Verdict: 4 stars
DxO ViewPoint 3 is a very effective and useful add-on for DxO PhotoLab but perhaps less useful these days as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop, given that these have pretty good perspective correction tools of their own. ViewPoint also faces competition from the new and very similar Perspective Efex plug in that’s part of the DxO Nik Collection 3.
DxO ViewPoint 3 is the latest version of DxO’s perspective and distortion correction program. It works as a standalone application, as a plug-in for Lightroom, Photoshop and Elements and as a fully-integrated panel within DxO PhotoLab, DxO’s flagship optical correction and raw processing tool.
ViewPoint is designed to correct the converging verticals and other exaggerated perspective effects you get with wideangle lenses – DxO Optics Pro only corrects lens aberrations like distortion, chromatic aberration, corner shading (vignetting) and edge softness.
ViewPoint serves a very useful function, then, but it’s not unique. Lightroom has its own perspective correction tools, as does Photoshop. What it needs to bring, then, is either an easier workflow, better results or features the others don’t have.
Some of the new features in version 3 might help. These include new, automatic perspective corrections (Lightroom already has these, so there’s an element of catch-up here), automatic horizon straightening and a new creative blur (bokeh) tool for creating tilt-shift effects or defocused backgrounds.
ViewPoint already does something else that the others don’t – volumetric distortion correction. You know where you have a person or an object near the edge of the frame that’s distorted into too wide a shape? It fixes that, which is a pretty useful thing to be able to do with group shots, for example, or off-centre composition.
How does ViewPoint 3 work?
It sounds a complex job, but ViewPoint 3 makes perspective corrections pretty easy. Whether you’re launching it as a standalone app or as a plug-in, it opens with your selected image in the main window and a vertical tools panel on the right hand side.
Starting from the top, the first panel is for fixing Distortion. ViewPoint will identify the camera and lens combination from the image’s embedded EXIF (shooting) data and automatically apply the matching lens correction profile. If it doesn’t have it, it will prompt you to download it from the DxO website – it’s a quick and simple process.
That’s the theory, anyway. From time to time, ViewPoint may prompt you to locate the original image if you’re running it as a plug-in, presumably because the image version sent to ViewPoint doesn’t contain the necessary EXIF data. That seems quite odd, and it’s even odder that you have to manually locate the image using a Finder/Explorer window – you would have thought that the software would have had the brains to look in the same folder as the original.
Worse, you will get this message with any Fujifilm image, and that’s because DxO doesn’t support Fujifilm cameras and lenses in DxO Optics Pro (due the unique pixel layout of the X-Trans sensor), and presumably this carries through into ViewPoint. It would be better if it simply told you up front when cameras/lenses weren’t supported instead of sending you off on some EXIF/file hunting wild goose chase.
The distortion correction isn’t essential. You can move straight to the second panel, for fixing Volume Deformation. This is really useful where you’ve got people or other distorted objects near the edge of the frame, but if the distortion isn’t obvious it’s best to leave it because the Horizontal/Vertical deformation option loses a little image area at the edges of the frame and the Diagonal correction introduces some pretty strong barrel distortion.
The Perspective panel is where it starts to get more interesting. New in Viewpoint 3 is the ability to correct perspective automatically, fixing horizontal perspective, vertical perspective or both at the same time. It doesn’t always work well, especially if you try to fix both at once (generally vertical perspective correction is the most important), and if the perspective distortion is too strong or there are not suitable straight edges for the software to work from, but it works well enough, often enough, to be very useful. And if you do need to make some tweaks, you still have a full set of manual adjustments for forced horizontals or verticals, rectangles or more complex 8-point adjustments.
What’s good is that as you drag the manual correction nodes, ViewPoint displays a magnifying loupe over the cursor for more accurate positioning – and what’s even better is that if you hold down the shift key, the cursor movement becomes much more precise.
ViewPoint’s perspective corrections are easy to apply and effective – more so than Lightroom’s, probably – and while Capture One is very good for manual corrections, it can’t yet do them automatically.
Next up is the Horizon panel. This does what you’d expect, with a new automatic horizontal adjustment (if there is a suitable horizon line for the software to work from) with manual horizontal and vertical adjustments.
The Crop panel shows you the full image area after ViewPoint has made its corrections. It will automatically crop off wedge-shaped edges while preserving the photo’s original aspect ratio, so now’s your chance to change the area that’s been retained or its proportions.
Last but by no means least is the new Miniature effect panel. This produces the faux tilt-shift blur you see in so many other programs, with a horizontal in-focus zone and progressively defocused top and bottom areas. You can change the blur amount, the width of the sharp area and the sharpness fall-off, just as you’d expect. There is a twist, though – rather literally. You can rotate the defocused zones relative to each other to create independent planes of focus. Well, sort of. It takes a step further than other tilt-shift effects, but these are rarely particularly convincing and seems strange to get a tool like this in a program designed for optical precision rather than an analog emulation tool like DxO FilmPack.
Should you buy it?
DxO ViewPoint 3 isn’t expensive, but it does a job that’s already handled pretty well by most of the host applications you might launch it from. It probably makes a bit more sense when bought alongside DxO Optics Pro, where it gets its own panel within the main interface – though, paradoxically, this is offers just a simpler sub-set of its tools, notably the Perspective and Volume deformation options, presumably because its other tools are already offered elsewhere in the DxO Photo Suite product.
It’s also going to be a big disappointment to owners of Fujifilm cameras. Adobe and Phase One can work with Fujifilm raw files readily enough, so it’s not clear why DxO closes the door so firmly.
DxO Optics Pro is a great image correction/raw conversion tool, it’s great that DxO ViewPoint integrates with it so well and if you get the DxO Photo Suite you get both programs and DxO FilmPack too.
But if you use Lightroom, Photoshop or Capture One, it doesn’t make quite so much sense. You may prefer its perspective correction tools to those you’ve already got, and you may find it nicer to use generally, but really it’s offering alternative corrections to those you already have, not plugging a major gap.
If you intend using it as a standalone program, be aware that ViewPoint works with JPEG and TIFF files but not raw. If you shoot in raw, you’ll have to use it with a host program that can open your raw files. That’s a bit annoying when other programs like Skylum Luminar can work with raw files directly.