Kenneth Morris Lee
DxO Pure Raw2 Real World Test

Can we match the quality of the DxO Pure Raw2 conversion process, using Adobe Camera Raw? Let's see what happens as we tweak the Adobe noise reduction settings while converting from raw format.

Full Frame at ISO 5000

This raw file was made with a Sony A7R2 and a 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor Series-E lens at ISO 5000.

Even with its 42 megapixel full-frame sensor, at ISO 5000 we see plenty of sensor noise on close inspection. With so many areas of smooth tone, graininess is evident throughout the image.


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Click twice for full size

Adobe Camera Raw loses detail as we reduce grain. DxO does not.

Color Noise at ISO 2000

Here's a raw conversion from a Sony A7R2 18 megapixel APS-C image shot at ISO 2000. Low light, high ISO, smaller sensor, hand-held camera. Taking lens: Sony E 18-55mm OSS.


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Dynamic Range Recovery at ISO 5000

Here we have lifted the shadows of an image with high dynamic range taken at ISO 5000 with a Sony A7R2 set to 18 megapixel crop mode.


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It's hard to believe these photos were made with the same camera. It's even more surprising that we're actually looking at two different conversions of the same file!

Additional Considerations

Lens Profiles
Adobe ships with a built-in database of lens correction profiles. DxO Pure Raw2 detects the camera/lens combination and if the profile hasn't been loaded, it prompts you to automatically download and install the profile. Do it once and you're done. This is actually a more efficient approach, since we shouldn't need to clutter our computer with profiles for lenses we have never used.

Here's a Question
Smaller files require less storage and process more quickly. Smaller sensors translate to greater portability. So if grain is so effectively removed by DxO Pure Raw2, does that mean we can shoot with a smaller sensor but still get adequate image quality ? Or can we shoot with the same sensor, but at a considerably higher ISO? It all depends on how much we plan to enlarge. Personally, I'm delighted that I can shoot my camera at much higher ISO - which means I can shoot comfortably in lower light.

Large Sensor at Low ISO
If we compare images shot with the full-frame 42 megapixel Sony A7RII at ISO 50 (where sensor noise is basically non-existent) the difference between Adobe and DxO Pure Raw2 raw conversion is minimal. It only becomes apparent at 400% magnification, and even then it's hard to spot. Therefore we don't need this tool if we're shooting under ideal conditions with a large sensor. But how often are conditions ideal ?

Free Camera Upgrade
With this tool you can shoot your camera at much higher ISO, under previously unworkable conditions. You can even shoot a camera in APS-C mode at high ISO. It's like getting a free camera upgrade. You can revisit your high-ISO rejects from years ago and re-process them into grainless images.

Conclusion
If we need to convert grainy raw images for high enlargement, this tool is a life-saver. If we need to shoot in low light, contrasty light or at high ISO, this tool can make the difference between usable and unusable images. The grainier the image, the greater the enlargement, the smaller the sensor... the more suitable is DxO Pure Raw2. As far as I can tell, it does a much better job than Adobe Camera Raw.