DxO PureRAW Version 3 Reviewed

by Apr 14, 2023Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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DxO PureRAW Version 3 Reviewed

Most photographer’s spend a small fortune buying the best cameras and lenses, hoping to achieve excellent image quality. Whilst cameras and lenses certainly play a part in image quality, this ignores the third component which is RAW processing.

The RAW processor used to convert your RAW files to images has a huge impact on the image quality you achieve. DxO understands this, which is why they developed the DxO PureRAW software. Recently they released DxO PureRAW 3 and in this article, I explore how it works and some of the new features.

Whilst I’m happy to share my views on the DxO PureRAW 3 software, I would ask you not to blindly accept them. Instead, I’d encourage you to download a trial version of the software to test it out for yourself. There’s nothing like hands-on experience, because I can never account for all possible variations of RAW files.

Launching DxO PureRAW 3

After installing the PureRAW 3 software, there are three ways to launch it.

  1. From the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer.
  2. From Lightroom as a plug-in.
  3. As a standalone application.

Each of these will produce excellent results from most RAW files but they have very different workflows. Let’s have a look at these in more detail.

The Mac Finder or Windows Explorer

If you’re using a Mac, open a Finder window (this is the File Explorer on a Windows PC). You can then navigate to the folder with the RAW file that you want to process. When you find the RAW file that you want, right click on it to display a pop-up menu. You can see an example of this in a screenshot of my Mac Finder below.

Processing a RAW file with DxO Pure RAW 3 in the Mac Finder

Towards the bottom of this menu, you can see the quick actions section where there are several DxO PureRAW 3 options. These are organised by the type of noise reduction that will be applied, for example “DeepPRIME XD” and “PRIME”.

When you place the mouse pointer over one of these, you can see the different options for the processed file to output. You then click the option you want, to launch the software. But rather than launch the interface, it simply processes the RAW file. For more control over the processing, you need to launch the software using the other options.

The Lightroom Plug-in

In Lightroom, the procedure for launching DxO PureRAW 3 is a little different. First, you need to select the file that you want to process, in the Lightroom Library module. Then in the “File” menu, go to the “Plug-in extras” submenu. Here you will see an entry to process the file using DxO PureRAW 3. When you select this, it launches the PureRAW 3 software. At this point you might see a dialog to download a new lens module. You can see a screenshot of this below.

DxO Pure RAW 3 from Lightroom when the lens module isn't downloaded

Here, PureRAW 3 detected the lens used to capture the RAW file and wants to download the associated lens module. There’s also an option not to apply the lens module, but this isn’t recommended if you want to achieve the best quality. The lens modules are what allow DxO PureRAW 3 to work it’s magic.

Clicking the Save button then starts the download, after which the main interface is displayed as shown below.

DxO Pure RAW 3 Interface 1

Several of the options in the interface are new to PureRAW 3 and allow greater control over the adjustments. We’ll look at some of these shortly.

After choosing your settings, click the “Start Processing” button to produce the image file. When the process is complete, you will see a message saying that it’s finished. What happens next depends on the options you’ve chosen, but we will come to that later.

Using DxO PureRAW 3 Standalone

The final way to use DxO PureRAW 3 is as a standalone application. You can see a screenshot of this interface below.

DxO Pure RAW 3 Stand Alone

When the software opens, we can add RAW files by clicking the icon “Add RAW files to process” in the centre of the interface.  Alternatively, we can drag and drop the files onto the interface using the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer.

The RAW files then load and display as thumbnails ready for processing. Here’s an example of an image file loaded, ready for processing.

DxO Pure RAW 3 Stand Alone

Having loaded one or more files for processing, you have two options. There is a “Process Now” button which will immediately process the file, or there is an “Add to Queue” button.

The New Processing Queue Feature

The “Add to Queue” button is a new feature introduced in DxO PureRAW 3. It allows you to apply different adjustment settings to multiple images, and then queue these for processing. The processing of the queue only begins when you choose to start it.

It’s also possible to view the processing queue as shown below.

The DxO Pure RAW 3 Processing Queue

You can even pause and restart the queue as well as change the order of the images. Once the processing is complete, you’ll see a message confirming this.

The new processing queue is a great feature. It saves you time by batching work so the processing can happen whilst you continue with something else.

This feature only appears in the standalone version of the software.

