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Full user review
"Great beginner tool, but not advanced enough yet"
Great rendering engine (caveats... see cons), reasonable interface, excellent plugin system
Getting a perfect render is hard to manage and difficult to set up (read, time consuming). Interface is weak, layout needs help, Camera system needs overhaul.
While Daz Studio 3 (DS3) is a step in the right direction for Daz, DS3 is still really a basic bare bones 3D app and still leaves a lot to be desired. It's the basic minimum you need to get started. The problem is that while the 3Delight rendering engine is very capable, DS3 fails to provide some of 3Delight's most basic features needed to create realistic scenes... such as Global Illumination. With DS3 Advanced (the for-pay version), Daz offers some additional lighting models and scripting systems to 'unleash the power' of the 3Delight engine. Unfortunately, you have to know how to write computer code to do it. So, paying the money to get a shader creator in DS3A, you'll need a master's degree to figure out how to write th code to make it happen. Still, if you manage to get a workable shader, expect to spend hours rendering something simple. If you stray from the DS3 built-in shaders, you should expect to spend hours rendering something that should take a few minutes.
Setting up a scene under DS3 is time consuming. If you define light sources with deep shadow maps, you have to wait for DS3 to calculate these maps each time you render. DS3 still does not cache these maps once created. So, if you set up 5 lights in the scene each with deep soft shadows, you have to wait through the construction of each of the 5 shadow maps each time you render. This can take minutes. The results can look good, but Daz needs to value the user's time more than they do.
As others have said, this app only integrates within the Daz world. It does not attempt to integrate outside of that world. So, if you create the perfect pose or a great character, you cannot convert that to be useful in Poser or any other app that supports cr2 or pz2 file formats as Daz doesn't support that export functionality. You can, however, import the character into Daz's Carrara (see below). So, that character is firmly entrenched in the Daz world and will never leave it. You can export it as a Collada, 3DS or OBJ format, but of course that effectively freezes the model in place. This means you need to go back to DS3 to repose or alter the model.
The interface flow is antiquated and not intuitive at all. DS3 still doesn't offer even similar posing capabilities of Poser, so you're stuck diddling with each bone on its own. It does have a bone movement tool, but good luck getting that to work properly.
For shading, the system is hackish. The single best part of the shader system is the fact that you can create a shader once and then copy and paste it to other surfaces. But, that's an all or nothing situation. That means you copy the entire shader definition or nothing. You can't copy only the specularity portion and paste that to another surface.
Unfortunately, what should be Daz's flagship product, Carrara, is totally under promoted by Daz. Carrara runs rings around Daz Studio for quality renders, but everything created or done in Carrara, like its sister DS3, stays firmly in the Daz world (unless you like frozen exported objects). On the other hand, Carrara offers full global illumination, a 3D modeling tool, a visual shader builder, some kind of morph creation tool and actual UV mapping. So, unlike DS3 which is basically a glorified poser + renderer, Carrara is a full fledged 3D modeler, poser and renderer all in one. It's actually more full featured than Poser (which still doesn't offer a modeler).
Daz has fractured itself into too many different apps that are only each about a quarter of the way to completion. With each release, they take baby steps rather than leaping ahead. Instead of DS3, Hexagon, Bryce and Carrara, Daz should focus on a unified 3D system. A complete app capable of doing all that's necessary to get the job done.... Importing 3D Characters and posing them, 3D modeling, making and applying morphs, rendering systems that include global illumination, lighting that works properly, primitive based construction, systems to aid in creation of clothing for figures, rendering systems that let you pause and resume, share the load over the network and resume if the app crashes.
DS3 is a good next step, but it's by no means perfect. It crashes far too much for stupid reasons. Daz ignores bug reports placed at bugs.daz3d.com and bugs that have been present since 2.x still aren't fixed. Let's hope that Daz gets DS4 right. For a basic app to play around with Daz figures. it's fine. For serious animation, you'll quickly outgrow DS3. DS3 is fine, however, for basic illustrations as long as you don't need to model anything.