Posts Tagged ‘Nik’

And finally it is here. The battle not just me have been waiting for. I gonna compare two of the best and maybe most used software for HDR processing. I’ll keep my eye on speed, noise, allignment, ghosting and of course overall result and user interface. So let’s start.

The first thing I was really interested in was noise reduction and how both pieces of software handle noise while processing. For this purposes I took three shots with my Canon XSi and 70-200. I found a contrasty scene in my kitchen. ISO sensitivity was set on 100, the lowest possible. Here are the two files, one processed with Photomatix and one with HDR Efex Pro.

Because both programs have different user interface getting the same result was a bit difficult, but I think it isn’t so bad after all. So here is the image. To see 100% view just click the image.

ISO test

On the left side is Photomatix 4.0 and on the right side is HDR Efex Pro 1.2. Pretty dramatic difference in noise reduction. I have a DiG!C III CMOS sensor and noise for me is a huge problem. I can’t shoot higher than ISO 400 for prints and ISO 1600 is almost unuseable 😦 So better noise reduction, better mark. On non of the three source files have been applied noise reduction in Lightroom.

Another aspect was speed. How long did it take since pressing the button export to HDR Efex Pro/Photomatix and clicking OK for both ways to have a picture I can start working with. Only software launched during this test was Lightroom. Photomatix did it in 01:17.34 which isn’t really bad. A lot faster than Photoshop CS5, but Nik did it in 01:16.02! Photomatix vs Nik 0:2!

Less noise and higher speed are good but they aren’t the most important things that matter. It is the final result. Today I took an HDR shoot of Venceslav’s Square in Prague and processed it both with Nik and Photomatix. This time I wasn’t going for the same look but for look I liked. Because that is the point. I know in my mind how I could process shot when I take it. First, let’s have a look on Photomatix. I’ve been using it for some time now and I know some stuff. But the result?

Photomatix Processing

The result isn’t so bad but it could be a lot better! Actually I was so excited and processed it with Nik first so I know 😀 But anyway, what thing scared away a lot of people from HDR? Results. You have to process again the image using Lightroom, Camera Raw, Photoshop or anything. It is a must to get great final shot. This wasn’t any excepcion. And still the greend stuff in foreground and middleground looks oversaturated, I just can’t help it. Even with Lightroom. To get it better there was only one chance, jump into Photoshop and fix it there. I didn’t follow the last step. And for comparison the image processed with Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Nik HDR Efex Pro Process

I don’t know how about you, but the winner for me is clear! Photomatix vs. Nik HDR Efex Pro 0:3! And the battle is over 😀 This program is designed differently. Yes, it has the same features as Photomatix, but you can do the whole image here without post processing with Lightroom or anything! You have your exposure setting, blacks, whites, warmth, structure (clarity), curves (!!!), vignetting and that is basically all what you need. In Lightroom I just applied tone curve because I didn’t want it baked into the file and have ability to change it anyway I like afterwards.

My opinion? It is just a tool to get the job done. But I like Nik’s sofware better. You have many “HDR methods” how they call it but they are basically different looks. Something that is missing for me in Photomatix. Yes, you can create your own, but it will take a lot more time. Also the fact I don’t have to bother with it after I hit the OK button is great. Why should I change exposure setting in HDR Efex instead of LR? In LR i can modify it and nothing is baked in. That is true, but sometimes you now you’ll brighten it up. You just know it. Is there any difference if I make it in LR or in HDR Efex and have the same result? No.

It seems I’ll stick with HDR Efex Pro after all 🙂


The Infinite Road Uncorrected

Hi to all. During my exam period at the university I didn’t pass throught one exam and I’m waiting for second term. This term is planned on February 1st and my last exam was taken on January 17th. So this whole time I’m at home having nothing to do, because most of my friends are in Prague or spread around whole republic and, Slovakia, Russia, USA, UK, Austria, Australia and more countries around the world. So the only way how to keep in touch with them is using Social Network. Also because the bad weather I didn’t go out and make some pictures but today everything changed! 🙂

HDR from the Walk, Unprocessed

The temperature was quite good, about 0°C (32°F), no rain, no snow but just the sky wasn’t anything interesting. To be honest the sky was just one huge plane of grey color mixed sometimes with darker and lighter grey. And I wanted to go out in these conditions and shoot landscapes? Yes, not nature but landscapes!? I really had to be crazy ….