Now let’s look at some of the settings as there are several new ones.

Quality Settings

The new version of DxO PureRAW 3 features a redesigned interface with several new adjustment controls. You can see a screenshot of this below.

DxO Pure RAW 3 Interface 1

Here, we can see the different options we have available for processing the RAW file. At the top of the dialog, we can choose the type of RAW processing and noise reduction to apply. The options are High Quality, PRIME, DeepPRIME, and DeepPRIME XD. The DeepPRIME XD setting is a new feature to PureRAW 3.

Having tested these, DeepPRIME and DeepPRIME XD are both excellent and appear to be the best options for processing. The difference between DeepPRIME and DeepPRIME XD is that the XD version resolves slightly more detail whilst DeepPRIME may produce a better bokeh.

Optical Corrections

Below this we then have the Optical Corrections section where we see more new features.

There is a switch we can use to toggle the Lens Softness off and on. This works together with the dropdown below it, where we can choose the amount of softness correction to apply. Previously it was only possible to enable or disable the setting, with no control over the strength.

The options in the dropdown are Soft, Standard, Strong, and Hard. Each applies a slightly stronger sharpening effect and I’ve found that it’s best to test them all with each camera and lens combination before deciding on one.

We then have three options which you can click to turn off and on. These are:

  1. Vignetting to remove the vignette from an image. Personally, I found this too strong with some of my lenses. It’s therefore best to do some testing before you decide to apply this.
  2. Chromatic Aberration, to automatically remove chromatic aberration from the image.
  3. Lens Distortion, to apply one of three types of lens distortion corrections. When used, the three lens distortion corrections appear in the dropdown immediately below this. We won’t cover them here, but they are demonstrated in the video review later in this article.

Output Format

In the Output Format section, we can select to output the finished image in three possible formats. These are DNG, JPEG, and TIFF. Unlike with the previous version of DxO PureRAW, we can now produce all three formats at the same time. If you select the JPEG option, you will see a quality slider, allowing you to set the level of compression. It’s similar if you select the TIFF option, as you can set whether you want 8-bit, 8-bit compressed, or 16-bit files.

Destination

If we then scroll further down the screen, we find the Destination and Export sections which you can see in the screenshot below.

DxO Pure RAW 3 Interface 2

In Destination section, we can set the destination for the files produced by PureRAW 3. This includes options to save the files to a DxO subfolder in the same folder as the original RAW file. Alternatively, you can select a custom folder to use instead. There are also options to handle the renaming of the files produced.

Export

In the Export section, we can choose an application to send the processed file to. Although we may have launched PureRAW 3 from Lightroom or as standalone software, we can still select where to send the file. This is another improvement over the previous version, making the software even more flexible. For example, you could launch PureRAW 3 from Lightroom but choose to export the processed file to Affinity Photo for additional editing.

Overall, a significant amount of thought appears to have gone into improving the software whilst maintaining its ease-of-use.

The DxO PureRAW 3 Video Review

It’s worth spending a few minutes watching the video below, where I cover the software in greater depth and look at the results.

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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

Summary

Having spent some time using DxO PureRAW 3, I find the new features to be a great improvement on the previous version. In many cases, I didn’t realise the new feature was needed. It’s only when I consider going back to the previous version of PureRAW that I realise how valuable the changes are.

The question of whether to upgrade or not, depends on how much you will use the new features. If you’re satisfied with the performance and quality of your existing software, then there’s probably no need to upgrade. It’s only if you feel some of these new features are important, or you buy a new camera that only supported in the new version, that it might be worth upgrading.

For those of you who are new to DxO PureRAW, I highly recommend trying the trial version for yourself. Take some time to compare the quality of the image files processed using DxO PureRAW 3 with those of your existing RAW converter. It may be that your existing RAW converter does a great job of processing your RAW files. But it’s equally possible that PureRAW will be better.

DxO PureRAW 3 has produced excellent quality images from all the RAW files that I’ve tested it with. This includes RAW files from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji.

A final point to highlight is that if you already use DxO PhotoLab 6 Elite, you already have access to the same quality features that in PureRAW 3. There is no need to use both products. I have a license for both products because I use Lightroom to manage my photos and find that PureRAW 3 makes the workflow easy. PhotoLab 6 on the other hand gives me greater control and flexibility.

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