DxO Launches PureRAW

by Apr 21, 2021Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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DxO Launches PureRAW

Recently I had the opportunity to test and review a pre-launch version of DxO PureRAW. This is a new product from DxO and there isn’t anything much similar on the market currently. In this review I want to explain:

  • What DxO PureRAW is.
  • Where PureRAW fits in your workflow.
  • Who might want to use PureRAW.
  • And a few limitations I’ve found when using PureRAW.

I’ve also included a video review and demonstration later so you can see the software in action.

What is DxO PureRAW?

Chances are, you are shooting your photography in RAW format, which you then process using a RAW converter like Adobe Lightroom. If you are, I’m sure you know that you can achieve greater image quality using RAW than you can with the shooting JPEG format.

But what you may not realise is that you could be going to all this effort, but your RAW converter is limiting your image quality, possibly significantly. This is also more common than you might think and yet it’s something most people don’t question. When I first stumbled onto this problem for myself, I was shocked. I suddenly realised that the cameras I had sold because of poor image quality could produce excellent results. It was my RAW converter that was the problem.

Critical Steps in RAW Processing

The critical steps to achieving excellent image quality from a RAW file are:

  • The Demosaic of the RAW data.
  • Lens correction.
  • Noise reduction.

Each of these plays an important role and any weakness is seen in poor image quality. Most of what happens is hidden from you by the RAW converter with possibly a couple of options you could use.

If you have a camera and lens combination that you don’t think performs well, you may be surprised to learn the problem is probably the RAW converter. Some RAW converters, despite being market leaders don’t deliver the goods with some types of RAW file or camera and lens combination.

DxO PureRAW fixes this problem by pre-processing the RAW file into something called a linear RAW file. This means the critical Demosaic of data, lens correction and noise reduction are taken care of. The result is a RAW file that is noise-free, optically correct, sharp and which you can then work on in your RAW converter of choice as you would other RAW files.

How to Use DxO PureRAW

The concept behind DxO PureRAW is that you use it to pre-process any RAW files where you want to achieve the best image quality. As it’s a pre-processing step you probably wouldn’t want to do this with every RAW file although the batch feature is extremely easy to use.

To pre-process a RAW file, start by opening the PureRAW software. You will then see an empty interface.

DxO PureRAW interface before loading RAW files

Now you can drag and drop the RAW files for processing onto the interface. Alternatively, you can click the icon or button to “Add photos to process”. This opens a standard dialog where you can browse folders to select the files you want to process.

After loading your RAW file or files for processing, you will see their thumbnails appear.

DxO PureRAW with RAW files loaded

At this point, you might also see the DxO Optics Module dialog displayed. This doesn’t always appear and tends to be where a new camera and lens combination are detected in the RAW files. You can also open this by clicking the “DxO Modules” icon at the top of the interface.

If you look more closely at the dialog in the screenshot you will see the different camera and lens combinations and to the right of these the words “Currently in-use”. This shows that the required lens modules are already downloaded and being used by PureRAW. If they weren’t, you would have the option to download any missing modules.

You can also use this dialog to select to process images without the lens module, but this defeats the point of the software. It’s the lens correction modules that help produce the excellent image quality.

Processing the RAW Files

After the various lens modules have been downloaded you can select and process the RAW files. Click each thumbnail to select or unselect the file for processing. When a RAW file is selected you see it outlined and a small tick mark is displayed in the top right. You can then click the “Process photos” button to display the Process dialog.

PureRAW Process dialog

Here you can select the conversion method (which also include noise reduction). If you are familiar with DxO PhotoLab you will recognise these. If you aren’t, select the DeepPRIME option and then forget about it. The results are superb.

In terms of Output, you can select between JPEG and DNG. I’m not sure why you might want to select JPEG option but I’m sure someone somewhere will want to. I would suggest selecting DNG (this is a linear RAW file) and then again forgetting about it.

Finally select the destination folder for the file that’s produced and click the Process button.

DxO PureRAW Results

Once the processing is complete you will see a summery message with three options you can choose.

PureRAW Processing Done message

The Go to Finder option opens the Mac file Finder or Windows file Explorer to display the files created by the processing. Alternatively, you can use the “View results” button to open and check the results in the PureRAW viewer.

DxO PureRAW viewer showing split screen before and after

The viewer allows you to compare the before and after state of the processing. It’s a surprisingly nice tool to use for checking results. It has a few useful options which I use in the later video.

The alternative to viewing the results in PureRAW is to export them to another software package like Lightroom where you can apply further processing. You can do this by clicking the “Export to” option in the “Processing done” dialog or clicking the button at the top of the interface. This displays the Export dialog.

DxO PureRAW Expot To dialog

Here you can use the dropdown to select any predefined applications like Lightroom or Photoshop. Alternatively use the “Select custom software…” option to select another application which is then added to the list. To see this in action watch the video later in this review.

Who is DxO Targeting with PureRAW?

Now to the question of who DxO is targeting with PureRAW. Well, it certainly isn’t their existing PhotoLab users base. PhotoLab 4 Elite users already have access to the same processing features used in PureRAW and can export the results as DNG files.

The people who will really benefit from DxO PureRAW are probably Adobe Lightroom users who don’t want to switch away from Lightroom. The image quality achieved by Lightroom isn’t great and depending on your camera and lens combination, could even be classed as poor. If you compare you open a RAW file in Lightroom and compare it to the same file pre-processed in PureRAW, most people will be surprised by the quality improvement.

Limitations of PureRAW

Despite all the great things I have to say about the performance of DxO PureRAW, it isn’t without its problems or limitations. Here’s a quick bullet list of some that I’ve noticed:

  • PureRAW like PhotoLab doesn’t support Fuji XTrans RAW files. The same is probably true of a few other cameras so it’s worth checking the lens compatibility list.
  • If there are no Lens Modules for your camera/lens combinations, you won’t achieve good results.
  • Where I have used Canon lenses on my Sony camera with a lens adapter, the software applies the wrong lens module, and the results are poor. This is the same problem I have experienced with DxO PhotoLab.
  • Some RAW files may appear overly sharp depending on your personal taste. I have known some micro 43 camera users complain about this but it’s not something I have personally found to be a problem.
  • I struggled to get the “Export to” option to fully automate with Capture One although others have since reported it works great for them.
  • The resulting DNG is around 4 times the size of the original RAW file. This may or may not be a problem for you but it’s worth mentioning.

At this point I would suggest watching my review video which demonstrates DxO PureRAW and explains some of the limitations.

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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.

DxO PureRAW Review Summary

So, is DxO PureRAW worth it? The answer to that depends on too many individual variables for me to give you a definitive answer. It certainly isn’t cheap although there is a 30% launch discount until the end of May 2021. But if we ignore the cost and just examine the performance, it can deliver a substantial improvement to image quality. How much will depend on your existing RAW converter as well as camera and lens combinations.

Based on what I’ve seen, if you are interested in achieving the best image quality, I would recommend downloading the trial software (affiliate link). It may appear expensive to some but it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new camera and/or lenses. It also allows you to achieve excellent image quality with your old supported RAW files. I processed a few RAW files from an old Canon 300D taken around 2004 and the results are superb. It’s well worth testing the trial version.

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