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What is DXO Mark Mobile and should you care?

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Over the span of a couple of weeks, we saw three phones released, and with every release, the manufacturer touted the device's incredible "best ever" DXO Mark Mobile performance rating:

  1. Samsung released the Galaxy Note 8 with a DXO Camera score of 94
  2. Apple released the iPhone 8 Plus with a DXO Camera score of 94
  3. Google released the Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL with a DXO Camera score of 98

Manufacturers love touting these scores to "prove" that they have designed the finest camera a distinguished tech user could ask for. For all intents and purposes, technology should get better and this means every new phone released (at the high end) should have better overall performance than its predecessor. Why would you buy an inferior phone?

While most blogs blindly write headlines repeating this single "representative" number, very few actually take the time to read the full DXO reviews and explain the details to their readers. 

It's complicated

The first thing to keep in mind that blending complex factors into a single easy to digest number is complicated and sometimes may mislead some readers. While most blogs only show the single number, DXO actually provides a generous amount of valuable information for the curious reader.

The DXO tests include a slew of carefully controlled tests and other real world tests that are more subjective. 

If we pick on today's "highest ranking" phone, the Google Pixel 2, here is how the rating of 98 is made up:

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DXO provides detailed test results and write-ups for each of these categories. While most blogs will tout that the Pixel 2 has a rating of 98 (the best ever rating for a smartphone), they rarely provide the makeup of that number.

And the make-up of that number is critical to your buying decision. If you will use the camera primarily for video, you may notice it scored 96. You can also check out how DXO made up that score by evaluating what is important to you about video (which attributes are more important to you).

  • Exposure and contrast
  • color
  • Autofocus
  • Texture
  • Noise
  • Artifacts
  • Stabilization

Remeber that the video rating fo 96 is not a straight average but rather a "black box" formulae closely guarded by DXO. 

Is DXO Mark Trustworthy?

The next question is "can you trust the DXO testing methodology"?

Having reviewed the public information made available by DXO, I say yes. They have a well-documented methodology that is as good as it is going to get. I trust their rating but use the detailed review information to make up my mind, not the single number most blogs publicise. 

It is also important to keep in mind that DXO is a for-profit consulting company that manufacturers hire. DXO works with manufacturers to tune their imaging systems and get the best possible performance out of the equipment and software. DXO also sells image quality testing solutions.

I do not believe this consulting arm influences the device ratings in any way but it is still an important fact to keep in mind.

DXO Optics Pro

DXO Optics makes very good photo improvement software because of all this camera/lens knowledge they have accumulated. They know the shortcomings of each of the camera/lens combos and can this build specific correction profiles. 

I own their software and paid for it myself. 

90% of all the questions I receive these days is about comparing the iPhone to the Google Pixel2.  In addition to all the information I have already written and the info provided above, there is one more piece of knowledge you should consider. 

The Google Camera app on the Pixel 2 does not natively support RAW (the iPhone 5s or newer) does. This means DXO Optics Pro has corrective filters for all these iPhone RAW images, but does not for the Google Pixel2. This could be a major deciding factor for more astute or demanding mobile photographer.

Conclusion

I know most users simply don't care about the details. They want one easy to read headline that justifies their belief (Google is better / iPhone is better). My ask is that you, my more knowledgeable readers, take the time to look at the data that makes up the numbers.

It's a worthwhile investment of your time.

Darklight is a great free iphone photo editor

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
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There are hundreds upon hundreds of photo editing apps on the Apple AppStore. Each one with its own twist on photo editing. Any given month, I test several dozen new apps and most get installed, tested then quickly deleted but I recently stumbled on the DarkLight (link) iphone photo editor and its found a permanent home in my iPhone.

Not only has DarkLight earned the status of permanent app on my phone but it has also become my (usually) go-to photo editing app on my iPhone. The key feature which really sets this app apart (besides being free) is the Enhance feature. 

It has 3 automatic photo improvement modes that typically work better than most other automatic photo improvement apps (including Apple's very own iPhoto iPhone app). If you use Google Plus Photos then this feature closely resembles AutoAwesome except everything is processed on your phone.

You then have access to 12 Scene modes that perform minute improvements to make your photo the best it can be.

What impressed me most is that none of the modes over-modified the any the photos I tested the app with (over-modification is a bad thing).

Then you have the most basic, most standard controls. They include these because every photo editing app has to include them but typically you don't need them after using Enhance and Scene

Then they include nice features which are typically add-ons in other apps like adding text, stickers or frames.

The app is free and contains no in-app purchases, which makes me very very happy. I absolutely abhor in app purchases. The developer presents an ad every time you save a picture. I wish he gave me the option to buy an ad-free version.

Overall I really like this app and recommend it. It contains almost every feature I want except 2. HDR mode. I would like:

  • HDR Mode : This should allow me to to merge multiple bracketed shots into one glorious wide dynamic range photo or to artificially generate a "fake" HDR from a single image like Snapseed does.
  • Collage Feature : The ability to merge multiple pictures to create one photo (great for parents and pet owners).

It is a universal app which means it works on iPhone, iPad mini and iPad. I have been testing the app for weeks now and it hadn't crashed once.

Overall this has turned out to be a little gem that you definitely should download. 

PhotoDirector 4 MAC/PC Free until March 16

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Nothing feel better than getting something of value for free. Now CyberLink is running a special promo for CNET's Download.com by offering their well respected ($99) photo management app for free.

Head over to this special promo page (link) and enter promo code PHD4CNET in the "redeem code" box. You get an immediate discount which brings the price to $0, nada, zilch.

 

Mac App ColorStrokes free for a limited time

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
MacPhun has announced that it is giving away free copies of their mac photo editing app, ColorStrokes for Mac. This freebie is being made available to celebrate the launch of MacPhun's new online store.
What is ColorStrokes?
It is a simple all that allows users to
  • color palette - Smart Brush lets you add new tones to the image and play with colors the way you want
  • enhancements - Variety of additional editing tools let you adjust lights, add special effects, vignette and more

Download the free app here.