I’m a long time user of CNX2 and new to DxO. I’m evaluating DxO PhotoLab 2 to see whether it can be my new buddy. The only reason I keep my D700 for more than 7 years is U Point control in NCX2. I upgrade my workhorse to D850 this week so I have to choose a new software to process my photos. U Point control is the main reason I consider DxO PhotoLab 2. U Point control is enhanced under DxO and I feel it is not only more powerful but also much easier to use than ever before.
However, as a long time user of CNX2, I feel some features or behavior of PhotoLab 2 does not match my need or my familar workflow. I understand I need to learn something new in new era. But at the same time, I think I may raise up my idea to see if the software can improve functionality or enhance flexibility. In one word, make it better in future.
The top one in my wishlist is embedded ajustment metadata in Raw (NEF) file. I’ve read and reviewed many articles and comments from different websites and forums, I know that many people do not agree to modification of original Raw file. I fully understand why they insist in keeping separated sidecar file. I have no intention to request DxO to cancel this feature, but add an option to embed metadata in Raw file. I will explain my idea in details.
I’m not a professional but enthusiast in photography. Usually I use only one model of camera at a time and process photos in one software. I don’t need to export and transfer adjustment metadata from one software to another one. The workflow is simple and straight forward under CNX2. Copy Raw (NEF) files from CF card to harddisk, open them in CNX2, make all necessary adjustment, save. Though CNX2 save all adjustments in original NEF file, it does not overwrite Raw information inside file. I can undo any one or more or all adjustments at any time after save. If I need to make different versions of the same Raw file, just copy the file to a new one, change or delete some or all adjustments and do something new in cloned file. It is simple and easy. Moreover, there will be no problem of hesitation to copy, move, rename, etc. by standard Windows file operation.
However, DxO adopts sidecar file or central database to keep adjustment metadata. Raw file is never be updated. “Raw is Raw” is the most common comments by other people. I also know that many other photo processing softwares (including Nikon NX-D) use similar method to handle adjustment metadata. If I use DxO to process my tons of photos (around 10K to 15K a year), I need to copy, move, rename exact pairs of photos (not talking about one but many at a time, let say 500 non-successive photos in a file folder). Of course, people may say I can do it easily inside DxO file management. But please be reminded, it is possible to use DxO file management on my own computer, but not in another computer after I distributed them to other machine. It not only need much time and attention to finish, but also increase the risk to make mistake.
As I said before, I understand many reasons why other people insist in keeping Raw file untouched. For my point of view, the reason of my need to embed adjustment metadata in Raw file itself is simple workflow. I don’t see there is any conflict if DxO provides such option to embed adjustment metadata in Raw (NEF) file. Other people can still keep there metadata in sidecar files, I can enjoy the benefit of handling single file.
In technical, it is absolutely possible. In fact, CNX2 did this so many years ago. Even more, FastStone Image Viewer, which I use as my lightweight viewer, can open the modified Raw (NEF) file (by CNX2) correctly. I use FastStone Image Viewer to convert my modified Raw (NEF) file (by CNX2) to JPG of TIFF file since it is very easy and stright forward operation.
I suggest DxO to add option of embedding adjustment metadata in Raw (NEF) file. Furthermore, two advanced features are included. The first one is extraction of metadata from Raw file and save back to separated sidecar file. The second one is embedding metadata in sidecar file in Raw file. These advanced features can act as backward compatibility and also make people less hesitated to adopt this option since they can rollback if they feel uncomfortable in later time.
In Customize view, I suggest the following enhancement or improvement:
a) In additional to preset zoom ratios (25, 50, 75, 100, 400) in combobox, add slider to zoom freely.
b) Add rotation buttons (left 90 degrees and right 90 degrees) and place it side of crop button. In existing version, rotaion can be done by context menu (too many mouse clicks) or keyboard short-cut (move hand away from mouse to keyboard and then back to mouse again, too many motions).
c) If I click crop button, select an area, then I want to cancel crop action, the only straight way to do it is unchecking the crop option in action palette under “Essentials Tools”. But the crop item may not be visible and I have to scroll up or down to make it visible and uncheck it. I think there should be more direct way to do that (e.g. add a Cancel button side of Reset button on the lower-right corner).
d) If I click crop button, select an area, then I have to click Close button on lower-right corner to do crop. First, “Close” does not express the action precisely while “Apply” may be a better wording. Secondly, I suggest a more stright forward action (e.g. double-click anywhere inside the selected area) to perform crop.
e) If I click horizon button, set the horizon line, the image is adjusted immediately. I don’t fully understand the purpose of button “Apply”.
f) Even I set Crop Correction as “Auto based on keystoning / horizon”, I need to click crop manually after setting horizon. I suggest the crop can be performed automatically right after I set horizon (like what NCX2 does).
Export to JPG is a slow process. My computer is running on i7, 8G RAM, Windows 10, SSD. Raw (NEF) file with not many adjustment (some with local adjustment, some without) needs 25 - 40 seconds to export to JPG (744 pixels in long side @300 ppi). I’m not sure whether it is normal performace or my computer is not powerful enough or some configuration I don’t tune up.
The second last item in my wishlist is clone tool. For me, “Repair” is not same as “Clone”. I’m not going to use it to make fake photo but clone tool can make things easy in some circumstances.
Right now, DxO provides several UI languages but Chinese is not included. I’m from Hong Kong. For me, using English UI is not a problem. However, it will be definitely a good news for some of my friends if they can choose UI in Chinese. Please be reminded, if Chinese is an option, both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese should be included.
Thanks for your patients to finish reading my words. I don’t know what people from DxO will comment them. I’m open to discuss with others no matter they disagree with me or they have any other much greater idea. What I need is a processing software which fits my need and workflow. I’m still trying to familiar with Dxo PhotoLab 2.