Sat 13-Nov-10 11:30 PM | edited Sat 13-Nov-10 11:34 PM by augustf
I finally got out to capture images to process in Nik HDR Efex Pro which I haven't had the opportunity to use yet. These were taken at Lorton Reformatory (Prison) south of Washington DC. The prison was closed in the early 2000's after a colorful past, and Congress legislated that the land could be used for the good of the community, so it was transformed into an artist's colony. The barracks now house studios for working artists - like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. Anyway, they wouldn't allow me to take pictures in the studios, but I was free to roam the grounds.
I went there around noon looking for scenes with wide tonal range. This is the first one I processed in both programs. The first was processed in Photomatix, and the second in HDR Efex Pro. To my mind, and eye, the results are comparable aside from the cooler hue in the Photomatix rendition which can be corrected (or not). So for me, the differences involve working with the program and what's involved in getting from here to there.
When you open an image in HDR Efex Pro, you are presented with about 33 presets with thumbnails on the left of the UI. These are visual indicators of what the image will look like if you click on that preset. You can just click through all 33 to find the one that give you the starting point closest to where you want to start, kinda like camera calibration in Lightroom and Camera Raw. There are even two presets for single image processing. I find these extremely valuable as you don't have to adjust individual sliders and guess where your image will end up as you do with Photomatix. You can even filter these preset to see your image in different modes like realistic, landscape, artistic, etc. I used one of the realistic presets for my HDR Efex image. For my adjustments in Photomatix I defaulted to Don Menges's recipe.
The global adjustment sliders are on the right of the UI and begin at the top with a tone compression slider which will globally scale back the highlights and open shadows. Below those are individual adjusment sliders; exposure, contrast, saturation, stucture, blacks, whites and warmth, all self explanatory. It's important to note that when you click on a present, all of these sliders are adjusted accordingly, so you can see how the sliders are set for the preset you chose, and you can move the sliders to make further adjustments as needed.
Next is an HDR Method drop down menu that allows you to pick what I can only describe as a finishing look such as crisp or clean or illuminate. I chose crisp for this image.
Below that is the real power of Nik software - the control points for selective adjustments. You just can't argue with the ability to add control points to selectively adjust a specific area. Those who have used other Nik apps or Capture NX know what I'm talking about.
Finally you have preset vignettes and preset levels and curves adjustment. I used neither on this image. When you're finished you click save and the image shows up in Lightroom just like Photomatix.
Bottom line for me: With all the controls and visual cues present in HDR Efex, I'm leaning in that direction, strongly. The UI is very intuitive, simple and laid out very well. There are lots of tutorial videos on the Nik Software site, although the site is not the easiest for finding what you are looking for. I just felt a lot surer about where I was going with this image as I progressed through the processing.
I'm not trying to sell anyone. This is only my impression of the app based on one image, but I do like the process. As I stated in the beginning, I think essentially, the results are comparable, but the process is different enough and easier enough to make me prefer it for now. I want to do some interiors, and capture some images at different times of the day to really exploit the program. No, I have not tried Oloneo as I believe it's still only available for PC's, not Macs.
D3 14-24mm ISO 200 5 images Sharpened in Nik Sharpener
Interesting report August, thank you. I just downloaded the trial version of HDR Efex and was impressed. I did find a glitch though. I tried processing a series of 9 exposures and the program refused to do it. I then trimmed it down to four exposures (the same series) and it did process this batch. Have you had a similar problem?
Otherwise, I like the program but for the money it seems a little steep. I'm still using Photomatix 4.0 and am anxiously waiting for Oloneo PhotoEngine to go to full release and see what that program is going to cost. I have been using PhotoEngine quite a bit lately and it is great in MHO and the fastest of the three in my limited testing.
Ernesto Santos esartprints.comErnesto Santos Photography Get my new e-Book "Churches of Texas"
Sun 14-Nov-10 07:35 PM | edited Sun 14-Nov-10 07:52 PM by Cavy2
Thanks August for explaining the process. I've had the same problem as Ernesto with 7 images. As for results, found Photomatix worked better on some, and Efex better on others. Efex gave me some weird skies where Photomatix didn't, and as Ernesto said, the price is steep. Also found Efex to be very slow. I think Efex shines when processing one file. I'll play through the trial period. I'm more adept at Photomatix, as I've used it for quite some time.
Thanks for replying. Just trying to be helpful and let people who have been wondering about HDR Efex Pro what they what they will be dealing with.
