DxO PureRAW 2’s processing is better than Lightroom’s, but it can also be used from WITHIN Lightroom. So how does that work, and are the results (a) really worth the effort and (b) as good as regular RAW files to edit?
DxO PureRAW is a RAW conversion tool that takes regular RAW files and converts them into Linear DNG files with DxO’s advanced RAW processing, lens corrections and DeepPRIME noise reduction pre-applied.
To photo editors, these are just like regular RAW files, with all the extended color and tonal range of regular RAW files. They difference is, they use DxO’s demosaicing and processing, not the demosaicing tools in the software.
You can use DxO PureRAW as a standalone file converter, but DxO recognises that half the photo editing world uses Lightroom, so it’s worked out a process for creating a PureRAW DNG file from within Lightroom itself.
Is it worth the effort? For low-ISO images you might not see much difference, but at higher ISOs, DxO’s DeepPRIME processing is so superior to Adobe’s that you may find it hard to believe you’re even looking at the same file. It will certainly prompt you to rethink what you previously considered the acceptable ISO limits of your camera.
Here’s how to use DxO PureRAW in Lightroom:
1. My start shot in Lightroom
Here’s the image I’m going to be working with. It was shot at ISO 18,000 on a Nikon D7200, so pretty optimistic, I’ll agree. As you can see, the default Lightroom processing leaves it looking pretty noisy.
2. Launching DxO PureRAW 2
To launch PureRAW 2, you don’t just right-click the image and choose ‘Edit with’ in the normal way. We want Lightroom to send the original RAW file to PureRAW, not it’s own processed version, and that’s done with the File > Plug-in Extras >Process with DxO PureRAW 2 command.
3. PureRAW 2 options
PureRAW 2 will then launch and display the same options you get when using a standalone tool. If it needs to download a new camera-lens profile it will prompt you to do that first, and then you see this dialog where you choose the processing (I’ll use DeepPRIME), file format (DNG) and Destination Folder – by default, this is a subfolder within the folder where the image is stored, which is as good a place as any.
Now wait a couple of minutes. First, PureRAW 2 has to do its processing, which takes a minute or so in itself. Next, Lightroom needs a minute or so to figure out there’s a new file it needs to import and to render the preview.
4. Finding your new DNG file
Remember the destination folder I chose in the PureRAW 2 settings. I can find my new DNG in this DxO subfolder within the folder the original RAW file was in. If you’re using a Smart Collection or filters, remember that the new file is a DNG, not a ‘RAW’ file.
5. Before and after
Now I’ve got Lightroom’s default rendering (left) and the PureRAW version (right) side by side in the Compare window. Yes, it really is the same image – the difference is spectacular (click on the screenshot to see a larger version). I can promise you I could spend an hour in Lightroom jiggling with the noise reduction and sharpness tools and still not get within a mile of the DxO version.
6. Editing your PureRAW DNG
So I said at the start that the PureRAW DNG would act just like a regular RAW file, and it does. You can use the same profiles, the same presets, the same shadow and highlight recovery and more, and get exactly the same results as you would with the regular RAW file.
Here, I’ve used one of the excellent free ON1 Lightroom presets you can get from the ON1 website. I’ve pulled back the highlights to -100 so that we can see outside detail through the window, I’ve lifted the shadows a little and I’ve also added a little clarity.
7. Side by side edits
And just to prove the PureRAW DNG reacts in just the same way as a regular RAW file, I’ve put both side by side here with the adjustments synchronized between them. There is absolutely no difference, except in the shadows where the Lightroom RAW version looks lighter, but I put that down to the heavy noise in this version.
Is DxO PureRAW 2 worth it?
PureRAW 2 costs more on its own than an entire year’s subscription to the Adobe Photography Plan, so in terms of its features/cost ratio, it’s pretty expensive. But if you do a lot of low-light high-ISO shooting, or your image catalog contains a lot of noisy RAW files from older cameras, then I would say it’s worth it.
At the very least I’d recommend that you download the free trial and see for yourself. It’s effective enough as a standalone batch editor before you import into Lightroom, but thanks to the Lightroom integration you can also use it as and when you need to, image by image, on photos that are already in your catalog.
Just remember, it works with Lightroom Classic only. Lightroom (the web version) doesn’t work with ANYTHING except Photoshop, and that’s Adobe’s fault, not DxO’s.
- DxO PureRAW 2 review
- DxO PhotoLab 5 review
- DxO PhotoLab vs Lightroom vs Capture One – which is best for RAW files?
DxO software downloads and pricing*
DxO PhotoLab 5 Elite: regular price $219/£199
DxO ViewPoint 3: regular price $79/£69
DxO FilmPack 6 Elite: regular price $139/£129
DxO PureRAW: regular price $129/£115
DxO Nik Collection 4: regular price $149/£135
• 30 day trials are available for each product and bundle deals are available.
*Check for the latest offers at the DxO store