I don’t think I need to spend any time explaining what this building is. Hint, it’s not St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

I decided to download HDR Efex Pro 2 from NikSoftware. I tried their first incarnation and wasn’t overly impressed, but I feel it has come on leaps and bounds since then. This is the first HDR software I’ve used where all of the presets don’t automatically kill the image, these ones do produce something usable. It seems to enable great depth within a shot, and I like a few of the features it has such as the previews of each exposure before merging. I’ve grown to love U Point technology and that is in use here also, which I really like.

I was a bit disappointed with the de-ghosting feature. I usually use Photomatix Pro and that allows very fine control over the ghosting shown in one area, and unfortunately Nik hasn’t embraced that option here…or at least not that I could find.

At the end of the day, I haven’t really used it so I can’t judge fairly – I think I will try and make use of it more and see if it’s software I wish to add to the arsenal of processing tools. First impressions, however, I’m sticking with Photomatix.

Of course, with 2 different bits of software you’re going to get different results when processing. The options are not the same, sliders are completely different as are the presets. When processing the image above I decided to use HDR Efex 2 first (software that is new to me), and then tried again with Photomatix which I’m used to using. I attempted to get the feel of the image right as best I could, knowing that tonemapping is only part of the process and a lot more work can be done in Photoshop.

Here’s my initial files out of HDR Efex Pro 2:

First up, it seemed okay to me when I was working on it, but looking at it afterwards I found though the depth in the image was good it was a little too dark in places and details had been lost. There was quite a pronounced halo around the main focal point, and the clouds on the right had a noticeable white streak that looks a little unnatural. I’m thinking that part was more down to the day I shot the image however, but it came to my attention all the same. Finally, in the original brackets there were 3 people stood on the left hand side in the dark exposure, and the normal and light exposures had them gone, but a woman was walking into the scene on the right. I still see parts of that woman in this image.

Here’s the Photomatix output:

A much lighter image that retains more detail in it, though admittedly there is a little less depth. I usually add depth in the Photoshop stage (coincidentally enough, using Color Efex Pro by NikSoftware) so am not worried about this. There is a slight halo around the subject, but it’s certainly less than on the other output and a little easier to clean up because of it.
The got rid of the people in the image using selective ghosting, and though the woman in the right of the image is removed, it does leave a noticeable pattern on the floor which I would need to clean up.

Here’s a few close up sections.
First image is from HDR Efex Pro 2, a lot more depth has been added in comparison to the Photomatix version below it, but with that we’ve lost a lot of detail in the doorway.

This first one is HDR Efex Pro 2. Quite a large halo is to be found on this one and I’ve lost detail in the dark areas.

This shot is from Photomatix. Reduced halo, more detail, but with that there is also a lot more noise which will need to be cleaned up later:

HDR Efex Pro 2 is pretty powerful, has some great features and I would be silly not to spend more time with it. Photomatix is the go-to software for me at the moment though, and is in a place where I am comfortable with it, so making a move to another – even partially – will not be an easy thing for me to go ahead with.

In the end, I used the Photomatix version and then masked in a few details from the HDR Efex version 🙂

You can try or buy HDR EFex Pro 2 from NikSoftware
You can try or buy Photomatix Pro 4.2 from HDRSoft

If you don’t use either of them I encourage you to download the free trial versions and give them both a go to see which one you like.

3 thoughts on “Capitolised”

  1. Nice image. I too just downloaded the Nik offering and will see if I get similar results that you did. Like you, it will be difficult to change from Photomatix unless the results are at least comparable.

  2. Cool comparison. I used to use Photomatix all the time but have not used it in months. The D800 and LR4 combo is unbelievably good. Nice work with this post, showed a lot!

  3. Excellent shot and interesting comparison Mike. Have you tried just making adjustment and adding detail in photoshop rather than using tonemapping software? For a low contrast image like this you might get better results from a single exposure.

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