05 The Adobe Camera Raw version
I also ran the same image through Adobe Camera Raw, which has a slightly different approach to highlight and shadow management. You can adjust these individually, as well as the overall exposure, and I generally get the best results by trying to balance all three adjustments rather than relying on one. In any event, it’s clear that Adobe Camera Raw 8 (with Photoshop CC and part of Lightroom 5) is at least as good as DxO Optics Pro 9 at recovering highlights.
In my opinion, DxO Optics Pro’s lens corrections are better than Adobe Camera Raw’s, and it produces better colour, punchier contrast and sharper detail. But while the highlight recovery in DxO Optics Pro 9 is better than it was in version 8, I think this simply brings it up to the standard of its rivals rather than moving it ahead.
I’ve inserted my test results below. They’re produced using the settings you can see in the screenshots for steps 2, 4 and 5. I’m sure each one could be improved with some careful editing, but they represent what each program can achieve ‘out of the box’ with a few routine tweaks.