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Author Topic: Photomatix - is it the best one ?  (Read 10895 times)
Alan Matuka
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« on: October 19, 2013, 03:43:43 AM »
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I read several topics about hdr software, but still can't quite decide which one to get.
So far I used tried Photomatix, PS5 and one other I haven't been impressed with. Several people recommended Photomatix as the best option, what do you think ?

Thank you  Smiley
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2013, 04:13:20 AM »
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I read several topics about hdr software, but still can't quite decide which one to get.
So far I used tried Photomatix, PS5 and one other I haven't been impressed with. Several people recommended Photomatix as the best option, what do you think ?

Hi Alan,

I prefer SNS-HDR Pro for natural looking HDRI tonemapping. Tonemapping of HDRIs has improved a lot in Photoshop CS6 with the introduction of Process version 2012, which can handle floating point TIFF composites, but it is still not as good as SNS-HDR Pro (a new version (2.0) is expected this month or soon after that, according to it's author).

I find that Photomatix has improved a lot over the years, but it is still too easy to produce completely over-the-top abominations. I prefer realistic renderings, which can then still be tweaked into a more abstract version if needed.

There are other contenders as well, but none of them performed as well a SNS-HDR Pro in my experience. Oloneo PhotoEngine appears to have had a very close look at SNS-HDR when they made that application, but it produced halo artifacts at high contrast window edges, last time I looked at it. It's also more expensive than SNS-HDR Pro. The HDR Expose program from Unified Colors looks promising for realistic looking work, but the versions I have tried had substandard HDR compositing functionality and were very slow in their rendering, compared to the real-time screen updates of SNS-HDR.

Cheers,
Bart

P.S. I just saw that they've improved the anti-ghosting functionality of HDR Expose with version 3. I do not know how well that functions.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 11:09:59 AM by BartvanderWolf » Logged
PhotoEcosse
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2013, 10:30:04 AM »
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My favourite - by quite a long way - is Nik's HDR EfexPro2, used directly from within Lightroom.

The game-changer for me, compared to Photomatix, is the ability to apply not only different amounts of HDR processing but also different modes of HDR processing to different parts of the image using the control point technology.

That said, I should confess that my aim with HDR is normally only to compensate for the DR deficiencies of digital camera sensors (Nikon D800 in my case), rather than to create "special effects", But I believe that, if effects were your bag, then you would find it easier to avoid overkill in the Nik product.

I think that you probably could achieve a similar degree of localised control with Photomatix if you created multiple HDR layers in CS6 and then differentially blended them - but (as with most of Nik's products) a job that takes maybe 2 minutes in HDR EfexPro2 could take 10 minutes or more in Photoshop/Photomatix.
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2013, 11:20:18 AM »
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My favourite - by quite a long way - is Nik's HDR EfexPro2, used directly from within Lightroom.

The game-changer for me, compared to Photomatix, is the ability to apply not only different amounts of HDR processing but also different modes of HDR processing to different parts of the image using the control point technology.

Hi,

From what I've seen, testing myself and renderings from others, with HDR-Efex Pro there is still a tendency towards halo formation, due to the way that the U-point technology creates masks.

Other programs also offer local manual adjustments. SNS-HDR Pro offers layers with (smart) masking capability which can be saved for additional adjustments at a later stage, Expose 3 offers Dodge and Burn brushes during the tonemapping session.

Cheers,
Bart
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paulziets
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2013, 11:25:43 AM »
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Alan,
Give the trial version of SNS Pro a go. You will be pleasantly surprised.
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Kevin Raber
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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2013, 11:39:15 AM »
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While I have used and like Nik and PhotoMatix I have recently been using a new program called HDR Expose 3.  I am doing a review of this software for this site.  Once you get the hang of it this software has some very powerful features and produces a very natural result.  You can see more at Unified Color.  I'll have a review posted towards the end of November.  What I have experienced and the workflow is very impressive. 

