DxO ViewPoint 3 Review
DxO ViewPoint 3 is the latest perspective correction software from DxO Labs. This is a a highly specialized image processing tool which is designed to correct distortion causes by perspective and optical distortion.
Being designed to perform a number of loosely related image manipulation, it provides a minimalist user-interface which can show every tool at one. Any number of tools can be used on a single image. Version 3 adds a number of automatic correction which attempt to compute the right amount of correction needed for perspective, horizontal tilt and cropping.
DxO ViewPoint 3 is available directly from DxO for $79 USD. It supports 64-bit versions of Microsoft Winwows 7 Service Pack 1 or newer and Mac OS X 10.6 or later. The software needs at last 2 GB of RAM and 400 MB of disk-space, although 4 GB is recommended for Windows and 6 GB for Max OS X. ViewPoint 3 works as a stand-alone application or integrated with Adobe Photoshop CS3+, Adobe Photoshop Elements 9+, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3+ or Apple Aperture 3. DxO offers a generous license which allows users to install ViewPoint 3 on up to 4 computers.
DxO ViewPoint 3 Review
DxO ViewPoint 3 offers a simple and elegant interface with just two modes. One is there to select an image to work on, the other shows all the tools and a display of the work in progress. The File Open mode shows beautiful and large thumbnails making it easy to choose an image among many. The *Working* mode offers several viewing modes along with a stack of collapsible tools. The entire interface is dark grey to minimize interference with color and contrast perception.
There is both a standard menu bar and iconic toolbar at the top of the window. Both offer a minimal set of options with clear tooltips for each icon in the toolbar. A panel on the right holds all the tools. One can open or close any tool, as well as reset it to its default no effect state. The entire stack of tools can also be reset at once.
The first tool corrects for optical distortion. The Auto option reads the EXIF to determine what type of correction is needed. In order to use that, you must be working with an original file or one which is exported with intact EXIF information. Working on a cropped image is a bad idea since correction may be off-center compared to the optical axis. Manual correction can fix various degrees of Barrel, Pincushion and Fisheye distortion. Fisheye distortion in particular can be extreme and rather difficult to correct, so this tool was tested on an image produced by a full-frame fisheye lens with a 180° diagonal angle-of-view:
The result is quite impressive. In this image of La Basilica Del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador, the original shows severe curvature of the sides of the church and moderate bending of its base. After applying automatic correction, the horizon is stream and the sides of the basilica are no longer curved. One can of course still notice the upward perspective of the shot yet it appears much more natural and proportional.
The second tool is really unique to DxO ViewPoint and is called Volume Deformation. It is meant to make an image look more natural due to a certain type of distortion which causes objects near the edges of images to appear wider than they should. Below, it is the core function of this software: Perspective Correction. This one also has an Auto mode and can correct, either automatically or manually, for four types of perspective distortion: Vertical Perspective, Horizontal Perspective, Four-Point and Eight-Point perspective.
Both Horizontal and Vertical Perspective correction work similarly by providing two guidelines which the software will render parallel. Take a look at this photo taken with an extremely wide 10mm lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor for Vertical Perspective correction:
At an equivalent of 15mm on a full-frame, such lens shows dramatic perspective distortion. Correcting for Vertical Perspective using the outer edges of the building produces a corrected image such as this one:
The building now looks much more straight and imposing. DxO ViewPoint 3 did an excellent job at warping the image such that it looks natural. Sharpness is also reasonably well-maintained but there is, understandably, a loss of definition towards the top of the building which more stretching occurred. What happens though, which is entirely expected, is that the building gets cut off at the top to maintain its aspect while being straightened. ViewPoint 3 though offers a clever option to distort the rendering artificially such that the building - in this example - remains straightened but is made shorter so that it does not get cropped after Perspective Correction is applied. Performing a 4 or 8-point correction works similarly yet considerable exaggerates the issue.
Any time more than slight Perspective Correction needs to be applied, framing of the original uncorrected image cannot be tight. Above, the image of the historic Bank of Montreal looks natural while remaining relatively well-framed compared to the uncorrected image shown in the screenshot at the top of this review. Expect no miracles but the rendering quality of DxO ViewPoint 3 is top-notch. Smaller corrections result in better image quality which is completely normal.
DxO ViewPoint 3 turns out to be an excellent and extremely easy-to-use software which produces quality output very quickly. It accomplishes its goals with easy and elegance.
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