You know, I think that each program will yield results better with different images, and I haven't been able to identify why or what kind of images work best with what program. I noticed the same thing with Photomatix and CS4 HDR. HDR in CS5 is supposed to be greatly improved, so I'll have to try that one as well.
I didn't find it to be slower, and was also impressed with the job it did on single images. I was using five images for this trial. I mentioned in my reply to Ernesto, and I should have mentioned in the original post, that I was using Photomatix 3.x, so I'll have to download the 4.0 to evaluate as well. The voyage continues.........
De l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace!
I used five images for my HDR processing this time. Part of the evaluation is going to have to include using more images as well as other sets of circumstances. I did use it on single images and was impressed with the results there as well. Also, I should have mentioned that I was using Photomatix 3.X. I'll have to download the 4.0 update and compare that too. I also need to compare with CS5's updated HDR process. Just looking for the process that I think yields the best results for me. The upside is that there are so many options available; the downside is that there are so many options available.
De l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace!
Photomatix 4 is much better and faster. I have the nik efex for both mac and pc. It runs great on the mac but not on the pc. It says that I don't have enough memory the 32 bit version has problems there working on a fix for it. I work with all 3. Oloneo, photomatix and efex
One more image for comparison. I processed this one in CS5 HDR. The first and probably only difference I noted was that the colors in the brickwork were not as vibrant. I only added basic global adjustments in Lightroom and sharpened in Nik Sharpener, as I did with the others.
I just downloaded the trial Efex copy yesterday. In looking at the one HDR I did in Efex and examining the examples here, I have the impression that Efex yields a sharper image than does Photomatix. Anyone else have this impression?
I see that this is an old thread, but if you don't mind how has everyone been getting along with their use of Photomatix vs. HDR EFEX?
This point here is probably justification alone for me acquiring HDR EFEX: "Below that is the real power of Nik software - the control points for selective adjustments. You just can't argue with the ability to add control points to selectively adjust a specific area. Those who have used other Nik apps or Capture NX know what I'm talking about. "
I am a committed Capture NX2 guy, so I would only be using HDR EFEX in standalone mode (just like I do currently with Photomatix 4.2). BTW Photomatix 4.2 seems to have a number of good new features!
>I see that this is an old thread, but if you don't mind how >has everyone been getting along with their use of Photomatix >vs. HDR EFEX? > >This point here is probably justification alone for me >acquiring HDR EFEX: >"Below that is the real power of Nik software - the >control points for selective adjustments. You just can't argue >with the ability to add control points to selectively adjust a >specific area. Those who have used other Nik apps or Capture >NX know what I'm talking about. " > >I am a committed Capture NX2 guy, so I would only be using HDR >EFEX in standalone mode (just like I do currently with >Photomatix 4.2). BTW Photomatix 4.2 seems to have a number of >good new features! > >Best regards, SteveK > >'A camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see >without a camera.' -- Dorothea Lange >My >Nikonians gallery> >My Nikonians Blog
Very nice work Frank! Beautiful natural rendering, which is what I strive for.
Longer term it looks like I better pencil in getting HDR FX.
BTW let me know if you guys heard any rumblings about Photomatix 5.0 and what it may bring to the table?
I am a little torn about HDR in the first place but on the other hand I am not. My minds eye can see the light and rendering, that's why I take the darn photo in the first place! And HDR helps me to show what I see, not what the digital sensor renders in a single shot.
I'm guessing the people in this forum feel the same way about light and dynamic range as I do.
Thanks Kathy, that was a great article and the examples very helpful! I'm drawing some shorter-term conclusions:
- at minimum I'm not leagues behind with my current Photomatix, so that is a relief (I wasn't at all sure how the current comparisons were).
- I actually liked the Photomatix renderings in several cases where the author gave an edge to HDR EFEX. I've just been doing some Exposure Fusions and in many cases I ended up happiest with renderings with more blocked shadows, but each to their own. I also have a goal of doing some Low-Key dark-rendering photography, although very little experience on my part.
- I need to handle ghosting better. Gotta go back to the drawing board on a couple images - darn wind! I also need to work with 4.2 to try those new features as it appears there are some dramatically better capabilities in 4.2.
BTW love your Bucks County and Downtown Indianapolis Canal Off topic but let me know if you are aware of a method to run Topaz Simplify stand-alone (I am a Capture NX2 guy). I have always wanted that software too!
