I am confused as to how to assimilate DXO OpticsPro7 (I am experimenting with a trial version) into my workflow, which has gradually evolved to be Lightreoom 4 centric.
Some background: I am a Mac user who over the last several years has migrated from Film, Sony P&S, D90, D300s, D7000 (which I still have), Fuji X100 and now to the amazing D800.
In this process I have also experimented with a number of PP applications - although I have steadfastly avoided trying Photoshop, largely because of its cost, and preceived (at least by me) complexity. So, from iPhoto, a brief acquaintance with Gimp, then on to several versions of Aperture which was attractive because of its intuitive and familiar Mac interface, View NX and then to Capture NX 2. I stuck with CNX2 for a while as I liked the "Nik" like control point technolgy etc, and because it "read" the Nikon Picture controls etc.
However I found my library organization to be all over the place and with many thousands of photos, a complete mess - even more so as I had also begun to use Photo Mechanic to rate, caption and add metadata to my shoots.
So I needed something that would take care of both cataloging, ingesting, metadata changes, competent RAW conversion and subsequent post processing and output - all in a simple to use workflow. That's when I tried Lightroom 3, despite it being "Adobe Centric" (of which I was at first fearful!) and I found I liked it, and then with the arrival of Lightroom 4 I had finally got my photo archiving and storage hierarchy in place and up and running. The RAW conversions seemed to be much better, and I found I could take care of just about all of my post processing and cataloging needs with this one application (more so with the recent update) and a few excellent plug-ins from Nik and others. So that's where I am now - NEF centric with LR4.
Well along comes the D800 - huge files, amazing detail, fantastic potential, and enormous Dynamic Range. So for fun, I processed a few RAW files (I only shoot RAW) in Aperture - they took for ever, the program was exceedingly slow, and I found that with LR4 I seemed to have outgrown this software. The conversions were "flat" to my eye too.
Next up, I processed a few in CNX2 - the conversions were great and typically Nikon and I didn't notice any slow down on my iMac with 8Gb RAM. But of course PP options were somewhat restricted and, after using LR4, I found the interface to be once again clunky.
So, finally to LR4 - no problems at all. The conversions lacked a little "punch" I thought, but easily recoverable and the new brush controls were excellent. I set up a few basic presets, which took some time, but which seem to work quite well, especially with all the updated profiles Adobe now has, although I found the lens corrections to be lacking somewhat.
Well, my D800 has gone to El Segundo for the LH focus issue so I have some time on my hands. I thought I would would give DXO Optics Pro7 a whirl, as I had heard a lot about it, and liked the concept that it was based on the DXO Labs testing and profiling of specific equipment combinations - It potentially had all the modules for all my cameras and lenses (most) past and present. So, on paper, it looked like the perfect RAW converter, and then some.
Well after a couple of days of experimenting I really liked what I saw with DXO, and in particular the optical corrections it made automatically based on my lens/body combination. It applies an automatic default preset to every NEF file, and it is pretty darned good - with ample controls to tweak to get the most out of the file. Highlight and shadow recovery I though was excellent as was noise control - provided none of this had been attempted in the camera - ie: Active D-Lighting (which I always have off by the way). The "auto" sharpening in the default preset was prettry good too. In other words in one "ingest" you get a pretty good starting point, an almost perfect image. I think I liked the conversions better than Lightroom, Aperture, or CNX2 - achieved with minimal steps, and a lot of flexibility for some further tweaking. But DXO doesn't seem to have much capability for local adjustments - some, but not many.
Now to the problem! DXO suggests Optics Pro7 always be the 1st step in your workflow, to avoid double corrections etc. Now, what to do with the output? So you've got an image looking pretty much how you want it, but, say, it still needs some local work and adjustments, metadata additions, captioning and keywording, watermarking etc. So now what? DXO lets you output the file in either JPG (well that's no good if I am going to do further work on it), an 8 or 16 bit TIFF (that'll work) or a DNG file (I've never quite understood this and see it as an archiving format for later use) - or all three at the same time if you so choose!
OK, so I choose TIFF and output the file to my Library Hierarchal system (albeit with a "_DXO" suffix) for subsequent import into LR4.... but now my 45-50MB file is 200MB plus! (in fact I have 2 files - one, the orginal 45Mb "source" file (NEF) which remains untouched, and the 2nd a 200Mb "copy" with the DXO corrctions applied in TIFF format - do I have that right?) The TIFF is a pretty big file to manipulate in LR4, and if I have hundreds of them like this I'm going to have to rethink my whole computer hardware and back-up system, which hitherto I had thought was quite adequate. And presumeably it will really slow down the workflow.
Am I missing something here? Is this how DXO integrates with another editor? Is there no way to remain NEF centric? It seems a waste to throw away all the data the D800 has so wonderfully captured and work with compressed files. Even if I were to just use DXO for its excellent optical corrections and do the rest in LR4 the files are still 3-4 times the size. Maybe that's the answer - to only use DXO for files that I see can "benefit" from some of the DXO attributes - but then that's another investment in software for potentially limited use!
Any thoughts anyone? It seems DXO is really just an excellent converter with no cataloging or other essential features, which need to be done in an external app - but with an enormous file size penalty. Is that file size penalty significant in your workflow. I would appreciate any advice or experience you guys have ... Tristan?
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. - Ansel Adams