The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015
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Old 11-15-2015   #1
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Wink The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Recent bad weather has kept me indoors recently so I have been reprocessing old bracketed sets with 2015 software. To some extent my taste has changed but some of my old stuff processed with nik HDR Efects and Photomatix 4 was just not up to scratch! So, in this thread, I will be showing you 5 sets processed with:
Photoshop CC 2015

and
Lightroom CC
(both on a friend's PC)
Easy HDR v. 3.7,
Machinery HDR v. 2.9.60 (trial),
Photomatix v. 5.1.1
SNS-HDR v. 1.x.
I have also included nik HDR Efex Pro 2 (2012). Yes, it's old software but for the most part it has stood the test of time. Unfortunately this roundup is a bit too early for the new Aurora app, but anyway I don't have a Mac.

As I said earlier, 5 image sets were chosen - all were hand-held. One easy, 2 moderate and 2 difficult (not enough exposures or foliage movement). I set myself some workflow riles as follows:

Preprocessing. All the RAW images were denoised, CA reduced and had lens correction with DxO Optics Pro. The results were saved as DNG files.

Processing. If available, the best preset was selected and then the tone curve tweaked until the histogram did not have a "tail" at either end. No attempt was made to adjust the saturation or colour rendering to see whether the software had a particular weakness - 0EV images are provided for comparison purposes. Image alignment, CA and denoising facilities were used to the full in all the applications.

Post-processing. PP was kept to the minimum. If necessary Levels and Shadows/Highlights recovery were applied. After resizing, very mild sharpening was done using Topaz InFocus.

Your comments are welcomed and if necessary, I can upload an image set if anyone thinks they can do better than I can!

Martin

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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-15-2015   #2
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Set #'1 0EV


EasyHDR

Note halo adjacent to the left hand gutter.

Lightroom 6 2015

Lifeless, "flat" image

Photoshop CC 2015

Lifeless, "flat" image.

Machinery HDR

Poor image alignment, particularly in the bottom left corner.

nik HDR Efex Pro

Lifeless

Photomatix (Contrast Optimizer method)

Drab grey sky and halos above the roofline. Drab foreground

SNS-HDR v 1.x


Best, IMO: SNS-HDR
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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-15-2015   #3
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Set #2 0EV


EasyHDR

Good alignment and deghosting

Lightroom 6

Good alignment and deghosting. Background greens a bit too bright

Photoshop CC

Good alignment and deghosting, drab Acer leaves.

Machinery HDR.
Terrible alignment and deghosting!

nik HDR Efex

Good alignment and deghosting, colours a bit over-saturated

Photomatix 5 (Contrast Optimizer)

Supeb image alignment and deghosting, colours slightly over-saturated.

SNS-HDR 1.x

Poor deghosting, accurate colour rendering

Best: nik HDR Efex & Photomatic
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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-15-2015   #4
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Set #3 0EV


EasyHDR

Poor foreground rendering

Lightroom

Burned out clouds, "flat" foreground.

Photoshop CC

Dull foreground, burned out clouds

nik HDR Efex

Horrible halos! I tried my best to eliminate them but failed.

Machinery HDR



Photomatix (Contrast Optimizer)


SNS-HDR 1.x

Very good foreground.

Best: Machinery HDR and SNS-HDR
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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-15-2015   #5
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Set #4 0EV


Easy HDR


Lightroom 6 2015

Dull foreground


Photoshop CC

Sky too bright and foreground too dark

Machinery HDR


nik HDR Efex


Photomatix 5 (Contrast Optimizer)


SNS-HDR 1.x


Best: EasyHDR, Machinery HDR, SNS-HDR
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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-15-2015   #6
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Set #5 0EV


EasyHDR

Not bad but the foreground does not match m,y memory of this scene.

Lightroom 6

Foreground a bit too dark

Photoshop CC

Foreground too dark

Machinery HDR

Poor alignment - see stones and vegetation on the left hand side

nik HDR Efex

Very natural colours

Photomatix 5 (Contrast Optimizer)

Slight over-saturation

SNS-HDR 1.x

Very true to life colours

Best: nik HDR Efex, SNS-HDR
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Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-15-2015   #7
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Resume

This was a bit of a marathon but I think the effort was worth it. The first conclusion, as has been said on this board before, is that there is no one perfect piece of HDR software. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Here are some general comment about each application.

