Photomatix Pro 5.1 is Still King

On September 5th. HDRsoft introduced it latest update to it’s always popular HDR Program: Photomatix Pro. Version 5.1 has a few improvments over v5.0 and they are:

Main updates in version 5.1
  • Added support for recent camera models such as the Nikon D7200 and Canon G7X, EOS M3, and 750D/760D (T6i/T6s).
  • Ability to mark presets as Favorites (by clicking on the ‘star’ icon to the left of each thumbnail) and filter the preset list to only show those favorites.
  • Fusion/Real-Estate renamed into Fusion/Interior and now includes a Brightness setting.
  • Addition of “Architecture” category to filter Presets.
  • By default, the preset name or method name is now appended to the file name of the final image. You can also adjust the suffix in the Preferences panel.
  • On Batch of Bracketed Photos, addition of Base Exposure option for deghosting.
  • The alignment is now done with one alignment method for all cases. The alignment settings (perspective correction option and maximum alignment shift) can be pre-selected via an Alignment Preset pull-down menu.
  • “License Information” panel shows the license status, as well as the license key if a Photomatix Pro copy has already been registered on the computer.

It’s been a while since I did any HDR software reviews, mostly because I’ve been lazy working on other projects  but also because there really wasn’t much new except for the LR6/CC  update to Lightroom/Photoshop and the “In Lightroom” Merge to HDR, which  was pretty neat and did speed some people’s workflow and also had some pretty good results.

But with that I thought it may be time to do a head to head test between what Lightroom could do and what the Defacto HDR Leader: Photomatix Pro could do.

Now while I really don’t shoot much architecture, I had a chance recently to reshoot my own home for some Realtor shots. And I also have a lot of people I mentor on HDR who’s living comes from doing Architectural Interiors and Realtor shots. So I thought interior architecture would be a great test for the two products especially since one of the main updates in V5.1 was a slight improvment in The Fusion/Interior Preset in Photomatix Pro beyond of course the new name

We need to bear something in mind for a good majority of “Real Estate” shooters. Not all their assignments are Full Spreads in Architectural Digest®, in fact most aren’t. They most likely will just be seen in Realtor flyers and Real Estate websites. With that also means there are no big buck budgets for these shoots. And when you don’t have the big budgets you are forced to cut back in the only expense you actually can and that is “Time”. It’s your most valuable so you need to conserve how much you actually spend in “Time” in order to actually make a profit and also be able to have dinner with your family. So the real measure in this test is which software produced the best results in the least amount of time and effort.

For this test I shot 7 – 1Ev bracketed shots with an Canon 6D and a 17-40mm Lens set to 17mm and f/16, ISO 100. All images were corrected for lens and chromatic aberrations before merging

After the merge, this is screenshot of Photomatix Pro 5.1 and the settings I used using a slight modification of the Fusion/Interior Preset

Photomatix Pro5.1 Workflow

Photomatix Pro5.1 Workflow

This is the image out of Photomatix Pro 5.1 without any further editing

Photomatix Pro 5.1

Photomatix Pro 5.1

It’s a good looking image, mostly natural looking and very even tones if not a bit too even. But what really stands out is the exposure of the windows, which is the hardest thing for any interior photographer to deal with and deal with QUICKLY. It’s the whole purpose of HDR but yet it still isn’t easily done in HDR.

 

This next image is the results of the Merge to HDR function of Lightroom

Now to be fair this is not the “output” image since the truth is the Photomatix is not a pure output image (which wouldn’t display because it’s 32bit) but is after fusion processing. So to be fair this is the Lightroom Merge with Lightroom adjustments which include huge adjustments to both Highlights/Shadows to Bring the Dynamic Range into a viewable range.

Lightroom HDR

Lightroom HDR

This image is a more flattering image to the interior and a lot of that does come from the fact that Lightroom itself does have a lot more adjustments that can be made to an image even just using the Basic Panel.

