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Old Dec 22, 2009, 4:57 PM   #1
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Default In-camera HDR vs. PhotoMatix

I took a couple of pictures day before yesterday and used both the in-camera HDR as well as taking exposure bracketed series and combining them in Photo Matix. I've found that HDR2 occasionally does weird things - sometimes it works fine, and other times it's rather strange. All of these, except the on-hdr one has had additional processing in Lightroom. I find that HDR tends to make tones a bit flat and always add contrast either with levels or curves to compensate.

First, the middle exposure (K-7, DA 10-17)



Next - HDR2. I don't like this one at all, but wanted to include it so you can see what happens with this mode when things don't go right.



Here's HDR1. This is pretty close to how I remember the scene:



Finally, the PhotoMatix version.



The sky was pretty grey when I took this picture, so even if the sky wasn't still blown out, it wouldn't be blue. The scene was still a bit beyond the in-camera capability for range, even beyond the 8 stops of the bracketed series.

I'll hopefully make some decisions about the other pictures we took and post a couple more pictures of this beautiful canyon. My trouble is that we took over 300 pictures between the two of us (and 3 cameras) and most came out very nicely. It's going to take days to pare them down to only a couple for posting.

Hope this gives someone an idea of the HDR capability the cameras have.
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Old Dec 22, 2009, 5:23 PM   #2
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thanks for sharing, i am sure this will be of great interest to those with both in-camera and photomatix at their disposal.
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Old Dec 22, 2009, 7:03 PM   #3
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fantastic images - amazing location - where was it taken?

liking the photomatix one the most though - can more clearly see the detail in the background and the colour intensity is well i dont know nicer, warmer - might not be as accurate but still looks great
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Old Dec 22, 2009, 7:55 PM   #4
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Thanks! PhotoMatix does tend to increase color saturation, and the in-camera HDR tends to take out some of the saturation, especially HDR2. While it worked to my advantage here, it sometimes over-does things with certain colors.

These were taken in Lower Antelope Canyon - I'll do a separate thread about our day there. Its an interesting spot, well worth visiting.
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Old Dec 22, 2009, 8:11 PM   #5
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Beautiful picture of the slot canyon.

I also like the PhotoMatix picture best.

What time of day was it? Looks like you had good light. Were you able to use a tripod?

Looking forward to seeing the rest of your pictures of this fabulous place.

Lou
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Old Dec 22, 2009, 8:35 PM   #6
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Thanks, Lou. Yes to the tripod - it's an absolute must for in-camera HDR. More about the canyon in a separate thread.
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Old Dec 23, 2009, 9:36 AM   #7
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Thanks for the very interesting comparison, as well as the amazing photos of an amazing place!
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Old Dec 23, 2009, 11:30 AM   #8
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I really have to get some software and try HDR, the examples I have seen lately have been so much better than the early stuff.
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Old Dec 23, 2009, 12:10 PM   #9
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I can't dedcide if I like the HDR1 or PhotoMatix version more. I agree that the HDR2 looks "unnatural." Of course, I've never been there, so I don't know what it really looks like' I'm just reacting to your photos. Which, by the way, are very fine photos!
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Old Dec 23, 2009, 6:31 PM   #10
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Thanks Ira, Mole and mtnman! Ira - HDR is both fun and frustrating - definitely worth playing with. Not all bracketed shots work right. I find that Photo Matix is easy to use, though it does tend to increase color saturation, and sometimes it will cause a color shift, depending on your series. In this case, the most over-exposed shots had quite a bit of yellow, so it overemphasized the yellow. It does have a nice warm look to them.

The other thing is that I use the PhotoMatix output as a starting point. I usually find that there's less contrast than I like, so I use Lightroom's curves tool to add contrast, getting the picture more like how I remember it. This always increases saturation also, and while I'll tone it down for some scenes, here I just left it with the extra saturation. I think it made for some pretty nice pictures, if somewhat unnatural.

That's one of the reasons I was surprised that the camera's HDR2 mode desaturates colors a bit - it's almost like it puts a grey coating on the colors to make the tone similar or something. It doesn't do that all the time, just sometimes, and I can't quite predict which scenes it will work all right. So I usually take all three - auto bracket set, HDR1 and HDR2 and go from there.
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