A different HDR software comparison

I had my first contact with HDR about 7/8 years ago.
With HDR it’s just you like it or you don’t.
I liked it alot.
Mind blowing colors and the striking details were the things that attracted me the most.
So, not really photo-realistic, but more surreal was my thing.
Of course, that’s different for everyone.
I started searching the internet for HDR images,
and after a while, I stumbled upon a website called “Stuck In Customs” from Trey Ratcliff.

stuck-in-customsvisit his site @ http://www.stuckincustoms.com
His stunning pictures initiated me to make HDR’s myself.
After some research, I found out I needed an HDR software program,
a tripod, and a camera with bracketing technique.
The tripod and camera were ok.
The HDR software I found online.
At that time, Open Source HDR software was scarce to find,
or was in its development fase.
Time flew by experimenting with all kinds of “half finished” software, and software that didn’t fill my needs.
So I had to buy something that worked, and could produce my kind of HDR’s.
I found this in the form of Essential HDR from Imaging Luminary.
Early 2009 I bought a license for about 30 $ and got started.
Essential HDR has two possible output flows,
one is the Fast Tone Balancer, the other is the Detail Revealer.
This last one interested me the most, and still does.
Unfortunately, the Imaging Luminary website ( http://imagingluminary.com )
is somewhat down from the half of 2014, and today still mentions “Coming Soon”.
I hope it does.
Until today I still often use Essential HDR,
it’s simple, not too much bells and whistles,
and most important : the output picture quality is very good.
But my major HDR developing program today is Luminance HDR,
formerly known as Qtpfsgui.
Whatever program you use, or start using, it’s important to keep experimenting.
It improves your HDR picture output quality, and refines your HDR workflow.
Also looking at the “competition’s” pictures, keeps you on your toes to improve your own.
Photomatix is used by my HDR favorite Trey Ratcliff, and I just wanted to know if my open source software could measure up against it.
I downloaded trial versions of Photomatix Essentials 4.0.1 64bit and Photomatix Pro 5.0 64bit,
and started testing with both Photomatix versions, and compared the results with testings done with
Essential HDR 1.0.623 and Luminance HDR 2.4.0.
Of course such tests are highly dependent from its programs capability’s, parameters and settings.
So, one on one comparison is out of the question.
I look at what it can produce – is it to my liking ?
and to sharpness and noise production.
I was pleased to see that Luminance HDR, and even my old Essential HDR had surprisingly high quality outputs
compared with the ones from both Photomatix versions.
Very much all stands or falls with the programs chosen settings, strength and other parameters.
It was a test for eyes and taste.
And that is pretty much different for everyone.
Below some info and sample HDR outputs from the different programs.

HDR with Gimp.
Yes, also this is possible, but you need some scripts.
“Exposure blend” http://registry.gimp.org/node/6708 is needed to do the first step.
“Advanced Tone Mapping” http://registry.gimp.org/node/5980 needed for the tone mapping
“Vivid Saturation” http://gimpfx-foundry.sourceforge.net/browse26/salonen-vivid-saturation.html for pumping up the colors.
And “Wavelet Sharpening and Wavelet Denoise” wich is part of Gimp Partha 2.8.14 http://www.partha.com/
First three scripts also available in my own “Photographer” compilation : http://www.digicrea.be/downloads/my-downloads/
Creating an HDR with Gimp Partha is complicated but lots of fun. ( click the pictures for bigger view )









Photomatix Essentials.
There are two versions, the Essentials and the Pro version.
The Essentials version, as you could expect, is a lot more simplified than the Pro.
And as a result of that, not many space for creativity. 




Photomatix Pro.
A little bit the same interface as the Essentials version, but loaded with lots of settings and possibilities.
I think, if you are interested in buying Photomatix, I would go for the Pro version.
The Essentials version is to limited.
Also notice the resemblance with the Luminance HDR interface and workflow.





Luminance HDR.
As been said before here, very similar look and feel, interface and workflow as Photomatix Pro.
With Luminance HDR you have to test out everything a bit, but after a while, and when you find your “thing”, Luminance HDR can produce stunning results and this at no cost – exept your donation of course 🙂




Essential HDR.
Still in use with me, and although old, a surprisingly high quality output compared with the above mentioned HDR software programs.
With only two possible workflows, Fast Tone Balancer and Detail Revealer, I still get the results that I like.
What is there more to say.
Ow, yeah, I hope Imaging Luminary rises again, and produce an awesome update for its old software.







Stuck In Customs from Trey Ratcliff http://www.stuckincustoms.com/

Pat David http://blog.patdavid.net/2013/05/hdr-photography-with-foss-tools.html



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