But, the one thing wrong with the image is; despite big pulldowns in the highlights. It still doesn’t have a good exposure at all for the windows. yes I could  have pulled down white but that too all the lightness out of the image. So while it’s a flattering image, it doesn’t really do much for the window dynamic range

So next I thought I would try the hybrid and use HDRsoft’s Merge to 32 Bit. Which uses Photomatix’s merge and Lightroom’s Tone Mapping. I wanted to see, since as good as the Lightroom DNG file is (a 16 bit RAW file), would a 32 floating bit Tiff from Merge to 32Bit have more latitude in it? So let’s see

 

Here is the image from HDRsoft Merge to 32 Bit and Tone-mapped in Lightroom

HDRsoft Merge to 32 bit

HDRsoft Merge to 32 bit

It looks mostly similar to what Lightroom on it’s own would do  ( Note:I didn’t really study alignment with any of these programs since the images were shot on a very steady tripod using good methods, but there could be some differences between programs) Again, it’s a nice looking image but still doesn’t make the windows look any better.

So one way to fix this is to do further editing in Photoshop. I could go into Photoshop and now blend with masks the windows in using the exposure that best showed the windows. And I could get a very good image. But, it takes time and time IS Money

Here is the Lightroom Merge to HDR and then processed with blending masks in Photoshop

Lightroom HDR enhanced in Photoshop

Lightroom HDR enhanced in Photoshop

And here is the Photomatix Pro 5.1 version and then further enhanced in Lightroom with some Basic Panel adjustments

Photomatix Enhanced in LR

Photomatix Enhanced in LR

I think the Two examples are pretty close. There definitely are some things I could do and bring out in photoshop that still aren’t quite as good in the Photomatix/Lightroom adjust image. BUT. The Photomatix one took me almost no time. Which is what makes it King

 

Screeeeeeech! I know I know, all of you Real Estate Shooters out there are screaming. BUT WHAT ABOUT ENFUSE?!!

OK, I knew you would ask. So here is an image by using LR Enfuse

LR/Enfuse

LR/Enfuse

Enfuse does a pretty good job. It certainly is, as many claim to be, very natural looking. It did a better job than Lightroom Merge alone on the windows but still quite far below Photomatix Pro 5.1.

But here’s the problem I see; Enfuse is very limited in controls, in fact there are just 3 that you can only use before the merge but they can be somewhat helpful depending on subject matter. But now the rest of the processing depend on another editing program. The problem here is, yes I can pull back the highlights in Lightroom (the shadow are not bad) But when I do that the image loses more luster and still doesn’t completely fix the windows. if I pull back whites it makes the image even more bland if I did. But here you can see it is a good looking image using the Basics panel in Lightroom but I still don’t think it competes with Photomatix Pro 5.1…But yes, that’s just my opinion. Your results may and will vary

LR/Enfuse Enhanced in LR

LR/Enfuse Enhanced in LR

 

Remember; The Upgrade to Photomatix Pro 5.1 is free for Photomatix Pro 5.0 and some previous versions. If you want try Photoomatix pro5.1 you can get unlimited use of the Demo version but it will Watermark your final image

To Purchase Photomatix pro 5.1 Click HERE and don’t forget to use my Coupon code THEHDRIMAGE to get 15 % off any purchase at HDRsoft

 

Thanks,

PT

2 Comments

  1. m.mcd March 16, 2016 at 12:53 am #

    Nice article – thank you. Do you still think Photomatix is better than Nik Efex Pro? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Not all of us want (or can) spend a gold mine on adobe software and Nik offers some pretty cool tools at a reasonable price… but can it compete? I note you are still using LR and PS as well as Photomatix.

    • Peter March 16, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks,
      Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 can still hold it’s own and in some recent tests I did on All the top names it still scored quite well. Photomatix still is able to do a few things better, especially when it comes to Interior Architecture but not everyone does that.
      Nik, when it was Nik was a company I LOVED. I had a lot of friends there who are still my friends. I consulted, Alpha and Beta tested on HDR Efex Pro 2 and they came out with, at the time , a real contender. The only thing I look at now is, post Google, there is just is no company. They are able to offer it at a very reasonable price because they just own it. There is no R & D team there is no Sales and Marketing team. All their software just remains Legacy software and there will be no new software or newer versions coming. That doesn’t make what they do have bad or not worth owning. But I do have some bitterness because Nik was one of the best software companies… ever and now they are just not a company I look to the future with

      Yes, I still also use all of Adobe’s Photographic products and think they are great. As a Professional for what I do. The $120 (US) a year is probably my smallest expense (a whole year is less than I spend on Internet and Cable/month) especially for a product I use extensively everyday. Is it for everyone? no. But I have zero problem with it or them.

      Thanks for your comments an question, I really appreciate them

      PT

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