07 November 2010
I am not an HDR expert by any means, but in some ways I think that helps in deciding with software I want to use. I am very «results orientated» when it comes to work and usually the background tech doesn't interest me very much if the final product is what I was going after. So looking at these 3 options I was mostly looking at how easily I got to my goal.
Photomatix: as far as smoothnees went this one topped the others, at 100% there was very little noise to be seen and gave the most «photoreal» images. Options were limited and the interface out of date. It was the fastest processing the images of the 3. More painterly treatments of the image I found harder to control and get what I wanted.
Photoshop CS5: I huge step up from other version, I like the interface well enough and really liked the «details» slider for bringing out details in the images, something the other two was less straightforward about. The «photorealness» of the images was hard to accomplish and it takes quite a while playing around to get what you want. More illustrated looks are much easier to do.
HDR Efex Pro: Very nice interface, the best of the 3 with options to work on portions on the images and not globally all the time. Presets are fantastic starting points and there are lots of them. Images are much noisier than Photomatix, but less than Photoshop and that can be fixed with tweaking to a large extent. As slow or slower than Photoshop importing and processing the photos.
All 3 are excellent choices, budget comes into play. HDR is included in CS5, the Photomatix plugin is 100$ while the HDR Efex Pro is 160$, a little steep. For a «1050’s postcard» look which I like, CS5 gave me more of what I wanted with HDR Efex a close second, Photomatix was a hands down winner in realistic treatment with HDR Efex a close second there. So a lot will come down to personal taste but I’d say, despite price a little too high, that HDR Efex Pro is the one I’ll go with. A big advantage is the speed of use. Getting what I wanted took less than 2 minutes while it took at least 30 in CS5 and never quite made it in Photomatix. (for this style of image). All 3 needed tweaking in Photoshop proper afterwards, which is to be expected I think.
HDR Efex and Photoshop : Glowing around edges much more noticeable in Photoshop
Photomatix: much more realistic, but falls short on illustrated look