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Old Feb 13, 2010, 12:13 PM   #1
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Default Specuations and comparisons; Photomatrix and HDR

I decided to do some tests and comparisons with Photomatrix and normal Photoshop processing.

What exactly do these HDR programs do? Up until this test, my speculations consisted of thinking that programs like Photomatrix increase saturation, eliminate chroma noise, and then sharpen the image. Is this true?

Ok, here are the first four shots.

First my Middle exposure, Full frame and then a 100 percent crop, in which I processed the image in my normal manner, leaving out one step:





Now, here is the Photomatrix version (and let me add that while I claim no expertise with this program, I did play around with the sliders quite a bit...





While the colors of the Photomatrix shot are not completely accurate, they are closer to the real world view, then my "middle exposure."

Ok, how about my final Photoshop version in which the difference between the "Middle Exposure" is an increase in saturation?



And the 100 percent crop...



Interesting?

While the colors are far more accurate, the Photomatrix version still has greater detail.

But there is one last set of images. The same under, over and Middle exposed images used by Photomatrix but combined via the layers menu of Photoshop...





Hmm?

So what conclusions can we draw here? Notice that NOW the level of detail between the Photomatrix and the Photoshop versions are quite similar. And if I desaturated the image a bit, I would have the same accurate colors of my final version.

So what exactly DOES Photomatrix do?

Dave

Last edited by Chato; Feb 13, 2010 at 12:39 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 4:44 PM   #2
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To make this comparison a bit fairer, here is a link to the original file, converted to DNG so that anyone with Photoshop can use it. Be warned however, the file is 14 MB.

Sigma5539.dng

Dave

Last edited by Chato; Feb 13, 2010 at 4:47 PM.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 5:11 PM   #3
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What do these programs do? Firstly, they seem to eliminate the need for Photoshop, at least as far as HDR is concerned. Secondly, they automate the process of registration of images and tone mapping, then merge the results to a final image. IOW, they make it a lot simpler, and if one doesn't already have Photoshop, it is a lot less expensive.

I have tried the trial version of Photomatix, but it doesn't have any features that would entice me to buy it. Still using Photoimpact 10, which I bought around 6 years or so ago. Works for me. HDR is something I used quite a bit with my Minolta, with smaller sensor, as the multiple exposures helped with noise in dark areas. With APS-c size sensor, that isn't as much of a problem. I can process a RAW file with Raw Therapee or Raw Shooter, and bring up low tone detail with less noise, from one exposure. Less work.

brian
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 5:30 PM   #4
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What do these programs do? Firstly, they seem to eliminate the need for Photoshop, at least as far as HDR is concerned. Secondly, they automate the process of registration of images and tone mapping, then merge the results to a final image. IOW, they make it a lot simpler, and if one doesn't already have Photoshop, it is a lot less expensive.

I have tried the trial version of Photomatix, but it doesn't have any features that would entice me to buy it. Still using Photoimpact 10, which I bought around 6 years or so ago. Works for me. HDR is something I used quite a bit with my Minolta, with smaller sensor, as the multiple exposures helped with noise in dark areas. With APS-c size sensor, that isn't as much of a problem. I can process a RAW file with Raw Therapee or Raw Shooter, and bring up low tone detail with less noise, from one exposure. Less work.

brian
Using the layers option of Photoshop was much faster than using Photomatrix.

If I was worried about "ghosting" effects, or alignment problems, as people who use multiple exposures would, then Photoshop would be much slower - MUCH slower...

On the other hand spending a few seconds with layers and normal post processing dusts Photomatrix interms of BOTH speed and processing options.

I've been speculating to myself as to just what Photomatrix does, and I would say that I now Know what it does.

Assuming a single RAW file, Photoshop seems to produce a better result. And for that matter the "preview" option is certainly easier to use.

Dave
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 7:09 PM   #5
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In my opinion, Photomatix is NOT a replacement for Lightroom, Photoshop, other raw converters etc. It's primary purpose is to create a picture with more dynamic range than the picture has otherwise. It works best with multiple pictures, one(s) that has the shadows properly exposed and one(s) with the highlights properly exposed. The program will take those and blend them to get a reasonable exposure in all parts of the scene. It doesn't sharpen a picture. It will give you more detail only when there's information in one frame that is missing in another frame (i.e., detail in shadows where another frame has the same spot clipped to black).