Hi Steve, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I find myself using it as a reference. I too liked most of the results from the Photomatix renderings, and was glad to see Nik published the article. I have found Nik to be most responsive in all areas, hope that will continue now that they were purchased by Google.
I'm working with a shot from my driveway that has a huge dynamic range (shade on the drive and strong light on the fall trees). Getting some weird black artifacts where the DR is the strongest. I've tried many exposure combos, and haven't found one that's a complete success. Lots of moving leaves as well. This one has proven to be a real challenge!
I use NX2 a lot for my infrared processing, and mostly use CS5 for regular stuff. I always use my Topaz programs in CS5, so don't know if it will run alone. I have found them to be very responsive as well, I'd ask if they have it the works.
Do you have Color Efex Pro 4? I just upgraded from 3, and find I'm using these filters more than Topaz.
Thanks for your kind comments on my pics. Glad you enjoyed them!
Interesting thread -- I'm in the market for an HDR program. I do a lot of cabin interiors for a project I'm working for the National Park Service. I used CS5 all last winter with decent results, but it is so agonisingly slow and I find the controls somewhat limiting. I've been looking at Oloneo because of its reputation for processing speed, relative ease of use, and a reasonable learning curve. Can anyone comment on Photoengine versus the NIK product?
Hi Neal, I've had Oloneo for about a year now, and use it frequently, but mostly on one file HDR renderings. My experience has been the blended file appears too sharp, and the controls are somewhat limited. When I process bracketed shots I use HDR Efex or Photomatix.
HI Neil, Here's two 4 shot files processed in both Oloneo and Photomatix. Both are before any pp is done in Photoshop (which they both need). Photomatix always needs some contrast added. This file group had a huge dynamic range. Oloneo's rendering looks more natural, but Photomatix has more of the color dynamics that I was looking for. Again, this is without the benefit of pp.
An interesting and useful comparison, Kathy. Thank you.
I tend to like a very realistic rendering, and probably would have aimed for something in between, perhaps the first with some warmth added in Photoshop. I'm personally just a bit bothered by the intensity and saturation of the greens in the Photomatix version, but that is a matter of taste. Doesn't Oloneo have a means to adjust color balance during the process?
Could you estimate how long you spent in each software package to produce these renderings?
Sorry for the late response Neal. I didn't spend much time in either program with these. I like the new controls in Photomatix, but with both programs I make most of my final detail adjustments in CS5. I always bring them into Photoshop to fine tune anyway, so I'm personally more comfortable adjusting WB and such in CS5.
From my camera, I most always get a cool tone from Oloneo and magenta tones in Photomatix.
After looking at these two versions I think they are a lot closer than most people think. They both have a color cast issue. That is where I would start once they are processed in photoshop.
The Oloneo image is slightly cool and needs to be warmed up a bit to eliminate the blue color cast. The Photomatix image has to much magenta, fixing that should still let the colors pop but bring it back to a more natural look.
Contrary to popular 'best practices' on HDR processing, I have found that sharpening the individual images prior to input into the HDR programs (Photomatix and HDR Efex 2) gives me better results than sending in unsharpened images and sharpening after processing. (I use LR as my main editing program).
I like to do HDR panoramics and sometimes I have to process up to 420 photo's, made up of three rows of twenty (positions) and then seven pictures (+3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2 and -3) for each position. Photmatix will allow you to batch process all the pictures, just put in the number of pictures, 3, 4, 5 etc. 'starting with...' usually the first picture in the batch. It then counts the number of pictures you have specified and then creates an HDR file (JPG, TIFF...) for each batch of pictures. I then put all the pictures in PTGui and then depending on the number of pictures, come back a bit later and its all stitched. I haven't been able to find this on HDREfex yet, but for single HDR's I think its personal choice between HDREfex and Photomatix. Funnily enough, the November issue of Digital Photo Magazine in the UK did a test of some popular HDR software and for them, HDR Efex Pro 2 came out on top. They particularly liked the auto-alignment feature and the creative presets. Photomatix Pro 4 came second (they also tested Oloneo HDRengine v1.1 and Elements 10 Photomerge). Of course, CS5 or 6 may probably be better than Elements 10. Like I said, for me the batch processing feature in Photomatix is quite important (until I find a way to do it in HDR Efex Pro...) and there's no reason you can't create your own presets...
Hi Steve, I wonder the same thing. My thought is if there's information that doesn't appear in the +2 than yes. I guess it's and image by image thing. I'd be interested to get some other takes on this.