I could not get the advantage of PureRAW on those images. When I tried to load the iPhone images or a Skydio 2 drone image, PureRAW threw up this error:
Still, for the files I could process with PureRAW, every one looked better. When it didn't have a lens and camera combination in its internal database, it quickly went out to the web for the info, and then, that data was permanently added. It never failed to find the lens/camera data needed, which is more than I can say for my Adobe products, which often can't find some of my more obscure lenses.
The work ahead for DxO is convincing photographers to add a step to their workflow. They've made it easy enough. You can add a single image or multiple images. You can make a preset that routes where the new raw files go, and unless you want to change it, it becomes a default. Editors supported that I tested were Lightroom Classic, Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop 2021, LuminarAI, and ON1.
After using DxO Pro Raw, I'm sold. It will become my first step in editing images. Using it does not force you to use any other DxO product, like the superb DxO PhotoLab 4, but I think most photographers like to leave their workflow in place as much as possible unless they see a real advantage to making a change. DxO offers a compelling leap in image quality without having to make a single adjustment. Your raw file is then free to enter your normal workflow except, and as I've said, it will be a better quality raw image when it gets there.
One important note: PureRAW is not M1 native; it needs Rosetta to work with Apple’s new Silicon processors. Hopefully, an update will be coming, but as it is, PureRAW is very speedy, with most processing done in a few seconds.
Price and Availability
DxO PureRAW (Windows and macOS) is now available for download on the DxO website for a special launch price of $99 instead of $129 until May 3, 2021. A free 30-day trial version is also available here.