Tuesday thoughts: HDR with CS5 vs. Photomatix 4 Beta

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CS5 HDR, with edits in Lightroom. Not a 'final' edit - but a good example of a handheld shot for this comparison.

I spent the weekend in Chicago to see some friends and catch Dave Matthews Band at Wrigley Field (perfect fall weather for it – absolutely amazing).  As I packed light, I brought my Panasonic GH1 with me and left the tripod behind. I shot for an hour or so on Sunday morning, enjoying the cool weather as I wandered through Grant park. I shot a mix of HDR brackets (ironic that my small Panasonic allows for much more versatile settings than my expensive Canon 5d Mark II, but I digress…) and street photography of interesting folks going about their daily lives.

When I got back to Atlanta on Monday evening – I pulled up the first series of brackets and processed them using both CS5 and Photomatix 4 Beta. Now, as these were handheld – there is movement between frames and I wanted to see how each piece of software would handle it.

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Photomatix Beta 4 Output, with LR adjustments (incl. distortion correction)

For this image, I prefer the feel of the Photomatix version (fewer halos, a bit more grunge) – however, when you look a bit more closely – the clarity of the CS5 image really stands out as better quality.

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100% crop - CS5 version

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100% crop - Photomatix Beta 4 version

Now – certainly don’t take this as gospel – I haven’t tried every setting in Photomatix – so you may be able to get slightly better results.  However, I’ve seen this theme across a few different images I’ve processed – and heard the same from others as well.  Bluriness aside – the CS5 blend also corrected for distortion automatically and ended up cropping out more of the frame to do so.  The final Photomatix shot above was corrected using Lightrooms Lens Correction features, the original can be seen here.

Does anyone know of a way to use CS5 to align and then Photomatix to process?  Would be nice to have the best of both worlds (if you know a way to do it, I’d love to hear it – drop me a comment)

Note: as I wrote this post, a post by Ken Snyder came across my twitter feed – thanks to a RT by @flounderfish). His take on the different packages seems to be in line with mine. Each piece of software has strengths – and like most things – it is up to you to pick the tool based on the task at hand.

-Steve

2 Responses to “Tuesday thoughts: HDR with CS5 vs. Photomatix 4 Beta”

  1. Servalpe says:

    Hi there. The best workflow for handheld pictures is to create an .hdr or .exr 32-bits file with PS CS5 and then, to tonempap it in Photomatix. More about my workflow in a brief tutorial at my Flickr profile. The problems with these steps in the workflow are that PS desaturate the colors and possible conflicts with colors spaces, so take care and use the same between different applications, from Lightroom to the final stages of postprocessing in PS, including Photomatix.

    Regards,

    Sergio

  2. [...] to a helpful comment by Sergio Valverde on yesterday’s blog post (check out some of his great HDR work in his Flickr stream), I’m now trying out a new method [...]

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