On July 16th HDRSoft released a update of Photomatix Pro, version 4.1 (with a subsequent update on July 21st to 4.1.1 just to fix a couple bugs) I wanted to review the new release at that time but some Eye surgery kept me sidelined for a while and I am just getting around to it now. I have been using the beta of this new release for a little while now and used it in an upcoming magazine article.
With it’s full release let’s take a look at some of the changes that have put into the latest version.
On opening Pro4.1 everything looks the same as before and same basic setup to open the images you want to work on.
The first major changes comes after you open your images and in the Preprocessing Options
The first thing we notice is that under Align source images is a new check box to include or exclude perspective correction when aligning the images. This could be helpful in some architecture shots.
You can also now use the slider below to set the maximum misalignment of images that the software will correct for.
Under remove ghosts, they have made the Automatic deghosting more powerful to detect and remove more ghosts.
And in the Selective De-Ghosting tool, when you get to that screen they have added a “Quick selection” option so that you don’t have to select and then click mark selection as ghosted area… Kind of nice, makes things quicker.
Everything else in this panel remains the same.
The next changes and the BIGGEST one comes in the Tone-Mapping / Fusion Panel
First thing you will notice are some cosmetic changes, an 18% gray color scheme, the preview pane has been resized so that the histogram can dock next to it and you can also set in your preferences whether the histogram shows upon opening the tone mapping panel.
Then they re-named the Lighting Adjustments (Which used to be Smoothing) from Low /High to Natural Medium and Surreal, again to have the control name make more sense to the user of what it actually does. I like that
There is a new control under “Show More Options” Smooth Highlights. This control seems to help with some troublesome areas like bright skies that may have grayed out a bit or even some haloing in contrasty areas
Most of the other controls have remained relatively the same with perhaps just a repositioning of their order.
Now, back to the biggest change in this version of Photomatix Pro, the inclusion of a selection tool and the ability to replace the selected area with one of the single exposures instead of the exposure merge. Previously you have to finish the HDR in Photomatix and then take the image into Photoshop, add the image exposure you wanted to replace in a new layer and mask it into the HDR.
I would do this at times when either because of the merge the image lost fine detail in an area that really needed it. Or, when Photomatix Pro just couldn’t get a particular part of the image just right. This was often the case with white puffy cloud skies. Too often they would gray out and I felt one of the original exposures blended into the image would provide a more satisfying look to my final image, especially with my desire for a very natural and not surreal image.
The addition of this tool right in the Tone Mapping stage is really very helpful, both in saving time and allowing you to see what it would look like instantly instead of much later down in the process.
The selections tools worked fairly well, perhaps not quite as adjustable as they are in Photoshop. But the Magnetic Lasso did a good job in testing.
Now I have to be honest, will I ALWAYS use this method? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the image. There are times when I want the more power I have in Photoshop to manipulate that selection with different adjustments and filters. So even with this addition I may still return to my original method. But in the end I really do welcome this addition to the tools of Photomatix Pro. I know I will use it many times especially for some smaller areas.
All in all this appears to be the best version yet. I’m not sure they made any engine changes but it seems to work fast and the preview, which has be problematic in the past seems so far to perform better.
As always, Highly recommended, I still believe this to be the best HDR Imaging software and the one I will use.
To Download/Purchse/Upgrade to HDR Soft’s Photomatix 4.1.2 you may do so HERE For 15% off your purchase of any Photomatix Software, enter the coupon code: theHDRimage at checkout
You can also read about all the other changes and bug fixes that each release has on the download page