20 September 2012
HDR EFEX PRO 2
One of my essential plugins for photoshop is NIK software's HDR EFEX PRO and like all of NIK software, it's top notch but not without limitations. Recently, there was a new update and I was quite exited to see what had changed
There is a new and, I think, much improved interface. It falls in line with the adobe dark interface ideas and most of the controls are set up in new ways. There is also more control of how you import the images with a couple new windows that include previews and magnified views. You also have the option to open the HDR as a smart object which makes it editable and allows you to go back and change parameters in HDR EFEX pro if you change your mind later on.
Speed seems slowed down in some respects, but the opening of the image is somewhat faster but adjustments are no longer smooth and the time lag is noticeable. There are all new algorithms for the HDR effects and they really make a difference, especially in tough areas like grain and when you have large areas of one color, as in blue skies or clouds. Previously you could get awful looking dark areas in those situations, but it was no problem in my tests.
Getting rid of ghosts caused by moving areas over your bracketed photos was the major weak point in HDR EFEX pro 1, so much so I gave up on using that feature. Happy to say that has been addressed and it uses a similar solution as photoshop does (which I found to the be the only strong point of photoshop's HDR functions). Just this improvement alone was worth the upgrade price for me.
one more thing I've noticed as I play with the software. The drop down menu for changing the HDR method has disappeared. I suspect the variety of methods is now handled by the additional slider controls but "halo reduction" which is a big problem in HDR images is now gone. I did learn that higher anti-ghosting levels are a big source of halos in this version but it would be nice to have a way to reduce halos using the pin selections or at least globally.