EasyHDR
Intuitive interface and easy to use - unless you want to delve deep into advanced deghosting.Very good image alignment and automatic deghosting. Like earlier versions of Photomatix, EasyHDR would not process DNG files generated by DxO Optics Pro. (I used TIFs instead.)

Lightroom 6
Simple interface and very easy to use. Excellent image alignment and deghosting. But it does not tonemap, your images are blended.

Photoshop CC
I have used Photoshop for many years and am used to it - but I do not like the HDR interface. Like Lightroom it only blends images. Excellent image alignment.

Machinery HDR
The interface seemed strange at first but I soon got used to it. There are numerous presets which would be helpful to a first time user. However, image alignment and deghostuing are very poor. Worse, the presets are not aligned properly unless you have used a tripod.


nikl HDR Efex
A bit quirky but a very powerful set of tools once you get used to them. Very good image alignment and deghosting. Halos are rare but, as you have just seen, they can occur. There is a tendency to over-saturate blue skies.

Photomatix 5
The interface is bold, clear but a bit old fashioned. Because of poor eyesight, I like it. If you use the Contrast Optimizer method it is simple to use. For other methods there is a bewildering array of sliders. Halos are rare if you use the Contrast Optimizer method, but occur at the drop of the hat if you use the Details Enhancer method. Results tend to be a bit over-saturated. Reds seem to be particularly prone to this fault. Photomatix often generates images that have an artistic(?) "glow". However, this can be almost eliminated during post processing by using a micro-contrast sharpener.

SNS-HDR 1.x
The interface is intuitive albeit a bit crowded. (This have been much improved in version 2 alpha). Colour rendering is consistently natural and it handles blues and greens particularly well. Halos are very rare. Image alignment is good but deghosting is non-existent.

Martin
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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!



Last edited by Stiga; 11-16-2015 at 04:14 AM.. Reason: GUI image added
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Old 11-15-2015   #8
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Nice comparison Martin. Which preset in Photomatix did you start with?
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Old 11-15-2015   #9
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

Quote:
Originally Posted by FotoNut View Post
Nice comparison Martin. Which preset in Photomatix did you start with?
I used the Contrast Optimizer Method Default setting. I tried the Balanced setting but it created a bad halo and an unnatural grey sky. Photomatix has had a halo problem since day 1 with some image sets. Contrast Optimizer introduced in version 5 has improved matters but has not eliminated the problem completely.

Thanks for your interest.

Martin
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Martin

Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.

Software: Too numerous to list but my most used utility is ShiftN for perspective correction

Gear: Canon G12, no tripod, no lenses, no flash, no remote, no cases or bags!


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Old 11-16-2015   #10
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Default Re: The Great HDR Software roundup - 2015

For image set 3 (leaves), I found several of the HDR packages showed alignment/ghosting problems in the background that was not mentioned in the captions. Photomatix, for example, showied alignment/ghosting problems in the background, most noticeable in the lower left. Easy HDR was worse than Photomatix in this respect. The others either passed this test or have already been flagged for poor alignment, but the ones that passed have been dinged for their color rendering. It was also interesting that the the ones that showed up alignment problems in the foreground were okay in the background. Apparently, none was entirely successful with this image, though Photomatix apparently had the best combination of color rendering with least conspicuous alignment problems.

In image set #5 (desert scene) EasyHDR, Photoshop, and Photomatix showed some alignment/ghosting problems in the sky at the upper left. So did Machinery, but the caption already mentions alignment problems for that image. Lightroom 6 shows some bizarre banding effect in the sky at upper right.

If I were to select only one HDR software package, based on what I have seen and read here, SNS-HDR would be my best bet for overall rendering unless you have ghosting problems, with Photomatix in Contrast Optimizer mode or Nik HDR Efex being a backup when alignment and ghosting - how do you distinguish between these? - is a problem. In fact, I am thinking about getting one or more HDR packages.


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