03 Strong adjustment
Version 9 Smart Lighting has produced a powerful adjustment with its Strong setting. This pushes the Intensity slider up to a value of 150. It’s recovered a lot of detail from the shadows while preserving most of the depth and colour in the sky. And yet… it does have a distinctly flat ‘HDR’ look. Maybe this is why I’ve had mixed feelings about DxO’s latest Smart Lighting technology.
Version 7 Smart Lighting produces a very different result in its Strong mode. I actually prefer this to the version 9 result. It hasn’t recovered as much detail in the shadows, and it’s taking more colour out of the sky, but it’s punchier and more natural-looking. Again, the Intensity setting stays at 70, but the correction method is stronger.
It’s still not quite strong enough, though, so I tried one more version 7 example with the Strong correction and the Intensity pushed up to 140. This is much more like it. It still hasn’t recovered as much details from the shadows as version 9, and it’s taken a big chunk of colour out of the sky, but the contrast and the tones look much more natural.
04 DxO Smart Lighting v9 vs v7: which is best?
It’s clear that Smart Lighting v9 recovers more shadow detail with less effect on the rest of the tones in the image. Technically, it’s superior. It’s also more straightforward to use.
However, while Smart Lighting v7 recovers less from the shadows and has more impact on the other tones, I think it’s pictorially superior. I can see why DxO left it in, and it’s a pretty tough call.
Both versions demonstrate the difficulties with any kind of shadow recovery process – you either get flat results from heavy tonal compression or a knock-on effect with the brighter tones.