Photomatix Pro 4 v Nik HDR Effex 4

I’m a long term Photomatix user, I’ve tried other HDR software but not liked the workflow or results. The new version of Nik’s HDR Effex promises plenty but can it deliver?

Hospital M Photomatix

The image above was processed in Photomatix Pro 4.1, using my normal custom setting for Urbex; basically Painterly preset with a few changes to the controls to give a slightly de saturated look without too much in grunge.

Hospital M Nik

The 2nd shot is processed in Nik HDR Effex using the Grannys cottage preset with minor adjustments to the finishing selection. This has a lot more colour and more of a grunge feel.

To make things fair I made no adjustments in Photoshop other than levels so these are both effectively straight from the respective program.

Both images were from 7 exposure RAW files at 1EV spacing. With Nik you can process directly from Bridge or Lightroom, but I needed to drag the selected brackets to the Photomatix window to open them, no big issue there for me.

Photomatix seemed to process the image faster before presenting the tonemapping screen, but Nik applies the tonemapping faster when the appropriate setting is selected.

The main difference is in the amount of adjustments both packages offer; Nik presents you with around 30 presets that you can fine tune to your hearts content, it also allows you to select elements of the image and make local adjustments. Photomatix only has 7 presets, again all with the ability to fine tune, but without the local adjustment.

The big plus for Nik is the adjustments can all be made on a split screen in the same vein as lightroom, meaning you can instantly see the effect each change makes, however the myriad of options can be a little daunting where Photomatix by comparison seems sleeker and faster as a result.

So, is there a winner? For me the answer is no, I like elements of both packages, I’m used to the Photomatix workflow and the results it gives but I like the adaptability of Nik’s offering, however it feels slow to use although with practice and a few custom presets this may change.

18 responses to “Photomatix Pro 4 v Nik HDR Effex 4

  1. I’ve had both programs for a while now and I can’t really decide either. They’re both great, so I still use both depending on if I want more detail (hdrefex) or more painterly (photomatix.) There are some definite advantages to using Nik’s product though.

  2. I’m with you on this Chris, I use both. It depends on the photograph. I also bring the Photomatix image into Nik’s Color Efex 3 (Color Efex 4 won’t accept it for some reason) and play around with the the filters in there. My favorite is the pro contrast filter.

  3. Nice writeup, Chris. Your conclusions are spot on! Each program has its benefits and will suit different images. I am a firm believer in keeping my options open, so use both in my workflow.

  4. Nice write up here man. I still do dabble in both, but I prefer Photomatix. Nik is definitely slower and doesn’t give you that HDR look sometimes. Cool review though!

    • I think I still prefer Photomatix as well, but I’m wanting to have a go with the Nik product on a landscape / seascape to see if the more natural effect would give a better result.

  5. Great side by side! I like to use Photomatix because I am a creature of habit…but I have dabbled with some others as well including NIK. All of them have strengths and weaknesses, but I like the User Interface of Photomatix – can breeze through my workflow!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I have only just started using Photomatix and have found it to be great for different types photos but as I have been using Nik for some time now I find Nik to be significantly quicker to use. I will keep using both though and I am sure find great uses for both of them.

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