But really, the tip for today, and not just for today is simple. If the sky doesn’t look good, don’t put it into the scene. It is simple and effective. At least you won’t have that boring plane of grey color on the top of your images. Also sometimes this can help and you can use it to your advantage. With this plane made by clouds you get a free extra super large softbox and that is cool for portraits. This can be the plan B when weather isn’t so great outside.

In the begining of the post I put two images, both weren’t finished. The Infinite Road isn’t bad at all, but the white balance is absolutely somewhere else than it should be and with the HDR you can see a really bad blue tint. Here are the final images. For the road I used only Lightroom 3 to process it, for the HDR I had to jump into Photoshop, set black, white and grey point using curves and than I used a plug-in. The secret ingredience … Nik Software Color Efex and it’s Brillance/Warmth preset. Hope you’ll enjoy them.

The Infinite Road Processed

HDR from the Walk Processed

So after some time I checked again the status about Nik’s HDR software. Some people including me had the trouble with UI that loaded but I wasn’t able to see a thing. And to process the photo without seeing it is really crazy idea and quite impossible. What can cause this trouble?

Well if I got right what Nik said than they moved to a new graphic engine. Quite familiar technology as Photoshop moved to in CS4 version. When you opened your photos in CS4 and you got just black screen, then it is about graphic card so you needed to go under Preferences and uncheck that advanced graphic thing. But here with Nik it is about the same but different. You still get that black screen, but you cannot turn it off anyhow. And that is a huge problem.

But let’s be honest, there has to be a way how to test it. And I found it. Even for my PC. As you might know I’m using Windows 7 64 bit edition. And the software doesn’t work correctly with my ATI Radeon Mobility x2500 graphic card. But I’m so into Mac and Apple products overall. And under Mac I’m able to run this program! Isn’t it cool? I don’t know why but that is the way it is at will be. So I’m really looking forward to give it a try and then report it back to you in some kind of review. I might also compare it with Photoshop’s HDR Pro and Photomatix.

As you might know, HDR is becoming a huge “new” way in photography. I won’t be talking about how to shoot it but how to process it. Exactly in what software.

There are many programs that allows you to merge photos to HDR. Some are well known, some are not. At this website you can find a quick list of them.

Lets go through three of them, two from list, one new one.

Photomatix Pro

When I got into HDR, I used this software. It wasn’t bad. User Interface is quite nice and simple. Whole effect is done by 3 or 4 sliders. You don’t have to go through whole software and change or set the settings. It also has it’s own auto align and some other cool features.

A huge con is noise. Digital noise is a huge problem and even bigger with HDR. If you are combining 3 or more pictures shot even at ISO200, there will be noise and you will notice it on the final image. It’s noise reduction is lame and also HDRSoft, company that makes Photomatix, sais that you should export your photos from Lightroom first and then add them to Photomatix.

Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro

Photoshop overall is great peace of software but in comparison with Photomatix it’s very expensive. HDR Pro has better noise reduction, but it’s slower and you have to set many things. Cool feature is remove ghosting.

If you are shooting some scene where something is moving, like sea, you can remove ghosting artifacts thanks to this option. That is really cool.

But the end image wasn’t as nice as from Photomatix, unfortunately.

Nik HDR Efex Pro

This is the newest piece of HDR software and according to many photographers, it’s awesome. I wasn’t lucky enough to try this, because somehow I cannot force it to run on my Windows 7 😦

Great thing is that every HDR program you used just for merging photos together. Than you had to go back to Camera Raw or Lightroom and make some finishing adjustments. Not with HDR Efex Pro.

It will give you “full service” aka all inclusive. You can make all the adjustments right in the software without any trouble and it will look great. I’ll try to make it work asap and then I’ll post a review.