It does tend to saturate pictures more, and you can add even more saturation. But I find that it's saturation controls a bit heavy-handed, I prefer LR's ability to control saturation by color.

It can change the contrast in a single picture but that's not it's primary purpose.

I find that for single pictures I'd rather use Lightroom and Photoshop. There's a number of other programs and plug-ins that enhance pictures (I've been playing around with Topaz Lab's Detail recently) and that work better than Photomatix for enhancing a single picture (assuming you are only loading in one file, not 3 separate files created from a single raw file).

I've used CS4's HDR feature, but haven't liked the results when trying to tonemap several exposures - the HDR specific software programs like Photomatix work far better for things like this.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 8:09 PM   #6
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In my opinion, Photomatix is NOT a replacement for Lightroom, Photoshop, other raw converters etc. It's primary purpose is to create a picture with more dynamic range than the picture has otherwise. It works best with multiple pictures, one(s) that has the shadows properly exposed and one(s) with the highlights properly exposed. The program will take those and blend them to get a reasonable exposure in all parts of the scene. It doesn't sharpen a picture. It will give you more detail only when there's information in one frame that is missing in another frame (i.e., detail in shadows where another frame has the same spot clipped to black).

It does tend to saturate pictures more, and you can add even more saturation. But I find that it's saturation controls a bit heavy-handed, I prefer LR's ability to control saturation by color.

It can change the contrast in a single picture but that's not it's primary purpose.

I find that for single pictures I'd rather use Lightroom and Photoshop. There's a number of other programs and plug-ins that enhance pictures (I've been playing around with Topaz Lab's Detail recently) and that work better than Photomatix for enhancing a single picture (assuming you are only loading in one file, not 3 separate files created from a single raw file).

I've used CS4's HDR feature, but haven't liked the results when trying to tonemap several exposures - the HDR specific software programs like Photomatix work far better for things like this.
Hmm? Is this the question I raise?

This is the HDR forum, where HDR is discussed. Many here regard the programs that create HDR as something special. Even the PS option specifically for HDR is "something special."

Yet, I've literally demonstrated that HDR images CAN be created simply by using the layers menu of Photoshop. Faster, and with more control by the user. Doesn't replace all aspects of a program like Photomatrix. But it does replace most, and does so with more control.

For someone like myself who never intended to use more than one exposure from RAW, (and from RAW create three or more images to be combined) there's no point at all in acquiring Photomatrix or any other HDR program. For those who shoot multiple exposures, perhaps it still make sense.

And I believe I've demonstrated what these programs actually do. Aside from combining three or more exposures, they reduce chroma noise AND sharpen the result. Chroma noise (not luminosity) is the enemy of sharpening. Thus the enhanced detail of HDR images.

Again, here is the example of a Photomatrix image and combining the same three images via the layers menu of Photoshop.

Photomatrix:



Photoshop via Layers:



There are differences between these images: differences which I could easily alter. Photomatrix for example added a gray sky (there was no gray sky to begin with) and some detail in one shot or the other is better than detail from the other. Nevertheless, BOTH shots are HDR...

Dave
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 8:34 PM   #7
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HDR programs work better and show more spectacular results dealing with high dynamic range picks with extreme highlight-shadows contrasted zones, wich is not the case here Chato.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 8:38 PM   #8
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HDR programs work better and show more spectacular results dealing with high dynamic range picks with extreme highlight-shadows contrasted zones, wich is not the case here Chato.
I absolutely challenge your statement and have posted the results!

I have posted a link to the original image - Prove me wrong!

(In fact, the three layer PS image has More dynamic range than the Photomatrix shot.)

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Old Feb 13, 2010, 9:00 PM   #9
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Dont need to prove you or anybody wrong. The only portion of high contrast in your tiff is the sky. The rest of the pick is uniform. Not a good pick for hdr! Now, if you use layers and a lot of processing, of course you can challenge Photomatix or any other program. Walter-S's night shots were extreme and interesting picks for hdr as well as a lot of vvcarpio's city shots. Go try PS with one of those picks and i'll believe Photomatix is not a useful program.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 9:08 PM   #10
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For instance, this is a photo for hdr (with your permission mtngal):

http://mtngal.zenfolio.com/img/v7/p969063579-4.jpg
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