Oloneo last week released their newest HDR software, Oloneo HDRengine. This is a more cost effective or let’s say “Lite” version of their Professional HDR Software. Oloneo Photo Engine, which besides doing HDR processing also does Raw and “Dynamic Relighting” which is an interesting process in itself. It is for PC only at this time which is kind of disappointing being that so many photographers are on Macs. But it will work well with Parallels
It’s offered at a very attractive price of only $59 US which is less than half of what Photo Engine cost and below what many HDR programs run. So from that standpoint alone it is very attractive. But the question is, is it effective at that price? I’ll jump to the end and say, yes it is. But let’s look at why.
Oloneo HDRengine is a stand alone processor and will handle most RAW files. It will merge multiple exposures and also will tone map single exposures.
It has two control screens A Browse screen which allows you to browse through a folder for your images with previews and also image information windows and then a box for adding your files for the merge. And then a Edit Control panel. Its edit control panel is setup as what I call the Lightroom Standard; Presets on the left, Controls on the right and image preview in the center.
What I like that it has added is something else that is well kinda a Lightroom standard but different for any HDR program which is a: Timeline. I really really liked this because you could step back and forward through any changes you make. You can even press play and watch all the changes you have made to the images in a quick time lapse. I would give a big thumbs up for this feature.
Oloneo HDRengine is a pretty lightweight programs, as far as install goes. It’s not a huge file to install and it installs quickly. The weird thing is you would think with such lightweight that would be slow, but this program is anything BUT slow. In fact it may be one of the fastest I have ever used. Sometimes companies make product so complex that they end up messing everything up and have a bloated program for no reason (this was something that Adobe did when they adapted Raw Shooter to Lightroom)
It does EVERYTHING quickly. It opens quickly, previews images quickly, Merges quickly, Previews presets in real time ON the preview image quickly, shows the timeline previews quickly and then adds all your edits quickly and in real time. Did I say this thing is QUICK!?
Starting out in the Browse Screen, we can select a folder and then browse through the images we want to use which is very helpful on a standalone processor. A window shows the shooting parameters for each image and also the EV. You select the images you want and then add them to the Project which also shows some image information and also the exposure compensation between images. Below that is the merge window. This is fairly simplified compared to some merge functions with only an Auto Align and then two levels of deghosting available.
I have to say, I was a little unprepared for what happened when I tried a very complex image for deghosting. I did an image early this year that involved Pelicans in flight which is really tough on Deghosting and I was only able to get it right in Photomatix with its advanced Selective deghosting tool. Most other programs simply gave up on something with this much movement. So being a “Lite” program with not many adjustments available I really didn’t think Oloneo HDRengine would do much with this image. I selected Ghost Detection Method 1…and it did it. Done, nothing left to do. It aligned the three handheld shots perfectly and deghosted the moving pelicans with no trace of ghosting. I was floored.
Opening the image in the Editing window I now moved on to Tone Mapping some images. On the left are 40 presets, which when you hover over immediately render a preview on the large preview image itself (Very Cool). They were the usual lot of presets and for me, I’m just not a big fan of Factory presets and I didn’t find any I really liked. Although this is not unseal for me, I don’t like anyone factory presets. The good thing though it may provide a good starting point for someone without experience n tone mapping.
So moving across the screen to the Control Panel, I set about to do what I want. The control panel is broken down into 3 Panels, A High Dynamic Tone Mapping, A Natural HDR Check Box and A Low Dynamic Tone panel.
The low dynamic controls the basic image look and then the High Dynamic Tone Mapping controls the intensity of the Tone Mapping. There are not a lot of controls and some may think this is a bad thing because they want precise control over every little nuance. But I have to say for me it was a welcome relief and I find sometimes having all those controls get you more into trouble or make you waste time trying every possible combination of 100 controls. Honestly I don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes on any image and I most likely want to spend 10. Give me good controls that mean something and be done with it, Oloneo HDRengine does just that.
There are 4 Levels in a dropdown of High Dynamic Tone Compression; None, Auto Tone Mapping, Local Tone Mapping and Global Tone mapping. Of course I wouldn’t use none. I found the auto tone mapping OK for someone just starting out with just one control. Global Tone Mapping really didn’t do it for me. But Local Tone Mapping was the Momma Bear control and was just right. The defaults on its controls are: Auto Exposure and Auto Exposure and Auto Contrast which I of course immediately turned off.
But with them off I was able to quickly and easily achieve a look I wanted. Going back and forth a little between the High Dynamic and the Low Dynamic controls I had a great looking Natural HDR in no time without any artifacts at all. But that may be more because of my shooting methods. But I have to say even with good shooting methods other programs have given a bad look to my images without too much trouble.
At first glance the Natural HDR check box doesn’t appear to do much. But on cert5ain things like a sun in the image it brought out just a touch of a smoother gradation between tones so I left it on. For those of you that like a more Grunge or Painterly look, I would leave it off. And yes they have not forgotten about you Grunge artists either. A quick movement of the controls will take you from as mild to as wild and over the top as you want to go. They even have a preset called “Over the Top”
Using the Timeline is fantastic, it allows you to make changes yet always return to any of the previous steps you had done. You can even save “version” similar to snapshots in Photoshop and switch between those versions. I found this tool invaluable.
One last thing I found great was Oloneo HDRengine’s White balance adjustments. Usually this would not beer something I would rely on my HDR processor to do. Making the corrections I wanted in Lightroom or Photoshop before I would process the image. Oloneo HDRengine has the usual Drop down list of presets and also a color wheel for adjustments. BUT, it also has a white balance eyedropper similar to Lightroom’s which you can click on a neutral gray area of the image to correct the white balance. It was realty effective.
Saving your image
After you are done, you can save the image as usual as an 8 or 16 bit Tiff file or as a Jpeg. But you get one other choice which is just fantastic; you can save the image as an .rcd project file. When saved as this opening that file brings you right back to where you were in the tone mapping process including every stage in the Timeline. So you can go back and work on that image over and over again without starting from scratch. That was just amazing.
I have to say, it’s probably been 4 years since I looked at Oloneo products. I tested them when it was just a Beta project and kind of forgot about them. I had other programs that were working and wasn’t really interested in another. In fact I wasn’t that enthusiastic about trying it cuz I just tested another product that was supposed to be the latest greatest thing, and it was plain awful. So I didn’t have much hope for a $59 program. I was so wrong. I was truly impressed with what this can do and how quickly and efficiently it did it. Now I can’t wait to put the professional version Oloneo Photo Engine though its paces to see what’s possible with that.
I would recommend you take a look at this product.
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Hope that helps,