Some links in this post are affiliate links, so if you purchase an item through one, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These credits go directly towards supporting this blog and my YouTube channel.
DxO PureRAW is a pre-processing application that promises better results from straight-out-of-camera RAW files. The app creates newly optimized DNGs that may then be edited in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, etc. The app fits into a photographer’s current workflow without requiring them to switch everything over to something new (like DxO PhotoLab, the app from which PureRAW is derived from).
In this review, I’ll explain what PureRAW does, and show you a few examples of what it can produce.
Disclosure: DxO provided me with a copy of PureRAW for feedback and review.
What DxO PureRAW does
PureRAW uses nearly two decades of camera and lens optimization data (nearly 60,000 lens and camera combinations), plus artificial intelligence that has studied millions of photos, to demosaic RAW files. PureRAW denoises and fixes chromatic aberration, distortion, vignette, and other anomalies as data is demosaiced; unlike Adobe Camera RAW or other RAW processing utilities that apply these adjustments afterward. PureRAW also intelligently sharpens images edge-to-edge to create even and appropriate detail throughout the entire image. The resulting DNGs may then be imported into any RAW processing software (eg, Adobe Lightroom) for further processing.
DxO claims that by fixing and improving issues when data is demosaiced, PureRAW can achieve levels of clarity and sharpness that cannot be achieved using other software. I decided to put DxO PureRAW to the test by processing a variety of RAW files from different cameras (and a drone). Here’s what I found.
DxO PureRAW versus Adobe Camera RAW
Let’s take a look at some examples. For comparison, I intentionally used RAW photos captured using older digital cameras. I also processed drone images (shot using a DJI Mavic 2 Pro) since those especially typically suffer from distortion and loss of sharpness and detail in the corners.
Below is a 1-1 comparison of the same straight-out-of-camera RAW file processed using Adobe Camera RAW (which is using DJI’s built-in profile) and DxO PureRAW. No other adjustments have been made.
The DxO PureRAW version if noticeably more detailed and sharp from corner to corner when compared to Adobe Camera RAW. Speaking of corners, let’s look at bottom-left to see what’s happening.
This is where you really see the difference. Both did a good job of removing vignette, but DxO PureRAW did a far better job of handling distortion and sharpness. Not only has more detail been recovered, but more of the original image is visible (look at the left/bottom edges to see how Adobe Camera RAW automatically cropped-out more).
Now let’s take a look at noise. The following straight out-of-camera RAW image was shot handheld, indoors, using a Canon 7D at ISO 8000.
Even without zooming in, you can tell that DxO PureRAW has done a better job of handling sharpness, noise, and (unexpectedly) color. Let’s zoom way in and take a look at the details.
The original RAW file is full of colorful noise — especially in the white molding around the doorway. The DxO PureRAW file is clean, noiseless, and has well-defined lines.
Now let’s try to match the ACR image to the DxO PureRAW image by manipulating the noise reduction and sharpness sliders in ACR.
The ACR image appears sharper and less noisy, but still nowhere near as good as the DxO PureRAW image. It’s also worth pointing out the PureRAW image was created automatically, within seconds.
What makes DxO PureRAW Great
Without question, DxO PureRAW did a better job of processing every RAW image I threw at it. The images with the most dramatic results were shot using old DSLRs (eg, the Canon 6D and 7D) in difficult low-light environments. Drone shots from a Mavic 2 Pro also looked incredible. Now I want to dig through even more RAW images from the past and re-process them!
I also like the fact PureRAW supports three processing modes: HQ, Prime, and Deep Prime. Deep Prime generally produces the best results, but HQ and Prime are also available if Deep Prime is too aggressive with its denoising and sharpening for your taste.
DxO PureRAW also fits into your existing workflow, and doesn’t require moving away from Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One, or any other RAW photo processing app. It simply provides a better, more optimized RAW file for you to edit.
Tip: When importing a PureRAW DNG to Lightroom, etc, avoid adding more noise reduction, vignette, lens correction profiles, and possibly sharpening as well.
Finally, the software couldn’t be easier to use. You simply drag-and-drop RAW files into the app, choose where you want them saved, and PureRAW takes care of the rest.
What makes DxO PureRAW Not-So-Great
DxO PureRAW creates amazing images, but the resulting DNG files are (on average) three times larger. For example, the PureRAW “museum” image from above is 70 megabytes while the original is 27 megabytes. That’s a huge increase in file size, which will quickly add up over time and consume a lot of disk space. If you kept the original camera RAW file in addition to the PureRAW DNG, you’d effectively quadruple the amount of requisite disk space for each and every image.
PureRAW’s denoising and lens corrections are phenomenal, but I wish DxO would add a fourth processing mode using little-to-no sharpening. Sharpening is typically the final step in photo editing workflow (so that sharpening can be tailored for screen, print, etc). Baking the sharpening into the PureRAW DNG could lead to oversharpening later when an image is reformatted / resized.
DxO PureRAW is impressive. There’s no better feeling than importing a RAW file from years ago and seeing it reborn with improved demosaicing and intelligent denoising / sharpening through AI. Highly recommend downloading a free trial and giving it a try with your own images.
To see more examples, check out the following video from my YouTube channel.