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?
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.
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.