We live in interesting times for digital photography with some great cameras now on the market and an ever-growing, ever-evolving set of choices in image editing and raw processing software available to those with deep pockets as well as those with less so.
Headline news at the moment is Google selling Google Nik Collection, which it acquired when buying Nik Software for access to their Snapseed mobile image editing app, to DxO with DxO continuing Google’s recent move to give Nik Collection away for free.
DxO has stated that they will continue developing the Nik Collection though not how they will apply all the technology within it.
All hail the U Point
The company has already made good use of one key complement of all applications within the Nik Collection, its U Point technology that is a more accurate, more sophisticated alternative to using brush tools for masking.
I first came across U Point selection and masking at a photography trade show in Sydney at the Nik Software stand where Nik Collection component Viveza was being demonstrated.
I immediately bought a copy and found I could use it to bring to stunning life images shot under lighting circumstances too challenging for the image editing suites of the day to get the best out of with their then-current tool sets.
Make precise edits quickly
Use U Point® technology to selectively edit just the parts of your photos that need touching up without losing time on complex masks and selections.
As soon as I downloaded the PhotoLab trial version I put it to good use editing the monochrome image at the top of this page, relying heavily on DxO’s new iteration of U Points.
DxO is on to a winner
DxO PhotoLab was formerly named DxO OpticsPro, the Elite version of which I bought as my very first raw processor at the same time as a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, on the recommendation of a Danish photographer friend.
I quickly added DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint, both of which work as plug-ins extending DxO OpticsPro and now DxO PhotoLab, as well as being standalone editors and plug-ins for image editing products like the long-discontinued Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.
I recall that Nik’s version of U Point seemed to have worked faster than DxO’s, which takes a little longer to display the tooltips that explain just what each icon represents but I am sure DxO will be ramping up its U Point display and operation speeds each new version.
It was refreshing to get back to using U Points in DxO PhotoLab as they have always been and remain my preferred selection and masking tool.
Given Google’s neglect of the Nik Collection, recent versions including the current one under the DxO aegis fail to function as plug-ins within recent versions of Photoshop and no doubt Lightroom, causing weird error messages as seen in the header image on this page.
DxO and Fujifilm X-Trans raw files
The only downside to DxO buying Nik Collection is to do with the camera sensor types that all DxO software supports.
Some time ago, the DxO people told me that they will never support X-Trans raw files due to their non-Bayer technology and would only ever support Bayer pattern sensors.
Right now, though I am wondering if the name change of DxO OpticsPro to DxO PhotoLab might be signalling grander intentions for DxO’s key software product.
More than a sophisticated raw developer?
If they are intending to turn DxO PhotoLab into more than a very fine raw processor with built-in camera, lens and analog film simulation profiles, with the addition of all the many image editing features of the Nik Collection, then surely they must be considering adding support for Fujifilm’s X-Trans and non-X-Trans sensors, cameras and lenses.
As I have found time and again, it can be a real pain having to process Fujifilm rare files in one raw processor then raw files from all one’s other, non-Fujifilm cameras in another raw processor, then editing them all together in an image editor once having imported them as TIFF or PSD files.
Always best to do as much as one can in one raw processor regardless of camera used, preserving the ability go back make non-destructive changes.
A range of cameras and sensor types
Like many photographers and cinematographers these days, I rely on a range of camera, lens and sensors types in order to best suit my subjects and how I wish to depict them, and having limitations imposed on me by software companies being unwilling or unable to support all my hardware is a massive pain.
I have yet to establish a fixed workflow that gets the best out of all my gear and continue to try out various options.
Now that Iridient Digital has released the first version of its Iridient X-Transformer aimed at converting Fujifilm X-Trans raw files to DNG files, I have begun running files from my X-Pro2 through X-Transformer then opening them in various image editing applications to see which may work best with them.
DxO’s three core products, PhotoLab, FilmPack and ViewPoint, accept and process TIFF and JPEG files as well as raw files from Bayer image sensors, minus certain core functionality, so they can be introduced into your workflow after your initial raw file processing stage.
Meanwhile, other developments
Lest what started as a small article grows too large and boring, let me list other recent developments in raw processing software.
Adobe recently outraged and panicked many dedicated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (to use its full name) users by signalling the end of the non-suscriber version of Lightroom aka Lightroom CS in favour of the subscription-only version named Lightroom CC, those initials standing for Creative Cloud.
Like a surprising number of Australian pro photographer colleagues, I have never been a serious Lightroom user having stuck with Photoshop and Camera Raw for years and then jumping ship to DxO OpticsPro and other image editing software.
Irish photographer Thomas Fitzgerald is quite the expert on the pros and cons of various raw processors and image editors as well as workflows, so I will refer you to his Thomas Fitzgerald Photography blog for further details and clarification of Adobe’s now more confusing naming conventions for its two current versions of Lightroom.
Coming from a traditional photography technical background, Mr Fitzgerald is also a highly recommended authority on other software such as Capture One Pro, Macphun (now Skylum) Luminar, ON1 Photo Raw, Apple Photos and plenty more besides.
I highly recommend making him a regular stop on your daily photography reading list.
Meanwhile I will be catching up on the other new developments in software and will be covering them here soon.
My photo editing and raw processing watch list
These are the brands and products I try to keep an eye on, or have used and liked, and I currently use a subset of them in my work.
There are quite a few more of them, paid-for and open source, but I can’t keep an eye on everything out there!
Tastes and needs are different for everyone, so this list may be useful for you when working out your own photography workflow.
Trial versions are generally available.
- Adobe Lightroom CC
- Adobe Lightroom Classic
- Adobe Photoshop
- Affinity Photo
- Alien Skin Exposure
- Apple Photos for macOS
- Capture One Pro
- DxO FilmPack
- DxO PhotoLab
- DxO ViewPoint
- Iridient Developer
- Iridient X-Transformer
- Nik Collection by DxO
- ON1 Photo Raw
- Perfectly Clear
- Pixelmator Pro
- Skylum Aurora HDR
- Skylum Luminar
- Topaz Labs
Header Image Notes
The header image is based on a DxO OpticsPro raw sample photograph that I edited in DxO PhotoLab using the Nik Collection’s U Point adapted by DxO since buying it from Google.
The biggest difference between DxO’s version of U Point and Nik Collections’ is that DxO’s displays icons first and then tool tips appear later after hovering your cursor over an icon.
Given that there is no universally understood icon language, are icons the best solution for a GUI like this or should DxO revert to the Nik Collection’s text-only U Point GUI?
I exported the file from DxO PhotoLab as a TIFF then imported it into Adobe Photoshop where I attempted to apply the Nik Collection Analog Efex Pro 2, resulting in the error message depicted in this screenshot.