Kevin Raber
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Misirlou
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2013, 11:42:29 AM »
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I'll put in a vote for Oloneo Photo Engine, and for very little cost, try LREnfuse (if you use Lightroom). But, I've also gotten good results from Photomatx and Nik's product too.
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Hening Bettermann
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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2013, 12:42:22 PM »
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SNS-HDR has disappointed me by introducing a purple cast in the sky. It may be possible to tweak this, but ImageFuser (Mac) gives me unchanged colors right out of the box, see image at at left. Donation ware.
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2013, 12:49:53 PM »
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I'll have a review posted towards the end of November.  What I have experienced and the workflow is very impressive.

Hi Kevin,

As someone involved with HDR tonemapping for many moons (more than a decade in fact) already, I'm looking forward to the review. Although not your intention for that single product review, it would be interesting if you could spend some time with what Christian Bloch, Author of the HDRI handbook described on his website as "SNS-HDR Pro. It rocks!":
Quote from: Christian Bloch
I'm just coming from a review marathon of 20 HDR programs for the upcoming book revision. Turned out that one application really stood out from the crowd. I figured it would be mean to not share this with you right away, because you can most certainly use it for some great photography in the meantime.

That comes from a real authority in the HDRI world, not just someone with an opinion.

Cheers,
Bart

P.S. The current drawback of SNS-HDR Pro is that it's a Windows program only, but it's so much better than the rest that people will use Parallels to be able and run it on a Mac.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 01:05:27 PM by BartvanderWolf » Logged
BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2013, 01:02:47 PM »
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SNS-HDR has disappointed me by introducing a purple cast in the sky. It may be possible to tweak this, but ImageFuser (Mac) gives me unchanged colors right out of the box, see image at at left. Donation ware.

Hi Hening,

May depend on the source images. I never get such issues, but I work with TIFF input, not Raw. It also allows to preserve the TIFF color profile one prefers to work in.

The benefit of using TIFFs as input files is that you can apply your personal Capture sharpening and Chromatic Aberration corrections (and even noise reduction on the lowest exposure bracket frames only). That also allows to use a different White balance for the longer Shadow exposures than for the shorter highlight exposures (e.g. daylight WB for outside the window shots, and more tungsten WB for the interiors, in case of an architectural interior setting).

And that is just for the input brackets, even before working with the program's tonemapping controls which offer huge flexibility, and Real-time screen updates, which is a revelation for creative work.

Cheers,
Bart
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 01:18:36 PM by BartvanderWolf » Logged
Hening Bettermann
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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2013, 01:19:48 PM »
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Hi Bart,

the input was TIFs! -

Do you use different white balances globally, by exposure, rather than by area (sunlit-shadow)? - Well, that's another topic.

Kind regards - Hening.

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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2013, 01:26:16 PM »
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Hi Bart,

the input was TIFs! -

Strange that it would produce such magenta shifted blues then.

Quote
Do you use different white balances globally, by exposure, rather than by area (sunlit-shadow)? - Well, that's another topic.

Yes, discussing that in detail would be a bit too much off-topic for this thread, but in short, it depends on the scene. Could make an interesting thread of its own though, the benefits of using TIFFs as input for exposure fusion ...

Cheers,
Bart
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cortlander
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« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2013, 08:32:16 AM »
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I have used Photomatix, Photoshop's HDR and NIK's HDR Efex Pro-2. My strong preference is for HDR Efex Pro-2.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2013, 02:15:55 PM »
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Hi Alan,

I prefer SNS-HDR Pro for natural looking HDRI tonemapping. Tonemapping of HDRIs has improved a lot in Photoshop CS6 with the introduction of Process version 2012, which can handle floating point TIFF composites, but it is still not as good as SNS-HDR Pro (a new version (2.0) is expected this month or soon after that, according to it's author).

I find that Photomatix has improved a lot over the years, but it is still too easy to produce completely over-the-top abominations. I prefer realistic renderings, which can then still be tweaked into a more abstract version if needed.

There are other contenders as well, but none of them performed as well a SNS-HDR Pro in my experience. Oloneo PhotoEngine appears to have had a very close look at SNS-HDR when they made that application, but it produced halo artifacts at high contrast window edges, last time I looked at it. It's also more expensive than SNS-HDR Pro. The HDR Expose program from Unified Colors looks promising for realistic looking work, but the versions I have tried had substandard HDR compositing functionality and were very slow in their rendering, compared to the real-time screen updates of SNS-HDR.

