October 20, 2021

DxO launch PhotoLab and FilmPack updates

Two of the basket of DxO photo-editing tools get an update with new versions of PhotoLab and FilmPack

DxO started life as a photography consultancy, where it gained a reputation for testing and benchmarking lenses. Over time, it also began to produce photo-editing software that used the data from its lens testing business to correct photos. Today (20 October), it is launching an update to two of its tools; PhotoLab moves to version 5 and FilmPack upgrades to version 6. We’ve had a sneak preview of both packages to see how they can help the editing process.

PhotoLab 5

When I am trying out new software, I try to find the use-case for it. Where does it fit into my current workflow, and does it enhance or hinder how I edit? PhotoLab 5 closely aligns with the editing I do in Adobe Lightroom. It can apply general and localised edits to photographs and allow the simple editing of meta-data to the files. Unlike many raw editing programs, PhotoLab uses its database of lenses to make automatic changes by reading the metadata about the camera information and enhancing the image. It isn’t too different to the way a camera ‘processes’ a JPEG file. You can see the before and after in the image below – I think it does a pretty good job!

New in version 5 of PhotoLab, we have;

  • DeepPRIME denoising tool
  • U Point Technology Control Lines
  • Enhanced metadata and keyword management technologies
  • Faster editing process with AI enhancements
  • Support for Fujifilm X-Trans sensors

Denoising tools

In PhotoLab 4, DxO launched a new technology called DeepPRIME, the first artificial intelligence-based technology of its kind. It simultaneously enables you to demosaic and denoise images. For the non-technical, that means it removes noise created by both colour and brightness. The change in PhotoLab 5 reduces the time to apply the noise reduction changes by up to four times. Most of my work needs a fast turnaround of photos, so anything that enhances the speed it takes is welcome. It does an impressive job, working on the image below taken at ISO 2500 in less than a second.

U-Point Control Lines

In June, I reviewed the updates to the Nik Collection, also owned by DxO. One of the most essential elements of Nik is the use of Control Points that allow very localised adjustments to photographs. With the launch of PhotoLab 5, we see an evolution to control points into control lines.

This new tool complements the technology’s existing Control Points by allowing users to carry out touch-ups on large areas with an easy-to-use selection method. Additionally, to make them even more precise, Control Lines and Control Points are defined with sensitivity settings. Photographers can easily adjust the effect of their edits based on the luminance and chrominance of the targeted areas.

In the image below, I could select the rocks by defining the mask using a combination of the image’s colour and luminosity. The selection only requires one click. With control points, I would need to copy several points around different parts of the picture.

Now the mask is defined, we can apply adjustments to all the areas highlighted in white. The 16 available adjustments include light, colour, sharpness. While it will take a while to get used to using Control Lines, they provide great flexibility to adjust small image elements.

Metadata and keyword enhancements

There are two significant changes to the way PhotoLab 5 manages metadata and keywords. If I go back to my initial way of considering software, these are two things that Lightroom doesn’t do as well. Looking at keywords first, I was out taking pictures of the Kelpies, some enormous sculptures of horses in Falkirk. Now, if I wanted to apply keywords for this subject, then I would add, Kelpies; Falkirk, Scotland, United Kingdom

The addition of Keyword lists is something that is in Lightroom but doesn’t work particularly well. PhotoLab 5 has a much more intuitive way of creating and adding keyword lists. Once defined, right-click on any keyword and take the option ‘Apply keyword to image’. Now anything defined at a higher level will automatically be applied to the image and the keyword selected.

The next change introduced is the way that PhotoLab 5 can interact with other programs such as Lightroom. Quite often, I want to update the metadata on one or more of the photos. It is usually when I am sending photos to agencies.  One area that Lightroom underperforms is in managing metadata, and the process delivered in PhotoLab 5 certainly makes the process easier. Changes applied to the text elements of metadata don’t impact the editing changes already applied.

Faster editing

The DeepPRIME technology used to help denoise images quicker is also applied across many other areas of PhotoLab 5. In trials, there is a significant improvement in the processing and exporting of your photos. Improvements of 1.6x on high spec Windows machines and up to 4.5x on the latest M1 chip Mac Minis are evident.

Support for Fuji X-Trans cameras

The final update delivered in PhotoLab 5 is support for 18 models of the Fuji X-Trans cameras.

PhotoLab5 launches on 20 October and will sell at £129 for the Essential version and £199 for the Elite version, which includes the support for Fuji cameras. However, until 14 November, you can buy these versions for £99.99 and £149.99 respectively.

FilmPack 6

The second product launched by DxO today transform your photos to look as if they were shot on analogue film. However, you are not simply buying a set of filters to overlay onto your photographs. Instead, FilmPack 6 uses RAW file information to calculate the required changes specific to the camera and lens used at the shooting time.

The changes in version 6 are;

  • Time Machine
  • 15 new film renders and 20 effects
  • HSL and split toning customisation

An interesting addition to the tool is the newly launched Time Machine. Not all photographers have a deep understanding of the history of photography and how film has evolved. The addition of the Time Machine can give new photographers an example of historical photographs and show how photographers of the day used their film of choice. At the bottom of the screen, it then shows the film rendering to use to achieve a similar effect.

Once the render has been applied, you can use this as a starting point and apply Split Toning effects to the highlights and shadows. You can adjust the Hue, Saturation and Lightness across eight channels with the addition of orange and purple since the last version of FilmPack.

Finally, a whole gamut of effects can be introduced to the photos to give them a genuinely historic look. The effects added include frames, textures and light leaks. The effects can transform your photographs for the creative photographer, and I can see them being used in camera club competitions over the next few years.

The Essential version, which doesn’t include Time Machine, will retail at £75, and the Elite version at £129. Again, there are price reductions available if you buy before 14 November. Elite will be £99.99 and Essential £48.99

Would I buy?

The is no doubt that PhotoLab, in particular, is a powerful and feature-rich editing tool. I really like the ability to sync metadata between the tool and Lightroom. However, after a bit of investigation, I could recreate the same functionality between Lightroom and Photo Mechanic that I currently use. It is an excellent noise reduction tool that would come in handy, mainly when shooting in the theatre, as I often do.

Do these things make me want to spend £200 to add Photolab to my workflow, and I have to answer no. I will still need to dip into Photoshop now and again. That means I’ll be paying for the Creative Cloud subscription anyway, and Lightroom can manage these two things, just not quite as well. I think that DxO might want to look at moving away from annual upgrades and lump-sum purchases to a cheaper subscription model. As it has done with Adobe Creative Cloud, it may just move a few people to use the product.

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About the author

As well as running Edinburgh Photography Workshop, Rich Dyson is a professional photographer. His photographs are regularly used in newspapers such as The Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. He also had two solo exhibitions as well as being featured in a members sponsored exhibition in the Scottish Parliament. You can see and buy his photography at richdysonphotography.com

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