DxO have always done two things really well when it comes to RAW conversion: Noise Reduction and Optical Corrections.
With the release of their latest software, DxO PureRaw, you can take advantage of these two aspects of RAW conversion, while keeping the rest of your workflow in the editor of your choice.
What is DxO PureRAW?
Without getting into the technical weeds of how a RAW file is converted, you can think of DxO as a sort of pre-processor for your RAW files. It takes care of some of the heavy lifting (noise reduction, optical corrections and demosaicing of the pixel data) of raw conversion, while leaving the rest of the process to other applications.
DxO do a pretty good job of explaining what PureRAW does when you first open the application
Who Is It For?
If you want class leading noise reduction, optical corrections and demosaicing, but still want to work with your favourite raw conversion software then DxO PureRAW is what you’re looking for.
If you want all of the above, but are looking for a full converter, then check out PhotoLab, also made by DxO.
The only caveat is that to get the optical corrections to be applied you need to make sure your camera and lenses are supported by the software. The number of cameras and lenses supported is quite extensive, and DxO is adding new equipment all the time. Check out the list here.
PureRAW is certainly quite an expensive option at US$129, but it does work very well, and if you find yourself regularly shooting at high iso or you want to make the most out of your lenses then it is well worth the asking price.
Who Is It Not For?
Well, if you own DxO PhotoLab 4, you should probably skip purchasing PureRAW as PhotoLab does everything that PureRAW does, and much more. PhotoLab 4 can work as a pre-processor in exactly the same way as PureRAW, as well as being a full RAW converter. See my article here for how
If your camera/lens combination isn’t supported by PureRAW you won’t be able to get the benefits of the optical corrections, but you still get the excellent DeepPRIME noise reduction. For a list of supported cameras and lenses, see here.
If you don’t shoot your images in the raw format then PureRAW certainly won’t be for you, as it doesn’t work on already demosaiced files like tiff or jpeg.
How To Use DxO PureRAW
DxO PureRAW is extremely simple to use.
Open the files you want to process. If you haven’t downloaded the modules for the equipment you used, you’ll be prompted to do that now.
If there are any files that you don’t want to include, then make sure you remove the tick box in the upper right hand corner.
Click on the ‘Process Photos’ button
Set the options that you want to use and press the ‘Process’ button
PureRAW doesn’t overwhelm you with a huge amount of options, but it is important to know what each of them does to your images.
Raw Processing Method
The Raw Processing method largely relates to the way noise reduction is applied to your image. The ‘HQ’ and ‘PRIME’ options are older and less advanced than the ‘DeepPRIME’ setting.
I don’t recommend using anything other than the DeepPRIME option here.
It isn’t that the other two options are bad, just that DeepPRIME is so good. The ‘HQ’ method uses a more ‘traditional’ algorithm found in quite a few Denoise software applications and will give results similar to Lightroom and the like. ‘PRIME’ uses a much more sophisticated algorithm and before the rise of so-called AI software, was widely accepted as the best out there, keeping more detail and removing more noise. DeepPRIME takes things to another level and is up there with the best of modern noise reduction algorithms.
Global Lens Sharpening
This setting is only available when you choose the DeepPRIME processing method described above. It uses the information provided in the camera/lens module to apply a special sharpening profile during the demosaicing process to eek out as much detail from your lenses as possible.
I always leave this setting on.
Lens Distortion Correction
The lens distortion correction also uses the information contained in the camera/lens module to apply specific corrections to each image to remove any distortions so that straight lines look straight and vignetting, moire and other aberrations are removed.
I also always leave this setting on.
I always leave this set to ‘DNG’. This will output the file as a ‘linear’ dng file with the noise reduction, sharpening and optical corrections baked in, ready for further processing in Lightroom, Capture One or your other favourite raw converter.
This is the location in which the processed files will be saved. For ease of finding them later, I usually choose the option to save them in the same folder as the original files, but this is completely up to whatever works best for your workflow.
DxO PureRAW Workflow Options
Adding a new piece of software into the mix always creates questions as to how best integrate it into your workflow.
I can’t go through how to integrate PureRAW into every software package in existence, but below are some general ways you can use it in a smooth workflow
The Easiest Way
The easiest way to use DxO PureRAW is to run your files through it as the first step after you’ve transferred the files to your computer.
- Move your files from your memory card to your computer’s hard drive.
- Open the files in PureRAW and process them
- Import the saved .dng files (along with your original raws if you please) into your favourite raw converter as per your normal process and work on them as you would any other photo.
The downside of this approach is that if you use the DeepPRIME noise reduction it can take quite a bit of time to process a batch of images. On my current PC it takes about 15-20 seconds per 45 Megapixel image (more megapixels = more processing time). So a 200 image shoot would take about an hour to process.
If you turn off noise reduction then processing times will be much shorter.
The More Fiddly (but potentially faster) Way
If you find that you only tend to process a small subset of your images, you might not want to spend the time it takes to process all of your images through PureRAW.
This might be the case for a lot of sports, wildlife and action photographers where you would typically choose a single image to process from a burst of photos.
In this case, you would
- Import the files into your favourite raw converter as you normally would
- Browse your images and find one that you want to process with PureRAW
- If you’re on a Mac and using Lightroom, drag the thumbnail directly into the PureRAW application. If on a PC and using Lightroom, right-click the file and chose ‘Show In Explorer’ before dragging the file into PureRAW. If using another application, use whatever method to file the file in explorer that is available to you and open the file in PureRAW
- Process the file in PureRAW and import the output file back into your raw converter
- Edit the file as you normally would
The above sounds like a bit of an effort, and it is certainly a little clunky, but will usually take well under a minute once you get the hang of it.
Hopefully future versions of the software will make this process a little easier.