In red corner, $99 gizmo from the HDRsoft labs…Phoooootomatix! And in the blue corner, freeware open source confusio complicatio, the Luminance HDR!
As you might have guessed, today, I decided to compare those two programs. I took a photo from a walk about a week ago (me and Jana both posted few photos from the forest pond ;)). I chose those for their obvious HDR suitability…direct sunlight blown out even on the -2 EV! First, I merged the images in Luminance. It’s features may not be as organised as Photomatix and you always have to press the tonemap buddot again in order to see the result, but there are times, when this program just rocks! Like here: I used the Mantiuk’08 tonemapping algorythm. I also tried Fattal, but I liked Mantiuk’08 better. I really liked the result and so I decided to tonemap it in Photomatix too and compare the results.
So, the comparation…first I’d like to take a look at the highlights (and I recommend opening the large image). As I said, even my -2 EV has blown out highlights, so none of the programs could do much about it. I tried reducing the highlight in Luminance and I think it did a pretty good job. Compared to photomatix, the sky didn’t get that dark edge and is quite clear. The glow also spread to the trees on the left and gave em a nice bright green colour. Also those two leafless trees in the background. If you look with a naked eye, I doubt you would see them as contrasty as in Photomatix output. I also like the solar flare from luminance better. Now, let’s take a look at the shadows. Photomatix retains more detail in the shadows, but I believe with a bit of tinkering, I could get more detail even with Luminance, but it would require a great portion of patience :-D. Nice exaple are the wooden logs. As you can see on the Photomatix picture, even the logs in the far low right have their details retained. On the other hand, in some cases it may be even too much detail. Luminance may not have as much detaild there but the logs with their detail visible I actually like more than the results from Photomatix. One last thing I’d like to mention are the chromatic abberations. Both programs have an option for reducing, but I didn’t use it this time (personally, I like to fix it up in photoshop manually later). Anyway, in this area, Luminance wins. Zoom into the top right corned on the blue pieces of the sky and you’ll see what I’m talking about ;-).