Cheers,
Bart


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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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Paul2660
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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2013, 06:38:58 PM »
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I have worked with Photomatrix, SNS-HDR, Photoshop CS5 Straight Tone mapping with actions, Nik HDR efex 1 & 2, and Oloeno. 

Currently if I find I need to use a HDR software I will lead with Nik HDR efex 2.  I also prefer to work with Tiff output as Bart mentioned since I can have much better control over the CA and sharpening.  This is very easy to do in LR with the Nik Plugin.  I have not tried the software Kevin mentions, but have looked at it in the past and will try it again.   Nik for me seems to have a very good grasp in most cases of ghosting/movement of subject matter (example branches moving due to wind), very good handle on noise (blending of images without noise creation), and an excellent alignment algorithm that works very well.  Sadly since Nik was sold to Google, there has not been any more innovations to this software and probably won't be.  Nik via LR runs very quickly, saves the file to the catalog and then allows you to do more work on the file in LR before you export the image.

Photomatrix I have tried on and off over the years, and occasionally I like what I get from the tone mapping solution the HDR output tends to show the 3D grunge look too quickly for me.  I also don't prefer the design of their interface, it's overdue for a newer look. 

SNS-HDR I worked with (Pro) version over 1 year ago, and just did not seem to see output I like, or workflow.  As I recall it was not a plug-in and was stand alone, (but I may have that wrong). 

Oloeno was a tool I used heavily until Nik updated their software to vr 2.  Again, stand alone and for a long time was not aware of color managed monitors, but that was fixed finally.  By color management I refer to a NEC spectraview software generated monitor profile.

Since I started shooting the Nikon D800, I find I rarely need HDR processing any more as the range of a singe raw file at lower iso has so much room.  I am also finding this to be true with the Fuji X-E1.  I mainly looked at HDR software to assist in exposure blending not the grunge look, over processed look. 

The nice thing about most of these tools is that they offer a good trial program so you can test several at once.

Paul Caldwell
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Paul Caldwell
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Alan Matuka
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2013, 06:54:01 AM »
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Thank you all for your answers :-)
Since I work on Mac only it seems that I will have to choose between Nik HDR efex pro and Photomatix. I have to say that I am not very keen on over-the-top effects, and would use HDR software to extend tonal range in the shot ( i.e. zone system ) and perhaps to give it a bit of surreal effect - ' a bit ' being a key part of the expression.

As you said, best thing would be to do parallel test with Photomatix and Nik HDR, and see the results.
Thank you once again, I will let you know what works best for me.
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francois
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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2013, 07:24:47 AM »
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Thank you all for your answers :-)
Since I work on Mac only it seems that I will have to choose between Nik HDR efex pro and Photomatix.


HDR Expose 3 is also supposed to be working on a Mac. I haven't found the time to test it and I look forward to Kevin's review.
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Francois
Alan Matuka
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2013, 07:48:01 AM »
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HDR Expose 3 is also supposed to be working on a Mac. I haven't found the time to test it and I look forward to Kevin's review.


Me too  Smiley
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2013, 09:52:21 AM »
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HDR Expose 3 is also supposed to be working on a Mac. I haven't found the time to test it and I look forward to Kevin's review.

Hi Francois,

HDR Expose has become much better since the introduction of version 3 earlier this year, and it  can produce pretty good quality output. It's tonemapping is not as flexible and adjustable as with SNS-HDR, but the image quality comes close.

Photomatix is currently preparing a beta version 5, which also offers some improved exposure fusion and more realistic tonemapping, but I would not rate its image quality as high as the other two.

Cheers,
Bart
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francois
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2013, 10:32:47 AM »
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Hi Francois,

HDR Expose has become much better since the introduction of version 3 earlier this year, and it  can produce pretty good quality output. It's tonemapping is not as flexible and adjustable as with SNS-HDR, but the image quality comes close.

Photomatix is currently preparing a beta version 5, which also offers some improved exposure fusion and more realistic tonemapping, but I would not rate its image quality as high as the other two.

Cheers,
Bart

Hi Bart,
Thanks for the info. I'll download the trial version of HDR Expose and give it a try. I'm not fond of the HDR look and much prefer natural looking images.
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Francois
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